Symbolic Victories and Substantial Defeats

Or, if you prefer, the failure of YASS KWEEN politics (boldface mine):

Thus concludes another real-time lesson that liberals just can’t seem to learn: that while they’ve been congratulating themselves watching movies that co-sign their most closely held assumptions, elevate their most cherished shibboleths and flatter their most self-righteous vanity, the right wing has been systematically institutionalizing its agenda by way of an incrementalism strategy aimed at capturing governorships, statehouses and the courts, and radically reshaping the entire national legal infrastructure…

In many ways, that agenda has worked: Polls suggest that a majority of Americans support protections for young immigrants, want to preserve Roe v. Wade and favor the Affordable Care Act, campaign finance reform and making it easier to vote, not harder. But as largely liberal audiences were attending largely liberal movies in order for their largely liberal views to be largely endorsed, conservatives were playing another game entirely.

Using gerrymandering and voter suppression, as well as their own corporate and grass-roots media networks like Fox News, direct mail and Breitbart News, they’ve succeeded in taking over a majority of statehouses and governorships. And with the help of such conservative policy incubators as the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans United for Life, they’ve passed prepackaged legislation that includes everything from voter I.D. bills and abortion restrictions to “stand your ground” laws. One of Trump’s proudest accomplishments is how he has packed the federal judiciary with dizzying speed…

The right has watched with alarm over the past generation as such liberal values as feminism, gay rights, anti-racism and cultural pluralism became normalized on screen. But they’ve also counted on liberals being too naive, complacent or arrogant to understand that culture, while important, isn’t nearly enough without the dogged, unglamorous work of realpolitik — a brick-by-brick approach that Ginsburg herself advocated when she called for equal-pay legislation in her Lilly Ledbetter dissent.

I don’t think it’s just liberals (which admittedly is a term that has been redefined so many times, it’s difficult to determine who said liberals are). A significant swath of the left is fairly naive about gaining power–and it has to do with “the dogged, unglamorous work of realpolitik.” This hole was dug over fifty years, and we’re not going to get out of it with One Neat Legislative Trick. We need to put personnel in the right places. Not all of them need to be ‘radical’ either, just ‘radical curious.’ Put another way, passing a Green New Deal doesn’t matter so much, if a conservative dominated federal judiciary (not just the Supreme Court, but the federal circuit courts) decides to gut or overturn much of the law.

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