The Great Drama of the Nice Liberals With Big Egos
America, you see, really needs to think that it has a "Left" playing a part in its political drama, and so everyone is being asked to imagine that there is some great heroism to be accomplished in defeating the "fascist" Trump by electing Joe Biden whereas in all likelihood little of importance will be happening.
Here one recalls that great work of 19th-century literature, Karl Marx's "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon," and its oft-quoted beginning:
Hegel remarks somewhere[*] that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
For us, however, the great importance of this opening sentence is that Marx died 137 years ago, and so he was not able to witness the great arc descending toward tragedy that awaits us now.
The nice liberals with big egos now claim that they are going to "pressure" Biden. Having told us to "first dump Trump, then battle Biden," they have a People's Charter. Ignored, of course, is the question of how they respond when the Biden administration tells the tiny minorities of nice liberals with big egos in office, as well as the public at large, this great, disempowering message, repeated throughout most of my lifetime: "what are you going to do, vote for Republicans?" No answer just yet. Maybe it isn't, but all this nice liberal action appears to be fealty accompanied by show-biz "opposition." Among the cosignatories I only know that Cornel West is working for the Movement for a People's Party. The rest, I don't know.
So the nice liberals with big egos want us to elect Biden. The main criticism of the great drive to elect Joe Biden is that it goes along with the general, and generally false, notion that electing a neoliberal Democrat helps "progressives" in their aim of taking over government. It's as meaningless a choice as any choice one could make in an era of universal unwisdom. An era of wisdom would put Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker in the White House, not that an individual vote or two selecting Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker in an era of universal unwisdom would accomplish anything either, by itself. The big issue, then, is the era of universal unwisdom. Accepting an unwise society is what "realists," a much larger category of villainous actor, do.
Okay so why do all these people on my Facebook feed keep telling me that I need to vote for Joe Biden as if the future of humanity were at stake? Supporting them are a bunch of liberals with big egos proclaiming the utmost importance of their votes for Joe Biden when most of them live in safe states and when they are all, given their ideologies, badly positioned to affect the outcome. Swing voters in swing states are not going to say "I think I'll vote Biden because some liberal with a big ego said I should." So the Facebook people should stop kidding themselves about who is the intended audience for all these panicky "OMIGOD DONALD TRUMP IS A FASCIST!!!!" messages. It's the Left.
Thus the real question of 2020 is not one of "should I vote for Joe Biden?" -- go ahead, vote for him if you want -- but rather one of why nice liberals with big egos need a Left audience for their "vote for Biden" message. There's this apparent desperation to persuade an audience who is itself of such tangential importance to the outcome. In the drama of history the nice liberals with big egos collectively play the role of a chorus, whose only audience is the Left.
We need to identify the historical drama we are seeing here. This is not a titanic battle of Fascism vs. Hope, nor is it even a titanic battle of Fascism vs. Breathing Room. We are not witnessing the climax of Star Wars Episode III, Episode VI, or even of (ugh) Episode IX here. Rather, the centerpiece of today's drama is one of nice liberals with big egos insinuating that they are heroes, when they are in fact mere extras. The question of how really to be the hero of history in an era of villains still hasn't received the attention it deserves.
At any rate, any true drama needs a dramatis personae. So here we go:
- The coalition partners. I have discussed them at length in the linked-to diary. As I suggested in that diary, these are the people who really control American politics; they are the old and lasting villains in our drama. Donors and politicians, political parties and NGOs, cops and militias, city councils and property owners -- money changes hands and together these groups team up to push us offstage in the drama of history. It's been happening for so long that we now acquiesce in being offstage.
The real plot development, as I suggested in my citation of a Richard Wolff video, would be to create coalitions ourselves to disrupt the established ones. How about -- Wolff opines -- lasting coalitions of different elements of the working class? One further tactic that was picked up with Occupy and that has not adopted since was horizontalism -- creating organizations in which everyone has an equal role rather than those in which "leaders" sell out the "followers" like what you see with unions today.
Also desperately in need of plot development is the Democratic Party elites' obsession with targeted benefits, one-off benefits to specific groups of people. Our coalitions need to oppose the Democratic Party on this. Once upon a time, the governments of the New Deal/ Fair Deal/ New Frontier/ Great Society promoted universal benefits, benefits which created political alliances across the board. Now they don't do that. We need to do that, preferably through the Movement for a People's Party, rather than waiting for them to change their minds about it, which they won't.
