The biggest failure of the Left is not understanding politics.
Politics is a rock concert, not a seminar.
I’m not talking about the “political system”. I’m talking about the realities of attempting a constructive dialogue with 319 million people.
The political system requires a thoughtful, analytical, patient, usually plodding “process” to accomplish anything of substance and lasting value. This is how it is, and how should be, recognizing the importance of law and the framework it creates for a functioning society.
Having said that . . .
It’s unrealistic to expect everyday citizens to begin to understand the arcane particulars of fashioning laws, much less participate in the tedious business of debate, negotiation and compromise in the committees and on the floors of legislative bodies. People barely have time to cook their meals and make it to work on time, much less pore over congressional studies and the notes of sub-committee meetings, watch monotonous hours of C-Span, or read the informed analysis of issue experts.
Maybe this is the intrinsic flaw in the whole idea of democracy, but that’s an entirely other discussion.
The point is, people cheer for their favorite causes the way the cheer for their favorite sports teams — or remaining true to the metaphor of this particular piece — their favorite songs.
The truth is — for better or worse — this makes it pretty easy to govern.
If you play a song people hate, or sing out of tune, they will boo and threaten to storm the stage and tear you to shreds. If you play what they like and perform it well, they’ll cheer, dance, revere you like a god, and go home happy.
But I’m making a simple point. If the Left would try “tuning in” to people, immediately stop condemning the public for being so dumbed-down and apathetic — snidely looking down their noses at Mr. and Ms. Everyday American for not wanting to sit through a four-hour Chomsky seminar — then actually play some music the voting public wants to hear, maybe some of its messages — many critical to the survival of the human race — would actually get heard.
You could argue that this is what Bernie Sanders is managing to do.
Unfortunately, it’s also what Donald Trump is doing.
But realistically both have mere cult followings, neither approaching universal appeal. Trump scores with the Ted Nugent fans. Bernie has got the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young crowd locked down.
Both have certainly tapped into a hungry void. Someone needs to sing the songs the vast majority of Americans want to hear. Perhaps more than ever before in recent history, there is an urgent need for music which will raise our hopes and inspire new dreams.
But the way things stand, there are still a huge number of folks who have no song to hum.
I believe people know what they want. But they can’t write the tunes themselves. They hear what’s being played, listen for a catchy melody, a singable chorus, an infectious beat. They take it from there.
None of the candidates so far have come up with a true hit.
Does this characterization trivialize politics?
It doesn’t have to. It simply means that there is a lesson here.
The challenge is offering an honest, heartfelt, engaging, entertaining message, which is true to both the spirit and the content that drives that message, and one which people not only want to hear, but will be “singing” themselves — because it genuinely resonates with them.
For the right wing of this country, this is apparently easy. While what they say makes me as a progressive shudder and recoil in horror, I have to hand it to them. They know how to put it out there and get their deluded, misguided, parochial flock of lemmings excited!
The Left — and I’m not talking about the “sold out” Democrats or Starbucks liberals who for all intents and purposes form the willfully ignorant center of the political spectrum — just can’t seem to get it together.
For many progressives, especially progressive academics and pundits, the devil is so entirely in the details, nuance and caveat reign supreme, and tragically the message gets lost. The “big ideas” might be out there, but they’re buried in a blizzard of abstractions, qualifiers, minutiae, pros-and-cons, excuses and rationalizations, the truly annoying and pathetic preemptive defenses, deflections, even counter and counter-counter arguments.
You know . . . the old forest and trees myopia.
Where am I going with this?
I’ll offer one simple example.
Remember the John Lennon song Happy Xmas (War Is Over)? The end of the song features a vamp with a huge chorus singing:
…………. War is over if you want it! ………….
Sound naive? Stupid? Wacky? Impossible?
All we have now is war, morning, noon and night . . . 24/7/365. War is like oxygen!
But the simple truth is, we — that is, you and I — could put an end to it, at least put an end to our aggressive, destructive military misadventures. We could stop the slaughter of tens of thousands of people and the promotion of even more anti-American terrorism. You and I could stop the militarization of our nation and the world precipitated by the profiteering and insatiable greed of the corporate military-industrial complex.
The method is actually quite straightforward.
The message is simple and clear.
Spend some time with this and see for yourself . . .
War and fear and militarization and national bankruptcy are over.
. . . if you want it.
Have you heard this tune from any of the candidates?
Have you even heard it from the Left, the progressive intelligentsia, many of whom say you should just look the other way on Bernie Sanders’ longstanding support for militarization, his active promotion of unnecessary military expenditures, his declared endorsement of drone warfare, his votes for the surveillance state, his condemnation of Edward Snowden, his appalling knee-jerk approval of Israeli apartheid and brutal military oppression of Palestinians?
War and fear and militarization and national bankruptcy are over if we want it.
It’s simple, catchy. Has a nice sound to it. Good beat.
Why don’t we ever hear this song?
You might ask one of the “progressives” at your next Chomsky seminar.