Why the Left Sucks at Trolling

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Ben Terris writes today about “Why the Left Sucks at Trolling.” His case study is Alan Grayson, the firebrand lefty who recently compared the tea party to the KKK, earning himself plenty of tut tutting from liberals:

For this type of behavior, it’s easy to label Grayson as the left’s equivalent of a tea party congressman. (Remember, Paul Broun comparing President Obama to Hitler?) But the problem for Grayson is, without a cadre of equally recalcitrant colleagues, he has the bark, but not the bite of his Republican counterparts.

….”We don’t have a pathway to progressive fantasyland,” Rep. Keith Ellison, the chairman of the progressive caucus, conceded. “We’re probably not going to get arrested on the Capitol lawn in favor of single payer in the next three weeks.”

Why is it, in the words of congressional scholar Norm Ornstein, that the “more radical wing of the Republican Party holds the center of gravity and the radical wing of the Democratic Party is just an appendage and not a significant force”?

Ornstein thinks that for Republicans, it’s about feeling the underdog as a minority party in Washington. It doesn’t help that tea party-linked lawmakers also appear to live in a right-wing echo chamber.

You know, I read this kind of psychoanalyzing all the time. Hell, sometimes I do it myself. But there’s a simpler answer: there are more extreme conservatives than extreme liberals, and the extreme wingers really and truly believe that Democrats are destroying America. There just aren’t that many lefties who believe the same thing about Republicans. The truth is that the American left is basically pretty moderate. If you want an explanation for why liberals don’t have the same apocalyptic approach to politics as tea party conservatives, that’s why. It’s simple.

Now, I’ll grant that it’s worthwhile to ask why so many conservatives believe deep in their guts that Democrats are destroying America. Ornstein may have a point when he mentions their underdog status, but the Republican Party has had an extremist wing for a very long time, and it’s always been convinced that liberals are undermining the American way. The belief itself isn’t really anything new. What’s changed is that the extremist wing essentially controls the Republican Party these days, and that really is new. However, the dynamic that led to this began with the Gingrich Revolution in 1994, which marked the first time in decades that Republicans weren’t the minority party in Washington. So I’m not sure their underdog status is really the explanation.

However, the rise of the apocalyptic, Gingrichian attitude toward politics does coincide with the early days of the rise of right-wing media. Also with the rise of the South as the driving force in GOP politics. That’s probably where the answer lies. Liberals just don’t have anything like that.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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