Tuesday, December 08, 2015

"Just let the Republicans win: Maybe things need to get really bad before America wakes up"

Those of you who read all the way to the end of this post on the Texas Republican secessionist movement -- which failed to get on the state GOP primary ballot in a vote taken by the SREC -- will note that  a significant crossroads is coming up fast, and not just for the GOP and conservatives and TeaBaggers.

Liberals and progressives are right on the verge of separating themselves from the Democratic Party in the simmering feud between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  Shane Ryan at Salon sets it up with an excerpt of Thomas Frank's decade-old warning about conservative, corporate, Republican Lite Democrats.

“The Democratic Leadership Council, the organization that produced such figures as Bill Clinton…has long been pushing the party to forget blue-collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants desperately to court are corporations, capable of generating campaign contributions far out-weighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and—more important—the money of these coveted constituencies, “New Democrats” think, is to stand rock-sold on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it…. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and more arrogant by the day.”

-- Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas, 2004

Can you believe that it's been over ten years since those words were written?  The year the ultimate elitist, Boston Brahmin John Kerry, failed to fight back against the Swift Boat smears and was defeated by George W. Bush, Ohio voting irregularities not withstanding?

As in 1980, when Ted Kennedy battled with Jimmy Carter all the way to the end, and to paraphrase the extreme conservative Republican who won the presidency that year... here we go again.

Lately, we’ve witnessed a rash of Bernie Sanders supporters declaring that they refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Some are defiant, and some are surprised at themselves — they never expected to be so turned off by a Democratic candidate. This has, in turn, produced a backlash from Democrats of all stripes who are terrified of a progressive revolt that divides the left in 2016 and leads to a Republican presidency. They paint the Sanders heretics as selfish and petulant — a bunch of sore losers who are prepared to destroy the country by omission. What they don’t consider, and what I hope to argue, is that there may be a rational, tactical justification for abandoning Hillary in the general election.

That bold emphasis is mine, since it underscores what I have been saying for six months.

Like most political arguments in America, the debate has become instantly polarized, and has planted the seeds of bitterness that may well bear fruit if Clinton wins the nomination and the intra-left schism comes to pass.

As a Sanders supporter and a political progressive, I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll vote for Clinton if she holds her lead and wins the nomination. 

As you should already know, I have decided, and will not under any circumstance vote for her.  I also won't be sitting out the 2016 election, and I certainly won't be writing in Bernie Sanders' name.

When I convey this uncertainty to fellow Democrats, I get one of two reactions. From progressives, mild to moderate agreement — it will be agonizing to abstain, and equally agonizing to vote for Hillary. Centrist Clinton supporters have a very different reaction, which I can only describe as form of exasperation that puts them at serious risk for tearing their hair out with both hands. They make a few emphatic points, and we may as well rehash them here:

1. By not voting for Hillary in a general election, you’re contributing to the potential reign of a Republican president, and everything that entails, for at least four years. Is your memory so short that you’ve forgotten the awful consequences of George Bush beating Al Gore because of a few thousand Nader supporters in Florida?

2. The next president may well appoint multiple Supreme Court justices, which would influence our national politics well beyond one or two terms.

3. Hey, idiot: No matter how much you dislike Hillary, she’s going to be miles better than some Republican! Even your own candidate says this!

4. We would vote for Bernie if he won.

And these are all good points. More importantly, I understand these points. I understood them from the start, in fact — they’re intuitive — and I’ve factored them in to the calculus.

Nevertheless, I still see it as a difficult choice. You might call this essay an exercise in confession — I know the potential disasters an anti-Clinton revolt entails, but I have to insist that for progressives like me, choosing whether to support her is not as simple as “fall in line or open the castle gates to the Republican hordes.” There’s strategic nuance hiding behind the façade of this binary thinking, and the consequences of throwing Hillary to the wolves are not as straightforward as many would like to believe.

These are divisive times on the left, and though the anti-Hillary movement is still marginal among progressives, it’s growing, and it needs to be understood on its own terms to prevent a party-wide schism.

Candidly I don't believe the schism can or even should be avoided, for the ultimate betterment of progressive populist voters, be they Democrats, Greens, Socialist Workers party, Working Families Party, Justice Party, or wherever they choose to place themselves.

Others have already written extensively on the issues that make her a deeply unattractive candidate to progressives; on how she’s not just dishonest — a description that applies to even the best politicians — but strikingly dishonest … as in, so comprehensively dishonest that dishonesty has become her unofficial modus operandi, to the point that when she defended her career-long support for Wall Street by invoking 9/11 and gender in the last debate. It seemed so perfectly Hillary-esque that most Sanders supporters didn’t blink; on how she and her husband used coded race-baiting in an attempt to destabilize the Obama campaign, and is employing a watered-down version of the same dirty game to imply that Sanders is sexist; on how her campaign has colluded with the DNC to reduce the number of debates — and to stage those few on awkward Saturdays — in order to limit Sanders’ exposure and prevent a repeat of Obama’s comeback; on how she has tacked leftward merely to combat Sanders’ progressive momentum — going against a lifetime of pro-Wall Street, pro-business action — and not because she actually espouses any of her shiny new positions; on how she will abandon even the rhetoric of reform the minute she wins the primary, as she and the rest of the New Democrats abandoned workers and the middle class long ago.

Yes, all of that is enough for me to reject Clinton.  I've got plenty of other reasons, though, most of which include wars and drones and bombings and assassinations under the pretense of "keeping Americans safe".  We're seeing how well this action is working lately, don't we?