- Bernie Sanders. In his two campaigns he discussed important secrets of how to deal with real political problems. He thus achieved the role of potential hero. You form coalitions of your own, you break up their coalitions, you eliminate gatekeepers, you free up the government to do good things for the mass public rather than nominating heroes among the coalition partners and giving them handouts "for services rendered," which is what the coalitions do. I attended one of his rallies, in Riverside (California) back in 2016; it was invigorating in a way in which nothing else compared, or compares. Sanders, you may have noticed, has gone back to his day job, and will no longer be receiving action parts except perhaps as a Senator from Vermont, after things calm down a bit.
- Biden bullies. In the penumbra of false sense of empowerment spread by the nice liberals with big egos fixated upon persuading the Left to vote for Joe Biden, there is this group of Internet-obsessives telling us that it's our fault if Biden loses. The reality of the matter is that if Biden needs the individual votes of the Left, whom he is not courting, then he's lost the election already, and not by a small margin. But Biden bullies do not care. You must take the Biden Pledge of Allegiance even if you live in a safe state. These actors are more like security guards keeping angry spectators off of the stage while the real atrocities are performed front and center.
- Donald Trump. He's supposedly a "fascist," whereas George W. Bush, a more likely candidate for "fascism" given his use of dirty tricks to "win" elections, his championing of the USA PATRIOT Act, and his use of the events of 9/11/01 as his own personal Reichstag fire, well, Barack Obama built upon W.'s fascist foundation, eventually handing the great mass of government power to Republicans upon leaving office, while his wife Michelle gave W. a big famous hug. But both W. and Obama get a pass. Those who cry "fascism" appear as a collective Rip van Winkle in this regard. Trump's besetting sin is to troll the Left, and to make this trolling of the Left the basis for his re-election campaign, and so he, and not W., is the big "fascist."
Trump is probably going to lose in three weeks, because "trolling the Left" is not really the basis for assembling any sort of winning campaign. It is, however, equally absurd to suppose that we are going to defeat him by running an addled neoliberal against him, just like we defeated Hitler and Mussolini (/snark), so if The Donald had had the least shred of imagination about how to handle his campaign, he would be winning by now. Nonetheless his campaign has had the intended effect so far: anguished voices cry out as one: "Please elect Joe Biden so that Donald Trump will stop trolling us! Our big egos are hurting bad!" It might be fun for Trump fans to see and hear this reaction on the road to their collective defeat.
The two main reasons Trump is actually scary is that 1) he comes after, and builds upon, W. and Obama, and 2) he admits openly to doing what the rest of the political class will only discuss discreetly. These reasons, however, aren't really reasons for electing Joe Biden. One is thus left wondering if the nice liberals with big egos really dislike the whole establishment with its imperial Presidency, Trump's courting of militias, and so on, or if they just want Trump to shut up while abovementioned entities conduct their business with less of a mass media flourish. Trump would, in summary, make a good villain, except that he's not really an archvillain -- he's a troll, occupying the White House for now, whose role in the drama of history is to make the Left look bad for being panicked by his stupid charade. If he were a Tolkien character he'd probably be, I dunno, Grima Wormtongue? Or one of those huge trolls encountered by Bilbo and the dwarves? He could kill you but he's too lame to be Gollum, much less the Voice of Sauron.
- The nice liberals with big egos. Their collective role has been discussed above. Mostly these are the folks who write books about how bad the current system is, or they're the folks who get elected and say nice things while going along with the general badness that pervades most of our electoral systems. It's their tolerance for neoliberal (D) politicians that is their complete undoing. They make great pronouncements while failing to come to terms with their own ineffectual natures. In the great drama of history they get lots of soliloquies, and no action parts. They are extras. They are the chorus of a Greek tragedy whom a pivotal segment of America is ignoring.
- Climate-change-fueled disaster. This force is what gets the big action parts today, increasingly pushing the coalition partners aside, and it's going to continue to get the big action parts in the future. It is the ascending villain. It ravaged the West Coast this summer, and it's going to screw the South and the Eastern seaboard with hurricanes and floods at some point while the West gasps in drought. The neoliberal (D) politicians will parade their benevolence as regards these disasters (and thus their willingness to remain onstage front and center) by promoting an additional five-cent increase in the gas tax or something like that. Will the nice liberals with big egos see this as a cue to become something more than extras? If history is to be our guide, probably not. So mostly we can hope that history won't be our guide.
Lights! Camera! Action!