Looking Back and Looking Forward

This is an opinion piece.  Make of it what you will.  Know that I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking this through.  That does not mean that I am right, only that I have thought about it.  I’d ask that you do the same.  As with many of my articles, I write because I would hope to draw attention to how we, the citizen voters of the United States, are constantly under threat of being manipulated in our emotions, our thinking and ultimately, our voting.  The good news is that fewer and fewer of us are falling for it.  The bad news is that it is the others who do most of the voting.

I’d like to take a short look back at the 2016 election and then look ahead to the election in 2020.  It is my belief that we can see the 2020 election taking shape, very clearly, today.  I’ll start with one simple premise:

Consent Can Be Manufactured

When someone, or some institution wants your approval or your “go ahead” to something which you would otherwise oppose, a strategy to gain that approval is to create a situation, or the illusion of one, whereby granting that approval is the only viable option to you.  In the case of an election cycle, the trick is to manufacture a crisis which your opponent’s policies would only exacerbate.  This is what we saw in the 2016 election.

While Donald Trump may be a fool in many regards, you can be sure that his handlers are not.  It is my belief that from a point very early on in the primaries, the Trump campaign believed it would be running against Bernie Sanders in the general election. 

If you recall, when Trump announced his candidacy (in a throng of people the majority of whom had been hired to be there), he was asked against whom he wanted to run.  Without hesitation, he said, “Hillary, because she is the easiest one to beat.”  The strategy for beating Hillary was a simple one and already hashed out; drag out her dirty laundry and hang it on the line for all of America to see.  The emails, the Pay-to-Play Clinton Foundation, her miserable tenure as Secretary of State, her do-nothing tenure as Senator, her war-mongering foreign policy, the string of bodies piled up behind her, the theft of recovery money bound for Haiti, the Uranium One deal, and her louse of a husband, were more than sufficient to keep her on the defensive and to paint her as not just a poor candidate, but a genuinely dislikable human being.  Hers was a candidacy doomed from the outset.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders was consistently outdrawing Clinton and outpolling Trump by double digits.  If the election was to be held there and then, Sanders would have trounced Trump, and Trump’s people knew it.  So, how do you win over those voters whose conscience told them to vote for Sanders?  Or, failing that, how do you discourage them and keep them home on election night?  You create a crisis, one which your opponent can not address while remaining true to his or her own principles.

In the US, we have a lot of crises right now from which to choose.  A crumbling economy, meaningless, low paying jobs where once we had careers, exploding health care costs, a generation crippled by college loan debt, military bombing campaigns in seven different nations, the threat of nuclear war with a psychotic despot in North Korea; the Trump campaign could have chosen any of these.  Instead, they chose illegal immigration.

“They are not our friends, believe me,” he said, “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people.”  This was a strategy straight out of Hitler’s Germany.  Point the finger of blame at outsiders who can not defend themselves and paint your opponent as someone too weak to deal with this impending crisis. 

Sanders, a Democratic Socialist whose platform was based on helping all of us in the 99%, including immigrants to this country, legal or not, could not stand up in support of the inhumanity of Trump’s border wall.  Indeed, such a creation is an abhorrence to the character of a man such as Bernie Sanders.  Simultaneously, the last thing the Trump campaign wanted was to go toe to toe with Sanders on any matter of domestic policy.  But, the Progressives tend to be weak in their ability to define a foreign policy, and so the die was cast to make this election about “Making America Great Again,” and starting by getting rid of those filthy immigrant rapists, drug dealers and murderers.  It was a classic instance of manufacturing consent.

Of course, the Republicans did not ultimately need to implement that strategy (though they are now saddled with it), as the Democrats threw the election from within.

That was 2016.  Now to look at 2020.

At the pace we are going, by 2020 America will be trillions of dollars deeper in debt, the Trump tax-break will have gone largely bust for the middle and working classes, the rich will be considerably richer, and Mueller will still be gathering evidence.  Even Trump’s core supporters may have to admit that he is utterly clueless as President, and the stink of corruption from Washington will hang like a haze over most of America.  A Progressive candidate will arise on the left, possibly Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard or Nina Turner.  The voters who watched the DNC rig the 2016 election and deny their candidate the chance to run, will sense that their time has finally come.

And a crisis will strike us, just after the nomination of the Democratic candidate.  They won’t be able to use the illegal immigrant card twice, because to do so would be to admit that they hadn’t “solved” the crisis in the four previous years (they will also be busy recruiting hispanic voters).  Instead, the crisis will probably evolve with the threat of a shooting war, most likely in the middle east.  North Korea is a candidate, but in truth, we really don’t want to shoot it out with their psychotic despot (he’s likely to shoot back).  Instead, we’ll be forced to deliver some democracy and create some business opportunities in Syria or Iran, or possibly somewhere in East Africa.   

The seeds are already being sown.  Nikki Haley has attempted to make the case to the UN Security Council that the Iranians are supplying missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, though right now the UN remains skeptical.  The Syrians recently shot down an Israeli Air Force Jet.  The Israelis returned the favor, targeting what they claim was a delivery of Iranian missiles bound for Hezbollah in Damascus.  Syria’s Assad has called Israel’s airstrikes a “declaration of war.”  A US airstrike in Syria, earlier this week, apparently killed a number of Russian military contractors.  Our government is referring to them as mercenaries.  We can be sure that the Russians will refer to them as civilians.  The Saudis are continuing their air war on Yemen and the human toll due to airstrikes and starvation is appalling. 

This is a kettle being systematically and strategically brought to a boil.  Over the next two years, we will witness that same kettle being dropped to a simmer (evidence of the success of Trump’s foreign policy) and raised again to that boil (evidence of the “threat to our way of life” posed by terrorist elements or Muslim extremists in the sector), all in preparation for ratcheting up the heat in 2020 when it is time to boil it over, point to the Progressives and demand to know how their foreign policy is going to deal with this.  If the Progressives do not have the answer, voters will begrudgingly cast their ballots for a continuation of the Republican regime (because they will do what has to be done to keep us safe), or stay home entirely, sit on their hands, and once again let about a quarter of the electorate choose the next administration.

And just why are we in Syria right now, anyway?  Are we making the world safe for democracy?  Are we coming to the aid of an oppressed people?  Are we containing Russian aggression?  Are we getting in line to seize their natural resources and route Saudi oil to the Bosphorus?  Or are we simply creating the kind of boogeyman we can build up and knock down at will, in order to manufacture voter’s consent in the face of a Trumped up threat to American interests and on the surmise that a liberal or Progressive candidate lacks the foreign policy skill set to decisively manage that impending crisis?

Whatever the reason and however diabolical (or not) the plot, the most important takeaway from this for Progressive candidates is that they must project a clearly defined foreign policy, one on which they can campaign well in advance of the election, and one which will spell out their willingness to take the lead in negotiating peace, or, if unavoidable, be decisive in committing to military intervention to end such a crisis.  It needs to take up sides, to name our friends as well as our enemies, and to demonstrate to the American voters that we will “speak softly, and carry a big stick.”  Once the citizens of our country have been reassured, the Progressive candidate will be able to return the conversation to the domestic policy failures of the Conservatives, and drum these swine out of Washington.

Progressives, are you listening?

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