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The one (and only) thing Progressives should learn from Conservatives

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Aren’t conservatives and progressives supposed to be like yin and yang, complimenting one another to keep the other side balanced? Instead, we have this virus/host thing going on where each side swears that the other is the virus. We’re like a hand and glove, if the glove was a brown piranha and the hand was another piranha that hated brown piranhas for no reason. We’re like peaches and cream, if the peaches were just peaches and the cream wanted to control the peaches’ reproductive rights and tell them what to do with their own pit.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re kind of different. It’s like looking at the negatives of an old photograph where the colors are reversed. Literally. All of the traits you may find on one side are completely the opposite on the other. On one side, there’s empathy, and on the other, apathy. On one side, self-awareness, on the other, pure ignorance. Now, I could write a 10-part docu-series about the things that conservatives could and should learn from progressives, but this is about the one–and only–thing that progressives absolutely need to learn from conservatives: Commitment to the cause.

Every single election season, without fail, both parties nominate their favorite terrible candidate after the actual decent candidates are forced to withdraw for no damn reason. Both parties are faced with the same reality and choice: Do I vote for the “lesser of two evils”, or do I sit it out because I’m tired of this nonsense?

What follows next is where the two camps diverge and where conservatives show their strength and progressives show their incredibly mind-numbing weakness.

The commitment to the progressive cause falls apart because too many people are upset that they didn’t get the candidate they wanted. Your commitment to the candidate becomes bigger than your commitment to the progressive cause at that point.

Conservatives will, by and large, commit to the cause and immediately get behind whoever wins the nomination. They’re united. Anyone who had anything negative to say about the candidate during the primary morphs into the candidate’s most staunch supporter and firmly attaches their lips to the nominee’s rear end. It’s an instant love affair built on instant amnesia. It’s like that Men in Black flash thing…on the entire Republican party. It’s obviously cult-like, but it’s definitely commendable on some level since they always seem to get exactly what they want out of their candidates, even if they didn’t initially want them in office.

Keep in mind that most Republicans didn’t actually vote for Trump in the primary and called him a clown and even a racist and temporarily displayed signs of human-like behavior at one point. They didn’t want him to be president. But because of their commitment to their cause, they were willing to vote for him and push him to do the things they wanted him to do once he was in office.

It’s the Republican winning formula:

  1. Support your favorite candidate during the primary and openly tear apart the other candidates.
  2. Once they have a nominee, it’s amnesia time. Get behind the nominee and get to trashing the opponent, but act like you were behind them from the jump and don’t utter a negative word about them.
  3. Once they’re in office, push the candidate even further to the right by demanding they stick to their promises and make them go even further than what was promised.
  4. Conservative agenda achieved (but still walk around angry and yelling at everybody with guns for some reason).

Obviously, there’s more to their winning formula, like disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, voter suppression, foreign election interference, and the list goes on, but you get my point.

Conservatives need to cheat and follow the above steps in order to win. If progressives just followed those steps without all the cheating, we’d never lose an election ever again. Ever. We have the numbers, and they know that, which is why they cheat.

Progressives are amazing at the first step. Like we have that part down down. Too many of us just fall apart emotionally and can’t commit to the second step and we never get anywhere unless we all collectively love the candidate, like we did with Obama.

You may have noticed that the Republican Party is moving further and further to the right with every election. It’s because of their fanatical and cult-like devotion to conservatism and whoever their nominee is. They line up right behind them during the presidential election and no matter what comes out of the nominee’s mouth or what is uncovered from their past, conservatives’ only focus is on the opposition because they’re laser-focused on their mission: To get this nominee into office so we can continue to push this country further to the right. And they know that can’t be done with a Democrat in control.

No one’s asking progressives to be as fanatical and cultish about it, but you can easily stay committed to the cause without becoming the progressive equivalent of a Trumper. I’d actually expect progressives to be far more harsh critics with the Dem president than any conservative would be with a GOP one. We have so much more work to do and so much further to move than conservatives. It’s easy to move backward and doesn’t require much effort. In fact, we’re seeing how the inaction and neglect of the current administration is actually sending us backwards. It’s harder to actually push forward and reach places this country has never been.

