Swear to God this is how you get masked centrists storming a building and threatening to shoot a hostage an hour until everyone sits down and has a civilized cross-factional dialogue.
I did my civic duty and went to Tax March DC yesterday, because lord knows il Douche needs to see yelling hordes demanding to see his taxes. I went to Tax March DC expecting to march about the tax returns. I had a flag and a sign and a snarky t-shirt and everything. In retrospect this was foolish of me and I never should have allowed myself to be taken in.
There are many more people angry about the lack of tax returns than there are people who happen to share the specific economic agenda of some of the organizers of the event. If the priority here is getting Congress and OGE to do something about creeping kleptocracy, the best tactic is to make the march as non-ideological and broadly appealing as possible. This is not what they did. Instead, they mixed in a menu of progressive economic policy items which alienated a lot of people who despise corruption but hold different policy positions. There were also a series of identity-based non-sequiturs: there’s a prize for anyone who can tell me what his tax returns have to do with intersectional feminism.
We need to get back to a place where we can have a normal policy debate. That is not possible right now. The authoritarian populist thrives on polarization: he needs an internal enemy to demonize, or everyone will notice that he has no clothes. When progressives rightly demand that Republicans denounce and oppose Trump, and then shut them out of the resistance on other policy grounds when they do, they are playing directly into his tiny tiny hands. A resistance that apparently goes out of its way to alienate opponents of the populist who do not share their policy goals will drive those potential allies back towards the populist in the end. Take alliances where you can get them. An opposition party adequately alarmed by the threat that the populist poses in himself should try to build as broad a coalition as possible, rather than attempting to hitch their own economic wagon to the fortunes of the opposition. This is going to end in the failure of both of their goals. There are many people with substantial policy disagreements who share a determination to stand up against authoritarian populist horseshit. Americans hate corruption and tax cheaters: we threw the British out and bonded into a nation over our shared hatred of unfair taxation. It’s sort of our hat. If you seek alliances, they will join you. If you demand ideological purity, you might still get Evan McMullin and Country Over Party to show up, but you won’t get a coalition.
Instead I’m left with the impression that certain progressive factions are trying to use warranted alarm over the regime to mobilize the base, when they should be panicking about democracy and seeking alliances wherever they can find them. Certainly economic solutions are part of the strategy to crowbar some support away from the populist, but that’s for the campaign trail, not for an anti-corruption demonstration. The insistence on ideological purity suggests that either progressive organizers aren’t aware of the scope of the threat or even that in some cases they don’t believe their own rhetoric. Perhaps they’ve managed to cry wolf on themselves: when you’ve been telling yourself and your supporters for years that your opponent is a wannabe tyrant and an existential threat, you find you’ve lost your sense of urgency when that turns out to finally be true. Or perhaps it’s cynical political calculus combined with failure of imagination. Or maybe they’re just short-sighted and strategically illiterate.
No one ever got into a position of authority by gleefully celebrating ideological impurity, however, so I’ll probably have to content myself with grumbling in cheap kabob restaurants after protests and yelling on the internet. We’re all fucked.
Anyway Happy Easter.