A friend on Facebook shared this essay about the political left in America infighting, by Sammy Leonard, and it’s got me thinking about how differently the right and the left operate, at least in America.
Disclaimer up top: if you weren’t already aware, I consider myself a liberal, democratic socialist, leftist, communist… all of those. My tagline for the longest time was “a little to the left of Bernie Sanders,” and that was before Senator Sanders ran for president and suddenly everyone knew who he was. I supported Bernie in the primary, right up until he was clearly losing, at which point I switched to the Democratic nominee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I did that for pragmatic reasons, not idealistic ones. I did it because the GOP nominee was Trump, and having him in the White House would be beyond disastrous.
Lucky us, we get to see if my (and so many others’) fears are accurate, alas.
Back to my main point, however. The above-linked article shows me that among the left, there are large demographics that are still holding on to their ideals and not joining forces with other left-aligned groups to make common cause against a clear and present danger like the Trump administration is shaping up to be.
Why doesn’t the left know how to work together?
There are probably many reasons, but let me offer at least one. Liberals all tend to operate from a particular frame of reference; they share ideals and goals. One of those shared goals is the idea that speaking up, dissenting to an authority figure, is a net good. Liberals like to protest, they like free speech, they don’t automatically accept what our leaders tell us without some evidence behind it.
I’m generalizing, of course, and it’s somewhat easy to find counter-examples of conservatives protesting, dissenting to authority, and valuing free speech. What I’m suggesting is that liberals put all that higher in priority than do conservatives.
A more top priority for conservatives, baked right into the name, is preserving order, following chains of command, and offering deference (often spoken of as “respect”) for authority. Let the leaders lead, they say. This ideal gives the right the edge in organizing against a common threat, and that’s the part that those on the left either never had, or have forgotten about.
Many electrons have been spent outlining the demographic differences in the Republican and the Democratic parties. The GOP is largely older, largely white, largely male, largely middle-class or better off, while the Democrats include large coalitions of blacks, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQA, younger voters, and more women. That is a consequence that arises when the left champions ideals of inclusiveness and diversity.
What that means is that the left has some learning to do. Specifically, liberals need to learn better how to avoid infighting, how to accept that people are imperfect and may not fully agree with each other, but that we can all push together on those policies and goals we share. Maybe we can even learn to help people in other coalitions to achieve what they need even if we don’t fully agree with them, as long as they can help us when our goals are being tested.
It’s a strategy that has worked for the right, which is made up of at least three large coalitions with differeing goals: the Christian authoritarians, the neo-con geo-political strategists, and the pro-gun pro-capitalism paleoconservatives. When crafting their party platforms, they make sure that every faction gets some attention, so they can count on every group working for the overall good of the party (often at the expense of the country and the world, at least in my view).
The Democratic Party doesn’t really operate like that, and it shows in the fault lines we continue to see today. Bernie Bros are still bitter and angry at what they see as party leadership pushing Hillary Clinton as the nominee, for right or wrong. Blacks are upset at being abandoned over the very serious issues of being a black person in America, which to this day results in far too many deaths; Sec. Clinton did not really address this in her platform, although black women still turned out in large numbers for her anyway.
And Cory Booker gets reamed for a non-binding vote that’s seen as being anti-Bernie, when in fact it wasn’t Bernie’s bill (he was a co-sponsor but Sen. Kobluchar authored it) and Sen. Booker voted for Wyden’s far more direct bill, despite supposedly being in Big Pharma’s pockets. I have to admit, I fell for this smear, too, and repeated some memes showing how terrible Booker was, without knowing all the facts. I can get better.
I hope we all can get better, the faster, the better.