Summary: Liberal America does not perceive well the nature of the force that’s taken over the right. Not perceiving what we’re up against has enormous consequences, because understanding one’s foe – its nature, its way of working, the disposition of its forces – has enormous implications for the best strategy for defeating it. It is one of the central tasks of the “Press the Battle” series to provide that understanding of what it is we are up against.
I’ve undertaken to present this “Press the Battle” series because, believing it might make an important contribution, I feel a moral obligation to do so. At the age of 68, and after a whole decade of fighting against this ugly force that’s taken over the right, I’m certainly not doing it for fun.
Maybe now is a good time to explain why I think what I’m presenting here might just possibly help turn the tide of battle. A reader recently wrote me privately wondering when I was going to stop the preliminaries and explain what I’m proposing to do. The fellow evidently has missed the point: getting the picture I’m painting in “Press the Battle” as far as possible into the national conversation IS what I think is important to do.
So what is it about this picture I’m painting that I think could have an important impact on the battle over the future of America? The answer begins with the title here: “Liberal America, You Don’t See What We’re Up Against, and It Matters.”
In the second entry of the series, after listing various components of The Republicans’ Extraordinary Pattern of Destructiveness, I asked: “What is it that would express itself in all these ways?” I described that question as “too long unasked.” (Indeed, has it been asked anywhere?)
But that “It” is what we’re up against.
Instead, what we see in Liberal America is a jumble. For many, the picture lies in pieces, issue by issue, news item by news item. But I say, there is an “It” that animates all these manifestations.
Another way of seeing the problem on the right is to talk about how “far right” the Republican Party has moved, how it has become more “extreme,” and dominated by “ultra-conservatives.” But I say, there is nothing truly conservative about today’s Republican Party, and that the real nature of the battle is not really at the level of right-vs.-left.
At a greater level of integration, there is the idea that what this crisis is about is “plutocracy,” or “money in politics,” or “corporate takeover” of our government. Surely, this points to an important dimension of the problem, but there’s a good deal more to the picture than this diagnosis can cover.
This force also has given us torture, a level of dishonesty extraordinary even by the usual standards of politics, a political dynamic in which conflict is consistently chosen over cooperation, an unprecedented indifference to the public good.
America had an age of plutocracy before – in the late 19th century – and for all its faults and injustices, it was not so pervasively destructive as what now animates the Republican Party.
Something bigger and deeper is involved, and I’m offering a picture of that “something.”
The first of the two main components of our national crisis, I have said, is this: “The once-respectable Republican Party has become the instrument of a destructive force.” (I will soon argue that it is better to call it an “evil force,” but until I explain what I mean by “evil,” and why that is the best available word for the phenomenon I’m describing, the term “destructive force” will suffice.)
Already in this series, this vast but coherent and discernible force has been sketched in various ways, and it will be fleshed out in other ways in upcoming entries.
It matters whether or not we see this force we’re up against, because seeing it will strengthen our ability to fight and defeat this force. And Liberal America needs strengthening, as the second of the two components of our national crisis, I argue, is that “The response from Liberal America to this threat has been woefully weak.”
It is intuitively obvious that one will be stronger in battle the better one perceives where the enemy is, how it operates, how its various assets work together. Obvious, too, that it pays to have a good map of the battlefield. But here are a few ways that Liberal America could be strengthened by having a good, coherent picture of the force that – for the nation, our children, the planet – we must defeat:
- A better strategy. Seeing how the force is deployed in our political, but also cultural, social, and psychological systems, we will be better able to choose the points and means of attack. For starters, the heart of a strategy for draining power away from this force would be to “call out” this force for what it is, wherever it manifests itself. In a democracy, power depends on the allegiance of the people.
- A more coherent and persuasive message. Seeing the unifying “It” behind all the various manifestations enables us to show our fellow Americans the meaning of the overall battle. When we talk about immigration, for just one example, rather than getting mired into the complexities of the issue, with no easy solutions, we would connect the Republicans’ punitive position with their larger pattern of attacking the vulnerable.
- Wiser dealings with the other side. The more clearly we see the operation of this force, the more wisely we will regard those on the other side—both the warped people who are this force’s main agents and the good people who, clueless about the true nature of the force they are supporting, lend their support to something serving values contrary to their own.
- Unification of our forces. By seeing how a destructive force is manifesting itself in diverse ways on different issues, Liberal America would be better able to bring together for a united effort various activist groups organized around specific issues. Like with the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant, such groups (on climate, voters’ rights, tax fairness, etc.) would understand that they are all fighting the same thing. With that perspective, they could more readily join together and thereby become stronger together as a coherent force. (See #13 The Importance of Seeing How the Pieces — the Issues, the Outrages — Fit Together .)
For these reasons, providing a compelling picture of what we’re up against has the possibility of making an important contribution to a battle that must be fought and must be won.
But here’s one more way Liberal America might strengthen itself by seeing what we are up against.
- More connection with the power of passion.. When we see an “evil force,” we have feelings about it—feelings that empower us for the battle.
This point will be developed in the next entry in the series #6 We All Know How to Respond to an “Evil Force,” But We Are Failing to Do So.