Donald Trump is not a successful business man. Donald Trump is a successful brand. I suspect this is why he refers to himself in the third person. I also suspect this is why the Republican party has fallen in lockstep behind him.
The Democratic Party will not win in 2020 if it continues to navigate the Trump presidency as it is. I’m sure Tom Perez is a smart guy, but I am positive that the party is basically fighting the wrong fight. Issues will never win over ideology. Every great conflict in the United States has seen ideology rule victorious…even if that victory has been qualified and compromised: The American Revolution (liberty); The Civil War (union/slavery); WWII (anti-fascism) Civil Rights (black equality). This is also evident where the non-progressive forces have won and continue to resist: Jim Crow & lynching (white supremacy); women’s rights (male domination); Native and Indigenous displacement (manifest destiny and white entitlement), etc.
The Trump administration and by extension the Republican party and by further extension conservative politics has become entirely about ideology. I am not a Republican (technically, I’m an Independent) so I will not presume to understand the inner workings of the conservative Republican agenda. But I have observed the following:
- Capitalism is the best system for resource distribution
- Religion is important
- Cultural identity is secondary to being “American”
These assumptions become counter narratives that allow conservatives leverage basic principles of progressive politics as weapons against themselves:
- The liberal agenda uses race and gender as both punishments and excuses
- Progressive politics is based on victim-hood
- Diversity is always divided in its allegiances
As I watch progressives play into the hands of conservatives more and more every day, one thing is clear: Conservatives, via the Republican party are invested in fundamentally changing the meaning of American life by enshrining the assumptions I laid out above in law. When Jenna Ellis, a Trump legal advisor defines ‘conservative’ as being to “conserve” the rule of law, it is abundantly clear that we are no longer in Kansas…if we were ever there at all.
Progressives need to stop worrying about beating Donald Trump. That is the quick fix. We must play the long game. The real challenge will come down the line when someone like Richard B. Spencer (the neo-Nazi not the Secretary of the Navy) de-stinks himself enough to run for office and has enough of a following to win. He’s only 41. It is the next generation of hate mongers that are the real danger here because they are not just invested in creating the ideology, they already breathe it.
In order to succeed, progressives need to cultivate an ideological agenda that will counter the goals that underlie current conservative politics which I believe are:
- Protecting white, male, able-bodied privilege
- Erasing community accountability
- Silencing the conversation on race
- Promoting nationalism and local-ism at all costs
It is essential for progressives to recognize the ideological battle and be willing to name it. Currently, the only Democratic candidate willing to do this has been Marianne Williamson. She is right, we are fighting the wrong battle with “plans” and “data” and even with “math”; and Bloomberg and Patrick will just gum up the works. Someone needs to step outside of the pack and present a dynamic ideological framework that people can get behind. If they don’t, we and our democratic and moral systems will be left with something far worse than just four more years of Trump…we will be left with his signature legacy: bankruptcy.