There is a phrase among political scientists, wonks, and people who otherwise have no life like me, called “red meat.” It means political issues that excite your core constituency, and has typically been used in reference to the Republican Right.
Why red meat? Well, in the red/blue Republican/Democrat system, Republicans are “red.” Also the Right tends to be identified with carnivores as opposed to vegetarian liberals etc – more on that later.
So Republican red meat tends to focus on opposing abortion, gun rights (which I favor), limiting immigration, foreign policy paranoia (everyone is out to kill America), militarism, and possibly most of all, lowering taxes.
WE NEED SOCIALIST RED MEAT
Class warfare! Tax the rich, jail the bankers, universal healthcare, bring back unions, $15 minimum wage. Make “red” mean what it used to mean!
Sometimes people are afraid to raise red meat issues. For example, there are a lot of black middle class leaders who are afraid to really go on the offensive against the harsh continuation of racism in the USA. Precisely why is complicated; some are bought off or have a much more comfortable income than most blacks, and some are just afraid to be seen as extreme or “racist against white people.”
We socialists are often afraid to bring out our class warfare red meat. Sometimes we are painfully unaware that the word “socialism” itself is no longer something holding us back, but actually a word that attracts people to us. The same with “class warfare” – we are so used to hearing FOX News use it as a bad thing that we forget that, for many people, anything FOX describes as a negative must be a positive. Occupy exploded in a way that other movements simply do not, because it was about class warfare: the 99% versus the 1%, a literal occupation of the financial district.
LIBERAL-PROGRESSIVE HIPPIE POLITICS GOES NOWHERE/THE GREEN PARTY
It seems that, post-Occupy, most of the Left has horribly forgotten that class warfare is what made Occupy successful. The Left since Occupy, probably more from lack of self-awareness or persistence of memory than anything else, has distanced itself from its roots: Marxist, based on economics, based on class warfare and inciting people’s anger against the wealth distribution and their place in the economic hierarchy. Instead it seems to have continued its usual trend-following, or trend-cycling, obsessive focus with one pet issue, and then another, and then another. It’s not that other issues don’t matter – they do – but the Left almost always makes the mistake of entirely forgetting to discuss class or the standard of living while focusing on these issues. Basically it fails to walk and chew gum at the same time.
It’s not that economics has become secondary in people’s minds. Yes, people have developed an interest in other issues, which is probably a good thing. In fact, dissatisfaction with the ability of our government itself to even function is a growing concern according to a recent Gallup poll – this is, of course, an important revolutionary conclusion. But still, despite the shifting, the same poll indicates that economics still reigns supreme as the popular issue among the general public – and the Left has completely dropped this ball and moved on to other fads.
The Left strays from the power of red meat, and thereby loses any chance of establishing itself as relevant outside of its tiny circle. Besides red meat’s seductive strength being a justification for an energetic, class-warfare based image that is very capable of achieving wide popularity, this is also the reason that the Green Party will never take off. (Don’t get me wrong, I respect the Greens and they are the only party I have ever really voted for besides the occasional crank socialist, but when they’re a strategic dead-end, it has to be discussed directly.)
There is a very small number of activists in the USA. Sadly its characteristics are often subcultural as much as they are political. People in the activist scene are assumed, not just by society but by the activist scene itself, to follow certain cultural trends. A lot of it involves liberal moralism, instead of working class self-interest. It seems to embrace an aesthetic of softness inherited from 1960s hippies which is often accompanied by bad political corollaries: non-revolutionism, the tendency to view different opinions as things to be “tolerated” instead of valuing honest debate and direct conversation, a lack of seriousness toward political strategy or political organizing itself, a tendency to view anyone who puts forward a plan as “authoritarian” or “oppressive.” Where 1960s hippiedom does not hold, Millennial hipsterism often takes its place, sometimes with similar political results to the hippie tendency, and sometimes totally different given the limitless varieties of hipsterism. Still, the critical thing is that the Left can be more subcultural than political.
When this supposedly “political” scene is not just downright dysfunctional because it’s actually a subculture and not a political movement, it is often dominated by liberal-progressive moralism which does not value red meat. The Green Party can be an example of this.
Many recent Green Party candidates have actually put a significant focus on economics. However, no matter how much they do so, their branding as “Green” will always obstruct the ability of the public to realize they are an anti-corporate party and not a party based entirely on environmentalism. Again, nothing against environmentalism, but a party based entirely on it would not become popular, and given the “Green” label, that’s what most people assume the Greens actually are!
There is something about Green liberal-progressivism, though, that places class warfare red meat as simply one more issue in a laundry list of liberal-progressive issues connected by a vague anti-oppression/progressive moralism and not connected by the economic issues that really excite people. You need a party which everyone realizes is primarily based on red meat, on class warfare, which of course also takes progressive stances on all issues. A “socialist” party would accomplish this. Maybe some others would too. But “Green” does not, especially given that deep down they really do place red meat as just one in a collection and not as the central thrust.
Most of America is not interested in liberal-progressive moralism. They want more, not less. They want to take wealth from the rich for themselves, not save the whales or the children. They aren’t even interested in being political beyond what it can do for them. Most Americans belong to the dark side.