Dear progressives: #KillTheHostage

Democrats - Lesser of Two EvilsA political list I’m on has been having some interesting discussions running in parallel of late surrounding a variety of issues (Obamacare being the big one), and at the core of it all is a basic question: how do progressives aggregate and assert the power needed to effect the policies they support. (Which is ultimately the core question of all politics, I guess.)

So, if you’re a progressive, and you’re sick to death of being ignored, marginalized, gamed, played, punk’d, and told to eat your shit sandwich and like it because it’s prime rib, bitch, what can you do? How can you get from point A (shit sandwich) to point B (prime rib for all Americans, not just Art Pope, Sheldon Adelson and the Koch crime family)?

If the answer assumes that you have to evolve the Democratic Party (as opposed to leaving it – and that’s a big assumption, but one windmill at a time), then I think the path to more power requires to accept the following:

  1. You have to be willing to kill hostages.
  2. Since you have spent many, many years demonstrating that you’re an utterly toothless, gutless, spineless, nardless weenie, the center-right Dem power infrastructure won’t believe you when you threaten to kill hostages. Why should they?
  3. Therefore, you have to prove that you will, and there’s only way to do so. You have to kill a hostage.
  4. It won’t be enough to fuck Obama, the Clintons and the rest of the Republican wing of the Democratic party over on something they care about that you hate, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In order to demonstrate that you’re to be taken seriously, you have to show that you’re willing to suffer for your cause, which means sacrificing something that you care about, too. There’s the old “very good is the enemy of great” saw, and it inspires a kind of defeatist pragmatism that causes you to accept the lesser evil as a matter of course. This is perhaps the centrist establishment’s greatest tool, and it’s why time and again American progressives choose to shoot themselves in the crotch – it’s better to get shot in the crotch once than to get shot in the crotch twice, after all.
  5. So in order to change the dynamic, to upend the strategy that you beat Worse by being merely Bad, progressives have to strangle Very Good to death as the world watches.

So, now what? Step one: identify a hostage. It has to be a policy or program that the Dem establishment cares about. It has to be something that you can kill – if you shoot and miss you’re even more fucked than you were to begin with. It has to hurt the Vichy Dem establishment and it has to be obvious that it hurts you, too.

Step two: pull the trigger while they stand watching helplessly.

Step three: walk over to them, the gun still smoking and bits of the hostage’s brains still sticking to your clothes, and you say now, are you motherfuckers ready to talk? If not, there’s a busload of hostages out in the parking lot and we’ll kill every goddamned one of them.

I know, I know. This is a lot of big talk and posturing from a guy who couldn’t swing three votes in a race for dog catcher. But I pay attention, and you can learn a lot from watching how mobsters and the Tea Party do business.

My approach can’t be a whole lot less effective than what you’ve been doing, can it?



  • What hostage did you have in mind? Because the way I see it, the Tea Party is turning the entire federal government into a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tea Party, and this “kill-the-hostage” strategy is just expediting the process. Are you advocating outright revolution? We’re now in a position where the president has the power to run a functioning government, military, and surveillance apparatus without the input of congress. The Tea Party is continuing to hold the purse strings hostage, like they’ve been doing, for another two years until they can get the white house. After that, who knows? The only escape plan I see is to overturn the Patriot Act and simultaneously not renew the NDAA, which means expecting the military to go without pay or disbanding the military altogether. That’s quite a risk, but it looks to me like any other move is check mate.

    • Before you can deal with the GOP, you have to have control of your own party. Right now, the Dem establishment alternates between not resisting and actively helping. So you have to be willing to go under the bus and take them with you in order to exert any kind of pressure.

      I’m not well placed enough to know what hostage might be the right one. But early on in the new Congress, I imagine something will present itself.

  • The hostage is business. The thing they want most is, ironically, to give the president more power by restoring fast track trade treaties (no debate in the legislature, strictly up or down vote.) It appears to be a Democrat victory right now, but later it really hurts Democrats and it’s bad for democracy to consolidate power in fewer hands. So we need to allow no compromise on that.

    The other major objective is defunding the government. They will shut down the government to do this. Government protects the little guy from the big guy and they want to stop that from happening. Shutting down the government achieves this objective just as well as passing a budget that does not allow protective agencies like the EPA, FDA, Department of Labor, and even Customs and Border Protection and the US Military to do their jobs.

    This is a much more difficult problem. Maybe we start funding government directly from donations or start handing workers badges and levying fines against violators which then fund those protective agencies directly? I don’t know.

    Certainly, no Democrat should vote for any opposition bill until campaign finance reform has reduced the power of lobbyists and forced full disclosure of where all this money is coming from.

  • I think Progs are ahead of you. The hostage was incumbent Dems and our no-show at the midterms should send a message.

    • Two problems with that, O. First, they’re now able to chalk those losses up to all kinds of things other than progressive intent. Second, it needs to come from progressive leaders and be executed as a deliberate, active killing.

      Right now there’s too much ambiguity for them to get the message.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s