Thursday, April 21, 2016


In this fevered political season, the emotions are running dangerously high.

I made the mistake of making a measured and technical comment about primary rules in a discussion thread and immediately was jumped on by a number of people (rabid Sanders fans, in this case) who essentially accused me of being a shill for the DNC and a corrupt part of every political problem we face.  All I made was a factual statement about rules;  I didn't say I agreed with them, nor indeed whom I support.  This personal invective was striking against a total stranger who, based on the site involved, is like to be a fellow Democrat.

(Except, as a number pointed out, they are not Democrats.  They want to choose the Democratic candidate, but they don't want the contamination of being in the Democratic party.)

This angry other-ness appears to motivate many of Trump's supporters, too.  For the anti-establishment campaigns, it's US vs THEM, although the THEM differs between the two camps:  Hillary supporters, establishment figures, Muslims, gays, poor people, or anyone who might be some of those....


What everyone seems to forget is that we don't get to live in a country of people who agree with us.  We live in a messy, divided country, pretty much split down the middle, where we all have to get along.  And that means we can't be righteous purists.  We need to compromise all the time, give a little, get a little.

That's how our government used to work, before a Republican majority decided that their role wasn't to govern, but to oppose President Obama.  Before the right wing bloviators decided that the goal wasn't to move ahead, but to de-legitimize every Democrat.  Before we developed hyper-partisanship into a religion.

Oh, and the left isn't immune from this.  Think of the last couple of  years, with protests on campuses against speakers who didn't pass a left-wing purity test.  I mean, I don't support Condoleeza Rice's politics at all but there is no question she is an accomplished woman,  who played an important role at a crucial point of history.  But she was too impure for Rutgers students in 2014.

And the isolationists-- the "Bernie or Bust" folks who wouldn't soil themselves by voting for Hillary--  they are part of the problem. They have become nihilists intent on destruction, careless of the collateral damage.   And voting for the Green Party is actually voting for Trump, or Cruz, and negating any chance of progressive values actually getting enacted.

Look at the difference of the right and the left this way.  When the right wing got passionate, they worked within the Republican machine, created the Tea Party, and have successfully (in a manner of speaking) pushed their agenda into the GOP,  with seats in Congress sufficient to bring down a Speaker.  I don't like the Tea Party politics at all, but hat's off to how they organized and gained power.

Alas,  the progressive wing of the Democratic party  deals with disappointment differently.  They are pure, so they go away and vote Green, which hasn't a chance of winning.  Sorry, there are just NOT ENOUGH progressives to win an election by themselves.  But, as we saw with Nader and Gore, there are enough votes lost to turf things over to the Republicans.  And that Cheney thing worked out SO well, didn't it?

Still, if you want to move the Democratic party leftward, you have to elect better Democrats.  You also have to do the hard work of local elections, down-ticket elections, putting a Congress in place that can actually act on some of these grand ideas. You can't be pure and take your marbles and go home if you want actually to effect change.  You have to work with people like me.  I am not a progressive --but I am a liberal.

And just a word: personal insults and ad hominem attacks against strangers on the internet are a great way to turn off potential allies.


Marshall Scott said...

So it is: we need folks to vote platform, not rhetoric. We need folks to vote objective, not persons. And, we certainly need folks to vote in all races, not simply the one that gets the most air time or the most emotional response. I'd rather vote for than vote agains; but there are platforms and objectives that we need to avoid, and that requires voting against those who pursue them; even if we're not perfectly happy with the persons that pursue platforms and objectives we might actually support.

IT said...

Marshall, this:And, we certainly need folks to vote in all races, not simply the one that gets the most air time or the most emotional response

Totally nails it. One story I read said that Sanders won WI but some of his supporters couldn't be bothered to vote down-ticket, so they also ended up with a scary right winger as a judge. It's part of the purity pledge --some of them actually revile the Dems, so they don't care about supporting down-ticket. But the chance of Sanders enacting ANY of his plans without a Democratic congress is exactly nil.

JCF said...


And the medium of the Internet tends to increase and intensify this experience of cognitive dissonance 1000 fold, beyond what is rational.

As portrayed in this (classic!) xkcd cartoon:

Kevin K said...

Hmmm....perhaps I should re think my commitment not to vote for Mr. Trump?