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Ever since they shuffled onto the scene in the guise of long-haired hippies in the 60s, the progressive left has been a) continually dismissed and even bashed by elected officials and the mainstream media, and b) been right about a ton of issues, over and over. So, one item at a time.
“Hippie bashing” is a popular sport in the media and with politicians, especially politicians in Washington. (Though it’s not limited to them; think Reagan in the 60s and how he treated any kind of left-wing protest on UC campuses.) The first President I can remember is Richard Nixon, and though he made some nods towards youth, he mostly detested those “dirty hippies”. And he was hardly alone; when asked in a Town Hall by a caller about drug or marijuana legalization, he simply laughed and moved on to the next question, as if it were such a silly notion it was beneath comment.
Now, of course, dope is legal in several states, “medicinal marijuana” in several others (despite heavy federal crackdowns by a nominally Democratic president), and even the most establishment of figures are saying the War on Drugs is a waste of money, time, resources, and causes people guilty of picayune crimes to be tossed into jail alongside murderers and rapists. Not to mention that the busts are disproportionately minorities despite the fact that it’s caucasians who are most likely to be toking.
And this is my point: When Reagan launched his huge escalation of the War on Drugs (alongside the phenomenally idiotic “Just Say No” campaign, the 80s answer to “abstinence-based sex education”, though more anodyne), many, many, many progressives said it was a waste of time and resources; that it would send people to prison for minor crimes to be jailed alongside murderers and rapists, and that it would disproportionately effect the poor and minorities. And we were derided as dirty hippies, probably stoned, told to shut-up, and assured the government knew what it was doing. And here we are, 30+ years along, and it’s clear we were dead right.
The same is true for a number of critical, key policies. The dirty hippies were absolutely right in predicting a war in Iraq would be an endless quagmire that would do no good. (And despite Bush&Cheney’s efforts to make it appear so, the vast majority of people on the left did not believe Saddam Hussein was better off alive than dead. Although many Iraqis these days might disagree.) The dirty hippies were correct in predicting that supply-side economics would cause huge budget deficits, increase the federal debt, and greatly increase income disparity. (Look, righties: Supply-side economics doesn’t work. It doesn’t. It got a more-than-fair trial at both the national and state levels, and it never works. Get over it!) Heck, the list of economic issues on which the progressives have been right and the right-wing wrong alone could fill a book–the effects of increasing the minimum wage (it doesn’t cost jobs); the effects of increasing taxes on the rich (it also doesn’t cost jobs and does increase tax revenue); the effects of regulation on business; and so on.
We hippies insisted that “abstinence-based sex education” would increase the incidences of teen pregnancy and STIs; it does. We said making abortion outlawed or more difficult to attain would increase illegal abortion rates and the mortality rate among pregnant women; it does. We said allowing marriage equality would have no negative effect on heterosexual marriage rates; it doesn’t. Don’t even get me started on the negative impact of militarizing the police and greatly augmenting their numbers, which has led to things like Ferguson and the unbelievable increase in effort and money spent busting sex workers (which I personally believe is the “Drug War” equivalent for this and the next decade, i.e. pointless, expensive, and doomed to fail). And on and on. And this isn’t even taking on such Fox “News”-driven nonsense as “unskewing polls”, or their claims about the size of the federal workforce under Obama (it’s decreased dramatically), and all their other crazy nonsense.
(I hate to break it to you, folks on the right, but we progressives have been right a lot. A lot more often than y’all. You want me to go on? Injecting capitalism into everything doesn’t work–for-profit prisons, colleges, and health care have all been an expensive disaster. Industries don’t self-regulate; where pollution restrictions are relaxed, the air, water, and soil becomes more polluted because it is economically better to just keep polluting and pay fines than to clean up your factories; it’s cheaper to just ignore safety violations and let people die in coal-mine explosions and pay the fines; etc. Printing money in certain situations such as a liquidity trap does not cause inflation. And on and on.)
And yet, we’re still not taken seriously, despite our track record of accuracy and correctness. Politicians make fun of us; our questions, comments, and opinions are cast aside as coming from “the crazy left”, even when we’re to the right of Eisenhower; the news media delights in running us down.
It’s even worse, because the way for nominally left-wing politicians to appear “tough” and “manly” (even when they’re women) is to bash them dirty hippies, and the mainstream media absolutely loves it. I am not entirely sure why; trying to overturn accusations that they’re “too liberal” themselves (which is a load of hooey); embarrassment at their own individual liberal leanings; having been on the outs in high school and wanting to be accepted by the Kool Kids; I have no idea. But it’s disgusting. Doubly-disgusting given how often we’re right. Not to mention the fact that lots of us have short hair, aren’t dirty, own houses, have jobs, are in long-term relationships, etc. Triply-denigrating, you might say.
And the point is this–and it’s a disheartening one: It’s not enough to be right. My side of the political spectrum has been right over and over and over for almost as long as I can remember, and 34 years on from “the Reagan revolution”, we’re still not listened to. The only way you get listened to, apparently, is to use exactly the right words (“inner-city youth” instead of “damn n*ggers”), play to people’s fears, and keep calling the opposition liars even when the opposition is actually, ya know, correct. (Climate change; endless wars; the effects of Obamacare; etc.) We’re learning to do it, a bit; calling gay marriage “marriage equality” was a good move. Referring to global warming as “climate change” was also smart, not to mention more accurate. But when it comes to fear and demagoguery, the GOP really runs us ragged.
I like to think it’s because folks on the left are, at heart, more honest and good-hearted. I know that I personally don’t want to resort to those tactics because I keep thinking that if I just lay the facts out for people, they’ll realize that they’ve been hoodwinked, fooled, and lied to, and accept the left-wing policies that have been and continue to help them with open arms. But alas, I don’t think it’s possible. But I keep hoping so, because the alternative is a right-wing-led national car crash, and to be honest, I really like this country and want it to succeed.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll do something to cheer myself up. Watch “Singin’ in the Rain”, maybe, or some Chuck Jones cartoons. Oy.