As much as we might not want to admit it, and as reluctant as we are to engage in it, progressives need to acknowledge that we are in a war. We have been targeted. This is not a metaphor. We have been defined as the enemy by the right, and as their language and rhetoric ramps up, as they lurch towards physical acts of violence I wonder when progressives will realize that this is no longer an act of philosophic debate, no longer is it a difference of political opinion, we are looked upon as prey. And sadly, just like the liberals before us who found themselves on the receiving end of a fascist takeover, we are woefully behind the 8 ball. In spite of all of our lamenting about the rhetoric of the right, we don't ever seem to mobilize in any meaningful way to protect ourselves until it is too late. Right wing governments are rising the world over and time is up for us to stop wringing our hands and get a tactical plan together. I have a plan, I would like to share it with you.
The first thing must do is understand WHY liberals and progressives are always caught off guard when right wing rulers start rounding us up and throwing us in prisons or worse. To start with, our brains, our psychology suggests that we have certain fundamental differences in behavior and thought patterns. We can't "talk sense" to them or shame them out of their conduct. When we try our best and it has no effect, we sit and scratch our heads or call them ignorant and walk away.
Liberals, progressives and intellectuals by their nature are, generally speaking, less prone to violence for several reasons. Many acts of violence are often carried out in a moment of rage that overwhelms the perpetrator and obscures his or her logic and moral base. We are always told that if we feel angry to count to ten, to give ourselves a moment of calm so as not to react reflexively to this anger and to give our senses time to rebalance against our emotions. This occurs naturally in those with an analytical, philosophic nature because they are prone to investigate an issue, to see it from all sides, to test their own assumptions and biases against that of their "gut" reaction. Their moral convictions are based on a broad and lengthy library of mental transcripts, comparing each new situation to the ones in the past, looking for connections and anomalies. They insist on rationality. They rest secure in their positions because they are based on continuity, not the moment. So perhaps the mere process of all of this examination gives even the most passionate liberal time to channel his or her outrage into a better understanding of the situation. But as for action, they are slow. They burrow themselves into their positions as deeply as conservatives do, but the difference is, their conviction is self brought. Those on the left are a collective, but each one is on his own journey to discover the truth, and although objective truth is impossible for us to know in its purest sense, we come to a general agreement on many things because we use the same processes of evidence, logic and rationality to arrive at our beliefs.
The right is not so much this way. In fact, they are very much the opposite. The dynamic which drives the conservative is not an individualistic pursuit of truth, but an adherence to a set of ideals dictated to them by an authority. In this case, Donald Trump, but to be sure, the church, the military and police are organizations where a set of dictates drives action. Obedience is a prerequisite to all of these top down structures. You are to do as you are told. You are not to question. To question God, the Church, the President, the Police or a Soldier is all tantamount to heresy. It shouldn't surprise us that Donald Trump, following in the established pattern of car salesmen turned tv preacher/conman is highly effective at leading the Republicans down this path toward totalitarianism. They are ruled by emotion and love to revel in it without any annoying pauses for thoughtful reflection. Watching Donald Trump's rallies, the crowds amped up, dripping with their common iconography of flags and MAGA hats reminds me of the vast sea of devotees, the poor, giving their money to a fire and brimstone televangelist in need to a second private jet. The image of the Republicans "storming" the room where hearings were being "held in secret" reminded me of the mobs of Charlottesville - were it not for fire codes, I could easily envision Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz leading the march with torches in hand.
For conservatives, their trust, their faith, their emotion, their devotion is measured by their willingness to forgo logic. To question is sinful and shows a weakness of faith. In fact there is a reaction of anger underlaid with fear, that occurs when they are presented with information which may cause them to change their minds. They fear cognitive dissonance because the very act of considering that they may not be right, that their trusted leader may have told them a lie, is to them, a slippery slope into disobedience. But it is also a personal fear that lives within the conservative. To them, their very survival is predicated on holding to these "eternal truths". If they dare to loosen their grip on the holy doctrines of Fox News and Trump's tweets, if they feel themselves tempted by the demonic forces of rationality they will disintegrate into a pile of dust.
So what does this mean? What it means is that it's time for liberals and progressives to understand what we are up against and to start changing our tactics before it is too late. Let me use an analogy to further my point.