But here's the real question, giving proper deference to the 'lesser of two evils' argument.

And with that unpleasant business out of the way, we arrive at the second assumption of this “cutting off the nose to spite the face” charge — that a Republican victory would be far worse, to the point of disaster, than a Clinton presidency. Bernie Sanders agrees with this, and in the short term, any left-leaning person with a brain would be a fool to disagree.

So: Do we choke back our principles, hold our noses and cast a vote for Hillary in the general? Or is there a long-term argument to be made for withholding our votes and letting the Democrat lose?

Here we go, Hillarians.  Hold on to your seats.

(T)here is a good strategic reason not to vote for Hillary, and it boils down to this: If progressives fall in line, it shows the DNC and the party’s structural elite that they can have our loyalty for nothing. It sets a terrible precedent for the future. To steal a crass expression, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

Rowing in behind Clinton only justifies the establishment logic — “just feed the lefties a few scraps in the primary, wax poetic about the Republican bogeyman in the general, and they’ll shut up.” Progressives would be giving something quite important — their votes — for a party that hides behind fear-based arguments to maintain intimate ties with Wall Street while ignoring its supposed base.

But consider this: What if we didn’t vote, and Hillary lost as a result? Like it or not, that makes a profound statement. It would likely force the Democratic party to move left on economic issues and, fearing another schism, throw its weight behind a far more progressive candidate in 2020. Bernie Sanders himself says that we need a political revolution to enact real change, and if progressives plan to build a lasting movement in America, it has to start with making our voices heard on a national scale. Sending a message to the party that we won’t be placated by politicians who stand in the regressive center is one hell of an opening salvo.

This is every single reason I have suggested for voting for the Green Party's candidates.  It is in fact the most important thing Sanders supporters, disaffected liberals, and some unquantifiable number of true independents, non- and infrequent voters, and even a few Republicans -- Gobsmack bless their hearts -- can do at the ballot box.  Not voting or writing in Sanders' name is foolish.

Pick up those scattered pieces of your brain matter, Blue Dogs, and finish reading.

... If Hillary lost because progressives abstained from voting, it’s possible that Republican incompetence would be laid bare, and that they’d run the country into the ground over the next four years. If that’s what it takes to show the people that a leftist political revolution is the only viable way forward, it will have been worth watching Hillary bite the political dust. Come 2020, we could be looking at a landscape where progressive politics can finally gather enough momentum to sweep the country, and usher in a new era of FDR-esque reforms.

The dark side of withholding votes from Hillary is obvious, and it has to be measured, but the longer you analyze the situation, the more compelling the bright side becomes. No outcome is written in stone, but I would argue that the mere presence of reasonable doubt may be the best argument of all — if there’s a possibility of reframing national politics, why push ahead on the rotten middle path? Why not be guided by reasonable doubt, and let it open our minds to the possibility of positive political action?


Those are the terms. Will 2016 be the year when a revolt is justified? For now, I remain undecided. But the doubt is growing, and centrists should understand that when they accuse progressives of turning their backs on the party, it’s hard not to laugh — we’re simply fighting for traction against an erstwhile ally that turned its back on us.

That's a little nicer than I would put it, but the point is still made.  Will the "New Democrats" pay heed?  About all they have to do to con liberal Democrats -- sheepdogging them onto their bandwagon -- is give Bernie a night at the convention, make promises they might keep about a President Hillary adopting some of his progressive policy plans, and stop being sore winners.  Or would they rather have their scapegoats for future failure identified?

If the revolution gets postponed until 2020, I'll hunker down and ride out four years of Trump/Cruz/Rubio and American fascism.  What I don't think I can stand is fifteen more years of whining from the Blues about those who didn't vote for their shitty conservative candidate, or who voted for someone else.  Winter is coming, and it just may last all the way through the summer and into next fall.  I'm of the opinion that nothing could be better for the Democratic Party than to cleave itself in two and see which half survives after losing next November.

Progress or regress.  Forward or backward.  That's as clear a choice as it gets, one conservaDems will try to make work for Hillary against Trump (or whomever).  That, however, is nothing but a Hobbesian choice.

If you're still reading this, you and I both know that you're too smart to do that.

Update: This guy is waaaay angrier than me about the whole history of progressives in the Democratic Party, and recounts a bunch of it, from Jesse Jackson sheepdogging his Rainbow Coalition in behind Mike Dukakis in 1988, to Dennis Kucinich doing the same for Kerry in 2004, right up to Bernie and now.  He's written nearly 70 books and holds a Ph.D., so he might know what he's talking about.  Last three grafs:

Other pundits claim (Sanders) is ‘challenging’ the Democratic Party ‘from the left’ when in fact he is doing everything possible to prevent millions of disaffected ex-Democratic voters, mostly workers and minorities, from rejecting the Democrats and joining or forming alternative political movements.

The key to understanding why millions of Americans, fed up with 30 years of declining living and health standards, deepening inequalities and perpetual wars, do not form an ‘alternative party’ is that they have been repeatedly conned and corralled in the Democratic Party by the “house radicals”.

Jackson, Kucinich, Obama and Sanders promised radical changes in the primaries and then have gone on to hand their supporters, mostly disaffected workers, over to the Party oligarchs, abandoning them without their past social movements or future hope: like cast-off condoms. Is there any wonder why so many abstain!

Update II: Why Hillary would be a worse president than a Republican

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's like the old Eugene Debs quote (which I might have used here before): "It's better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it."