What a year.
We have seen the rise of fascist nerds and woke jocks. We have seen left-wing organizations like Black Lives Matter and Democratic Socialists of Americabegin their transformation from spontaneous movements and loose organizations into serious political institutions with power, vision, and focus. We have had a college town in Virginia become a code word for the most explicit form of white supremacy since Neo-Nazi marched down mainstreet in a town full or Holocaust survivors.
These are crazy times.
Among the sociological groupings that have emerged since the great unraveling , the rise and co-optation of ‘The Resistance’ is one of the most perplexingly useless. Beginning as a form of sincere and well meaning digital organizing after Trump’s victory, it was quickly taken over by the same milquetoast liberals who dismissed the trends those of us on the left have been screaming about for almost a decade, most notably the ways that inequality exacerbates the exact kind of demagogic racial and class politics that leads towards the modern environment we live and breathe everyday.
To the Resistance, ‘Trump is the only thing that matters.” He is not the symptom, but the disease, one who by his very existence defiles everything he touches, drenching our hallowed institutions with his denigrating essence. It is the height of political drama, with Trump serving as the demonic antagonist who must be destroyed in a most spectacular fashion.
From this point, the only politics is Anti-Trump politics, creating odd bedfellows from theoretically different ideological roots. Ostensibly being rooted in the Democratic party base, Resistors have welcomed with open arms practically anyone willing to criticize Trump, especially those who identify as conservative or worked in Republican politics. They are like a black Republican at CPAC, shoved in front of the cameras because they think it will convince others of a similar ilk to join them, or at least make the other white people feel a little less guilty. Just like the example black Republican, no one is convinced by this tokenizing besides the dumbest people alive: lanyard dorks whose main political language is West Wing memes and Hamilton (the musical) quotes.
The past week in Beltway politics has been a cavalcade of Resistance bipartisanship. Early this week, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced he would not seek re-election, most likely due to the fact that he could would face an extremely competitive primary race and would be an easy target for the Mercer/Bannon neo-nationalist alliance.
With this supposed freedom from political pressure, it gave Flake a chance to let his Resistance flag fly and say what he really thought about Trump:
“We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.”
Wow! What a hero! He’s standing up for the principles of our traditions and institutions, the same ones that Naomi Klein expertly points out in her newest book “No Is Not Enough” brought us Trump in the first place.
Flake within 24 hours of giving his filmic rendition of the “how dare you sir” meme, voted to give some of the most predatory actors in our economy, the credit card industry, carte blance when it comes to abusing customers. This measure supported by Flake and the Trump administration makes it impossible for those screwed over by the corrupt business practices of the credit card industry to band together in class action law suits, forcing individuals to go through an independent arbitration process where industry gets to cherry pick the lawyers and muscle out any chance for a fair shake for consumers.
Even with his immediate and obvious hypocrisy during this week, Flake’s supposed adoration of the democratic process and “principled stand” cannot be taken as anything else but a photo op for the Chris Cillizzas of the world and Flake’s future lobbying career. How can one speak of the ills of the “undermining of our democratic norms” when Flake supported the literal theft of a Supreme Court seat, an action he was a part of before Trump had even received the Republican nomination?
The truth is that to those holding up Flake as a paragon of virtue and moderation are a part of the actual sickness that has destroyed faith in our democratic institutions. When one can easily analyze a figure like Flake’s record on a number of issues and then see him make waves as being so “anti-Trump,” it underlines one of the greatest faults in our political system: that to most people, its just a game or a show.
When politics becomes about tone and optics, the output of the system doesn’t really matter. This is why there is such disillusionment and anti-establishment energy among the electorate. For too long, the collective power of democracy has been completely extricated from the political process, and when liberals and even some leftists defend the actions of figures like Jeff Flake they are heightening this divide.
So if the conservative #NeverTrump dweebs over at the National Review or David Frum want to make Flake their new avatar of principled conservatism, go ahead. If liberals and Democrats actually want to win beyond the news cycle, they will fight to reconnect the political process with people’s everyday lives. To do that we cannot launder an arch conservatism that looks to roll back any semblance of social democracy and progress in the name of “tradition.”