How Democrats Could Learn From The Avengers to Defeat Authoritarianism
(Marvel's team of rivals)
(Democrats' team of rivals)
Thomas L. Friedman’s recent op-ed in the NY Times (linked below) expresses something that I've been feeling powerfully in my heart and gut for a long time but haven't articulated yet: I believe the only way we heal our country and save our democracy is by Democrats working together as a unified team of superhero “rivals” to defeat Donald Trump.
As the NYTimes op-ed suggests, I think the Democrats need to stop tearing each other apart and build a unified coalition that capitalizes on all of the strengths of each of the candidates (still running and no longer running) generating a broad-spectrum, representative Democratic coalition that will work together as one for the American people, both in the election and during the presidency to follow.
I've invested a lot of time in researching each of the candidates, watching every debate and nearly every town hall, reading interviews and assessments of the candidates, campaigning for them and trying to understand their strengths and flaws. And admittedly, they all have flaws (which is true of any human being, ever, and true of your favorite president ever.) But they are also superheroes in their own way. They each have incredible strengths, talents and useful ideas that should be utilized, rather than dismissed and diminished in an increasingly "us v. them" primary process.
I believe that government works best when it works to include and consult with differing groups of people. I believe in coalition-building as the ideal expression of democracy, and I believe the Democrat’s coalition should be lead by someone who is capable of setting their ego aside in order to truly listen, hold space for alternative viewpoints, consider all of the variables, and work together with *imperfect allies* to come up with the best possible path forward that serves the most people, as best as we can.
I wrote recently that I think superhero movies serve as some of the most valuable models for heroism in our age. And to me, the most powerful message I've seen in recent years is the story of coalition-building and ally-ship demonstrated in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
For those that saw those movies, you might remember that The Avengers were divided by their ideological differences and leadership in-fighting (although generally united against authoritarianism and injustice) in Civil War. This ideological split and inability to work together as a team ultimately leads to their defeat and violent decimation by Thanos in Infinity War. But what eventually leads to their epic victory in the memorable final battle scene in Endgame is their commitment to inclusion and teamwork, inclusion of people of color, people of different nationalities and species, of women, the young, the old, the celestial and mystical, the technological and the natural. You might remember that in that final scene, there’s an iconic moment (pictured above) where all of the heroes band together as one unified force, contributing passionately and fully to defeat Thanos and save the world. It’s the skillful activation of their diverse coalition of superpowers that finally restores order, peace and justice.
I believe we are marching steadily toward our Thanos moment for American democracy. (Ironically, Donald Trump has released campaign ads depicting himself as Thanos.) It’s time to unite our diverse group of superheroes against the forces of oppression and injustice, or as Thomas L. Friedman wrote:
"the Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before...If the country is going to be governed responsibly...leadership can come only from Democrats and disaffected Republicans courageous enough to stand up to Trump. It is crucial, therefore...that moderate and progressive Democrats find a way to build a governing coalition together. Neither can defeat the other. Neither can win without the other. Neither can govern without the other. If they don’t join together — if the Democrats opt for a circular firing squad — you can kiss the America you grew up in goodbye.”
New York Times Op-Ed: