One of the oldest strategies in warfare is divide and conquer. Why has this infamous strategy worked so many times despite being so well known? Well because human beings are fairly easy to divide on things that are important to them. You can divide people by denying them what they need to live. You can divide people by somehow convincing two allies that there is a reason that one side cannot trust the other. It is so easy to do if you have the reach and the ability. It is also the best long term strategy to cause your opponent to basically defeat themselves. You’d think that it would be something that most strategists would dedicate some time in order to mitigate the problems that might cause division. However, you’d be wrong about that. Powerful people understand that divide and conquer is their best weapon. No matter how well educated a people is or how much better things get, the powerful need the perception to be there, that people cannot work together. They can make it happen because they are able to exploit divisions. The leftist political movements are very notorious for being very sectarian. Mostly because of their open mindedness and aptitude for critical thinking, they cannot agree on how to reach their goals. They may share similar goals and even have similar value systems but the division over strategy might as well be as big as the division between the Nazis and the Socialists. This combined with the fact that the right is actually very good at uniting for their values despite their differences in process. Hierarchy and authority are things that actually matter a great deal to them and so they are able to justify the means to get to the ends they believe is morally righteous. This is why their hypocrisy is never really that important to them. So what, they flip flopped. They don’t care how they get to their goals as long as they do. The powerful recognize that and it helps that many powerful people have that same mindset. They want to keep their power and are always wanting more. The powerful however, do not have the actual popular support for their world view and ideas. The left does but the perception of the left is what holds them back. The powerful and the right can talk endlessly on as many platforms as they can create about the left unchallenged. They can lie and demonize and will never ever have to face any ramifications for their ideas. This is why, when social ramifications are handed out to those who are conservatives, this is seen as an attack on their free speech. They view free speech as their right to speak anywhere with anyone about their ideas and values. They don’t care about a response though. They don’t think consequences should apply to them. Consequences are for the little people. However, the left always has to deal with the presuppositions about their ideologies that have been hammered into the collective psyche of the public by the right. The long-term indoctrination the right have been able to set up is rather impressive even if I hate it. The connection of their politics with their values and identity makes it difficult for them to be reached. Not all people are unreachable but it is worth noting that it is important to choose your battles. The left simply have so many structural hurdles to any sort of policy wins, that it is far easier to divide them. This combined with the fact that many on the left care about process as much as they do on the goals make it even harder. However, I would like to give my two cents on how to overcome these things.
- I will not say that the means to get our goals aren’t important. I think they are important. But the world as it is doesn’t really care about our misgivings or procedural preferences. I would love to use previous socialist successes as a model but I percieve that the world today is too different for it to be done the same way. This does not mean we cannot do it. This is not a black and white thing and all it means is understanding the structural barriers that prevent change.
- We must get over our uneasiness about using dirty tricks to get what we want. The right has been very successful because of that. The left’s ideas are not as easily explained in sound bites and we must be prepared for a long struggle with the right. Nobody in power will be willing to give an inch. We must be prepared for possibly a multi-generational struggle. We must also be aware of possible structural issues we might accidentally create due to our methods. For instance, the Soviet Union used rapid industrialization via the state to catch up to the United States. Their methods killed people much faster than industrialization under capitalism. This created the perception of bloodthirstiness because memories are short. Capitalism has killed more people but it does it over a longer period of time and the deaths are not as colorful and visible. We cannot expect the world to stand still for any experiment. We must expect other countries and corporations to fight us.
- Even when we get people in power who we think are good and noble, the system is there and is successful because it constrains the people in power. There are certain checks that a person in power has that a private citizen simply doesn’t have. I see a lot of anger at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s McCain tweet. The progressive and leftist twitter community is very anxious and on guard because of how often we have been burned. I say that is okay and healthy but we must understand that it doesn’t matter how much we do or do not trust her. Our job is to make sure she does what is best for us. The electorate is meant to keep our representatives in check. We haven’t been good at that and it has been really easy for them to insulate themselves from their constituents. They seem uncomfortable with accountability. That is a problem and we must make them understand that it comes with their office. They are public servants and they work for us. Our tax dollars pay their salaries. Don’t forget it. We are literally their bosses.We have every right to hold them accountable. The private corporate CEOs might as well be feudal lords. They can talk to them anytime they want but the normal citizen has other responsibilities. However, we matter more than the CEO. You cannot buy loyalty. Not real loyalty, and the policies of the left are actually positive and can work.
- I must reiterate that it is impossible to do this is the short term. The different checks on power and the structural impediments to the left are incredible. I am convinced that Bernie could have won but he would have been hamstrung. The ability of powerful people to create unrest and create crises for the socialists all over the world is incredible. The powerful cannot win unless they refuse to play by any rules. Being noble and principled is something I value but don’t let it stop you from doing the right thing strategically and rationally. People in power might need to be polite but the citizen doesn’t. We don’t have the luxury of being nice to our opponents. We don’t have the luxury of indulging in fair weather friends and false allies. Working with people we don’t trust isn’t out of the question but I would argue never let your guard down. Expect the powerful to never play by the rules. Don’t expect societal decorum to prevent the powerful from being mean spirited and vindictive. In fact, being polite is often just a way of shutting down emotional discourse and actual powerful policy proposals. Emotional responses are human and connect us. Those who have the stability to be uber rational all the time cannot be trusted. I can trust an emotional reaction because I know it matters to them.
- No matter what anyone says, the American people and the western civilian in general, do respond to moral clarity and conviction. Rationality is not what drives the voter to the polls. An ally isn’t just someone who is rational and has proposals. An ally is someone who you believe is on your side and someone you can trust. I believe that we can be more effective by having emotional resonance but be ready to discuss policies immediately. Do not engage with bad faith attacks. Rationality is important and we don’t want to be taken advantage of, but we cannot underestimate the power of rational emotions.