#473: Autophagy, or Why Progressives Lose

May 6th, 2015

The progressives came to the industrial park.

They came on bikes, on foot, in aging, limping, soot-chuffing hatchbacks slathered in anti-oil bumper stickers. They came with buttons and reason.

They came to see the journalists.

The Hideout is a bar tucked in industry, a 19th-century balloon-frame house lodged amid warehouses and a monstrous City of Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management garage.

It’s the home of rockabilly and punk shows, political rallies, spoken word duels and “First Tuesdays with Mick and Ben,” where reporters Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader gather journo buddies and talk about politics the way only people who know the cameras aren’t rolling can.

That’s who the progressives came for.

The vast majority of the standing-room-only First Tuesday event were informed, involved people who care about the issues that affect their lives. They wanted to gather, grab a beer and hear the stories the reporters can’t put on the TV or print in the paper.

Then, they all go home and a Kinks cover band takes the stage.

But each group of humans has its extremes, the ones at the ends of the bell curve who act as a parody of the whole. These are the bro-dawgs who make Cubs games atrocious, the wooing, brawling party girls who ruin New Years for unassuming sippers of low-rent sparkling white.

Only a few, only a smatter among the crowd, but these are the ones I remember.

You know them. They come to events asking questions that aren’t questions, just self-made segues to whatever speech they’ll complete. They glare and yell at people who don’t go far enough, anything less than full commitment to the leftmost option seen as the only thing worse than fascism — half-assism.

They’re usually old, always white and wear political buttons as regular fashion choices.

And for the record, I almost always agree with them. It’s hard not to agree with people describing Narnia.

He gathered to quiz ABC-7 political reporter Charles Thomas after the event about health care, interrupting whatever answer Thomas was about to give to say that single-payer is the only true solution.

Thomas agreed, but doesn’t make health care law.

She gathered to smoke angrily outside the bar wearing a Bernie Sanders pin, telling all who would listen that she wanted to slap Ben Joravsky for a pre-election article she saw as tepid on mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia.

Joravsky endorsed Garcia, just not enthusiastically enough for her taste.

They fight for fairness, equality, the environment, honest governance, an end to any ism you find. Everything they fight for is good and they fight for everything.

But they eat their own. They’re the ouroboros, the autophage cannibal. They devour the movements they fight for, blasting weak friends with equal or greater fury than they show strong foes.

It’s not ideology, just convenience. Their foes don’t come to the Hideout.

Their enemies stay in skyscrapers and mansions, office buildings and banks and the halls of Washington, making things worse for the world. They can in part because the people who care are busy yelling at lukewarm friends at the corner bar.

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