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During the D.C. years, a friendship grew with a decidedly memorable individual who also happened to be communications specialist and electoral strategist for the Republican Party. Part of the initial reason for our friendship was due to us sharing a “personality type” on one of the many tests out in the ether; another was my observation that he was one of the first people I met who demonstrated a level of tenacity and political acumen to eventually pose a challenge to the Democrats. I wanted to learn how this came to be.

From the days of progressive activism at UCLA, the central opposition from the GOP-proper came either in the form of attack ads and mailers funded by “dark money” during campaigns, and far less often from the then-impotent, disorganized and near-nonexistent Bruin Republicans. The basic idea that there could be someone from the millennial generation out there who could go toe-to-toe with the articles of Jacobin and Michelle Alexander, who could eventually be a strategic match for the electioneering of Messina and Emanuel, was not even in my realm of possibilities. Until I met this particular Dark Lord of the Sith.

This will be a collection of what I learned about the perspectives of our Democratic movement, viewed from the other side:

6. The major Republican influencers are acutely self-aware of their own strengths and many of their shortcomings.

The GOP is well aware that it is walking a tightrope between the potential for alienating its large base of older, whiter, socially conservative voters, and losing an even greater share of millennials, women, and minorities. Many, if not most, of the individuals who make up the “Professional Republican” staff in the advocacy, campaign, etc. world are socially progressive, but understand the necessity of sustaining a veneer of social conservatism in order to align with the traditionalistic base, which populates the rank-and-file of the GOP at far greater numbers than the layer of young professionals leading from the top. It is nearly an open secret however, that most of the professional caste wishes the religious issue dominance would fade out. The puppet show continues, but the puppeteers are well-studied.

5. Numerous potent initiatives exist to rebrand the GOP as the “new cool” party among millennials and overlooked constituencies, and much of these play into the follies and missed opportunities of the Left.

Given that economic security and workplace protections are completely off the table for the GOP to recruit new members, it requires different ways to grow its base, especially among millennials, with much of this involving an appeal-to-culture and capitalizing on imbalanced empathy and selective tone-deafness from the Left. The shining example of this new approach is personified in Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo, with a sharp wit and tendency to launch into bombastic tirades on his colorful gay sex life, criticisms of feminism, and love for Donald Trump, has built a talent for finding missed-constituencies on the Left with a twisted pleasure only a Christoph Waltz character could appreciate. His uncanny ability to bring together an audience of affluent gays, the tech community, young independent/moderate voters, residents of rural America, “nerds”, and civil libertarians fighting against a common cultural bogeyman on the Left, rather than for any specific or articulable policy on the Right, shows the need for the Left to reach out to these communities and allow their concerns to be heard, rather than overlooked (and in some cases, mocked).

This new rightwing coalition is being built with nary a word being uttered in favor of a more just and equitable economy that holds the wealthiest citizens accountable. In other words, accomplishing exactly what it set out to do.

4. The new generation of Republican influencers are extremely bright and very diverse.

While at UCLA, the interactions of progressive and Democratic activists with any official Republican or self-identifying rightwing student organization was sparse and infrequent. The one time per year when we did interact “officially” with them, the Bruin Democrats vs. Bruin Republicans policy debates, it felt more like attending the mandatory company holiday party than raising political consciousness on campus. The consensus was that we would rather be spending our time knocking on doors for Kamala Harris, making calls for the DREAM Act, and registering first-time voters in underserved communities. Or rather doing anything but engaging with a dying organization pretending to be still relevant.

After spending a good deal of time with this particular Sith Lord and his associates, I am seeing that characterization of young Republican leaders and influencers beginning to change.

Beginning with the Ron and Rand Paul campaigns opening the GOP to a new subversive brand of libertarianism, and followed by the ascension of new establishment figures like Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley navigating the party in a direction that, at least superficially, signified its embrace of women and minorities, the new generation of rightwing activists is no longer made up of religious white men. A growing number of Republican-affiliated non-profit and campaign staff identify as ethnic minorities, with a large right-leaning LGBT community making itself known as well.

However, the most striking feature of this diverse crowd was the overrepresentation of Ivy League degrees. While this decays the stereotype of the “uneducated GOP-voter”, it may prove a crucial weakness in the Right that the progressive movement can focus on: the conservative leadership being out of touch with the average citizen.

It is also telling that elite pedigrees are common among the #NeverTrump Republicans, who are likely shunning their base’s choice more for their hidden disdain for the culture and lifestyle of their base itself, rather than any real principled opposition to Donald Trump. If Hillary Clinton can stoke these feelings of abandonment by party elites while communicating a message of genuine economic security opposed to Trump’s carnival-style outlandish promises, there is real potential to grow a progressive consciousness within that constituency, despite the GOP establishment’s newly refurbished “big tent” in itself leadership ranks.

