Our Revolution is Not a Defensive Fight
First published at Have Coffee Will Write on 6 February 2017.
Jonathan Freedland’s First on the White House agenda—the collapse of the global order. Next, war? for The Guardian was recommended to me by someone whose opinions I esteem. Freedland’s litany of existential threats rising from the presidency of Donald John Trump—and Trump’s Gríma Wormtongue Steve Bannon in particular—are real.
…Steve Bannon, the man rapidly emerging as the true power behind the gaudy Trump throne. Given Bannon’s influence – he is the innermost member of the president’s inner circle and will have a permanent seat on the National Security Council, a privilege Trump has denied the head of the US military—it’s worth taking a good look at the books on his bedside table.
Close to the top of the pile, according to this week’s Time magazine, is a book called The Fourth Turning, which argues that human history moves in 80- to 100-year cycles, each one climaxing in a violent cataclysm that destroys the old order and replaces it with something new. For the US, there have been three such upheavals: the founding revolutionary war that ended in 1783, the civil war of the 1860s and the second world war of the 1940s. According to the book, America is on the brink of another.
You’ll notice what all those previous transformations have in common: war on an epic scale. For Bannon, previously impresario of the far-right Breitbart website, that is not a prospect to fear but to relish. Time, which has Bannon on the cover, quotes him all but yearning for large-scale and bloody conflict. “We’re at war” is a favourite Bannon slogan, whether it’s the struggle against jihadism, which Bannon describes as “a global existential war” that may turn into “a major shooting war in the Middle East”, or the looming clash with China.
Freedman goes on to bring global events in The European Union (Brexit), Eastern Europe (Putin), Asia (China) and the Middle East (ISIS) into focus as greater threats. His conclusion, however, is wrong, or at least wrongheaded. He writes:
All this leaves liberals and the left in an unfamiliar, unwanted position. Progressives seek progress: their preferred stance is advocating for change, for improving on the status quo. But the great shifts of 2016 have left them – us – in a new place. Suddenly we find ourselves campaigning not for what could be, but for what was.
That is giving up. Trump and his Grima Wormtongue will not be stopped by progressives digging in and trying to hold onto anything. As General George S. Patton told his troops, we’re not holding anything. Our Revolution is not about clutching our past successes. Our Revolution is about advancing the progressive agenda on every front. Let Trump, Bannon and the Koch brothers try to hold onto their pathetic trophies.
Not, perhaps, since the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon have the citizen of the United States of America faced such a crisis. We will not come out of this better without a fight.
We all must decide, just whose side we’re on.