Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
Socialism is most definitely sad, and it is not alone. We all are. Progressives, liberals and socialists alike appear to only know how to lose. It’s hard sometimes to even remember a time in which we were on a winning side. These days it is especially hard when in a single week, we see Brexit and the acquittal of Donald Trump despite his egregious abuse of power and erosion of our institutions.
Last December, British socialists were devastated to see Boris Johnson’s Conservative party victorious in their snap election. The massive defeat ended the decade for British leftists with five losses and not a single victory in over 10 years. With Jeremy Corbyn at the helm, the party turned drastically to the left and has since shattered beyond foreseeable repair. Their loss confirmed that relying on Londonites and “woke” politics is not a winning strategy. The British left is now in no condition to fight the Conservatives. The colossal defeat of Corbyn’s brand of socialist politics cost the Labour party 60 seats and about eight percent of the popular vote. One wonders how would we fare with our own Corbyn-like figure as our standard-bearer?
The global trend for much of our young lives since the Great Recession has been the collapse of progressive and leftist forces as politically relevant players. For years now, the left has been on the losing side of several key elections. However, despite the concrete defeats visible all around us, we resist changing for the better. This is because there are those among the left committed to believing that, while we may lose elections, we are somehow winning the debates. This idea is equivalent to that of sticking our heads in the sand and denying the facts. We must not behave stubbornly and solely blame our losses on the “structural advantages of the right-wing” that exist in our political system. Doing so will only lock us out of power for even longer.
I vehemently disagree with the notion that we lose because rural voters have an unfair advantage. This only underscores the very problem with leftist and progressive politics today: elitism, the exact opposite of who we are. We teach our children to behave respectfully when they lose a game and not to be sore losers blaming the game’s rules. So, I suggest we take that lesson and instead of blaming the electoral college, try to broaden our appeal beyond states like California and New York. No, the electoral college does not “favor” rural voters. It simply prevents politicians from discounting the needs of the very same communities that feed the world and powered our economy for a generation.
The issue at hand is that we continue to pander to a smaller and smaller demographic of voters in the big cities and on the coasts and then question why we lose. We cannot, nor should we aspire to win on the backs of minorities, urbanites and the well-educated alone. If we wish to govern all then we should try to appeal to all, including those in rural, suburban and white America. I saw on Twitter recently a tweet that included a comparison of the 2016 electoral map and a map of the “most highly educated states” with the accompanying caption “Notice how the maps correlate?” This is our problem. Ivory tower elitism, smug rhetoric and a false sense of superiority are why we lose. We lose because we talk about free college for all and a Green New Deal, ignoring the reality that many Americans don’t want to have to go to college in order to succeed and many more currently rely on a job that we are essentially trying to make obsolete or demonize.
We need to change how we campaign in order to win big this November. A platform of shared prosperity including plans like free two-year college, high-speed broadband and doubling the Pell grant are just a few ways in which we can regain ground in our country’s heartlands. The stakes are high, and the struggle is real. In places like Poland, Israel and France the left is gone and the real choice for voters now is between a more traditional right-wing party or a populist and nationalist one.
Power is truly everything and we would do well not to forget that or risk our own peril. As progressives, our fundamental goal is to ensure progress. In order to do so, we must win elections and have power. Squabbling over ideological purity and pandering to the extremes of social justice warriors will garner us no power. If we truly wish to win we must adapt and not write off whole swaths of this country as forever Trump country. This is the key to ending our collective sadness and bringing an end to the Trump era.