Breaking The Fishbowl
There has already been whole gallons of printer ink and bandwidth dedicated to trying to understand the massive, intense failure of the Democratic Party to win the election last November. I'm not really interested in rehashing all of that. My opinions are pretty damn clear: if you don't have a message for all 50 states and candidates in all 50 states, you can expect to win in all 50 states. It's that simple. Precious ideological principles don't impress me much. Don't get me wrong: principles are nice things to have, but they don't matter all that much if you can't win.
There's two main problems that I think need to be confronted if the creaking, rusted edifice of the Left is to remodel and revitalize itself for the 21st Century. The first is it's basic and deepest flaw: it's fidelity to the idea of equality in a society- whether it's the Democratic-Progressive flavor or the deeper, communist flavor that shook the 20th Century- has to be exposed as the lie it is. With the centenary of the Russian Revolution looming later in 2017, it only takes a cursory glance of the history books to realize that this notion of communist equality is just that, a notion. There were always people that had more- as Orwell put it in Animal Farm:
"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
The Communist ideal so cherished by many can't survive that basic truism. And it's been proven true again and again and again throughout the history of the past 100 years. The problem the Left has to confront a simple one: voters increasingly know that for all the talk of a bedrock principle of equality, it's not actually going to happen. It's talk. There's always going to be people who have more and think they know better than the vast majority of voters.
This brings us to problem number two: the elitism of the Left. Whether it's the Democratic party or (to some degree) the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, these parties have drifted from their traditional, bedrock constituencies of the working class of their respective societies. The drift is far more pronounced in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom- where the Scottish National Party's rise to dominance in Scotland has more or less marginalized Labour in one of it's key historical strongholds.
But the United States has a problem. Democratic voters are more educated and more prosperous- they tend to live in greater concentrations along the Coasts and in states with higher standards of living. That sentence isn't perfect, but it is more or less true. How do you win back the states in between? Do you even bother? I came across this interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education and it's about what you'd expect. Academic dares to question accepted Liberal/Progressive orthodoxy and gets his head jumped up and down upon. But, buried deep in the interview was an interesting line that got me thinking a bit:
"A fact of our political lives as liberals is that everything we do and say is filtered through conservative media."
That rocked me back on my heels a bit. Is that true? I know that Conservatives will insist that the opposite is true-so where is the truth? Either this Professor is so far left that he views all mainstream news as being fundamentally Conservative (which I would disagree with) or he views the mainstream media as being part and parcel of the status quo in this country, which could be seen as being 'conservative' if you like. The bigger insight from that statement goes right back to that drift I was talking about though- the fishbowling of both political parties.
Terabytes of bandwidth have probably gone toward explaining this particular phenomenon. Leaving aside the whole debate over fake news, the reality is that social media has forced us all into our own little foxholes and we view our politics through the prism of our foxholes. There's no middle ground. There's no accepting that the other side is not irredeemable in some way.
If the Democrats can break out of their fishbowl, then they'll break the 20th Century paradigm that drives so much of their thinking. If not, then the drift will continue and the Left will continue to find itself on the outside looking in. A reinvention is called for. A new paradigm is demanded. The Left- which is a term I hate, but works in this case nonetheless, needs to find it's way again. The possibilities of the 21st Century are there for the taking.