Associate Editor Keith Pochick walks us convincingly through the critical importance of Democratic unity in 2018. A must-read Op-Ed.
“A prison administrator dealing with captured American enlisted men for the first time should be warned: Expect no brotherly love, even between brothers. There will be no cohesion between the individuals. Each will be a sulky child who often wishes he were dead. Americans are known everywhere to be the most self-pitying, least fraternal, and dirtiest of all prisoners of war. They despise any leader from their own number, refuse to follow or even listen to him, on the grounds that he is no better than they are.” – Kurt Vonnegut, ‘Slaughterhouse Five’
Americans are individualistic by birthright. The first ten amendments in our Constitution guarantee our right to openly dissent against our leaders. Many of us relish the moments in which we publicly thumbed our noses toward authority. I am admittedly one of those who do; they are often moments which invoke pride and earn the respect of fellow Americans.
It took me a while to realize it, but Americans’ fierce individualistic nature has a major downside. Vonnegut’s quote above is a blistering rebuke of excessive American individuality. Organizing to achieve a shared goal is hard as hell when everyone is in it for himself. So in order for Americans to accomplish a damned thing, there are certain ideals and principles we must collectively hold dear and rally around.
I’ve only been a registered Democrat for about a year. Prior to that I was unaffiliated because, as mentioned above, I don’t like the idea of a group of people telling me what I should do. I’m an American, remember? But as our country began to lurch toward a vile form of authoritarianism like the one we defeated 250 years ago, I knew I needed to join the forces which opposed it.
Much has been written and said about the “Blue Wave” which will arrive with the 2018 midterm elections. Some foretell its coming as inevitable since November 2018 will be America’s first true referendum on Donald Trump and his band of bumbling kleptocrats. Be assured, I want it to happen as much as anyone. But Democrats need to realize that producing the wave depends on cohesion and unity.
Most Dems have an idea of what we’re currently up against. The GOP now finds itself in power, but fearing for its long term viability. For suspicious, albeit unclear reasons, many of its members align with a hostile foreign nation. GOP voters stomp their feet with self-righteous indignation as children are ripped from their parents at the southern border. Evangelicals howl, red-faced, that opposing Trump is opposing the will of God. GOP Congress members impugn the integrity and honor of career American servants and patriots in hopes of protecting their power. The party has stolen a seat on the Supreme Court, and aims to clandestinely place another justice whom Americans overwhelmingly oppose.
“This water, the softest substance in the world, which could be contained in the smallest jar, only seemed weak. In reality, it could penetrate the hardest substance in the world. That was it! I wanted to be like the nature of water.” – Bruce Lee
In order for a wave to form, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water must channel the forces of gravity, the tides, wind, and fluid dynamics. Each wave is made of innumerable water droplets; each droplet is collection of a couple sextillion (cough) water molecules.
It may be painful to read, but in the age of global authoritarian power grabs, you and I are only water molecules. Individually, we are powerless. We float away in the atmosphere when things get hot; we condense with some pals and make a raindrop; we flow to the ocean again. The cycle repeats. But when our hydrogen bonds hold enough of us together and the conditions are right, we can become the most fearsome force of nature – leveling hills and reshaping coastlines in an instant.
The strength of water depends solely on its cohesion. If we can’t form droplets, then we sure as hell can’t form a wave. A fire is raging in America which threatens to burn the rule of law, our Democratic ideals, and our nation’s very independence. The Republican Party has the power to extinguish the fire, but most of its members are too terrified to act and others are fanning the flames. America needs us now, not as individual water molecules, but as droplets which rain down in torrents and flow into rivers which empty into the sea. There, we will find favorable conditions to form the wave our nation desperately needs to extinguish the fire.
The rationale for opposing Trumpism is multi-faceted, and those who oppose current GOP trends and policies favor Democrats for many different reasons. But when it comes to producing a massive Blue Wave in November, the diverse viewpoints among Democrats can either aid or harm our cause.
We need each other to be effective. If we allow it, the GOP will divide us into pots based on our “hot button issues” and use their fire to boil us all away into the atmosphere, where we will prove to be hopelessly inconsequential as individuals. Below is a list of some “pots” in which Russians and Republicans will attempt to partition us so as to convert our Blue Wave into water vapor.
- If your cause is women’s rights, realize that women lose if the GOP wins the midterms.
- You champion humane immigration policy and a re-commitment to human rights worldwide? You won’t get them by allowing a GOP victory in November.
- Is sensible gun reform the reason you fight so furiously? If the GOP and NRA win, then you lose.
- Does unequal police treatment of African-Americans make your blood boil? The GOP has no interest in addressing this injustice.
- If you’re infuriated by the lack of transparency in government, rampant corruption, and marriage of corporate money with legislation, understand that these evils are perpetrated and perpetuated by the GOP.
- Are you fighting to expand rights for LGBT Americans? The party in power actively opposes you.
- Perhaps healthcare is your issue. The GOP wants to take it away so that the wealthy get a tax cut.
- Are you appalled by the white nationalist takeover of the Republican party? Rest assured that the GOP will not moderate itself by remaining in power.
- If you believe in protecting workers’ rights, Democrats are your only prayer.
- Is the environment we leave for future generations important to you? The GOP has proven it will burn it for profit.
- Perhaps the education and empowerment of America’s disadvantaged youth are your priorities. Put a message in a bottle and maybe it will reach Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on her $40 million yacht.
- Do you revere and romanticize Democratic ideals and American independence? The GOP sits silent while Trump repeatedly crows that the press is “the enemy of the people.” Meanwhile, he and his GOP power players continue to roll over for the Russian bear, while their efforts to counter continued Kremlin interference have proven to be nothing short of pathetic.
Each of these issues is incredibly important to millions of Americans, but it does us no good to argue over which is MOST important. For me, the fact that a hostile foreign government continues to assail our institutions and independence is critical. For other Dems, this isn’t the issue which compels them to action, and that’s OK. Many of the points listed above appeal to principled conservatives, and we should welcome them to join us in fighting the fire. As primary season winds down, now is not the time to protest vote or refrain from voting when we feel a candidate is “too Centrist” or “overly progressive.” It takes a certain level of maturity to understand that cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face is neither poetic nor romantic.
The problems listed above will not turn for the better under continued GOP leadership. If any of them touch a nerve for you, then commit yourself to becoming a molecule in this wave. The Democratic Party needs you to affect change, but the reality is that if you want this country to alter its course, you need us even more.
Above all, remember that every wave is composed of innumerable water molecules clinging together. Divided, we are nothing. But united, the wave we form will bring a reckoning.