Donkeys are really amazing animals. Stubborn, yes, but smart and hard-working: for centuries, agricultural development and community aggregation advanced on the backs of donkeys. What they have made possible for us used to be called, admiringly, “progress” — advance or development toward a better, more complete, or more modern condition.
But no more. Donkeys are in the doghouse and “progress”, inexplicably but inexorably, has become a pejorative term.
In the first weeks after November 7, donkeys seemed to be engaged in finger pointing (hoof pointing would be more anatomically accurate). Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate. (She was). Bernie Saunders would have been better. (No, he would have been steam-rollered). Voter suppression was the culprit. (Sure there was some but not enough to tip the results).
About a month later there were smug statements along the lines of “You will be sorry, you unthinking Americans who voted for Trump. Just wait and see.” Most recently the donkeys are braying about protest here, protest there, march, demonstrate, show solidarity, and (in the case of the Obamas themselves) embody integrity.
What isn’t visible to progress-oriented me is planning along the lines of what Republican power brokers did in 1964. For those who don’t remember, in that election Goldwater (who would be a moderate in today’s Republican Party) was decimated by LBJ, and pundits were foreseeing the end of the GOP as a beacon of conservatism. So what did the Republican strategists do? They made investments for the long term. They developed and funded right wing think tanks (Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Hudson Institute). They funded departments and professorships at institutions of higher learning. They sank their teeth into public education. They organized. They methodically took over community and state legislatures and boards.
The result is that the US has shifted markedly to the right over the course of my adult life. Yes, Obama and Bill Clinton were elected president, and Jimmy Carter for one term, but the majority of state legislatures and governors are Republican, and the right has a majority in both houses of Congress. In the 1950s, the opposite was true. Back then, “progress”, as espoused by “liberals” was not the dirty word it is today. Why did it become anathema? The positive valence of “progress” is being undermined, eviscerated by anti-science idiots and shrewd manipulative Ayn Randys.
Why? Because Republican money, planning, and organization over the long term made it so. Democrats in November had more money, more organization, more structure, and more media support — even from perennial Republican newspapers and magazines — than their opponent. But they lost, not just flawed Hillary but across the board.
Democrats have taken for granted the idea that people gravitate to progress, believe in facts, and respect science. Au contraire, the majority of people rarely vote in their own long-term self-interest. Results of a recent Quinnipiac survey prove my point:
“Americans are optimistic 52–43 percent about the next four years with Trump as president and say 47–31 percent that he will help rather than hurt the nation’s economy.
Trump will be a ‘great’ president, 12 percent of voters say; 30 percent say he will be a ‘good’ president; 20 percent say he will be ‘not so good’ and 32 percent say he will be ‘bad’.”
Forget the 12% who say Trump will be a great president. They are the extremists who don’t live in the real world. What is appalling is that 30% say he will be a good president. This is the mindset that Democrats are up against, and if all the Dems can do is whine and bray, “Look at all the bad stuff he is going to do. You will be sorry then,” they don’t live in the real world either. If the disasters Trump does (and Pence, more Pence than Trump for the inner workings of government) are spun appropriately, many Americans either won’t realize they are “bad” or won’t blame the Republicans for them. The MSM may point them out but the MSM has no street cred anymore. Walter Cronkite is long gone and so is the hegemony of CBS, NBC, and ABC.
Democrats at high levels have to work like donkeys to build up — build back up — the image they had in the 1950s and early 1960s. They also have to build a backbench of talent, which is sadly lacking. Granted that most of the 17 GOP candidates for president in 2016 were pitiful (and the most unthinkable of them all WON), the fact is they had 17 candidates. Next time round, some of these folks will be seasoned and prepared. Saunders and Hillary will be out of it, and who else is there? Martin O’Malley? I am personally high on Kirsten Gillibrand but she needs more seasoning, as she is not the born orator Obama is. Cory Booker, sure, charismatic, but is the US ready for another black president so soon?
Less than 20% of the US population is old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis, but I happen to be one of them. I was a child vacationing in the Caribbean at the time, and risked being literally blown out of the water. That crisis remains the most poignant example of how the occupant of the White House has the power of life and death over ALL OF US.
The Democratic donkey needs to plow in NOW for the LONG TERM because voters, with their short-term vision, are clueless about the travesty that will shortly occupy the Oval Office. Americans today are uninformed, misinformed, deceived, and fearful. As a result of decades of misinformation by Republican power brokers (and lack of push-back or planning by Democrats), the country has shifted to the right. The young, black, Hispanic, disenfranchised, they don’t vote. Only 52% of the women who DID vote voted against Trump. Something has to be done, up and down the line, state by state, count by county, community by community, court appointment by court appointment. Who will take the blinders off the donkey before it is too late . . . if it isn’t already?