Dear Left: stand for something better than taking down statues. Here's one idea.
by Doc Searls Sunday, August 27, 2017

At a time when the U.S. is (or at least seems to be) growing more polarized than at any time since the Civil War approached, and when the two poles need more than ever to understand each other, and to respect what the other pole knows best (and not just what the other pole believes—a subtle and important distinction), maybe the dumbest thing the left pole can do is start taking down, defacing and (o shit, there it is: hanging) statues. 

Andrew Young explains why

I'll add this: statues are symbols imbued with all kinds of deep and unspoken emotions: good, bad, too mixed to separate—and all to various degree historically inaccurate, regardless of what political point one views them from. They are also distractions away from the real work that needs to be done, starting with listening and caring. All you can do with them, at least politically, is attack or defend them. There are better things to do.

(The dumbest things the right pole did were to elect Trump and keep supporting him after it became vividly clear that he's a monomaniacal narcissist—in other words, everything Judith Donath, David Roth and Matt Taibbi say about him.)

Instead of taking down statues, the left needs to stand for what it knows best, which is good (not just bigger) government, caring about people, and civic life as a whole. None of this is well expressed on the left (least of all by the Democratic party), which would rather fight Trump and his most awful supporters: a sucker's game that Trump is much better at than they are. (He's one big attention sink, for everybody.)

What the left needs most to do begins with understanding what the right forgot when it repurposed itself (with talk radio and Fox News) around throwing shit at the left. Specifically, understanding business—especially the small kind.

Depending on where you draw the line, small business is between 97% and 99% of all business in the U.S. and at the high end of that range in the rest of the world. From Small is the New Big:

Nearly all of what happens in business is too small and ordinary for Wall Street to care much about. Same goes for investors, business reporters and politicians. Even economists don’t pay much attention. What they see are the waves and weather on the surface of the world’s economic ocean, when what matters most is the mass of water below... None of them want to grow their businesses any larger than they need to be. None thought about an exit when they started up. None call themselves “entrepreneurs,” or go to expensive conferences. Instead they socialize at bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants, churches, city parks, beaches, ball games and on the street. They tend to have roles rather than jobs. When you need one, you look for a mechanic, a painter, a lawyer or a driver. All of them also help each other out, side by side, face to face, in the physical world.

Of course this is an opportunity for both the left and the right. But the right abandoned small business when it moved its center of economic interest from Main Street to Wall Street, and decided that all business needed was "draining the swamp" and cutting taxes, especially for rich people.

What makes this an opportunity for the left is that it's a new place it can care about people. And the opportunity is there at all levels of government, from local on up.

I don't know if that's possible, since I've always been amazed (as a political independent who has leaned left since fighting for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the '60s) at how little the left understands business, or outright dislikes it.

But I'm telling ya, the opportunity is there. Stop using "capitalism" as an epithet and start looking at ordinary people's business opportunities, as well as their problems. Look for paths to small business success. Create openings for both ordinary and exceptional business ambitions. And yes, put cutting taxes and government red tape on the table. Republicans are right about those, even though they care far less about those things than about getting funded by the Koch Brothers.

And please drop the statue thing, at least for now. It's bad strategy.

Bonus link from @GeorgeLakoff.

  • Doc, this is a great positive thing that people can get behind. Do you have any pointers/suggestions for where/how to start working with businesses?

    • Wish I did, Andy. But I'm sure something's out there. I'm just not political enough to know off the top of my head.