Why is it that large swaths of the cultural Left perceive themselves as rebels when they are currently in power?
Why is it that libertarians and “I just want to grill” conservatives appear to be so terrible at gaining any kind of power that isn’t corporate bootlicking or neoconservative imperialism?
I am not here to psychoanalyze, but rather to attempt to build a model framework to understand these actions. If we want to grasp how to push our fellow Americans (Left and Right and everything in between) to build alternative institutions, we need to understand how and why they do not do so today, when there already appears to be the material and willpower to do so.
I believe this comes from the allure of persecution, expressed in different ways on the Left and Right:
The allure of persecution is that it gives an individual a sense of superiority and righteousness while simultaneously relieving the burden of responsibility or duty that comes with actual governing.
On the Left, this is expressed in the rebel narrative. The idea that group X that we dislike is in power and that they oppress everyone else (“F*ck the Man!”), even if that doesn’t mesh with the actual material reality on the ground.
On the Right, this is expressed in the “high road” narratives. The idea that one should not sink to the level of the “dirty Leftists”, even if this means losing repeatedly. Principles over Power! Or something to that extent.
Both of these narratives are used to control us. The Left-Liberal and the Right-Liberal (including Libertarians) continuously reinvent specters (communism, fascism, nazism, etc) to generate an Other they must strike down, justifying their hold on Power.
This is the same impulse that leads to progressives believing they are rebels while maintaining immense institutional control. The lifestyle-ism of so much of the Left-Liberal community is the release valve for cognitive dissonance when you know you’re an imperial but believe you are a rebel.
On the Ethnonarcissistic Left, the Elite seize on the antagonism between identity groups and use aesthetic changes (“Hey look! This time, a woman will be commanding US forces to commit war crimes!!!”) to placate those who would otherwise oppose them. They then continue to plunder and destroy the people they are placating since nothing material has changed.
On the Libertarian Right, the Elite weaponize Liberal rhetoric (freedom, liberty, autonomy, etc.) in service of their own interests, as they nonsensically define Big Government as the only force of coercion in society and that having your life largely controlled by tyrannical bosses and all-encompassing algorithms is the true expression of “freedom”.
Ultimately, these narratives are established and propagated by the Elites, and they are used to control us.
The Left must disabuse themselves of their admiration of purely aesthetic change. They don’t even need to abandon “identity politics” to do so. The Left must also understand that protests are rarely successful. Most successful protests are proto-institutional.
The Right must disabuse themselves of their misguided principle of respecting “norms”. These norms are constructed by Power to prevent challengers from effectively defeating it. The Blue Empire seethes when you refuse to play its game, because it loses leverage. Do not confuse these norms with morality/moral imperatives. There are times when morality demands you to challenge the norms of the political system.
Only then will meaningful opposition to the forces of Rainbow Neoliberalism actually begin to arise.