Conservatives Have Earned Their Trump; Liberals Have Not Earned Our Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a rally in Siou
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. After months of branding himself as the anti-Wall Street candidate, Democratic presidential hopeful Sanders seems to be broadening his focus by spending far more time discussing foreign policy during the weekend debate in New Hampshire than he has in the past. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In 2008, a whole lot of Americans (liberals mostly) got Obama wrong. Instead of a conciliatory centrist, they chose to see a revolutionary warrior.  They saw supporting him not as a political preference, but participation in a "movement."  Following the script of the popular fantasy of Martin Luther King, Obama was going to part the waters and bring us all together.  There were no racists who would instinctively oppose him.  There were no religious authoritarians who would insist that we all follow their edicts. There were no homophobias, tribalisms, or white nationalisms that the Obama "movement"--the risk-free, relatively passive act of supporting Obama--could not undo. He would sweep away the heathens by sheer dint of will and guide us toward the liberal Holy Land.

When Obama governed like the liberal mainstream politician he was, liberals revolted. When his Magic Negro pixie dust failed to conquer an entire history of American race hatred and Republicans made it their job not to govern, but to defeat him, liberals felt betrayed.  

Now liberals have found another unlikely instant savior whose very presence will foment a just-add-water revolution--a revolution that requires nothing from us.  We will not have to fight the long fight, we will not have to petition, we will not have to clamor and march, and we will not have to bleed. Again, with Sanders, there are no bigots, no zealots. To Sanders supporters, beneath the skin of every Republican there's a liberal waiting to slough off the irons in which the oligarchs have secretly shackled him or her.

This is fantasy. Too many liberals refuse to believe that there is a significant, vocal, active segment of Americans who truly believe what Republicans from David Brooks to Mike Huckabee to Donald Trump peddle (only in decidedly different clothes). And the reason that Republicans fully control 30 out of 50 US state legislatures and the House of Representatives is that their 'best and brightest' do not sniff at the down and dirty work of politics. They fight viciously and consistently to ensure that their side wins. Republicans may have hoped for instant revolution, but they planned for a decades-long struggle. They fought in local political trenches for the school board, the city council, the state house, the congressional district. They have groomed candidates for offices high and low who have the talent to mask extremist policies with centrist facades.  Sure, they've anointed saviors after-the-fact (see "Reagan") but they never sat back with the expectation that one punch card would shift the world to their side. 

We liberals yearn for instant 'revolution' while holding the ugly political nitty gritty in contempt. We can't even be bothered to show up for a non-presidential election. Instead, we look for a savior who'll turn it all around with a wave of the hand because we consider anything more political than occasional voting beneath us. We take solace in the fact that reality has a well-known liberal bias, ignoring the fact that you still have to defend it.  

Mea culpa. I have been a major offender. I've been stingy with my time, my dollars, and what effect my little voice might have.  I have found odious the hand-clasping and faux aw shucks camaraderie on which American political campaigns rise and fall. I have been part of the problem.

Beginning with Barry Goldwater's 1964 Presidential campaign, Republicans have schemed, fought, and planned the takeover of most of this nation's governments. Racist dog whistles, xenophobia, economic injustice, and religious chauvinism have been major ingredients in their winning formula. For 50 years, conservatives have laid the groundwork for a candidate who would proudly rip the mask from their agenda, discard what they consider 'political correctness' and foment a revolution based on the darkest yearnings they've had to bury beneath euphemisms for so many years.

Republicans have earned their Donald Trump. After a decades-long fight and countless victories, they have earned their dreams of 'revolution.'

Liberals have not earned ours. Not yet. Until we do, let's retire the word 'revolution.' If you're not willing to work, sweat, and sometimes even bleed for your cause, it is not a revolution. Unless your leaders are calling on you to do nothing less, they're not leading one either. They're just campaigning. We have to learn that there's nothing wrong with that. When we do, maybe 30 of 50 statehouses will be ours.