3. The social pundit “tea party”-esque figures of the Left have the same liabilities but don’t contribute equal assets compared their Republican equivalents.

As we saw with controversial figures like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, Tea Party celebrities on the Republican side can most assuredly create negative media attention and permit a rhetorical climate to flourish which costs elections (see: Todd Akin). However, there was always a continuous message in their content: 1) Vote Republican on election day 2) Donate to Republican candidates

Conversely, our Sith Lord believes the calculation to be very different on the Left. Social pundits and pop-culture figures such as Jon Stewart, Arthur Chu, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Anita Sarkeesian, may offer leftwing messaging, but are only disparately related to the political and campaign infrastructure of the progressive movement. Furthermore, many of them have also created a brand out of their image on which they seek to capitalize by generating clicks and views through shocking, often snark-filled headlines.

This shock, snark and outrage messaging runs in contrast to the inclusive, opportunity-focused campaign Barack Obama won the White House with in 2008, with the profit-motive behind building a social “brand” often conflicting with what would be best for concurrent electoral campaigns and the party infrastructure, resulting in the progressive-leaning social pundits packing less of a punch than their conservative-leaning colleagues.

Connecting the outrage with specific civic, organizing or electoral actions was also infrequent among the leftwing social pundits. For instance, the height of the Gamergate fiasco occurred a mere months before the midterm elections where four females candidates, Mary Landrieu, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Michelle Nunn, and Shenna Bellows were in the electoral fight of their lives. For all the articles, videos, and tweets posted by the social pundits during this time, few made any attempt to connect the struggles women faced online with the chance to increase female voice and representation in the federal government.

These patterns are what makes the Sith Lord shrug his shoulders at many left-leaning social pundits; he does not see individuals like Coates or Sarkeesian as actual political threats.

2. Both the rightwing establishment and grassroots have almost zero understanding of community organizing or its potential.

While the modern GOP has had a commanding advantage in the realm of PAC fundraising and a strong grasp on the importance of messaging, basic understanding of the potential of community organizing as an effective tool for political change is nowhere to be found.

Awareness of the very existence of community organizing beyond lowbrow quips about ACORN and President Obama’s organizing past seems to be curiously absent from the radar of the GOP. Should any organic discussion of organizing take place among the conservative circles, one would be shocked how quickly the discourse takes a turn toward jokes and mockery of cartoon-character tales of “union thugs” and “Mexican separatists”, rather than actual analysis of the methods and potential power in organizing.

The lack of fundamental understanding of the nature of organizing, community outreach, and coalition-building among vested neighborhoods and stakeholders contributed to the astonishment many Republicans faced when the President felt confident to use his executive prerogative on issues like immigration and the minimum wage without fear of popular backlash. Initiatives like DACA did not appear in a vacuum, rather they came about as a result of years of organizing and mobilization of individuals and community leaders from across the political spectrum.

The few bona fide attempts by the GOP to mobilize potentially receptive communities for sustained political action, such as the Koch’s millennial-focused Generation Opportunity, have some of the superficial trappings of community organizing, but are often undermined by their overall tone-deafness and inability to listen or relate to the real problems facing their targeted communities.

Thus, the Right frequently and continuously falls back on its dependence on raising vast sums of money from a small group of wealthy donors, which can only go so far without the help on-the-ground organizing in an Information Age where constituents can fact-check attack ads with the push of a button. The complete lack of acknowledgement of organizing’s existence, let alone potential, may allow the seeds to be sewn for an eventual decades-long progressive domination of Congress once the younger generations takes the reins.

1. Sith Lord’s gonna Sith Lord.

The majority of the new influencers of the GOP establishment are fully aware that tax-cuts and welfare restrictions will not actually help the ordinary American. A few of them openly embrace this agenda of the Haves at the expense of the Have-nots.

This specific rightwing Sith Lord may be the highest personification of that unholy embrace. With his apartment adorned with famous baddies throughout history (including John C. Calhoun, various European colonial rulers, the fictional monster Cthulu, etc.), he openly and frequently muses about his disdain for those whom he considers social peons and underlings. He and many of his compatriots take pleasure in being “the bad guy” who leaves the progressive social contract of the nation in ruin; they feel no ethical qualms about this ambition. High-minded articles from Vox will not stop the real leaders behind the Republican Party, often they feel endeared and empowered by the negative attention and publicity. Instead, the only counter shown to be effective is to out-organize them. The only language they understand is power, and through robust organizing and potent messaging, it is power that must be taken from them, not politely requested. Only with a string of GOP electoral defeats and messaging victories in the Dem’s hands again will ensure economic security, prudent foreign policy, reproductive justice, and civil rights/liberties well into the future.