When Mice Roar and the Rest Assume They’re Lions
It was a bizarre rule.
At Circle High School in the middle of What Was the Name of That Town with One Grocery Store and a Gas Station, KS the edict handed down from sometime in the early seventies was that the seniors were not allowed to have facial hair. For the most part, no one really cared much. It was 1984 and we were in fashion’s clean shaven place having circumvented the hippie generation and come before the hipsters.
Except for a small group of seniors (about five out of a graduating class of eighty-six). The senior football players. They felt they should be able to grow out their testosterone-fueled beards and mustaches, and were on a mission. In service to that mission, one of them recruited me to prosecute their case.
In one way I was a natural ally to their cause. I was one of two top state debaters. Our freshman year, I had lobbied to the school board to get my gym grade changed because you can’t base a grade on a test that wasn’t taught in the class (and won). In another way, I was the least likely to have a spot of facial hair and I didn’t care much for the football team because most of them were assholes and bullies.
I was (and am) a sucker for a challenge, so I bit. I wrote a brief about it. I researched the history of the rule. I sent around a petition (paper on clipboards because there was no email then) and, given almost no one gave a shit, but everyone loved taking on The Man, I got most of the student body to sign it.
I was scheduled to present my case to the school board and showed up in my debate suit. I made it sound like the entire student body was in revolt over this obscure law and through nothing more than my moral clarity and heightened rhetoric, convinced a non-plussed group of small town bureaucrats to capitulate. I felt at the time we had won a massive victory against the Powers That Be. In reality, no one really cared that much except for five senior football players and then only two actually grew facial hair that didn’t look like pasted on pubic hair.
We were mice roaring and we won. Soon after, seniors from all walks of tribal associations (cheerleaders, chess clubbers, math team members) came to me to wage battle on their behalf. I tried the same methodology and lost four times in a row. My senior advisor, Tom Restivo, pulled me aside one day and said “You know, most people in the school don’t support your causes. You know that right? It seems like you think that you’re constantly on the side of right but, even if you are, without the backing of a larger group of students, you’re never going to get algebra credit for the Math Team.”
According to the NYT, The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate.
“The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online, according to data from the Hidden Tribes Project. This latter group has the numbers to decide the Democratic presidential nomination in favor of a relatively moderate establishment favorite, as it has often done in the past.
“Less engaged and less ideological voters tend to be cynical about politics. One might think cynicism would translate to support for outsider candidates, and it probably could against an establishment favorite with enough flaws. Instead, it has more often meant skepticism of ambitious and idealistic liberals and progressives who offer big promises with no record. It has meant an appreciation for well-known, battle-tested politicians who have been on their side or even delivered in the past.”
It seems like the Far Progressive Left is the voice of the Left but, as Tom Restivo might tell them “You know, most Democrats don’t support your causes. You know that right? It seems like you think that you’re constantly on the side of right but, even if you are, without the backing of the majority of Liberal Thinkers, you’re never going to get Medicare For All or that Green New Deal.”
Being right but losing is the biggest tragedy of all
So what’s a hardcore, callout culture, strident Rage Profiteer to do in the approach to the very realistic possibility of four more years of Trumphole and, worse, six more years of The Toxic Turtle?
First, recognize that louder isn’t better. Persuasive is better. Coalitions of disparate ideologies is better. Recognize that those life affirming retweets and hearts on your pages is clouding your self perception and making you see yourself as somehow bigger than you are like a Chihuahua taking on a pack of Rottweilers. If you truly want change progressively, your incessant barking isn’t gonna win you that change.
Second, understand that while you are a true believer in identitarian tribalism and lots of free stuff for marginalized communities, most of the voting bloc you need doesn’t. They care about equity, they care about the environment and women’s rights, they care about the rights of gay individuals, they care about the legacy of slavery but mostly they care about income inequality. Focus your message on that and you’ll move the needle some to the left.
Third, realize that the only people who think you are bigger than 8 percent of the voting electorate is the media. Not because they agree with you but because you are good business for them. For the same ridiculous reason they give ‘equal air time’ to anti-vaxxers and Trump apologists, they give you equal air time to talk about abolishing the police and pronoun use. It’s volatile and angry and makes for excellent TV.
Being on the right side of history but having no one in power to enact the change you seek is an impotent feeling. If you want to hump the patriarchy, bone the white supremacists, and skullfuck the wealthy, you need the Viagra of a larger coalition of the Left. Without it, all you get is blue balls and outrage.