The Stages of (Liberal) Grief: Depression

By | 2018-11-04T19:29:05+00:00 November 5th, 2018|
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Having reviewed the unprecedented depths of denial and anger to which liberals might descend should their much-ballyhooed “blue wave” fail to materialize, we now proceed to the last stage of our analysis: how depression might impact Democrats and the Left after Tuesday. This will be the most important and enduring reaction they may experience, even though it won’t be easy to see at first, since obfuscation and temper-tantrums will be more immediate and conspicuous.

Part four of a four-part series.

Depression can take many forms. Among its most noteworthy consequences is a sense of hopelessness and a subsequent loss of interest in activities that formerly seemed important or enjoyable. Some conservatives will be familiar with the political variant of depression, because during the presidency of Barack Obama they may have become pessimistic or even despondent about America’s future. They may also have consciously avoided exposure to the news, because reminders of the Obama presidency were upsetting.

The ultimate form of politically relevant depression could lead a citizen to commit what amounts to electoral suicide: he could refuse to participate in the political process, by withholding donations, ceasing to volunteer or work for political causes, and most importantly by no longer bothering to cast a ballot. Admittedly, few conservatives seem to have been so deeply affected by Obama-induced gloom that they gave up on American democracy altogether, but no doubt there are, or were, some hard cases out there that fit this description.

Now, in any case, the shoe is on the other foot. Liberals find themselves living in an America—a world—that they found inconceivable before.

It was no accident that many leftists, including journalists, celebrated the Republican Party’s nomination of Donald J. Trump as its presidential candidate because they steadfastly believed that it was impossible that he could win. In fact, it was much more likely, they opined, that he would be the albatross around the neck of the Republican Party that would cause its final destruction.

Many liberals still nurture this hope, and they imagine that the 2018 election will be the first manifestation of progressivism’s rebirth and conservatism’s death rites. These optimistic leftists naturally would find the definitive debunking of the “blue wave” hypothesis, which seems at least possible to come Tuesday, particularly incomprehensible and distressing. Their misery would be abject. Their tears would flow far more copiously than they did on election night in 2016, because this time they thought they were fully committed to a winning strategy.

The really interesting question is: what proportion of liberals would react to the calamity, as they no doubt would see it, of a Republican victory in 2018 by tuning out the Democratic Party, which would have failed them so utterly, and the left-leaning media, which would have deceived them so shamelessly? How many would seek to refocus their lives and energies on non-political pursuits? Or, how many may transpose their partisan political activism to some form of non-partisan agitation? To put it baldly, how much of the base of the Democratic Party would simply evaporate, either temporarily or permanently? I believe the numbers could be sizable, and more than enough to reconfigure the contours of American politics.

I consider the path of depression, followed by a conscious or unconscious decision to detach oneself from partisan political engagement, to be somewhat analogous to the path followed in recent years by ardent liberals like Michael Moore, the irascible filmmaker and provocateur. Moore has produced numerous films espousing a left-wing message, focusing on what he believes to be the corrosive influence of corporate power and money on American politics. Moore’s last movie, however, Fahrenheit 11/9, the title of which implies it is a critical analysis of the election of Donald Trump and a commentary on his presidency, is in fact nothing of the kind. Instead, the movie criticizes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama just as passionately and more compellingly than it does Donald Trump.

Moore exhorts his fans to protest, to organize, to engage in the sort of political stunts for which Moore himself is justly famous, but he lays no particular emphasis on voting, and certainly not for Democrats. He is at pains to point out that the Democratic Party subverted the democratic process by obstructing Bernie Sanders’ path to the presidential nomination in 2016. On that score, he is undoubtedly correct. In short, Moore’s most recent film is an homage to liberal activism and leftist values, but it is also a tacit declaration of independence from the Democratic Party. This is fascinating by itself, but for our purposes what is important is that Moore may be the leading edge of a broader movement. #WalkAway may thus have been just the beginning of a longer-term process that will bleed the Democratic Party dry.

In the end, the question the American people will have to ask themselves is this: how seriously should they take a party that pretends to love and serve this country, but whose supporters increasingly are tormented by demonstrable psychological dysfunctions of denial, anger, depression?

If the Democrats lose on Tuesday, or even if they fail to “win” in anything like the grand fashion that the media has predicted, these dysfunctions will only intensify and multiply. The Democrats’ association with mental instability, with intolerance, with extremism, with intimidation and violence, with socialism, and, not least of all, with failure, will only grow more acute.

The Left’s descent into semi-madness has been approaching for some time now, but up till now they have been able to rely on the media to redirect much of the public’s attention elsewhere. After 2018, this may be impossible. The Democrats officially will be the party of kookiness, of spite, and of despair. A political death spiral might become inevitable.

I invite Republicans and conservatives to consider a tantalizing possibility. Liberals have reacted to the election of Donald Trump as though the sky were falling, and as though the world was coming an end. To most right-thinking people, this seems like hyperbole and silliness.

We should ponder the possibility, though, that the Left is, on some deeper level, correct. A world is indeed coming to an end: their world. It is the world in which loony leftist candidates and values can prosper, because no matter how disconnected from reality they become the media will never critically analyze them, and it will instead smear conservatives and Republicans with abandon and without scruple.

We should contemplate the possibility that the Left and the Democratic Party are fighting an existential battle in 2018—that their very survival depends on maintaining the carefully-constructed illusion that progressivism is popular, an illusion which seemingly is on the verge of collapse.

On one point, conservatives can agree with the Left: 2016 changed everything, and 2018 either will ratify America’s shift to the right or it will begin the process of dismantling it. The end result, however, is just as likely to be the self-destruction of the Democratic Party and the liberal movement as it is to be the impeachment of President Trump.

That isn’t a story you will see in the mainstream media, but you might just read about it in the history books. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

About the Author:

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