A case for the center
Once the republican party has finished its Donald Trump cleanse, I think many on the left will have “moved over” in some respects. Trapped between people who sold their souls in Charlottesville and a flock of Democrats addicted to outrage.
The 2020 race is on. We might blow it. If 2019 so far is any indication, we will blow it, with a message that – if left unpolished – will continue to sound not unlike a vegetarian losing a shouting contest with a poacher. Opposing ends of right and and wrong using the same tactics and expecting results. We have truth on our side, and if we do not stop being so smug about it we will be handed far better reasons not to. As a Democratic campaign manager who mentored me put it: “While the Conservative opposition fetishizes their guns, liberals are similarly trigger-happy to disparage their opponents as evil villains – self-appointed vigilantes of justice for all those ever offended by anything.”
Famous young new politicians on the far left have energized much of the base. Only problem is, they’ve energized it using memes that could easily be repurposed versions of Russian Trump troll-farm campaign content. Instead of spooking white folks about dark people, however, we’re using the exact same tactics to say we’re better than you, often getting our facts wrong in the process, and consistently failing to explain a good way to pay for our great ideas. I read this collective recent attitude summed up by one journalist as a “superior moral truth.”
Politically speaking, superior moral truth is a useful thing if the Democrats’ goal is to, say, win California and New York by three times as much and continue to lose spectacularly in Wisconsin and North Carolina in presidential elections.
I am a progressive on every social issue. I should be pumped right now. This should be my Super Bowl playoff season with the NY Giants as the #1 seed. But the only clear message of this congressional majority so far is how hard it apparently is to voice progressive ideas without being insufferable. If I had to sum up the overarching theme of the far left elements of the party: good ideas, sounding roughly as smart as buying one billion iPhones XRs with credit card debt.
Meanwhile, Republicans don’t even remember what’s left of their message, let alone their integrity. The standards applied to some simply do not apply to others. Yet their hypocritical tribalism stands good chance of defeating our indignance.
Take the words of Rashida Tlaib and Omar Ilhan and parse our own party’s message on racism. The context: a liberal Muslim congresswoman comes out in support of boycotting Israel while her colleague struggles to defend a 2012 tweet calling Israel, and its military action at the time, evil. Conservative propaganda artist Ben Shapiro tells us that everyone who agrees with any element of their criticism is an anti-semitic terrorist sympathizer who does not care if Israel burns.
Fox gives this hundreds of hours. Drowned out during the same period is Republican Steve King coming out as a white nationalist supporter after 15 years of flirting with the group. Drowned out is condemnation of a president who told David Duke’s supporters they were good people, but who also moved an embassy to Jerusalem.
But against that backdrop, where all it takes is fundamental and consistent decency to emerge on top, here too are a gaggle of Democrats blowing it. They’re blowing it by saying its okay to get facts wrong because we’re morally superior, often with memes stolen from rivals in nastiness. And, in some cases, they are blowing by visiting the same double standard by staying silent on party ties to Louis Farrakhan, who called Jews termites, thus compromising the very currency they’re so riskily trading on, i.e. being right. Imagine a world where we didn’t have to choose between denouncing Louis Farrakhan or David Duke.
Let’s call that world “the center” for lack of a better term. Despite what we will hear in coming months the center is not a trade. The center is not an exchange of progressive values for projected votes in the midwest. It is the ability to take on climate change and promote equality while including in our message the concerns of people in West Virginia who do not have the luxury of prioritizing or even considering these issues.
That is quite literally what winning will look like. Whoever wins the primary will not win the election from their high horse. They are not going to reach midwestern voters through fancy ideas they cannot describe funding, and they will not be able to do the right thing if they are not factually accurate and fundamentally decent about it. You can help them win. The first step will probably be simple: do not share the next hilarious meme you see trashing gun owners or gluten-eaters. It is literally that easy.