Progressives are Chicken

Only time will tell if the Steve Bannon-propelled victory for Donald Trump in 2016 was a fluke. But one thing is clear: last Tuesday it was not that Doug Jones won in The Yellowhammer State, it was that Roy Moore lost.

The Republican defeat to a Democrat in the recent senatorial election had nothing to do with anything Doug Jones said or did. Indeed, now that Doug Jones is set to call The District his home away from home, few of the people that voted for him know what he stands for or what to expect from him.

Although the Grand Old Party is teetering on shaky ground, it still enjoys more dynamicity than the other major political party in the United States. Republicans are at loggerheads, to be sure, and not just ‘populists’ vs. ‘the establishment.’ There are internecine feuds in every camp.

The Daily Caller, The Drudge Report, and Breitbart News, for example, increasingly attack one another. Whereas these three rightwing outlets were by and large in sync, and pro-Trump, during the campaign, they are now running articles with countervailing arguments. Matt Drudge has taken jabs at Bannon on Twitter, and Breitbart has responded. The Daily Caller ran disapproving articles of the reversal of Bear’s Ears, Utah, as a National Park, for example, and its regular op-ed writers have yet to declare a position on the repeal of Net Neutrality.

The right is currently living in a robust world where passion runs hot, and debates thrive. There is nothing comparable on the left, where passion abounds but debates are nonexistent. Instead, a presumed consensus reigns supreme and hysteria, amplified by social media, dominates a narrative that claims sole propriety of moral, political, and cultural imperatives.

I thought Bannon should have cut his losses when accusations of sexual aggression against teenagers were leveled against Moore. At that point, as a political operator, to continue supporting Moore was a coin toss—one where Bannon gambled and lost. It was never a secret that Bannon preferred Mo Brooks, and he blames Mitch McConnell and the Republican party’s lack of support for the upset.

Whatever the case, it is sideways to hint that Bannon is bad for Trump when it was his team that propelled Trump to the White House in the first place. And to make the point that Bannon is a danger to the GOP is to state the obvious as Bannon declared war on the Party more than three months ago.

No matter what happens to Bannon or his ability to channel donor funds to potential candidates, he and his allies have fundamentally changed the nature of American politics.

That is what matters, and that is what should continue.

And that is what is lacking on the left. The flaw of ‘The Resistance’ is an ironic one: the party of progressives now touts a conservative ideology with no goals (other than opposing Trump) and no leaders.

The Party of F.D.R. and L.B.J. is having trouble with basic decisions, like whether to support universal healthcare. Professional Democrats are retreating to positions of perpetual reaction with a modus operandi to try and preserve accomplishments of the previous Democratic administration (and failing to do so).

Paul Krugman recently opined that “Republicans despise the working class,” another example of a prominent intellectual supporter of the Democratic party offering a diagnosis without a cure. At least the Republican leadership has made a short-term plan (misguided or not) to go after Bannon and his financial backers as it attempts to save itself from possible disaster in the 2018 midterm elections. Democratic talking heads, on the other hand, are mute when it comes to a way forward.

Democrats did take a stand, almost, to save DACA. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi threatened to obstruct funding the government if they saw no movement toward this goal, which would have led to a shut down; but they caved at the midnight hour.

In any regard, choosing DACA as an all-encompassing priority was odd because it signified that Democratic party leaders are willing to halt the operation of the American government to protect non-citizens. Although DACA is a popular program, saving it come what may is not a prescriptive policy orientation. Shutting down the government would hurt both Americans and DACA recipients. There are more productive ways to deal with this important issue.

Calls for the demonization of the GOP are at fever pitch on the left and growing louder in populist circles on the right. While Bannon and his allies lick their wounds on the heels of their defeat in Alabama, they remain ripe targets for establishment Republicans to point the fingers of blame. After all, by using Bannon as a scapegoat, they gain tepid support from Democrats while avoiding an open disagreement with President Trump.

The GOP is rootless, experiencing tremors on its turf, and anxious about the future direction of the blowing winds. Despite all this, it is hours from overhauling the American tax code for the first time since 1986.

Not so long ago Congressional majority was flipped in favor of the Democratic party (and to a much higher degree—recall Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for at least five workable months, a window they had a year and a half to prepare for). In those first two years of President Obama’s term Democrats squandered an immense opportunity to get things done.

As they say, the past is past.

But why aren’t we hearing daily promises by Democratic leaders that as soon as a majority in the House, with at least 50 votes in the Senate and a Democratic president are achieved, they will fund universal healthcare, invest massively in toll-free infrastructure, and craft a tax overhaul favoring the lower and middle classes?

These things are possible under filibuster-avoiding Budget Reconciliation rules, as has become all too obvious. Republicans are doing it now with taxes while facing overwhelming public disapproval with only a slim majority in the Senate.

The answer is simple and plain: progressives are chicken, and the Party of Jackson is a party of the fox.

Like a duck, when it looks, walks, and talks like a Republican politician, it is one. A Democratic politician, however, is an animal that adapts to circumstance for sustenance.

To paraphrase Malcolm X, a chicken may think a fox is friendlier than a wolf when it sees one, but come dinner time both predators want to eat it.

What is more dangerous to the chicken, a wolf that makes no qualms about its ravenous desire or the friendly looking fox asking permission to enter the pen?

If they are to survive, chickens best learn to fly.

About the Author
Alejandro Moreiras is a Ph.D. graduate student in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds an M.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a B.A. from Hampshire College with a Five College Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies.
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