Just before the Battle of Stalingrad in the summer of 1942, Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 227, which, among other things, made it a capital offense to be a coward. Part of that order created what became known as “blocking battalions,” units perched just behind the front lines with the designated mission of shooting any retreating soldiers.
If you’ve seen “Enemy at the Gates”, the Jude Law-Rachel Weisz-Joseph Fiennes movie about the snipers of Stalingrad, the movie’s opening scene brought this to you in vivid 3D gore.
But Order No. 227 became famous not for its gory creation, but for three glorious words that became the symbol of Soviet resistance to the Nazis.
“Ni shagu nazad.”
“Not one step back.”
Yes, we’re going to quote one of history’s most brutal dictators here, because – blocking battalions and all – he was dead-on nails here (pun intended) in what we progressives need to do when it comes to our ideas. And while we’re not technically fighting a battle in which nearly two million people were killed, wounded or captured, we’re fighting a battle in which our ideas, our ability to rely on facts and reason and our status as a functioning republic are under a different type of siege.
Not one step back.
In the wake of Nov. 8, progressives of all colors were sent into emotional tailspins; my phone was blowing up like an Oompa Loompa that night with people beseeching me for my take, to make sense of all of this, to figure out what was happening. And I couldn’t. Time and time again, I texted, PMed back “I’ve got nothing… This makes no sense… At all.”
Then, it started, as predictable as the second ring on a phone. The hand-wringing. The garment-rending. The second-guessing. The third-degree about what we stand for and what we need to do.
“You need to stop ignoring flyover country… You need to understand why people voted for Trump… You need to open your minds and not be elitist prigs … You need to stop looking down on people… You need to adapt your ideas to a new reality… You need to understand liberalism is dead… You need to get over it and accept President Trump….”
Well, how do I put this delicately without breaking out the frosty mug of STFU and telling them to drink up? Easy! I’ll put in in a way that Trump voters and their sudden love of All Things Russian can understand.
Not One Step Back.
We are not going to attempt to understand the alleged economic angst that forced 80,000 or so voters in three states (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) to mindlessly vote against their own economic self-interest and elect a man who vows to sweep aside 50 years of social progress and a century of economic progress.
There’s your margin of victory for Comrade Trump, brought to you by the Electoral College – eighty thousand votes out of more than 128.7 million cast. He lost the popular vote by nearly three million – the largest deficit for a winning presidential candidate in American history.
And while we need to understand the rules of engagement – as antiquated as a system can be that gives a voter in Wyoming 3.6 times more power than a voter in California — this needs to be illustrated every time we are asked to understand. Every time we are told to get over it.
Not One Step Back.
We are not going to attempt to understand people who made no apologies for supporting a candidate who embraced racism, sexism, xenophobia and an addiction to 140-character screeds thrown out at 3 a.m. We are not going to attempt to understand people who refuse to accept facts with anything other than a “Libtard” retort, who refuse to understand their willingness to flip off the system is going to harm them in ways they can’t – or won’t – comprehend.
Not One Step Back.
We refuse to accept an excuse for ignorance. Spare us the elitist bullshit. I went to a state university and hustled my ass off while I was there to learn as much as I could about as much as I could. I read, read and read some more about subjects like business and political science I wanted to know more about.
If reading, absorbing facts – true, verifiable facts – makes us elitist, well, guilty as charged. No apology necessary.
Nor should you apologize.
You may have an excuse for not being a genius; not everyone’s Stephen Hawking upstairs – current company definitely included. But you have no excuse for ignorance. And by making one, you’re admitting you don’t know what you don’t know – and worse – you don’t care to learn.
Do you ever notice that acceptance is a one-way street? The next time a supporter of Comrade Trump points out that “This is why you lose elections,” point out to him what happened in the wake of the 2012 election, when – once again – Barack Obama sailed to a comfortable victory. His vote total was the second most votes received in the history of presidential elections and the most ever for a reelected president. He became the first president of either party to secure at least 51% of the popular vote in two elections since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 and Obama joined Andrew Jackson and FDR in becoming one of three Democratic presidents to secure at least 51% of the vote twice.
What did this get progressives? More mealy-mouthed platitudes about “reaching out across the aisle.” More intransigence from Republicans, who doubled-down on the reactionary Kool-Aid and tripled-down on the insane. There’s no plea for the Right to accept election results, no plea to “understand why liberals who aren’t on public assistance vote the way they do.”
Not One Step Back.
Let’s hit the Wayback Machine and take a look at some of the “acceptance” and “understanding the other side” we witnessed in November 2012:
Redstate.com founder and CNN contributor Erick Erickson wrote on Election Night 2012 that “there’ll be no hand-wringing here and there sure as hell won’t be any apologies for fighting for what we believe in.” The National Review, that noted bastion of dressed-up, pseudo-intellectual white supremacism, wrote an editorial saying that Obama’s victory meant that “Americans do not deserve democracy.”
“The lessons of Ohio are that Barack Obama is a skillful demagogue, that the ancients were wise to number envy among the deadly sins, and that offering Americans a check is a more fruitful political strategy than offering them the opportunity to take control of and responsibility for their own lives,” wrote a Kevin D. Williamson.
And that was tame, compared to the nuance and tact taken by one Theodore Nugent, who tweeted that “Pimps, whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav (sic) a president to destroy America.”
But for pure, distilled, 200 proof chutzpah, even the Motor City Megalomaniac’s tantrum pales to that from a New York businessman who was so incensed at Obama’s reelection that he called for a revolution.
“He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!
“Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice. The world is laughing at us. We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!”
This same person tweeted that “More votes equals a loss … revolution!”
Quite the revolutionary we have here. Who is this budding Che Guevara in pinstripes? Who is calling for a revolution because he claimed – falsely, it should be noted – that Obama didn’t win the popular vote?
Come Friday, you’ll know him as President Donald Trump, who – it was noted by 17 different intelligence agencies – has a certain chummy relationship with one Vladimir Putin, the prime minister of Russia and one of the most powerful autocrats in the world.
So when you think of Trump, when you think of Putin, when you think about “more votes equals a loss … revolution!” and when you think about your conservative friend telling you to “get over it, accept it, forget the Russian hacking, the swamp-filling, the Twitter tantrums, the blind acceptance of a man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and doesn’t care to learn,” think of Putin’s ancestral predecessor issuing Order 227 75 years ago this July.
Not One Step Back.