Our alt/Right, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, etc. are a form of resistance to the profound cultural, political, and economic changes that are happening globally.* They are hopelessly fighting a losing battle. In fact, the intensity of their moral righteousness is the measure of their hopelessness. Even Steve Bannon says this: “Ethno-nationalism—it's losers. It's a fringe element…These guys are a collection of clowns.” The waves of condemnation from all sectors except elected Republicans that are hitting Trump’s beach are making the point far more effectively, while the kind of confrontational protest some from the Left mounted in Charlottesville were stupid and self-defeating of the kinds of positive projects the Left can be promoting.
Why stupid? I use that term not as an insult but as an evaluation of a strategic move. Fighting resistance reinforces resistance. In terms of strategic effectiveness the morally righteous effort Cornel West and others mounted was put to shame by the spontaneous candlelight vigil in Charlottesville last night and the mass CEO resignation from the Trump project. The latter effectively strengthened the expanding container of Trump’s craziness. The Left’s morally righteous met the right’s extreme morally righteous. Together they generated the mess in Charlottesville mess. Trump’s path of moral righteousness was all resistance to the growing opposition to his presidency. In following that path he took another step in castrating his own project.
America, in all kinds of ways, is containing Trump and his agenda. Yes, he is succeeding in some ways. Yes, he is the greatest menace to our democracy and human decency at this moment. But breathe easy! There is no sign that he can reverse his fundamental undoing of his own presidency.
We need to be active in building that container, not raging out of moral indignation. For example, consider this. A recent headline in the Nation reads: “Fighting White Supremacy Means Owning Up to American History.” Certainly it involves this, but at a much more productive level for more justice entails finding ways in which all the disparate groups of Americans who are appalled by the Charlottesville show of white supremacy can come together to some extent. We don’t need to prove something all over again for the umpteenth thousand time to those who cannot receive the message. Following a path of hardnosed reconciliation with those interested in the same will lead to plenty of owning up to American history…and more.
It is time to put away the things of a child, and take on the work of intelligent, loving adults. It is time to join with others to grow that container whether they are from the left, the center, the right, or wherever. And it is time to imagine and implement the kind of Left projects that connect and unite. It is time to draw on our reserves of intellectual humility and empathy and to figure out how to generate more.
*I say “our” because I am an American writing to a fellow group of Americans about other Americans whose actions we strongly oppose. We are all in this together, for better or worse.