Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Focus on good policy, not good investigations.

Being smart angry.

That means being angry at your real opponents, not your frustrating allies.

I witnessed a smart piece of political wisdom earlier this year.  I was standing next to a senior political aide to Senator Ron Wyden, and we were observing a group of angry young climate activists.   I had said to her that I thought they were too perfectionist, too demanding, too intolerant of compromise.

Liberal, but not the most liberal.
She told me to relax.  They are young and idealistic and dedicated, she said.  That is a good thing.   I appreciate their dedication and impatience, she told me.   I pushed back, "But they say mean, impatient things about Ron."  She said their idealism was what was important and they are impatient because they really, really expect things to change quickly.  Maybe with their pushing, it will change for the better slowly.

I respected that attitude.  Ron Wyden is among the more liberal senators, but there is room to his left. Oregon's own other senator Jeff Merkely is more liberal.  Click for a ranking.  So is Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and a few others.  Wyden gets angry flack from the post progressive vanguard of the progressive and environmental left.  Some call him the enemy, and denounce him.  But the attitude of his political staff isn't anger back.  It is to embrace their activism.  She said they aren't enemies, for goodness sake.  They are the leading edge energy.  


But there is some misdirected anger out within Democratic thinking.  It is easy to be angry at frustrating and disappointing allies.  They are so close at hand, their values are so similar, and yet they are so frustratingly wrong-headed about something.  I see it.  I experience it.  It is dangerous.  

Democrats risk being the party of investigations, not the party of solutions.  It may be what people feel, but it isn't smart.  Indeed, it is self destructive.

I monitor and participate in a number of political Facebook groups, some of which are self-consciously by progressives, for progressives.  A great many people in these groups voice anger directed at the DNC, Debra Wasserman Schultz, Donna Brazile, Tom Perez, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party generally.   Much of the energy is stuck at the presumed stupidity and injustice of nominating Hillary and not Bernie Sanders.  The ongoing refrain within those circles is that the process must have been corrupt to have come up with such an unwelcome result.  And there is evidence of it.  It all diverts from progressive policies. They want investigations and removals.

Same with Russian collusion with Trump.  Many progressives make impeaching Trump a litmus test for being a "real" progressive.  Nancy Pelosi is criticized for not pressing for impeachment.  An election as unwelcome as Trump's simply must have been from a corrupted process. 

Impeachment talk is a false direction.  It sends the message that Democrats are angry-dumb, and not the party of solutions. The more time Democrats spend on Russian collusion the less focus they give to defining and articulating progressive policies that can attract the loyalty and enthusiasm of American voters.  Anger at Hillary, anger at the DNC, and impeaching Trump isn't smart anger.  

Trump has defined his brand as a change agent. That is locked in. There is room working with that brand identity to shape that brand to show Trump generates destructive, chaotic change: bad.  With Trump defined as destructive change, there is room for Democrats to define themselves as agents for helpful change.  To do that Democrats need to get a grip on their focus and their brand.  If Democrats are mostly angry about process and corruption then they are simply a different form of destructive change and therefore not really an alternative to Trump.   Democrats become a good alternative to Trump when Democrats are associated with policies of good change.  That could be Democrats.

That is being angry smart.  

1 comment:

Rick Millward said...

Great observation. Progressive anger is frustration with a situation of their own making. While it appears to be aimed at Regressives, it actually is self directed. The resistance that is growing both in and out of government is an attempt to get back on track after a misstep. McDonnell said it clearly at the outset of the Obama era; they were going to obstruct at every turn, but Democrats (except Bernie/Warren) became complacent and overconfident (Clinton/Schumer) despite the warnings. Now it's a scramble to mobilize voters before any more damage is done. If and when Democrats restore the balance there is a danger of overcorrecting.

Progressives have learned a lesson that hopefully has sunk in. Every advance towards social and economic justice will be met with opposition from Regressive forces that double down and take advantage of any opportunity to move society back to the 19th century. Republicans did not foresee a Trump, they were hoping for the benign oppression of a Bush or his ilk, but they are responsible for unleashing this abomination and will be held accountable in due course.

This is a struggle that began long ago and will no doubt continue for some time to come.