The Stages of (Liberal) Grief: Anger

By | 2018-11-03T19:31:31+00:00 November 4th, 2018|
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Having explored the historical genesis of liberal derangement, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016, and having disclosed the role to be played by Denial after the probable failure of Democrats’ “blue wave” in 2018, we now proceed to the next stage of our analysis. We turn our attention to the forms of liberal Anger that are likely after November 6th.

Part three of a four-part series.

Anger is, as previously discussed, the dominant emotion discernible in the Left’s reaction to Trumpism. In fact, rage is rampant among liberals. What has kept this anger in check, however, is a sense of assurance that the Trump phenomenon is something akin to a death spasm among conservatives. Leftists have long assumed that “progress” of the sort they desire is inevitable, and indeed they can point to many victories won in the last few decades. Moreover, soaked as they are in identity politics, the Left puts great stock in America’s changing demographics. They presume—understandably, given their inveterate anti-white racism—that the “browning” of America can only foretell doom for Republicans.

They ignore the obvious counterargument: this country has been “browning” for a long time, and the Republican Party is today stronger than it has ever been since the 1920s. In any case, it cannot be overstated how integral it is to the peace of mind of liberals to assume that the Republican Party will soon die an ignoble death, and therefore, they believe, any upsurge in nationalism or conservatism is a temporary aberration. The march of history towards the broad, sunlit uplands of progressivism will soon resume.

The failure of the “blue wave” would be a punch in the gut to this attitude of complacency and self-satisfaction on the Left. The American people will have chosen Trumpism and Republicans not once, but twice. As leftists see it, this will mean an affirmation of “hate” and a rejection of their own worldview of “inevitable” progress. The liberal throng (sometimes understandably mistaken for a mob) will have expended vast energies, and donated vast sums, to achieve a victory that remains elusive if not utterly improbable. The bile will rise in leftist throats as it begins to dawn on them that the last gasp of conservatism, which they perceived President Trump to hail, may instead be an enduring realignment of American politics that is favorable to Republicans. They will despair at the fact that millions of women and minorities, who by rights belong on the Democratic plantation, deserted the cause. They will, in short, experience anger on a scale that will make 2016-18 seem like child’s play.

What will be remarkable about liberal anger post-November 6, however, is that for the first time most of it may well be directed inward rather than outward. What do I mean by that? Up to now, divisions and grudges on the Left have been deferred and subordinated successfully to the overarching project of reversing the effects of the 2016 election. The one thing on which the Left could agree was that it despised Donald Trump and everything he stood for (even if , in some instances, what he stood for was the exact same thing Democrats had long been supporting). A truce was arranged, whereby Democrats and liberals would sweep under the rug any lingering questions about the methods by which Hillary Clinton and the “moderates” in the Democratic Party defeated Bernie Sanders and the progressives in 2016.

Even Clinton’s appalling ineptitude in her conduct of the 2016 election would be forgotten. Liberals would let bygones be bygones, and they would refocus on the urgent task of discrediting and obstructing the work of the Trump administration, and of removing President Trump from office. This left-wing consensus, this facade of liberal unity, will soon collapse in a heap in the early morning hours of November 7, absent the prophesied “blue wave.” Consensus and unity were always understood to be necessary because they were the price of victory in 2018 and beyond. When that victory does not arrive, it will be bedlam.

Liberal anger, therefore, should crest in the weeks and months after the midterms, and it will engender a great deal of internecine fighting among leftists. The Democratic establishment will struggle mightily to tamp down this ugliness, and the media will struggle to conceal it. We can anticipate strident calls from the Sanders wing of the party for the resignation of DNC chairman Tom Perez. He may well heed these calls. Activists will push for the party to move to the left on major issues, and their insistence that a Democratic House, if one is elected, produce articles of impeachment against the President will be more akin to an ultimatum or a threat than a mere request. Impeachment, however, will be unlikely to materialize, because Democrats representing swing districts will not cooperate. These Democratic Congressmen will therefore be subjected to a steady stream of invective from their fellow Democrats. The Democratic caucus, in short, will be riven by divisions as serious as those scarring the Democratic Party as a whole. It is doubtful whether a Democratic House could even function under these circumstances.

It is amusing to speculate on who or what will dominate the Democratic Party by the time the cycle of recrimination and self-destruction is over. There are only two realistic possibilities. Either the Democrats will survive as a left-of center party, or they will go significantly further down the rabbit hole of “progressivism,” which is to say socialism, identity politics, lawlessness, and Trump-hatred. Either way, a large fraction of current Democratic Party voters seem destined to “walk away” from an increasingly dysfunctional political construct. In politics, victory covers many sins, and by contrast defeat exposes divisions and weaknesses with stunning clarity. Democrats are poised to discover the saliency of this observation, even if they do regain the House by a narrow majority which, we should be clear, amounts to defeat for the Democrats.

Anger, however, threatens to wound the Democratic Party in even more serious ways than those we have already discussed. The potential for violence has been bubbling beneath the surface of leftist rage for some time now. It is more than conceivable—in fact, it is probably inevitable—that some liberals, especially those of unsound mind, will reach the conclusion that, if electoral politics cannot deliver the rebuke to President Trump that they believe is warranted, more unconventional methods ought to be pursued. For most left-wing die-hards, these methods will involve an intensification of mass protests, petition drives, boycotts, and efforts to intimidate Republicans and conservatives in public spaces. This will make the tenor of American politics, which is already raucous and unseemly, positively insufferable—and probably not in a way that will bring any credit to the Left.

The bigger danger, though, is that more and more leftist hotheads will move beyond mere intimidation to actual physical violence against conservatives. We have already seen such violence manifest itself on a small scale (though Rand Paul and Steve Scalise might question the “small” part), but the potential for an increase in such criminal violence is vast. Any talk of a popular “revolution” against Trumpism is mere hot air, if for no other reason than because most liberals would struggle to operate a firearm. That, however, doesn’t obviate the possibility that isolated acts of violence against Republican elected officials and conservative opinion leaders will become more common. It would be surprising, in fact, if there were not casualties in this low-level civil conflict.

It is my belief that, post November 6, liberal anger is likely to produce just the sort of episodic, largely ineffectual violence that leftist extremists perpetrated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially given the fact that many modern leftists look admiringly on some of these Nixon-era radicals. If the methods will be similar, then the results will be as well: far from intimidating conservatives or moderates, leftist violence will create a backlash, and the Republican Party is likely to be the chief beneficiary. Independents will flock to the GOP, hungry for “law and order.”

True, one might argue that the Left has long since discredited itself by its hyperventilation over the Trump presidency, but these antics are only truly damaging to the Democratic Party if the media makes note of them, and by and large it refuses to do so. Leftist violence, however, is and will be more difficult to conceal, especially since the media will find covering it irresistible, because, after all, “if it bleeds, it leads.” The damage that even low-level political violence will do the reputation of the Left will be considerable, therefore.

If Anger would be the most obvious and visible consequence of the failure of the “blue wave”, depression may be its most important and enduring legacy, as I will explain in the fourth and final part of this analysis.

About the Author:

Nicholas L. Waddy
Nicholas L. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, blogs at www.waddyisright.com.