I have made no secret of my deep disdain of the authoritarian left. In this series, I consider how they might derail the Democrats and progressives in the 2016 elections.
During the 2012 presidential election–a long slog that began in 2008–one of the great joys for liberals was watching the hilarious field that those on the right had assembled. Each of the candidates led in the polls for at least a short time: just long enough for them to open their mouths.
Who can forget Herman Cain’s pizza advertising-inspired 9-9-9 plan? Michele Bachmann’s insistence that the HPV vaccine can cause “mental retardation?” Rick Perry forgetting which governmental agencies his planned to shut down? I know. Good times.
The Republicans were hamstrung, in part, because the primary system pressured each candidate to sound crazier than the last. The 22nd Amendment guarantees that the 2016 election–already in full swing–is going to be a particularly interesting one. With no incumbent to be gifted the nomination and an increasingly fractured political climate,we can at least be grateful to live in interesting times.
The 2016 election cycle will also be the first conducted as the authoritarian left is in full bloom. Unless something changes, it will also be the first presidential election in a while to be held while the country is not dealing with a particularly massive existential threat. To be sure, our problems are very serious and require powerful solutions, but we are no longer waist-deep in a Middle Eastern quagmire or digging out of the hole that was the Bush Recession. As the authoritarian left has proven, people are often compelled to create a boogeyman after they have been shown that the closet is empty.
We really are in a tough spot. Same-sex marriage, thankfully, is an inevitability. So much so that even the Republicans are giving up that fight. As I point out in my article about the downfall of Salon, the left has largely abandoned their meat-and-potatoes platform. No longer are we the party of free expression and Enlightenment values. No longer are we the ones who try to solve problems with diplomacy before we shovel money into our bloated military and police budgets. No, much of the media is wasting time and electrons on reminding us that “Dad Bod” is “inherently sexist.” No, seriously.
In 2012, one of our greatest strengths is that the Republican primary cycle made the majority of Americans roll their eyes. The hopefuls couldn’t raise their hands fast enough to point out how much they hate evolution and science. And let’s not even get into the silliness that is Rick Santorum and his “blah people” friends.
As the Democratic Presidential field begins to assemble, like the Avengers in the center of a burning city, we have two very serious problems that we need to address.
- The left needs to find a way to actually stand on progressive values. The President is not perfect; he’s done the best he could with Mitch McConnell’s fangs in his heel. But the President cannot be considered a “progressive” or a “liberal” on his record. It is going to take a person like this to confront our real problems, including income inequality and the increasing corporatization of America. This is no easy task, I know, the candidates must somehow appeal to the center while pointing out that they are the ones who actually want policies that will help the country.
- The left must somehow muzzle their very vocal authoritarian faction. They cannot “support free speech, but…” They cannot be afraid to condemn the specific individuals who committed violent acts during the riots in Baltimore. We cannot win if these sheltered people (many of whom work for click bait outlets) force our candidates to throw all of their political capital behind issues that don’t help anyone but the click baiters and make us look frivolous and, well, crazy.
The authoritarian left is our Tea Party. We simply cannot allow them to shape the left wing’s debate and dictate platform planks in the way that hamstrung 2012 Republican candidates so magnificently. We, the reasonable members of the left and center, are on the right side of history and on the right side of the facts. We will not win if we allow our attention to be divided by a two-front war of ideas.