Leonard Pitts: Progressives are in the majority

Published 4:03 pm Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Here’s what gets me about progressives.

They never seem to realize that they are the majority. Yet on issue after issue, the polling consistently shows that they are.

Abortion? Sixty-four percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade.

Guns? Sixty-seven percent want stricter laws.

Taxes? Sixty-one percent say the rich need to pay more.

Health care? Fifty-six percent want government to ensure coverage to all Americans.

But it’s not just opinion polls. It’s also presidential polls. Republicans have won the popular vote only once since 1992.

So liberals could have the world they say they want — with sensible gun laws, immigration reform, universal health care, reproductive rights, healing of the planet — if they only had the wit, the will and the courage of their convictions.

Instead, we have a world of weekly mass shootings, children in cages, the Affordable Care Act barely escaping repeal, Roe v. Wade endangered and a dire new United Nations report forecasting planetary catastrophe. Also: Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the Supreme Court.

He is a man credibly accused of attempted rape and blackout drunkenness, a man who, under pressure, demonstrates the temperamental restraint of a sugar-addled toddler two hours past naptime. Yet he sits now on the highest court in the land.

That didn’t just happen. Rather, it was the capstone of a long-term scheme to reshape the judiciary as a right-wing rubber stamp. Maybe you remember how Republicans stole a seat on the high court by refusing to give a hearing to President Obama’s nominee. Now, with the mostly party-line vote that shoved Kavanaugh through, the court suddenly seems less a disinterested referee of democracy than a partisan tool, its legitimacy sacrificed on an altar of political expedience.

But what’s going on here is bigger, even, than the court. Consider the Census Bureau projection that, within about 25 years, America will no longer be a majority white nation, but rather, a nation in which no racial group is numerically superior. Consider the visceral terror of many in the white majority as “Others” — blacks, Muslims, LGBTQ, Hispanics — rise and demand voices. Consider the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the corresponding rise of voter suppression, the use of gerrymandering to neuter black ballots, mass incarceration and rising hostility toward immigrants from the south.

Consider all those factors and the true shape of things becomes clear. Like Afrikaners in apartheid South Africa, conservatives seek to enshrine minority rule, to ensure that, even as they decline as a percentage of the population, the forces of white patriarchy, of racial, religious and cultural homogeneity maintain their stranglehold on power.

And with apologies to Malcolm X, they are willing to do so by any means necessary. The question is: What are the rest of us willing to do in response?

Are we willing to play the long game as conservatives have?

Are we willing to play with the ruthlessness and calculation they’ve shown? Are we willing to organize, to meet at the intersection of our manifold causes, concerns and lives?

November 6 will give us the beginnings of an answer. Until then, one can only hope.

Progressives are the larger of the two main ideologies in American politics. Yet they were just forced to watch in impotence as conservatives reshaped the top court by an act of sheer political thuggery. The lesson should be clear. It’s great to have size on your side.

But it’s how you use it that counts.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald.