The blog Zombietime made an entry the other day that contains some profound truths that have me rethinking how I see the political world.
I actually do not agree with his primary premise; that the left has suffered a permanent reversal of fortune. Despite the sizeable electoral victory that president-elect Trump achieved, the election was still close. I still believe the election was the Democrat’s to lose. Lose they did, but their mistakes were many. From the choice of Hillary Clinton as their standard bearer to tactical mistakes in their campaign execution, they may have been closer than the numbers suggest.
Also, this election was nothing if not a set of unique circumstances. To extrapolate from this Trump victory to the future of our Republic might be stretching a bit too far.
However, I do think he has captured the trend correctly. This election was supposed to be another step on the path to permanent political majority for the Democrats. Whatever faults their candidate had were going to be washed over by the unpopularity of Donald Trump, and the permanent majority more and more would be cast in stone. A Senate majority and a majority of Supreme Court appointments would add to Obama’s 8-year reshaping of the bureaucracy. None of that happened – and that is, in fact, a big deal.
However, what I found even more illuminating was his analysis of the strategy of the Left. The strategy, adopted from the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy on cultural control of a society by its ruling class. From the article,
A conservative-minded populace will always vote for conservative-minded leaders, so the way to achieve communism in advanced nations, he argued, would be to first change the culture so that progressive ideals become dominant, and then people will simply vote themselves into communism without the need for a revolution.
This goes far to explain the inexplicable in the politics of the modern Left. The “War on Women,” the “Gender Gap,” “Global Warming.” are all policies without a discernible endgame, until you realize that just inculcating the population with ideas is the endgame.
Let’s take the “Gender Gap.” If you get your news from conservative sources, you probably that assume this issue is exaggerated for political effect. In fact, some studies put the gap at considerably less than the 31 cents out of a dollar that the left has been citing since the 1970s. One recent study, after removing all non-gender-bias effects and particularly considering hours worked, calculated the pay gap at 2 cents on the dollar, with a margin of error of +/-3. Effectively non-existent.
Even accepting that the Gender Gap is a real and important issue, once you look at the “solutions” coming out of the left things get more confusing. The bulk of recent State-based drives to “solve” the issue consisted mostly of restating gender equality restrictions that are also enforced at the Federal level via the courts. Tweaks around the edges merely try to eliminate any difference in pay, except that which is derived from certifications and credentials. It seems extremely unlikely that such laws would make any difference in a “Gender Gap” that, according to the arguments coming from the sponsors of these bills, has refused to change after almost 50 years of activism, not to mention countless legislative and judicial mandates.
But what if the issue isn’t to solve the “Gender Gap” at all? What if the issue is simply to create, in the minds of the population, the idea that the issue exists? What the left does goes further; they define a partisan difference. The population sees how progressives are committed to solving the Pay Gap issues whereas Conservatives oppose such efforts at every turn. So what is a voter to think? Do any of us want women to earn less money simply because they are women? Of course not. So we must vote Democrat.
A similar analysis can probably be made for most of the current wedge issues. Through it all, the conservative movement plays into the game. The right identifies the “right” side of the issue, and attacks the Progressive left with logic, facts, and figures. Many times the right even defeats the wedge issue legislation and claims victory.
But what if it is the goal of the Left to create permanent wedge issues that, then, will redefine how voters see themselves; as left or right, Democrat or Republican? If so, the Left doesn’t necessarily want to win. It may even be counter-productive, if a wedge issue turns into a non-issue. (Fortunately, conservatives help out here too as they are apt to continue pounding their fists against the walls of long lost battles).
I’m going to start thinking about every political or activist activity in light of this strategy, and see how different the world looks.
Before I do, I will return to the main point of the article.
I do believe his narrative is generally correct. He is correct that the Left has engaged in a long game for six decades that should now be coming to fruition. The signs are there that it is not bearing fruit as it should, and this is part of the Left’s frustration. I agree that this will cause the Left to double-down on their strategy, oblivious to its (hopefully) failure.
Think about one of the repeated laments of the Left in recent years. “Don’t those rednecks understand they’re voting against their own interests?” Or Hillary’s angry question, “Why aren’t I 50 points ahead, you might ask? Well… the choice for working families has never been clearer!”
It’s a recognition that their strategy isn’t working out the way it “should,” and a bit of cognitive dissonance at the lack of results.
In light of this, I think part of the rapid disintegration of the Left in this election was not only due to a winding down of their long term strategy, but also a result of two medium term mistakes.
Mistake One: Demonizing George Bush. Their attacks on George Bush as the end of all things good and right came too soon. Bush won the close election against Gore because they were still a few years out from Obama’s “permanent majority,” not because their permanent majority was thwarted by the court. His re-election pretty much demonstrated that. But from the moment that it was clear that Florida was contested, they were full court press on trying to destroy him.
I think “normal people,” including both the non-political and the right-leaning folks who weren’t quite Bush fans, quickly became polarized by the viciousness of the invective coming out of the anti-Bush people. It was clearly overblown; disconnected from reality.
So now, when they wanted to bring it out again to defeat Trump? I think we’ve all become used to it. Yes, Trump is Hitler. So was Romney. So was McCain. And Bush, he was more Hitler than Hitler. We get it. Who cares.
Mistake Two: Demonizing Gun Owners. I think this one demographic turned the election and they did it exactly because of the attacks from the left. Put another way, I suspect a Hillary Clinton who was no threat to gun owners and the Second Amendment would have handily defeated a Donald Trump (who has his own spotty background on the subject).
This was another wedge issue, and one that looked to be, throughout the Obama years, the wedge issue of all wedge issues. For decades, the pop culture and media has told us all how scary guns are. Now that we’re all a’scared, we are shown the Democrats are the ones who are protecting us from these scary things and Republicans fight it at every turn. It worked in Europe, but…
It turns out that in the U.S., too many of us still have a direct experience with firearms, so we’re not getting all our info from anti-gun movies and media. Many of those people are the blue collar workers, the union members, a core constituency that the Left takes for granted. Not only didn’t this create more votes, but it also created a backlash. People who took no interest in politics suddenly joined the NRA, became informed, and became politically active. As fast as new assault weapon bans could be proposed, Constitution Carry laws were proposed and passed even faster.
As the original article indicates, the writing should have been on the wall. Bill Clinton took a drubbing after passing the original Assault Weapons Ban. But the playbook said it would work, and they played it. As Zombietime says,
…they will continue to play the old game. So they will lose. And lose. And lose. And lose. Over and over and over again until they too see the futility of the entire leftist worldview.
Before the election was settled, columnist Peggy Noonan wrote an editorial in the Wall St. Journal. The article itself is behind a paywall and the bulk of it is about a Danish political drama that ran from 2010-13 that is popular in the UK. The article explored some details of the show, but it was the last two paragraphs of the article that I found particularly insightful.
[The show] demonstrates, knowingly or not, that to be of the left in the Western political context is to operate in a broad, deep, richly populated liberal-world that rarely if ever is pierced by contrary thought. They are in a bubble they can’t see, even as they accuse others of living in bubbles. [Main character, Prime Minister] Birgitte sees herself as practical and pragmatic, and she is – within a broader context of absolute and unquestioned ideology.
It reminded me that as a general rule political parties and political actors do not change their minds based on evidence or argument. They have to be beaten. Only then can they rationalize change to themselves and their colleagues: “We keep losing!” Defeat is the only condition in which they can see the need for change. They have to be concussed into it.
“Concussed.” The Left will not changed until they are “concussed into it.” And a single Republican victory at the polls is a long way from providing that concussion.
As Winston Churchill said,
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.