What Are They Afraid Of?
Now that Donald Trump has been elected, hope is gone. That's more or less what Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfrey in a recent interview. "We are feeling what not having hope feels like," she said.
There are millions of liberals feeling hopeless these days. The left's fear of a Trump administration is like nothing seen since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, which reversed 50 years of liberal politics. Not only are they bawling in public, threatening to relocate to Canada, and cuddling up with therapy dogs, but they've tried every undemocratic trick in the book to deny Trump the election.
Trump obviously threatens something of crucial importance to the left, but what is it? What are they afraid of?
They are afraid of Trump's policies, of course – and there will be plenty of changes on day one. Most of what Obama "accomplished" by executive order stands to be reversed. Other reversals may take months or years. All of this threatens the left on business regulation, taxes, health care, energy, welfare, labor law, the environment, and more.
Trump's policies will make America a business-friendly, prosperous, and free nation once again. The importance of these changes cannot be overestimated. But since Hillary never argued the case for progressive policies in her campaign – she focused on demonizing her opponent – it's probably not policy that's the real cause of progressive paroxysms.
It's something more troubling – the suspicion that, in some deep and lasting way, America doesn't want them.
That was the unspoken implication behind Michelle's "hope is dead" routine. It's one thing to pine over the loss of an election – it's another to say it's Armageddon because they lost. It's suddenly dawned on the first lady, and on millions of others, that Americans do not share her progressive fantasies. And like all the others, she has too much invested in progressivism to go away quietly.
That much is obvious, too, in Obama's tentative performance in his final press conference. With China having seized a U.S. underwater drone, Obama needed to look tough. He didn't. He looked bewildered, like the man he is – an overbearing potentate who never listened to the American people and who now finds his "legacy" in shambles. After claiming "success" on every front, he evaded answering a question from Mark Landler of the New York Times about China's seizure of a U.S. research drone. This time it's not "leading from behind"; it's not showing up. Like, China won't bother us if we leave them alone. And when they do, just pretend it didn't happen.
What's causing all the frenzy on the left is just this: the realization that after eight years of weak and undemocratic governance, democracy has reasserted itself. The American heartland is disgusted with what they've done, from Obamacare to Black Lives Matter to transgendered bathrooms to a feeble foreign policy that emboldens our enemies.
The truth is that most Americans are not progressives and never will be. They are conservative by nature. They believe in small business, family, God, and the right to self-defense. For eight years progressives have ridden roughshod over the values of the heartland, and voters have been seething.
What will they do, now that they've been so soundly defeated? There was supposed to be a mass exodus to Canada. Not a single Hollywood celebrity has left. Maybe, what with Toronto facing a wind chill of minus 39 not long ago, they've decided that Brentwood isn't so bad.
What they will do, unfortunately, is stay here and continue to carp for the next four, and hopefully eight, years and more. Nothing can change the fact that the America is conservative and getting more so. For the first time in 32 years, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania voted for a Republican presidential candidate. That's not just because of the Trump mystique or a distaste for Hillary Clinton. Wisconsin and Michigan also have Republican governors, as does Ohio. And in Wisconsin and Ohio, the GOP holds overwhelming control of the state legislatures.
The verdict is in. The heartland is solidly conservative. The Blue Wall has turned red and threatens to stay red for a long time.
That is one more reason progressives are crybabies. It's not just the loss of one election. It's the realization that, having given Obama eight years to prove their case, Americans have made up their minds. Trump's victory was not an anomaly – it was the inescapable result of eight years of indignation.
Progressives are throwing tantrums because they realize that the party is over, for a long, long time, if not forever. What do you do now?
The American left finds itself in the same position as those aging True Believers who populated Russia and Eastern Europe when communism fell apart. Those who had lived under communism for fifty years or more, some of whom were my acquaintances in Macedonia and Bulgaria, were forced to question their very identity. The change was not easy, and many, especially those who had lived under communism for a half-century and knew nothing else, found it impossible to change.
I visited one such Central Committee member in her apartment in Sofia in 1994. She had lost her post at the university, lost her political influence, lost many of her friends. She was surviving on a trifling pension, making do with canned goods, bread, and homemade brandy, and still in shock over the fall of communism.
Maybe Michelle was right. Hope is gone, for progressives, at least. Like my acquaintance in Sofia, they've lost their power and influence, and it's too late to change. So far as I know, Nancy and Harry (the latter retiring in January) have never recognized the greatness of American capitalism or brilliant business leaders like Rex Tillerson. These aging radicals are about to find themselves outcasts with no power or influence. No wonder they're distressed.
It isn't too late for the young. Those millions who voted for Bernie did so out of a desire for change. Trump offers that change. Even before entering office, he's saving jobs and restoring confidence to investors and business leaders, who are already planning increased capital outlays to expand business. He's restoring hope to the Appalachian coal region and the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas and Pennsylvania and Alaska. He's beginning to change the thinking of Millennials, who now believe they have a future.
All of this is driving the left nuts. They're afraid of finding themselves on the wrong side of history, as in fact they are. They ran on "four more years" of failure without realizing that the American people don't want more failure. Our president-elect was smart enough to realize that they want to win for a change.
It's one thing to lose an election. It's another to lose your identity. After two Trump terms, even the True Believers will realize that progressivism is a lost cause. That thought is just beginning to percolate, and progressives are freaking out. Soon it will sink in: America really is a conservative nation. She gave progressivism a chance, and progressivism failed.
It's over for the left in America. That's why they are so distraught.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).