We have all seen nature shows where the lion "king of the jungle" prowls stealthily in the grass, ever driven by his need to hunt, to kill and gorge himself of the blood of his prey while his intended meal munches peacefully in the grass among the herd. The lion is a meat eater and survival for him means to hunt and kill. He is not evil, but is driven by his need to eat to survive. It is merely a fact of evolution that his survival depends on his drive to kill prey. All of his senses are specifically designed around the hunt.
The prey, an antelope, per say, lives by grazing. Its food does not think or run or fight back. Therefore its survival is not based on the hunt. It is not more benevolent than the lion. Its is merely by evolutionary design, that the desire to hunt and kill is absent. The antelope has developed some defensive tactics against the lion. They are not completely helpless. But when the lion attacks, the antelope are REACTING to the lion's action. Being proactive is not something the antelope is really capable of. In some prey species having large scores of offspring is a result of many young succumbing to predators, but these are not really proactive, but are still a reaction to being devoured in large numbers.
The brains of liberals and conservatives are not that unlike these two camps. Conservatives are like the lion. They are driven by an internal belief that to survive they must always be engaged in the hunt. Even in times of peace they are always on the hunt for more. More prey. More resources. More power. Liberals, like the antelope, are live and let live. If left alone, we will munch our grass, choose our mates, birth our young, nurture the next generation to adulthood and then die, without ever feeling a desire to kill anything unless it threatens our young.
When the lions attack, there is among the herd a sense of intense panic. From the first of the herd to hear a rustling in the grass to the all out chaos of the stampede as the alarm is sounded, to the lion finally taking one of the antelope down. And as the lion finishes his prey, its last frantic bleating brought to an end in the powerful jaws, the herd, realizing the hunt is over, calms quite quickly and returns to normal. They go back to munching the grass until the next attack.
Liberals have to develop new tactics because the "prey" that conservatives are seeing is more than just a meal to survive. The hunt they are on is for ideological compliance. Their hunt is about "convert or die" When the balance of power is held in check by the trappings of democracy and the rule of law it is easy to look at the "extreme" cases that pop up here and there as outliers. We see the emergence of certain aspects of authoritarianism as sectional and unrelated but they aren't. While we have been munching grass, the conservatives have built an infrastructure, an ideological movement, a battleplan, right under our noses and as these plans begin to take shape as Donald Trump lurking in the tall grass, we have to sound the alarm, because the convergence of all these extreme elements leads to the destruction of democracy and the rule of law. And once authoritarianism is unleashed, it will be a feeding frenzy. We have already seen certain members of the herd singled out. The media and journalists. People of color and immigrants. Religious minorities and trans people. The lions are on the hunt.
As we watch children in cages, we hear the bleating cries of the injured in the mouth of the lion. We dart about our senses heightened, but we haven't formulated a plan. We have to stop doing this over and over. If Donald Trump's presidency doesn't lead to the abolishment of democracy and his installment as ruler for life, we have to consider this our last chance to evolve.
We have to realize going forward that we need to evolve and there is hard science which suggests that predator and prey evolve together and that the roles can be reversed given certain environmental factors. Conservatives will often tout the concept of "survival of the fittest" and praise the archetype of the hunter, a strong belief in dominance and destruction of the weak. Hitler was a big fan. But so were many common people swept up in the racism of eugenics. They laud these theories because they see themselves as apex predators and they want to keep what they feel is the "king of the jungle" position. This underlying belief is expressed through racism, patriarchy, misogyny and narcissism that shows its ugly head in blatant ways at times. Donald Trump's father explained it to him in terms of "killers" and "losers" and told him you had to be one or the other. Killers know how to be aggressive and take what they want. If you want a beautiful woman, just grab her by the p*ssy, and brag about it. These things are not detractors to those on the right, but are signals of pride. A badge of honor that they are predators not prey.
But scientists who study the evolutionary dynamics of predator prey relationships have shown that roles can change and even reverse. Without getting too deep into the mechanics of how this happens (you can read more here https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/111/20/7486.full.pdf )
I will say that the political parties, across the globe, are experiencing a shift. The tactics used by the conservative and right wing governments, racial hatred, xenophobia, oppression of women, propaganda, religious fundamentalism and nationalism have been in decline over the last 200 years, with violent spasms occurring periodically. The conservatives wail about the expansion of liberty and progressive ideas as a threat that must be dealt with . Overall however, the herd has been signaling when one of these traits exposes itself and we call it out as dangerous. The revival of right wing ideology we are witnessing is a sign that the prey is getting more connected, more responsive and it frightens them. Donald Trump is the backlash of progress.