Like the stuttering hero in "The King's Speech," the American left won't command leadership until establishing our own voice -- and forceful narrative. The capitulation by this president and the Democratic Party -- now without pretense of progressivism -- is the gift in the wound that mandates leftwing dissent find its own language. No easy task. This is not about voting or donating to candidates but disrupting mindsets, as possible, with better framing and messaging -- developing potent terms that dramatize the vast, rightwing array of conspiracies, cronyism, contradictions and unholy alliances.
It's not like rightwing derangement, idiocy, or excesses are hard to find, the supply in full force even when dismissing Birthers, Palin, and Bachmann. If the left can't expose the most glaring political and economic contradictions, the greatest GOP spectacle in decades, how can we cross over to Main Street, or show skeptics, centrists, or independents today's predators are well under way to picking clean the bottom 80%?
How long, as the Great Recession plods on, can the right treat the bloated, trillion dollar Pentagon budget as sacrosanct? How long before Joe Sixpack connects his structural unemployment, along with crumbling infrastructures and even worse schools, with nation-building abroad and energy subsidies at home? How long can the right oppose gun control when young children die visiting members of Congress? How long will climate change deniers stay on message when hundreds of beach houses are swamped, and the farmland that made America rich is washed away or parched by erratic rainfall?
Rightwing Worship of the State
First task for progressives: let's undermine the rightwing religion and worship of the State by questioning outdated national symbols that reek of the 19th C. What about the school loyalty oath, called the Pledge of Allegiance, that smugly and incongruously confirms "justice and liberty for all"? Does the national motto ("In God we Trust") not show its age, or perhaps just anticipates today's flagrant violations of state and church? Or the nearly decimated Bald Eagle?
We are awash with religious fundamentalists who translate "In God We Trust" to "In the Imperial State We Trust," totally distorting history and values. Time indeed to take on the paramount contradiction: extremists worship a perfect State (in which Founders "ended slavery") yet despise elected Government, scorn majority rule and native-born presidents, even scoff at the wondrous diversity of our people, all the racial, ethnic, regional cultures known as Country.
To understand how these big words matter, and differ significantly, I look to a brilliant, political mentor, Randolph Bourne. With his 1920 essay, "The State," this lucid WWI war protester assailed both the imperial American State and the system of states driving his rightly celebrated cri de coeur, "War is the health of the State." Bourne shows best how a patriot can love Country, and admire good Government without selling out to the authoritarian, imperial, coercive State.
Manifest Destiny, Writ Large