Posted on July 12, 2016Filed Under tweets | 26 Comments
Don’t tell me spooky campfire stories of not voting for Clinton, tell me how my conscience can support a status quo oligarch.
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As you probably know, I’m a Bernie guy from a Bernie family. As you may also know, I’m not upset that he has endorsed HRC, because I was always going to vote for the Democratic nominee eventually. I don’t argue back against the principles in the “don’t vote for the status quo” position, because I generally agree with it. But in commenting on another thread last night, I got a mini-epiphany about politics: Politics is to governing as butchering is to meat. It’s messy, upsetting, violent and bloody — and more importantly, it’s something we generally leave to others to do on our behalf. So when I say “It’s politics!” it’s not to dismiss it as “wrong,” but to identify it as a special kind of human endeavor. I grew up on a Utopian commune, and even the Utopians fight dirty amongst themselves, because we’re human, because democracy has need of idealism but is not in any practical way defined by it. We’re not wrong to try to improve our politics — we must — but I have to ground my conscience in my understanding of the world. The more I see, the less abstract the world feels to me…
Bernie’s campaign changed progressive politics, but not by its rhetoric. He’s literally been saying those things for 40 years, and none of those principles are new to those of us on the left. The campaign succeeded by proving multiple claims to the political class: There is a constituency for progressive policies, you can run a successful campaign on small donations, etc., etc. Restated: Bernie succeeded by proving the practical case to political elites that there are paths to victory that run through the left. Hence, he’s not blowing smoke when he says that this is the most progressive Democratic platform in history. He moved the Overton Window to the left. But that’s only a start.
Very true. This notion that a Democratic has to run to the right of Nixon to get elected is now out the window. Thank you, Senator!
That’s as good as I have heard that put. What I have been casting about for is any positive reason to fall in line. What I have heard is “Shut up and take your medicine”, “Join reality, hippie”, “Think of the ills if you don’t.” What no one has ever said to me is “Here’s what you don’t know about Clinton and here are the great things she’ll do.” I really want that.
I don’t know that I can make that positive argument for you. I’m not a fan of either Clinton. But I also put them in historical context. WJC won in 1992 because of a fluke in the electorate, which was so confidently conservative that it caught political operatives by surprise. WJC triangulated because it made sense at the time. By the same logic, it is at least possible that HRC will move left now, as she has done in the primary. If only it were that simple.
Anyway, I’ve been reading people who say “Bernie sold out!” and obviously I think that’s missing the trick. By proving the political power of the left, Bernie created leverage in the party. But leverage is a perishable commodity. If he takes it to the Green Party, he loses it. If he sits on the sidelines bitching, he loses it. The trick all along was going to be, how do you convert this resource to currency? Well, that’s what you saw yesterday: He didn’t sell out. He converted perishable power into political capital. He didn’t do it for himself. He did it for the movement. And by holding out this long, he got a better deal than he would have gotten than would have happened if he’d followed the punditry and endorsed after losing New York.
If you buy my analogy of butchering/meat to politics/governing, then there is an automatic good-conscience path to voting for Democrats in 2016. It assumes that politics is imperfect, and so doesn’t choke on the obvious evidence of flaws. HRC is the second-least-popular presidential candidate in the history of polling, trailing only Trump, so there’s no doubt that this campaign starts in tera incognito. But they’re empirically not “the same.” And while I’ll be dubious until proven otherwise about HRC and her relationship to the interests that I consider the enemies of democracy, I am open to the possibility that she will not only follow through on some/most of her promises, but that with a strong push from the left, she may exceed my modest hopes. I don’t “hate” HRC (I did in 2008, but I got over it), and as Robert Reich said, “she’s the perfect candidate for the system we have.” OK, we can work with that, and her SCOTUS appointments alone will make life better and increase our chance of surviving the 21st century. But the lesson of the Bernie campaign, the one that we should have learned but probably have not, is that the left must be engaged to prevail. The right can outsource its agenda to the Kochs. The left has to want it hard enough to work for it even when nobody is looking.
Apologies for the long answer. But it was a good challenge.
I think you – a tepid-barely-supporter of HRC – have done a far better job of selling her to me than any of her faithful.
I’m not happy with the way some of my fellow Bernie People have responded to this, but I’m in total agreement with you that the burden of persuasion falls on HRC and the Democratic Party. I’m also hopeful that now that the platform is written and the endorsement is done that the wooing will begin.
My big fear is there will be no wooing phase, that support is taken as given because why work when the plebes have no other options? As you say, the lesson of Sanders is that you have to work for it and I expect it to be lost on this campaign immediately.
I have similar fears. But here’s my big hope: Assume for a moment that a lot of discussion went into Sanders’ role from here to November. How would HRC want to use him? How would he want to be used? And when I ask myself that question, the answer I keep coming back to is “Win the House.” Maybe put him on the stage with her from time to time, but give him the chance to convert his movement into a push to flip 30 seats.
Dan Conover Why are you not a campaign consultant?
Another interesting little poll fact: Remember HRC’s “PUMAs” (Party Unity My Ass) from 2008? Seventy-four percent of HRC voters wound up voting for Obama. The latest poll I saw said 81 percent of Bernie supporters will vote for HRC.
Because I would suck at it. I’m a writer. We all do our bit.
That is something I occasionally drop on an exasperated HRC supporter. “But she’s the nominee, she should be supported.” Uhh, yeah. Remember where your people were exactly 8 years ago?
No, it’s absolutely true. And she played rough then, too — maybe rougher. Then Obama made her secretary of state and she did a good job. Which could also be a lesson about HRC: Just because a politician has a close relationship with someone doesn’t mean that relationship has real sentiment or loyalty. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?
Remember when Obama appointed Thomas Wheeler as the head of the FCC and we all assumed that Net Neutrality was dead because he was a lobbyist for the fucking cable companies? It was a rational assumption. But then this happened: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/tom-wheeler-net-neutrality-114785
May I excerpt and repost some of your comments to my blog? With attribution, of course?
Uhm, sure. If you think it will help.
Dan has inspired me to try this one more time. Bernie’s run shouldn’t just teach you one lesson. One of the other lessons that should be learned from #feeltheBern is that you can move the Overton window. He did that and now the DNC platform is MUCH farther to the left than would have been without his fight. He never truly believed he could be the candidate. But he is way smarter than most of us and knew that given the right circumstances, he could change the debate. He got those circumstances and achieved that goal.
Now you can do the same thing. You can’t make HRC win SC. It won’t happen. But you can move the Overton window. If enough people vote Democratic, SC will be seen as trending liberal and politicians will adjust accordingly. If you vote Johnson or Mickey, you might as well not vote. In 2012, SC went 55% Romney/ 44% Obama. Right now, SC is breaking 47% Trump/ 42% Clinton. If that holds, the interpretation from state and local officials will be that SC is holding conservative or trending more conservative. There will be no reason to change. So state and local politics will be same as it ever was. And it is the state and local politics that really impact your day to day life.
Why aren’t all of the Bernie supporters moving to Gary Johnson?
I am getting berated by my brother for considering it.
I don’t understand anybody voting for Clinton given her history, but we all have different value systems. I’m quite astonished the DNC couldn’t find somebody else. Seems like the fix is in. Shes untouchable it seems.
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