There’s absolutely nothing progressive about being OK with Republicans continuing to seize power and move us backwards.

I hear a lot of reasons why people on the left don’t want to “choose between the lesser of two evils”, but they’re all essentially the same tantrum thrown with different words. There’s no actual rationale. Just “I hate that it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.” You never actually hear anything about how not voting or openly criticizing a Dem candidate in the middle of an election will lead us to a more progressive America. And how is that a better strategy than consistently backing the Dem nominee? That will, at the very least, ensure you won’t go backwards with Republicans, and allows you to continue to push the Dem candidate further left. There’s absolutely nothing progressive about being OK with Republicans continuing to seize power and move us backwards.

The commitment to the progressive cause falls apart because too many people are upset that they didn’t get the candidate they wanted. Your commitment to the candidate becomes bigger than your commitment to the progressive cause at that point. Conservatives are only committed to the candidate when they win the nomination, then the candidate and the cause become blurred into the same thing. If progressives were able to commit to the actual cause of progressivism, regardless of who the candidate is–the same way conservatives commit to conservatism regardless of the candidate–maybe progressivism would actually make some progress for once.

Democrats aren’t even close to perfect, and in reality, we need a separate true Progressive party. But Democrats have shown, especially recently, they are significantly more receptive to public opinion than Republicans. Democrats just took over Virginia and are passing progressive gun laws and just today decriminalized marijuana, both things that have a majority support in this country, but have not been passed nationally because of Republican control.

In the past 40 years, Democrats have had full control of the presidency, House, and Senate a grand total of 4 years: 2 years under Bill Clinton and 2 under Barack Obama. So, this idea that Democrats never do anything when in office is nonsensical when 1) the only two times when Democrats had full control, they had to spend the bulk of their time rescuing the country from the previous Republican’s recession, and 2) they actually do pass significant legislation when they have power:

Obviously, Bill Clinton was a more moderate–dare I say, conservative–Democrat, and passed fewer progressive policies during his term, but given what both administrations inherited from their Republican predecessors, both did exceedingly well economically and could have certainly done more to help the country with a Democratic Congress. But they were left with the Republican Congresses (Congri?) for the bulk of their terms because we wouldn’t commit to the cause and show up to vote after they were initially elected.

Never in modern history has a Democrat inherited a healthy economy from his Republican predecessor or even had the opportunity to take over after a Democrat. The last time a Democrat had the opportunity to take over from another Democrat–who wasn’t killed in office–was before the Civil War. And that was when the Democrats were the party of the south and Republicans the party of the north (which is reversed today). You only need to go back to 1988 to find the last time a Republican took over after another Republican. Because they vote. Always. No matter what.

Modern Democrats have never taken office without having to first clean all the feces off of America’s walls, yet George W. Bush and now Trump have taken the reigns of perfectly healthy economies and driven them straight into the ground, only to inevitably hand them back over to a Democrat to clean it all up again. And during said cleanup, we have progressives with the unmitigated gall and audacity to wonder why the Democratic president can’t pass more significant progressive legislation in their term when the president has to spend the entire first two years in crisis mode cleaning up the previous mess. And yet they still managed to pass more progressive legislation in those two years than every Republican president has in the past 40 years, combined.

You can’t complain that Democrats never follow through with their progressive promises while also failing to give them the opportunity to do so. It’s the old “throw a stick in your own bike wheel and blame somebody that you fell” routine. “I don’t vote for crappy Democrats because they’ll never get anything done in office” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. They don’t get anything done because you don’t consistently vote for them. Not the other way around. Meanwhile, conservatives are over there skipping to the booth to vote for their crappy Republican since they know they can push them to do what they want after they’re elected. And they’ll keep skipping to the booth every single election no matter what crappy candidate they have to vote for because they know that’s what gives them the best chance to create the America they want.

