Political parties change over time. Republicans, for instance, have become the Know-Nothing Party, in which traditional conservatives who display insufficient nativist rage or fail to chase after 45’s every juvenile whim are treated as weaklings unfit to govern. Democrats, on the other hand, have grown in sixty years from the home of the segregationist South into a party of inclusion.
To minimize the parties’ differences is to miss by a mile what is happening. The comparison between last year’s political insurgents Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders does not withstand scrutiny. More important, progressive proposals, whatever one thinks of them, are mild compared to the broad array of aggressive harms already begun by the Trumpists. Finally, the far left wields much less influence than the far right.
Trump won the nomination and the general election. He tapped white nationalist rage. His main goal was erasing everything Barack Obama touched, regardless of merit. Trump is disinclined to study issues or heed experts. He has a baseless confidence in his own brilliance. His proposals are all over the map, and he has revealed his promises to be worthless.
Sanders made an impressive run, but lost the nomination. He tapped working class frustration, but did not build a campaign on racism. He pushed a socialist program, which is a coherent economic vision whether or not one thinks it workable or sufficiently popular. Single Payer is based not on resentment but a desire for universal healthcare. Sanders did rage against big bankers and corporate greed, but his complaints were better founded even if his remedies were unconvincing and their path to enactment not evident.
The Trumpists support voter suppression, environmental degradation, crippling public education, selling off national monuments, ramping up military spending while knee-capping diplomacy, ending women’s reproductive choice, taking healthcare from millions out of spite, attacking immigrant families, and giving a tax windfall to corporations at everyone else’s expense while lying about it. There is no similar vicious catalog to lay at progressives’ feet.
Only a prior determination to see no difference between left and right could lead to that conclusion. The far right’s influence is all too apparent. I myself have criticized the totalitarian tendencies of some on the far left, but they are largely impotent. Barring or shouting down disagreeable speakers on college campuses and demanding the exclusion of police and businesses from Pride celebrations are obnoxious, but amount to a renunciation of effective public engagement. Those zealots are like retiring conservative Senators Corker and Flake, delivering rebukes as they confirm their marginalization.
If leftist radicals controlled the Democratic Party, Tom Perez could not have purged progressive dissenters from the DNC. Deflecting attention from the mounting evidence of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, congressional Republicans have launched another raft of investigations into debunked Hillary Clinton conspiracies. Sean Hannity’s and Sebastian Gorka’s hysterical braying is not evidence, and will not sway special counsel Robert Mueller.
Opinion polls can reveal public disaffection, but cannot offer solutions. Of the two major parties, one is not treasonous. It is not trying to rule by stoking intolerance and division. Its recent presidents have presided over deficit reductions. Its legislators are far more supportive of reproductive choice, diplomacy, environmental protection, and a social safety net. It is the Democratic Party, which offers the only hope of thwarting the Republicans, whose fervor boosts their electoral prospects. Alternatively, Democratic infighting offers the best chance for entrenching Trumpist autocracy.
The LGBT movement has made great strides. The polls are on our side. But that is true of many things the Republicans are attacking. Protections for women, racial minorities, and LGBT people, won mostly by Democrats, are under renewed attack.
I understand frustration with politics. My own activism has largely involved nonpartisan advocacy. But swallowing the lie of “not a dime’s worth of difference,” while fanatics on one side blow everything up, is as likely to end well as knocking down your house and expecting the Taj Mahal to spring up in its place.
The House and Senate leadership in 2019 will not be Greens or Independents. If you vote that way or sit it out in 2018, you are effectively voting Republican. Please think better of it.
Postscript on Oct. 30 following Mueller’s charges against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: We have a long fight ahead. Even if Trump is forced from office, his successor could be worse. Democrats must start winning elections. The right-wing lies and deflections will only escalate. Leftist purity will not defeat them. Diversity and inclusion are empty slogans without room for diversity of opinion. Progressive concerns will gain more traction in Democratic legislatures.
Postscript, predator edition: Kevin Spacey finally came out, albeit grotesquely. Homosexuality and pedophilia are very different things, which should not need pointing out after our long struggle against a blood libel. Anthony Rapp, to whom Spacey has apologized for an unwanted advance he claims he was too drunk to remember (which occurred when Rapp was 14), plays a scientist on Star Trek Discovery. His character, along with the ship’s doctor played by Wilson Cruz, is part of the first gay couple in the franchise’s history. It is an affirming portrayal, matter-of-factly integrated into the story line, lightyears from the miserable excuses of Mr. Spacey.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2017 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.