Oddly Familiar Talking Points

Apologies for the late posting this week. I had to dig myself out of a post-holiday pileup of to-dos.

Let me start by saying I consider myself to be somewhat to the left of Bernie. I favor a Scandinavian-style social safety net — heck, I am Scandinavian. And I admire Elizabeth Warren more than just about anyone. So this comic is not coming from the perspective of a milquetoast centrist Democrat, or even a strong Hillary partisan, as I’m guessing some will assume in our world of fun political binaries. What concerns me is that I’m seeing fundamentally right-wing concepts being adopted by those who self-identify as lefties or progressives. You might say I’m criticizing the left from the left.

To address a few points raised in the cartoon: I shouldn’t need to even spell this out, but as a gentle reminder, Russia is an authoritarian regime that crushes free speech, dissidents, LGBT rights, and now, apparently, my own health insurance. This didn’t just happen to Hillary; it happened to all of us. It’s pretty much the definition of what should be a non-partisan concern. Mountains of evidence exist for Putin’s attempt to swing our election (and others), and to minimize the problem is nothing short of laughable. And yes, I do think the interference had a substantial impact.

Hillary has certainly frustrated me at times over the years, but I came to admire her intelligence and poise over the course of this election cycle. Her performance at the debates with Trump was nothing short of heroic. She also ran on the most progressive Democratic platform ever, but since policy has become almost completely divorced from politics, that doesn’t get talked about much. I could go on, but as my husband says, this was not so much an election as an exorcism, the culmination of a decades-long smear campaign by the right.

The term “political correctness” has been the cornerstone of conservative efforts to transform the ideas of civil rights and equality into something frivolous and stupid. The right loves plucking silly examples from obscure, powerless people and blowing them up into huge “culture war” issues that supposedly threaten the nation. “PC” is an insult that plays into their hands.

Along these same lines, “liberal elites” — long a Fox News favorite — is designed to shift attention away from the actual economic elites hoovering up the world’s wealth and resources, such as the Koch Brothers or Trump, and instead make one think of poodle-owning urbanites supposedly looking down their noses at everyone (while in reality voting to raise the minimum wage). It’s a frame, not a fact, and hides a deep anti-intellectual agenda. By definition, I would say a liberal is someone who cares about the less fortunate. So a liberal “elite” would be a liberal with power. However, the term is thrown around as a pejorative to smear just about anyone — feminists, college student activists, etc. — rendering it meaningless, and an effective right-wing language hack that divides the left.

So don’t fall for these con-job concepts! We progressives need to be strategic in our opposition, not Fox News Lefties.


  • Poet

    The Democratic party has become the Republican junior auxiliary. It’s like the difference between Gain and Cheer (both laundry detergents manufactured by Proctor and Gamble Inc). They may have different colors and scents but at their core they are the same thing and when one realizes this fact, the pointless folly of the US political system as it exists today becomes more apparent.
    To try to drum up support for one side over another when both sides are (at their core) the same thing is similar folly, but–just like laundry detergent– there are enough people convinced by the lies told by advertisers for such products to “buy” your notion that unity will “win” next time.

    • Stevie Ray Vaughn

      Now that Trump is in charge. Do you still feel this way after seeing what he’s doing and attempting to do??

  • InheritTheWindow

    The Fox pundit shouting a skull and cross bones is too good!

    It’s very refreshing to see a strong progressive critique the circular firing squad and fascist rhetoric that is infecting the left.

  • Joe Liberty

    I like your essay but your comic accidentally makes a point about one of the main problems the Democrats. Rather than making a principled argument, say something is a bad argument only because of who says it. The incompetent machiavellian Clintonites had to do that out of necessity– their incompetent candidate and her pre-fop-flop positions were terrible in every sense. So people that criticized her were dismissed because of their age or gender or race. Their ideas were rarely if ever addressed. I think if you search for the manufactured “bernie bro” narrative it is neither some conservative fantasy no outlier. It was mainstream. Sometimes wingers says correct things. One of them you surely agree that blindly taking the word of James Clapper is foolish?

    • Eric

      So true. I can’t count the number of times I got called a “right wing bigot” “misogynist”, etc. because I criticized Clinton’s decidedly illiberal positions and actions. They never had an answer so they’d just call me name. Now they’re all astounded that the very same strategy didn’t work in the general.

  • Eric

    Right, except…
    - Russian hacking wasn’t even close to the main problem with the Clinton candidacy, and Clinton supporters ARE using it as an excuse for their awful candidate.
    - Hillary Clinton is a lying monster capable of anything, even when viewed from the left.
    - Identity politics are a major problem and a huge embarrassment to the American left.
    - The DNC, in its current form, wouldn’t know populism if it hit them in the face. The only thing they know how to do is point fingers and scream “misogyny! racism!”

    Criticizing the Democratic party, and by extension the contemporary Left, isn’t a bad thing. It’s the necessary hard work that we’re going to have to do -and do well – if we’re ever going to dig liberalism out of the cesspool of corruption and identity politics it’s fallen into. Whining about disloyalty is only going to entrench the corruption and stupidity.

  • glennfm

    “Mountains of evidence exist for Putin’s attempt to swing our election
    (and others), and to minimize the problem is nothing short of laughable.”
    Where are these “mountains” of evidence?
    In boilerplate statements from the CIA or Director of National Intelligence, the same people who lied us into Iraq and lied to us about spying on US citizens?
    In the comical spy vs. spy “dossiers” of “proof” a 12-year-old could pump out in a half-hour?
    It is not leftists who are finding common cause with Fox News,but corporate Dems who are sliding cozily into bed with the CIA, a development which at one time would have created a real shock to the “liberal” psyche, a real crisis of conscience.

    No more.
    Just as “Democrats” like Clinton are fine with launching wars against innocent poor people around the world, faux progressives are now quite happy running crying to the CIA for excuses about lost elections.

    This toon was fair enough, but the risible explainer (yeah, to the left of Sanders but a supporter of the candidate who told bankers who were paying her that there is one truth for the public, and quite another for paying customers) leaves me greatly saddened as I have admired your work for a long time.

    What you and other Clinton apologists just can’t get is that the corporate Dems are part of that global elite ” hoovering up the world’s wealth and resources.” That they do so with smiley faces and high-sounding (but empty) platforms does not change reality.

Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer Finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.