If progressives were as committed to the cause of progressivism as conservatives are to the cause of regressivism, we’d be a hell of a lot closer to the America progressives want. Instead, we only show up when the perfect candidate emerges, which continues this unending cycle of Republicans sending us into a national crisis and Democrats playing cleanup instead of being able to actually pass significant progressive legislation.

Break the cycle. Even if Biden isn’t the progressive we need–and we know he ain’t–allow his administration to clean this country up from Trump and set up the next candidate who could be the progressive we need, all while still pushing Biden as far left as possible. And even if we don’t get the candidate we want, stay committed to the cause of pushing whoever we get further left. The conservative right have laid out the blueprint. We just have to take it and use it for good instead of the selfishness, greed, and hate that conservatives use it for that has led us to one of the most bleak and volatile times in recent history.

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Voting

People who ‘don’t get political’ can only say that because others ‘got political’ for them

Every freedom we have was given to us by people who ‘got political’. And we’ll lose all of them if enough of us don’t continue to ‘get political’.

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The United States of America only exists because a group of people decided to “get political” and break free from Great Britain.

Unless you’re a wealthy, white male, you only have the right to vote because someone “got political”.

Every black person in this country would still be in chains if it weren’t for people “getting political”.

You would be forced to work in unworkable conditions and for unlivable wages (even less livable than the currently unlivable minimum wage) if it weren’t for someone “getting political”.

We all owe every freedom we have in our lives to other people “getting political”.

People have been “getting political” for millennia to try and make people’s lives better because there have always been people who want to make them worse. The folks who want to profit from taking away your rights will never rest. They’re like weeds that take over a garden once you stop tending to it. And now, our government is infested with weeds because people got used to a (relatively) manicured garden and just assumed it would be there every day without anyone tending to it. Democracy requires tending to in the form of education and voting, and we saw what happened when we gave our full attention to that garden in 2008 when we had all hands on deck to elect our first black president. Only to be followed by the garden being taken over by weeds in 2016 due to neglect. Have you ever noticed that the people in your neighborhood with the best lawns and gardens are constantly in there tending to them? They don’t just sit back and only react when the weeds show up.

We can’t sit around and act like our right to vote, get paid a fair wage, or afford medical treatment will always exist just because they have existed as long as they have. Those freedoms only exist because enough people demanded that they exist and they have only stayed in place by continuing to take an interest in the politics that govern our lives. The second enough of us stop getting political is the second that those rights start to get taken away by those who profit from our loss of freedom. We’ve seen it in other parts of the world throughout history, and we’re starting to see it right here in America with this current administration.

Being political isn’t a 4-letter word. It just means you give a damn. It means there’s something wrong with the way things are, and you’d like them to change. Don’t let the people who don’t want things to change convince you that getting political is impolite or something you should never discuss. There’s a reason why conservatives tend to be the ones who discourage political discussions since they don’t want things to change, and would actually prefer we regress and make things “great again.” They know that if enough people get political, we could continue to progress as a society, and progress is kryptonite to conservatives.

If you aren’t political, then someone else will be for you. That means that if you don’t care about maintaining your rights, you’re giving someone else the power to control your rights for you, or to take them away altogether.

I always think of a scene from the movie Man on Fire when I hear someone say “I don’t get political.” I feel like Denzel Washington’s character every time someone told him “I’m just a professional.”

I’m tired of hearing “I’m not political” as an excuse for why people are too lazy or too naive to participate in the political process. Rest assured that the people who want to profit from taking away your rights will never become that lazy and indifferent. They’re relentless. But fortunately, we outnumber them, which is why it takes all of us to be involved and to encourage others to get involved.

Getting political doesn’t mean running for office, or watching C-SPAN 24 hours a day. It just means giving a damn and actively doing something, anything to improve your life and the lives of others. It means being an adult and staying somewhat informed about what’s going on in the world around you. It means voting in every possible election to improve our current system, and more specifically, voting for the person with the “D” next to their name for the foreseeable future.

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If voting doesn’t matter, then why do conservatives try to stop you from doing it?

I’ll give conservatives credit for one thing: They consistently recognize the power of voting.

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Conservatives who say that the Republican Party is the “Party of Lincoln” is the political equivalent of “my best friend is black.” It’s only brought up to say there’s no way they can be racist since their ancestors once helped free slaves. They’re trying to say that the same Confederate monument-loving Republicans of today are the same anti-Confederacy Republicans who elected Lincoln in 1860.

Right…

The south has always been heavily conservative. They’ve always loved mint juleps and the Confederacy. They’ve always been largely anti-black, anti-gay, pro-gun, and deeply religious. That much hasn’t changed in the 152 years since the Civil War. What has changed is the political affiliation of those southern conservatives. In 1860, the south voted exclusively Democrat, but now, the south votes almost exclusively Republican.

It was liberals who went from the “Republican Party of Lincoln” to the “Democratic Party of Obama.” Conservatives just went from the “Democratic Party of White Supremacy” to the “Republican Party of White Supremacy.”

You can clearly see this when you compare the election map from Lincoln’s win in 1860 to the election map from Trump’s win in 2016.

Not a single one of the 11 Confederate states voted Republican for Lincoln in 1860, but they all (with the lone exception of Virginia) voted Republican for Trump in 2016. Conservatives moving from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party (and vice versa for liberals) started to take place in the mid-20th century primarily due to an ideological split on (you guessed it) racism and Civil Rights.

Noting the existence of the party switch is important because it shows how conservatives have always tried to make it difficult for marginalized groups to vote: First via the Democratic Party, and now with the Republican Party.

In the 2016 movie Free State of Jones–which is based on the true story of the armed revolt against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi–a group of armed, southern, conservative Democrats try to intimidate and prevent a group of black men from casting their Republican ballots.

This was commonplace in the south, and part of the Black Codes that sought to limit freedoms of the newly freed blacks after the Civil War. As much as conservatives like to tout that slavery ended a long time ago, they have been putting new obstacles in front of blacks ever since then, and have never stopped.

Conservatives have been there since the country’s founding to stop women, blacks, the poor, and basically anyone who wasn’t a land-owning, white male from exercising their right to vote and participate fully in society. Not because it was just a fun hobby, but because they knew the power of the vote, and what it would mean if others were able to participate in the voting process: That conservatives would lose their footing and power in this country.

Since slavery “ended” in 1865, conservatives have tried again and again to prevent black people from voting, first through black codes and Jim Crow, up until now with voter ID laws and general disenfranchisement.

Conservatives recognize that one of the most powerful things a citizen can do is vote, which is why they are both committed to voting consistently in every election as well as preventing others from voting. It’s the only reason they have the power they do. Not because they outnumber liberals or moderates. It’s because they show up while simultaneously trying to stop their opponents from showing up.

They maintain power in Congress and on the state level to institute gerrymandering and uphold the Electoral College system that favors small states and the Republican Party. But they only maintain these policies because we fail to show up and remove them from office so that we can end these unfair practices.

Our votes mattered in 2008 and 2012 when we elected and re-elected the nation’s first black President. They didn’t stop mattering in 2016. We just didn’t show up enough to overcome the Republican obstructionism, but the votes still mattered the same as they did four years prior. Tuesday’s major wins by Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey should serve as the perfect example of what can happen when liberals and moderates show up at the polls. But we can’t go back to staying home and pretending our votes don’t matter again.

Conservatives have always wanted you to stay home. In fact, a lot of them actually want you out of the country. They think this is their land and would rather not share it with anyone else who doesn’t look and think the way they do. And by staying home and allowing them to decide who gets elected, that’s exactly what has happened and will continue to happen unless we continue the momentum of Tuesday’s elections and get out and vote in every election possible.

Past generations recognized the power of voting so much that they were willing to be killed in order to vote, and others who were willing to kill in order to stop their opponents from voting. Conservatives have never stopped trying to prevent people on the left from voting, but we have absolutely lost our drive to make our vote count. That’s the only difference between the two sides at the moment: Drive. They never lost theirs, but we have to find ours. Like Bob Marley said, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?” Conservatives don’t take an election off, so we can’t either. Tuesday was a great start, but we have to keep that drive going, and most importantly, never lose it again.

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