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More angry than racist more fearful than ideological.

March 16, 2016

I suppose, like many who consider themselves progressive, I have the hope that sometime in the future, led by those individuals and groups that support us now, our ideals will become a strong effective majority able to wield enough influence to persuade society to adopt plans and programs we believe necessary. I still have hope and a glimmer of expectation.

I fear, however, the tragic truth is that the young as they age become conservatives, ethnic groups as they move into the middle class do so also. The gay community outside of the South is now free to vote Republican without too much shame while the black community is prevented from voting even if they are Republican. And worse of all, the seven and eight-year-olds of our nation seem to have been indoctrinated in many of our schools to hate others as well as to despise science.

One group, the men and women of this country working in the lowest of industrial, service industry, and agriculture jobs who at one time appeared to be the bedrock of the Democratic Party, have turned away sometimes even violently so. Most of them were of European immigrant heritage. Many of them or their ancestors suffered through similar hatred and prejudice with which they greet the immigrants of today.

Why were they lost to the Democratic Party? Oh yes, it’s easy to dismiss most of them as simply old white men, racists to the core whose last hurrah was this most recent national election. Even I did so in previous blogs. Yet, they were not the grand beneficiaries of the “ancien regime,” but only their expendable foot soldiers: those who had been persuaded that they had the most to lose when in fact, they had the least to gain.

Perhaps as Chris Hedges points out they are inherently conservative and resistant to change.

“The danger the corporate state faces does not come from the poor. The poor, those Karl Marx dismissed as the Lumpenproletariat, do not mount revolutions, although they join them and often become cannon fodder. The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé intellectuals, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt.”

Chris Hedges, in a May 14, 2012 article on Truthdig titled ‘Colonized by Corporations’,

On the other hand, given the Donald Trump phenomena (and Ted Cruz and even Bernie Sanders as well) they may be more like Bakunin predicted, true anarchists willing to tear down everything liberal and conservative alike that contains a whiff of the traditional political system

Many years ago, I was tasked with the responsibility of guiding through to fruition one of the most massive pieces of environmental legislation in the country. Arrayed on the other side were the usual suspects, the rich and powerful and the corrupt and venial. Standing with them were those who actually were most at risk; those persuaded by those that had the most to gain that they had the most to lose. People like the construction workers and the family farmers and the like. We, the liberals, laughed at them, at their ignorance and conservatism. And, in that case, we won.

I recall a short time after our victory spending night after night driving from one farmhouse to another, sitting in the farmer’s kitchens explaining why it was necessary that their lands be preserved for the good of society and future generations and then working with them on how to replace the marginal income that used to be available to them and their descendants from the sale of a portion or all of their land to developers — figuring out how they were going to be able to continue to farm when faced with increased costs and reduced markets. In some cases, I was able to work something out. In others, I could not. I had in those latter cases agreed to plead with the great coalition we had assembled to pass the legislation and the regulatory agencies it had empowered to help with a solution to these specific equitable problems. Usually, my pleas fell on deaf ears. We won they lost was the response that in one way or other I heard most. It was the same with the building trades unions. They lost, we laughed. So, those who began with fear of the unknown because they were the most marginal became filled with hate at what they saw as arrogance and insensitivity of those professing to be liberals.

We should not let that happen. Those people on the margins should not be lost even if they, for one reason or another, believe they must oppose whatever we stand for. It is like the parable of the lost sheep. Liberalism means sweat so that no soul is lost, no soul left behind if you will.

They, this modern day Lumpen Proletariat, who subsist at the poverty line and slightly above it do not see the threat from above, but from below — those they fear will take the only things that keep them from abject poverty and despair, their jobs and the few items of value they may have acquired. As a result, they also hate those above who they perceive encourage them to do so. There is probably nothing that enrages them more than to be accused that they, clinging (often barely) to the lowest levels of the economic ladder, have benefited from “white privilege” to get there. They are more angry than racist more fearful than ideological.

If we wish to continue in 2016 what was begun in 2008 and continued 2012, it cannot be lost like it was in 1980, 2000, 2010 and 2014. It is those who most fear and hate liberalism that must be wooed; one by one if need be. We cannot win by only relying on our people, those who currently are the progressive voting groups, getting out to vote, because sooner of later inevitably we will lose them just like we did the Reagan Democrats.

Effective political persuasion operates through a process which is often misunderstood. It does not consist of an effort to get someone else to adopt our point of view or to believe something they had not previously believed, but rather consists of showing them that their existing beliefs require that they should do what we want. Of course, it requires arguing from the opponent’s point of view, something we Americans can rarely get themselves to do because we will rarely bother to discover what the opponent’s point of view is. We Americans, even we Progressives, seem to prefer argument and force to discussion and compromise.

It is not easy. Politics is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better equipped and trained. All too often, all we have is our optimism to sustain us as the barricades are overrun while we wait for popular support that never comes.

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