In writing about politics, I always try to imagine how my writing will read if the current political situation– regardless of which side currently holds power– is reversed, and to write accordingly. That consideration doesn’t affect today’s open letter to the Left, whose main party I expect will most likely at least take the House in today’s elections.
This is something you won’t want to hear, especially on a day like today.
Your ambition is limited by cold, hard facts that you can neither change nor dismiss.
I can understand how you thought otherwise. Things came so easily that the stars beckoned. “The End of History” seemed no hyperbole. You controlled entertainment, news and academia, and relied on those things having that cultural influence to make your arguments and change people’s minds. But now the monopolies enjoyed by those institutions has been shattered by technology– especially the Internet.
Entertainment’s fragmentation began in the late 1970s with cable television, though as usual, no one could see it yet. Airwaves were limited and rights were held by an oligopoly, making almost a monopoly out of broadcast television. Technology continued its march. Home video arrived. VCRs, and later DVD players, meant that people could build up libraries of their favorite old shows, providing eyeball competition for new shows. Then the Internet arrived and broke everything wide open. Hollywood’s top levels have always been like tenure at Harvard, with a hierarchy, strict control over professional mobility, and rich, rich rewards for the Elect. Talented actors, like graduate students and adjuncts, have always greatly outnumbered the places at the top. But now anyone can put out entertainment on their YouTube channel.
News? The mid-to-late-20th century era when newspapers became few and very profitable was an historical anomaly, created by the long, slow decline of newspapers as a result of technological alternatives. Television and radio, its partial immediate successors, were as mentioned above even more of a monopoly due to their limited airwaves, but then the Internet, which reduced production and distribution costs to almost nothing, completed the process.
Academia? The economics have been hijacked by academic unions and bureaucrats, and the content by the politically correct, with overproduction causing degree inflation and galloping credentialism. Inevitably the Internet struck here too, with Massive Open Online Courses and places like Wikipedia and Youtube instructional videos, information’s chief cost became nothing more than a minimal level of time and effort.
You have gotten fat and lazy, both intellectually and politically. You have forgotten how to argue. In particular you’ve forgotten that in order to persuade someone, you have to speak the same language as them. Bill Clinton knew how to do that. Surrendering at least part of your identity narrative will be needed for that to happen, and unfortunately for you, identity is the last thing most people surrender. You’ll be able to find reasons why you don’t need to.
Finally, in the midst of all this unfocused political energy, you’ve forgotten that people hate what they hate over twice as much as they like the equivalent amount of good. If you try to accomplish too much with marginal political tricks– “phone and pen”, “50.1% making mandates for sweeping social change”, or the Supreme Court acting as a sort of unelected super-legislature– you will suffer from the one three-word sentence that limits your ambitions more than anything else: ENEMIES BUILD UP.
Even if you regain both the House and the Senate today, and the Presidency, somehow, tomorrow, there is still nothing you can do about how people feel about you. You can’t wave a wand and make them not enemies, or not dedicated to fucking you over in revenge. Your favorite labels, created back in your cultural-hegemony days, are burning out by abuse and overuse. You can’t take away your enemies’ votes.
Are there such relevant things as the Electoral College, the Senate voting being by equal representation per state, and gerrymandering? To be sure there are, but they are not that significant. The entire significance of those structural factors is to affect exactly how much ambition you can have and how many enemies you can make before you are stopped by the buildup of toxicity. Public opinion is the true battleground, which is why the collapse of your means of swaying it is so catastrophic for you. Structural factors like gerrymandering won’t change the fact that you need new ways of swaying it. (I predict that at some point, Hollywood will begin to produce entertainment sympathetic not to Trump but to his supporters, perhaps even at the cost of killing some sacred cows of the Left on the way.)
Is this true of the Republicans also? Yes. They can’t take away your votes, or shut you up, or make you not hate them.
It’s still more a problem for you than for them. Over the past fifty years, you’ve gotten most of what you ever wanted in terms of cultural victories. If politics is now a stalemate, a political trench war of attrition, with the same few yards being taken and retaken, back and forth, then reversion to the mean in results is unavoidable. The policy victors of the past fifty years– the free-traders, the cultural Marxists, the tax-cutters, the gun rights people, the warmongers, and so on– will be forced to surrender territory until a new equilibrium is reached.
R. W. Porcupine
P.S. Don’t even think about impeaching Trump unless you have something more substantial up your sleeve than is commonly known, unless you want to be lumped in with congressional Republicans in 1996 and birthers. Trying to retroactively undo election results is lazy, narcissistic and harmful to American democracy, regardless of how self-righteous you feel.