Home National Politics Liberal America, You Don’t See What We’re Up Against, and It Matters

Liberal America, You Don’t See What We’re Up Against, and It Matters

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Summary: Liberal America does not perceive well the nature of the force that’s taken over the right. Not perceiving what we’re up against has enormous consequences, because understanding one’s foe – its nature, its way of working, the disposition of its forces – has enormous implications for devising the best strategy for defeating it. Providing a good understanding of what it is we are up against is one of the central purposes of this “Press the Battle” series.

I’ve undertaken to present this “Press the Battle” series because, believing it might make an important contribution, I feel a moral obligation to do so. At the age of 68, and after a whole decade of fighting against this ugly force that’s taken over the right, I’m certainly not doing it for fun.

Maybe now is a good time to explain why I think what I’m presenting here might just possibly help turn the tide of battle. A reader recently wrote me privately wondering when I was going to stop the preliminaries and explain what I’m proposing to do. The fellow evidently has missed the point: this — getting the picture I’m painting in “Press the Battle” into the national conversation as far as possible — is what I think is important to do.

How could it be important? What is it about this picture I’m painting that I think could have a meaningful impact on the battle over what kind of nation America will become?  

The answer begins with the title here: “Liberal America, You Don’t See What We’re Up Against, and It Matters.”

In the second entry of the series, after listing various components of The Republican Party’s Extraordinary Pattern of Destructiveness, I asked: “What is it that would express itself in all these ways?” I described that question as “too long unasked.”  (Indeed, has it been asked anywhere?)

But that “It” is what we’re up against.

But in Liberal America, one encounters little recognition of this “It.” Instead, what we find a jumble. For many, the picture lies in pieces, issue by issue, news item by news item.

But I say, it’s essential to put the pieces together to see the “It” that animates all these manifestations.

Another way many liberals talk about the problem on the right  is in terms of how “far right” the Republican Party has moved, how it has become more “extreme,” and dominated by “ultra-conservatives.”  

But I say, there is nothing truly conservative about today’s Republican Party, and that the real nature of the battle is at a deeper level than right-vs.-left.

At a greater level of integration, there is the idea that what this crisis is about is “plutocracy,” or “money in politics,” or “corporate takeover” of our government. Surely, this points to an important dimension of the problem, but there’s a good deal more to the picture than this diagnosis can cover.

This force also has given us torture, a level of dishonesty extraordinary even by the usual standards of politics, a political dynamic in which conflict is consistently chosen over cooperation, an unprecedented indifference to the public good.

America had an age of plutocracy before – in the late 19th century – and for all its faults and injustices, it was not nearly so pervasively destructive as what now animates the Republican Party. So clearly, this rule-by-money problem, though important, must be only a piece of a bigger picture.

Something bigger and deeper is involved, and we need to see it. “Know they enemy” is wise counsel, because a strategy for victory and strength in the battle depends on such knowledge.

In this “Press the Battle” series, I’m offering a picture of that bigger and deeper something .

The two main components of our national crisis, I have asserted, is that “The once-respectable Republican Party has become the instrument of a destructive force.” (I will soon argue that it is better to call it an “evil force,” but until I explain what I mean by “evil,” and why that is the best available word for the phenomenon I’m describing, the term “destructive force” will suffice.)

Already in this series, this vast but coherent and discernible force has been sketched in various ways – for example here– and the picture will be further developed in articles yet to come.

How well we see and understand this force we’re up against will be a major determinant of our strength in the battle against it.

That Liberal America needs such strengthening is implied by the second of the two components of our national crisis: “The response from Liberal America to this threat [from the force that’s taken over the right] has been woefully weak.”

Here are a few ways that Liberal America could be strengthened by having a good, coherent picture of the force that – for the sake of the nation, our children, and the planet – we must defeat:

A better strategy. Seeing how the force is deployed in our political, but also cultural, social, and psychological systems, we will be better able to choose the points and means of attack. For starters, the heart of a strategy for draining power away from this force would be to call out this force for what it is, wherever it manifests itself. In a democracy, power depends on the allegiance of the people.

A coherent and persuasive message. Seeing the unifying “It” behind all the various manifestations enables us to show our fellow Americans the meaning of the overall battle.  When we talk about immigration, for just one example, rather than getting mired into the complexities of the issue, with no easy solutions, we would connect the Republicans’ punitive position with their larger pattern of attacking the vulnerable.

Wiser dealings with the other side. The more clearly we see the operation of this force, the more wisely we will regard those on the other side–both the warped people who are this force’s main agents and the good people who, clueless about the true nature of the force they are supporting, lend their support to something serving values contrary to their own .

Unification of our forces. By seeing how a destructive force is manifesting itself in diverse ways on different issues, Liberal America would be better able to bring together for a united effort various activist groups organized around specific issues. Like with the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, such groups (on climate, voters’ rights, tax fairness, etc.) would understand that they are all fighting the same thing. With that perspective, they could  more readily join together and thereby become a stronger and more coherent force..

For these reasons, providing a compelling picture of what we’re up against has the possibility of making an important contribution to a battle that must be fought and must be won.

But here’s one more way Liberal America might strengthen itself by seeing what we are up against.

More connection with the power of passion and purpose.  When we see an “evil force,” we have feelings about it–feelings that empower us for the battle.

This point will be developed in the next entry in the series, #6 We All Know How to Respond to an “Evil Force,” But We Are Failing to Do So.

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This series will be appearing here in installments. Or you can clixk here to see the whole series, and here.to learn how you can help this campaign to succeed.

These are the entries already published:

#1 Many Liberals Don’t Like the Idea of Battle, But the Alternative in America Today is Much Worse

#2 The Republican Party’s Extraordinary Pattern of Destructiveness

#3 Calling out the Republicans. Obama Hasn’t So We Must.

#3.5 This Is What You Should Be Making This Election About, Mr. President

#4 Not Our Finest Hour: Why Is Liberal America Falling So Far Short?

  • swvagrl

    In the 1960s, if I had had a magic ball to look into the future to 2014, I would not have believed that this was what our country had become. Yes, we have a huge problem! First, too many people don’t pay attention and don’t want to think about “politics.” You are correct that we have knee jerk reactions to events, but don’t see the big picture. A lot of people I know are living on the edge and are desperate to keep their jobs. That makes them easy prey for the fear mongering strategy the Republicans use to keep them in line, e.g., voting against their own self-interests. I call it the serf mentality. I really agree with what you have written, but I think we also need a leader like Teddy Roosevelt who had the guts to take on big business and make fundamental changes so that the lives of all Americans, not just the top 1% will be better. It is our responsibility to promote that kind of leader.

  • Andy Schmookler

    A friend just sent me this morning this quotation from an op/ed by Thomas Edsall in today’s New York Times, reinforcing the point of my piece above, that Liberal America (and its political arm, the Democratic Party) does not see what we’re up against:

    Democrats today convey only minimal awareness of what they are up against: an adversary that views politics as a struggle to the death. The Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice principle, including its historical commitments to civil rights and conservation; to bend campaign finance law to the breaking point; to abandon the interests of workers on the factory floor; and to undermine progressive tax policy – in a scorched-earth strategy to postpone the day of demographic reckoning.

    Edsall may not see what I am seeing — a coherent and consistently “destructive (evil) force” that’s taken over the Republican Party — but he sees the destructiveness, and he sees the crippling lack of awareness of the people who should be our champions on this “struggle to the death” into which today’s Republican Party has transformed the once-constructive political process of the United States.