Since the outcome of the election, many dyed-in-the-wool Democrats have yet to come to the conclusion that their candidate was flawed and ran a fundamentally incompetent campaign. Perhaps this is the usual cycle of grief for rank-and-file party supporters that have just endured a defeat. Anecdotally, we see this to be true in the electoral victories of President Obama that gave rise to right-wing discontent and movements like the Tea Party. Such seems inevitable, if not encouraged, in American democracy.
To be honest, political tantrums are an American pastime that I would personally never wish away precisely because they can be so stupid. That is why I pray Keith Olbermann lives for a thousand years. I hope he is preserved in amber, frozen in a rictus, with a placard below that simply reads ‘The Last Existing Specimen of the Angry Liberal (Iratus liberalis)’. Next to the exhibit will be a television looping Olbermann’s political GQ video series, the current season of which is unimaginatively dubbed ‘The Resistance’, so all can see his self-righteous bloviating roleplay of an Aaron Sorkin character. God bless you, Keith, I’m sure it’s not easy to maintain that volume at every moment of the day.
Ridicule aside, Olbermann encapsulates the fruitless ‘How dare you, sir!’ prognostication of liberals that inhabit the Democratic power structure as well as its support base increasingly rooted in the professional class (petty bourgeoisie, anybody?). Their highest virtue is starch collared civility and the source of their power is claiming to represent the victims of society’s injustices. However, they have repeatedly demonstrated that when they are entrusted to a position of power they serially abuse it to maintain corporatist support and push aside the interests of unions, minorities, and so on in the name of ‘pragmatism’. These are the same people that thought it a good idea to give money to reopen the firebombed North Carolina GOP office because of their fetish for pinkies-out civility. They would rather be ‘holier than thou’ than be bothered to feel any urgency to win. Why should anybody trust these people to honestly lead ‘The Resistance’?
Furthermore, liberal figures like Olbermann hand-wringing over Russian hacking and flipping electoral college votes echo the impotent rage and paranoia of Republicans in the wake of the Obama victories. As a result of their foundering, they do not address the very real danger of a unified Republican government. Instead, liberals are content to propagate the narrative that Russia is to blame for everything instead of engage in any introspection that could lead to changing or fortifying their ideological position against the coming administration. They are incapable of realizing that Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate being floated by the immense Democratic machine and how much of their traditional support bloc has been alienated.
Regarding the Russian issue, most accusations center on Russian hackers somehow forcing the election in the direction of Trump. We must first understand that there is no evidence that Russian operatives altered vote counts directly. The transgression is in the hacking of the DNC, stealing John Podesta’s emails, and operating a digital disinformation campaign. Are these accusations true? Personally, I think it is more than likely that such things were perpetrated to some degree or another. Cyber-espionage of any sort is tricky business to deal with and, if the allegations are proven true, a response is certainly merited.
But let us take these accusations to be true; what was uncovered? We saw the open secret of party machinery working for the establishment and unforgivable campaign ineptitude. Is this what we are supposed to be outraged about? Are liberals really so deluded that they think some faceless Russians are more to blame for their loss than Hillary deciding not to step in Wisconsin for the general?
This stubborn, counterproductive attitude is quite succinctly illustrated in Garrison Keillor’s opposition to Keith Ellison’s bid to chair the DNC. While Democrats win elections on the backs of minority voters, when their status quo is challenged by this ‘lackluster black Muslim congressman from Minneapolis’ they begin to fret that he won’t be able to ‘connect with disaffected workers in Youngstown and Pittsburgh’. As the face of the party threatens to actually become the face of its claimed base, establishment liberals disregard Ellison’s record as an activist and use his identity against him. Like Republicans, actually giving a shit about the marginalized seems to be anathema to the party orthodoxy.
This phenomena of liberal flailing, I claim, is due to a history of the Democratic Party not living up to its expectation of being the de facto party of labor. In addition, its unrelenting technocratic wonkishness that creates impossible to navigate bureaucratized programs (think Obamacare) has further alienated the working class from wanting Democratic policy. A newly energized political movement, as galvanized by Bernie Sanders, has come to understand these realities and is collectively acting to move the party left in accordance with the pedagogy of the most popular politician in America. Liberal pundits, thought-leaders, and politicians alike see the writing on the wall and are scrambling to maintain their tarnished prestige.
All of this understood, how far separated are the Democratic and Republican parties? Both coddle corporate interests whether they be tech monoliths in Silicon Valley or coal barons in Appalachia. One wants to put boots on the ground in the Middle East, while the other is content to explode Yemeni funerals from afar. Republicans actively antagonize unions, while Democrats offer only token resistance. Neither party is on the side of the common American if it doesn’t help shore up their base of power.
We are at an impasse in American political history. In the face of reactionaries taking power, the Left has an opportunity to capitalize on populist aggravation and create a sustainable movement to improve the material well being of all working Americans. While there are important questions as to whether the Left should occupy the Democratic apparat or create its own party, the takeaway is that the neoliberal experiment has been rebuffed by the people that it exploits. How leftists organize and how liberals reform themselves in the the near future will determine the success of anti-reactionary politics for many years to come.
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