I remember the rage and disgust we Democrats felt during the reign of George W. Bush. I remember the creepy way Republicans marched in lock step behind him, telling us to "support our president." And I remember thinking, on that on some hopeful day when a Democrat is finally president again, we won't be party shills like them. We won't overlook a Democrat's wrongdoings just because we voted for them. We'll hold their feet to the fire because, unlike Republicans, we aren't the type of mindless crowd who puts party before country, for we are the objective and compassionate seekers of truth!
What a stupid man I am. And what a complete failure the progressive movement has been for the last eight years.
As Bush prepared to invade Iraq, we met him with the largest protest movement in human history, with millions demonstrating in dozens of cities throughout the world. When Obama went to war with the suspiciously oil-rich sovereign nation of Libya (under false pretenses and without Congressional consent), bringing about Iraq-style regime change and of course Iraq-style endless civil war and terrorism, where were the protests? When Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed by being anally raped with a bayonet by western-backed rebels, this was Hillary Clinton's reaction. But nobody is outraged because Obama and Clinton are on the "Blue Team." And we liberals have marched in lock step behind them.
We were all horrified by Bush's USA Patriot Act, and its unprecedented attack on our civil liberties. "What about the First and Fourth Amendments?" I asked a Republican. "Just don't try reading them on an airplane or in a skyscraper!" was his actual reply. If you call that cognitive dissonance, what do you call our complacency when Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 into law, granting himself the power to detain US citizens indefinitely?
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as senators voted in favor of a bill to construct a 700-mile-long barrier on our southern border in 2006. But when a Republican wants to continue the project, we suddenly remember what a stupid idea it is. We will only hold you accountable if you're not on "Our Team."
People are scared to death because Trump has threatened to deport from 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, Obama is projected to have deported more than 3 million by the time he leaves office.
I am not telling anyone what to feel, think, say, or do. But I do believe that it would be a whole lot more honest for us to admit that our high moral standards only apply to people of the Other Tribe, and that we don't have to play by our own rules.
It's not that ALL of us were asleep at the wheel. Early last year, for example, Noam Chomsky wrote: "[I]gnored in the 'war against terrorism' is the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times -- Barack Obama's global assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm us some day, and any unfortunates who happen to be nearby." We are rightfully outraged when a president threatens to deport Muslims, but not when a president kills Muslims where we can't see them. Despite carrying out "the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times," we talk about how much we're going to miss our "cool" president. We are complacent party shills, just like the Republicans were under Bush.
Enough about the politicians. Let's talk about progressives, leftists, liberals and Democrats. I believe we're right about environmental protection, economic justice and exposing racial inequalities in the criminal justice system. But I'm not sure that the "Blue Team" has a monopoly on the truth or possesses moral superiority over conservatives.
When are argue, how often are we really using facts to defend our liberal values, and how often are we simply acting on a visceral "Us vs Them" mentality, where Our Team is righteous and pure, and Their Team is totally bad and evil?
If we are simply standing up for our values, then why don't we apply them consistently? For example, if you happen to be overweight and a member of the Blue Team, then we will defend you and oppose "fat shaming," because anyone who finds obesity funny is completely bad and totally evil. We react with pious indignity when Donald Trump calls Rosie O'Donnell a "fat pig." But if you're fat and on the Red Team...
I'm not even claiming that fatness can't be funny. But I do wonder how sincere our sanctimonious grandstanding is.
We pledge to stand in solidarity with the most marginalized members of society. Then we head on down to www.peopleofwalmart.com to remind ourselves of our superiority to those people.
We oppose hatred against Muslims, just as long as they voted for Hillary Clinton. I happened to see the following comment on Facebook, where a liberal linked to an op-ed by a Muslim woman who voted for Trump. He exclaims to the author that "Trump is anti-'you'," Then calls her "a piece of shit."
This guy reminds me of a man who will ask a woman out on a date, and when rejected, calls her a slut and a cunt and then wonders why "nice guys" like him can never find a companion. "He doesn't respect you like I do, you piece of shit!"
We're not even consistent in the values we claim to defend. We lectured conservatives on how important it is to be "colorblind." And then one day we decided that it's racist to be "colorblind." We ran programs promoting "tolerance," until that too is considered a bad word. (If you "tolerate" a meal, what does that say about it?) Perhaps we alone do not possess the eternal, unchanging truth?
Then you have comments like this:
"I have tremendous respect for [John] McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war."
No, that wasn't Donald Trump, it was Al Franken. Was Franken just joking? Was Trump joking when he said almost the same exact thing? Determining who was "kidding" and who "meant it" depends on which person is on your team. All other factors come second.
When we judge who is a flawed-but-forgivable human being, and who is irredeemably evil, Tribe counts for more than Truth. And when I say "we," I am including myself. It does feel different when Obama compares his bad bowling to the Special Olympics, or Al Gore says that his critics have an extra chromosome, compared to Trump mocking a person with arthrogryposis. It doesn't feel the same when liberal websites report that conservative protesters are secretly funded by the shady billionaire Koch brothers, and when conservative websites report that liberal protesters are secretly funded by the shady billionaire George Soros. Throughout Obama's presidency it was obvious that "death panels" and "FEMA camps" were moronic conspiracy theories, but when Bush was president I somehow thought it was plausible that Bush had covertly imprisoned Osama bin Laden, with a "capture" to be announced at a strategic moment; or that Bush would surround the white house with tanks at the end of his term in order to avoid giving up power. I'm not objective either.
I wish I could claim the same level of detachment and equanimity that George Carlin expressed when he wrote:
"[I]f you read something in this book that sounds like advocacy of a particular political point of view, please reject the notion. My interest in 'issues' is merely to point out how badly we're doing, not to suggest a way we might do better."
I admit still cling to liberal views. I am disgusted by the idea of "registering" Muslims, but I am also disgusted by Obama's "most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times." I believe we should welcome Syrian refugees into our country, but maybe there wouldn't be so many refugees if Obama had not armed Al Quaeda's allies, who proceeded to use Syrian civilians as human shields in their civil war. I don't believe that "corporations are people," but I wonder why Obama never suggested a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.
There is one thing we liberals are better at than conservatives: lying. When Republicans say they're "pro-life", anti-big government, or pro-Christian values, their lies are so clumsy, idiotic and transparent that even a child could see through them. But when we Democrats say that we fight for the working class, that we will hold Wall Street accountable, or that we are anti-war, we may be completely and utterly full of shit, but at least we're convincing.