by michael kenny
Over the past few years I’ve watched as my friends and family got sucked into the wave of right-wing nationalism that led to the events on November 9th. I’ve seen otherwise decent people align themselves with an ideology that is inherently paranoid, and ultimately leads towards violent outcomes. I’m on the left because the political right is clearly a predatory body that feeds off the insecurities of the American middle class. I believe in a solid safety net for the poor, and protections for individuals who have been historically ostracized by society. The democratic party’s rhetoric most closely aligns with my viewpoints and I voted for them on election day because the alternative was too horrific for me to consider as a possibility. With all of that in mind, however, I came to a hard realization as the election season wore on. I wasn’t voting Hillary Clinton because I believed that she meant what she said. I voted for her simply because I thought she would maintain the status quo. I think this points to something that needs to be addressed if those who identify as Democrats wish to make any steps towards minimizing the wave of hyper-national conservatism that is currently plaguing our country. We democrats need to take a look at ourselves and accept a few hard truths that will go a long way to saving not only our party, but perhaps our country as well.
Liberals love to put their leaders on a pedestal and shout down any criticism pointed at them. There were some legitimate concerns raised about Clinton’s campaign promises that were never addressed. I saw endless posts online presenting her as a borderline godly figure who would crusade for the greater good of the public. This left me feeling uneasy because I realized that many of my peers who idolized her failed to acknowledge on very important fact about government. Politicians don’t, and never will care about us. They’ve never cared about us. Just because they show up on Ellen to ‘dab’ on live TV does not mean that they are in any way relatable. Just because they are eloquent and generally upbeat in their demeanor does not mean that they have our best interest in mind. They dedicate their careers to throwing their base electorate just enough scraps to capture the magic number of votes needed to secure their re-election and leave it there.
I liked Obama. We won’t see a President nearly as charismatic as him anytime in the near future. His social policy gave me hope for the millions of people who for years had been pushed to the margins of society. All of this being said, he still deported more illegal immigrants than any other president before him. His drone strikes on various targets in the Middle East killed countless numbers of innocent civilians. He came into office with a majority in the house and senate following the financial crisis and chose Tim Geithner, a Wall Street apologist, as the Secretary of Treasury. The resulting bailout primarily benefited the rich, and left much of rural America without relief from the recession. On top of all this, he vehemently attacked any safety net for whistle blowers within the government and allowed a bill to pass which would allow the government to legally detain American citizens without reason or representation.
Why am I saying this? Because Obama was a politician, not a savior. At a time when the Republican Party found itself becoming more radicalized, the media failed to criticize Obama in fear of giving Conservatives cannon fodder. This decision has now backfired since the right has begun to use legitimate complaints about liberal policy to defend their twisted ideology. Given the hawkish nature of Trump and his cabinet, this will have dire consequences.
Democrats have lost significant power in DC. Over the past seven years, we’ve lost the House, Senate, and now the Presidency. We can’t blame the recent election on Russia or ‘fake news’. We liberals need to face the fact that we’ve been complacent. The Republican base built the tea party and used it to shift the party farther to the right. Any Conservative politician who may have disagreed with this more extreme viewpoint was forced to concede to their new base because they would have easily lost votes. The Tea Party overthrew the existing party and took over the House and Senate while they were at it. Besides the failed Occupy movement, the Democrats haven’t had anything to show for in terms of a populist liberal movement. Instead of reaching out to the lower class, Democrats paraded around celebrities as a way to garner support. Rather than proposing legislation with substance, they compromised with Wall Street on their policies.
This level of arrogance carried itself into Hillary’s campaign. Hillary barely campaigned in Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin since those were primarily her so called “firewall” states. She lost each one on election night. She abandoned the working class and minority voters in a number of states while campaigning to court middle class Republican women. This brilliant train-wreck of a strategy was summed up perfectly by Chuck Schumer when he stated, “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” They ran their campaign on numbers and not any real policy. As a result, the last branch of government that Democrats had any control over has now been handed over to Donald Trump.
And where are liberals now? I remember watching the country turn red during the midterm elections between 2012 and 2014 and disregarding any panic because we would always have the white house. I’d actually convinced myself that the toxic influx of far-right ideology would never cross itself into the executive branch. The most recent presidential election obviously snapped me out of this, but the rest of the party will do anything to avoid taking any sort of blame. I’ve watched Ellen Degeneres invite George W. Bush onto her TV show and the New York Times hire a far-right columnist to open themselves up to “alternative views”. This isn’t a resistance, it's the same meaningless bullshit that lost the left any tangible power in DC.
We should be organizing against our own party. Hillary Clinton should not be deified into some kind of populist leader, she was a standard big-money politician running in a populist election. If we continue our political discourse the same way we have been for the past 7 years, we will continue to lose more. Liberals need to take something from the Tea Party and organize against our own representatives. We need to have a vision, rather than just denounce the policies of our opponents and expect that to motivate people to actually vote. We need to remember that politicians need to be kept on a tight leash, and their actions need to be vehemently scrutinized by their base. By recognizing the toxicity within our own party and addressing it appropriately, perhaps we can minimize the length of time that we have to actually deal with this current administration.
Created: February 7, 2017
Michael Kenny lives in Southern CT and graduated from Sacred Heart University with a degree in Psychology. He identifies as a leftist because he likes healthcare and public education. He doesn't like poor people being told they don't deserve a good baseline quality of life.