That’s Not Rhetorical; I Actually Want to Know
Whenever I make a comment on this site in favor of something as simple as treating people like human beings even if they are conservative or accusing a leftist of a double standard, I am treated at best, with dead silence and at worst, considered a MAGA extremist. That so many of these people claim to be on the side of equality would amuse me were it not for the fact that so much of their rhetoric is frightening and despairing. So let me make some clarifications.
In principle, I agree with many, if not most, of the leftist ideals. How could you not? How can anyone in their right mind not be in favor of equality and against bigotry? Who wouldn’t be fine with income equality, gender equality and racial equality? Who wouldn’t be in favor of universal protection of everybody under the law, regardless of race, gender or sexual preference? Who would not want to get rid of climate change, approve universal healthcare and raising the minimum wage? They are all fine and wonderful principles and I believe they are ones worth fighting for.
I also agree that there are many on the right who are determined to set back America to a point where only white men had all the power, where the rich and powerful have complete authority and use rhetoric that is violent, hate-filled and looming on the fascist side. There are many extremists on the rights whose very dialogue fills me with loathing and sickness. And so much of their dialogue makes me fear for the fate of our republic.
So since I agree with the left on these principles, why have I spent so much time and energy reviling them, both in the comments sections and in my columns? Several reasons, all of which I consider valid.
The first is I do hold fast to Winston’s Churchill’s phrase about what he considered democracy. And I believe that the principle of democracy is that you can not pick and choose the parts of it you like and have them apply only to you and no one else. I might not like Fox News and Newsmax as networks but I am under no obligation to watch them and I do not. I find many of the habits applied by men such as Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes horrifying to be sure and I don’t agree with much, if not most is said on them. But much I hate to use that argument; it is a slippery slope. One, I should add, that I’ve heard more than a few leftist willing to go down. It’s not merely enough for them to not have these networks be carried on cable services; conservatives and Republicans should not be allowed to appear on network news shows or write articles for ‘legitimate press’. You can not be for freedom of speech or the press in the abstract, and it can’t just apply to people you agree with.
Second, while I am willing to have strong opinions about so many of today’s Republican (and just to be clear, Democratic) office-holders when it comes to their morals, rhetoric or policies, I can not and will not make the same judgment about entire states or blocs of voters who choose to Republican. There are too many on this blog who have no problem calling for the South to secede or call rural voters ignorant. I am opposed to generalizing an entire group of people and that applies not only by race or sexual preference but also who they vote for.
This tone is blatantly, almost ridiculously, overbearing in so many of these articles. At best, they are regarded as empty vassals who can be filled up be talk radio, Fox News or Republican politicians incapable of opinions of their own. At worst, they are regarded as traitors to this country and an enemy of the people. So much discussion is argued today of grievance politics, but at the end of the day, the left has no problems saying that their grievances are the legitimate ones.
This brings me to the final critical point. Say what you will about far right and conservatives and what they have done to the country over the last half-century; at least for much of that period, they had a plan and they stuck to it. I have been reading so many articles of the left over the last five years, many of them at this very site. They have no problem commenting on the organized structure of the right; know all the grievance points to play, all the historic notes. But when you ask them for a strategy to get us out of the mess we’re in, they are maddeningly silent.
I once actually got an answer to someone on this blog — like so many of these writers, clearly educated and well-read. I asked him to engage in some magical thinking. I asked this person to assume that America had a President who had his ideals and overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress. I was willing to let them have the first act be to appoint enough justices to the Supreme Court to give it a liberal majority. (I found that itself unconstitutional, but I wanted to indulge them.) I said that this government had all the power to execute the policies that so many leftists dream of.
Then I asked: how? How would they fulfill all the items on the progressive wish-list — stopping climate change, dealing with income inequality, protection against hate crimes, basically everything to make this mythological utopia happen? I asked how he would afford it, how it would be enforced and how it would handle dissent. I assured this person that I was completely serious and that he could use all the words he wanted. Maybe they would even write another article.
I got a four word answer, which was to be fair, four more than I expected. “Universal healthcare. Universal education.”
You will note that this response did not answer my question at all but as we know progressives are not details people. They can all clearly see what’s broken about our society. That’s meaningless, anybody can spot these problems. They’re willing to spend millions of words to complain, but not one for solutions. Indeed, they seem to think their long missives of complaints — they’ve written hundreds of articles all essentially saying the exact same thing — are supposed to somehow be part of this solution when in fact all it is essentially doing what they accuse the right of doing: staying in their own bubble and being told how wrong everyone else is. Worse, most of them will rant about the existential threat to democracy one party has — and will frequently say how annoyed they are they have to do something so pedestrian as voting. (I’ve asked repeated in my comments section if any of them do vote; none of them answer, which speaks volumes.)
To be clear I don’t have any solutions either. But at least I will vote in every primary and general election, even if it is only state or local. I am willing to give money to candidates that are similar to issues I agree with. And I am willing to commit to the long and messy work of building a functioning democracy. I don’t know if the state of our republic will allow that, but I also know that doing nothing isn’t an option an either. The larger problem I have with so many leftists on this blog is that they genuinely seem to believe this is a solution and they owe the country and the world nothing else. And that’s the best case scenario: the worst case is to demonize anybody or anyone who disagrees even the slightest with their agenda as bigots or being part of a broken system. Their ‘activism’ if you can call it that, amounts to signing petitions that can do nothing, marching in the streets for causes that will only influence like-minded people, and writing in so many sources that the world would be perfect if we just did what they told them to.
That is, sad to say, the thing they have in common with the far right they spend so much time and vitriol on. They would rather spend all their time and energy demonizing the Other then using some of that energy to try and fix the problem. They spend immense amounts of time and energy equating the elected officials with the voters who put them in office and then simply dismiss both as irredeemable or only capable of being enlightened if they weren’t who they were. When you offer nothing but contempt to one group of people, you do not get to be shocked when they decide to choose the person who says they understand them. They are lying, of course, but at least they’re acknowledging their existence as human beings.
The nation can’t exist half red and half blue. Democracy is purple. Compromise is how democracy works. Two wrongs do not now, nor will they ever make a right. So much of our pleading may fall on deaf ears. But if we stop talking altogether, that’s when democracy dies. The problem I have with the left is not just that they don’t want one side to stop talking to the other. It’s that they don’t think they should even have to the dignify themselves by talking at all to someone who won’t automatically and universally agree with them.
So again I ask those at this site and beyond: what’s your plan to fix America and not turn into everything you argue its becoming? You may be on the right side of history but history does not just happen. It takes work and planning, and more than just fine words. I have no problem with you’re saying what you do — like I said I agree that everybody has the right to say what they want. But if all you’re going to do is complain about the world going to hell and have that be all of it, then you have no right to argue when the lights do go out.