Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Cordial Exchange (Truly) With A Sanders Supporter Still Reading My Blog

Upgraded and adapted from an exchange in the Moot. Reader "Jean Diogo" writes:
You know, Dale, I still think you're fantastic and all, but I'm sorry to say that I'm kind of embarrassed by the fashion of your defense of Hillary. As you said, no problem in preferring her over him, but you've been sounding like you think the average Bernie supporter equals to the loudmouth technolunatics we use to stand against (which is clearly not the case). Same with the insinuations that Bernie is misleading the public opinion, when he is being crystal clear about his need for mass engagement if he is elected. (Also, that whole "I'm an atheist who was moved by Hillary's discussion... of the role of spiritual counseling to balance ego and service and practice gratitude" thing was quite a cheap shot IMO.) Worst case scenario, Bernie will deliver at least what Hillary would deliver (if we don't overestimate her ability to ~soften Republicans' hearts~). And he will strengthen grassroot movements (he is already doing it). And he will certainly preserve Obama's achievements (anyways, Obama 2.0 is not exactly what USA are seeking for in this moment according to the polls, right?). All that said, I agree with you, Hillary is not the enemy. Conservatives are. And she's flirting with them quite often (either for the sake of political pragmatism or for profit). That's why she's splitting the Left. Still, regardless of who will be the candidate, I'm hopeful that Left will win this battle and we will have a superior and more mature Democratic Party for the next years, partly thanks to these primaries. Always nice to read your blog! o/
To which I reply (endlessly, as usual):

Most of the Bernie supporters I interact with online and who make the most noise are indeed loudmouths with little sense and often less decency. I am now regularly charged -- either outright or by smug insinuation -- with ignorance or hypocrisy by my usual allies on the left for supporting Clinton and I have witnessed no end of sexist, racist, bullying awfulness from Bernie supporters more generally. If I focus on these it is because they shape my experience of the Sanders campaign. If you say both sides do it, there will be some truth to that but my experience -- which certainly need not be yours -- is that there is a difference in the level of bullying in these campaigns at all levels. I do know, however, that many Democrats (leaving to the side BernieOrBust redditor and Naderite types) like both candidates and will gladly support either against the GOP in the general whatever their present preference and their behavior usually reflects this. I do appreciate this position and try to promote it when I can.

To your point about my more usual anti-futurological critique I must say that Bernie's "Revolution" reminds one of nothing so much as the vapid marketing fandoms peddled as "revolution" in the tech press and even soft-drink commercials. While it is true that Bernie's go-to soundbite when confronted with demands for some path that gets us from where we are to the outcomes he promises is that millions and millions of people are going to need to rise up to make it happen, I get e-mails from his campaign all the time telling me that voting for him or contributing a few bucks to his campaign is "Joining the Revolution." Nobody who actually takes revolutionary politics seriously would (or at any rate should) ever mistake for revolution supporting one candidate over another in a party primary election.

Before you take too much heart in such slogans, conjuring up visions of millions of "revolutionaries," you should ask yourself why a candidate inspiring far fewer citizens than Obama did in his 2008 primary bid (this is a checkably factual observation, not loose-talking hyperbole) and this time in an election with little prospect of the Congressional majorities Obama briefly collaborated with, is somehow going to accomplish more than the brilliant, dedicated, inspiring, luminously clear, strategically masterful, unfailingly graceful, scandal-free Obama has managed to do -- and the results of which Sanders and so many Sanders supporters feel so very eager to denigrate.

When Sanders glibly speaks of the millions who will rise up to hold politicians accountable for failing to enact his ideal policy outcomes he ignores facts such as that an overwhelming majority of millions and millions strongly wanted common sense gun safety regulation after Sandy Hook but that GOP obstruction was nonetheless able to keep anything from happening and then suffered absolutely no adverse consequences for this. He seems to ignore the lessons of recent history such as that the Affordable Care Act was shepherded through Democratic majorities in the face of GOP obstructionism and at the cost of those majorities in the aftermath due to GOP deceptions, and that there weren't the votes for a public option let alone single payer, and that many of the uninsured today are imperiled by GOP politicians refusing the Medicaid expansion available to their suffering precarious citizens.

Steeply progressive taxation to invest in public health, education, welfare, public financed elections, sustainable infrastructure and commons are all outcomes the aspiration toward which have been commonplaces across the Democratic left my whole life long, however often and however stridently Bernie likes to congratulate himself in repeating them that he hopes we are all "ready for a radical idea!" or that he is about to "do something unique in politics -- tell a truth!" as if he is the only one who wants these outcomes or dares to dream them.

The pretense that impurity or corporatist sell outs in the Democratic Party are the reason we lack universal healthcare or free education or expanded social security or stimulative public investment in renewable energy and transportation and urban infrastructure or countless other progressive outcomes is either a flabbergastingly stupid misdiagnosis of the problem at hand or a cynical deception to attract support from ignoramuses and narcissists more excited to preen in public about their perfectionism than to actually struggle in the slow, heartbreaking, compromised manner available in reformable but diverse stakeholder societies.

Far from your own worst-case assumption that Sanders would simply deliver what Clinton could, I would offer up instead a more plausible and terrifying worst-case (assuming the WORST worst does not occur, assuming he does at least win the general election at all against even a near-fascist GOP candidate once their avalanche of negative advertising is finally unleashed upon the scarcely vetted grumpy disheveled avowed socialist Sanders who has promised on video to raise middle-class taxes among many other things that have sunk many an election campaign hitherto) of a Sanders White House reduced to hectoring recalcitrant but actually-existing powerful stakeholders about ideal outcomes while his $27-dollar donation and rock-concert rally supporters retreat back into some new comparably non-demanding consumer enthusiasm while the inadequate but real gains of the Obama administration are squandered, progressive ideas discredited in an ineffectual presidency, and generational demoralization steals any hope I personally have of seeing sustained progress in my lifetime toward the goals to which I have devoted my life, most of which have been reduced to vapid Bernie Sanders bumper stickers.

Now, I've been an atheist for thirty years but I know plenty of people of faith who are decent and intelligent -- I don't hold with the celebrity-era fandom nonsense of claiming to know what is in a candidate's heart or voting for the candidate you want to have a beer or a dream date with or whatever -- but I did indeed think Hillary's discussion of her faith and the call to service it entails for her was thoughtful and intelligent and moving in its way. I don't understand how her statement or my reaction to it was some kind of "cheap shot." What exactly is cheap about it and who is getting shot?

If you forgive me, a cheap shot looks more to me like your own declaration that Clinton is flirting with reactionaries for money and splitting the left. So far Clinton remains enormously popular among Democrats, she has won more states and more delegates and millions more votes than Sanders has all the while being outspent by him nearly two-to-one in many states (New York included). Hillary Clinton is the most famous woman on earth and has already been in the White House -- in what world would this not elevate her to a realm of rich players and institutions and payments. It is perfectly legitimate to critique plutocratic perqs and corruption -- not to mention militarism and US exceptionalism -- since I do so myself you can hardly think I would think otherwise -- but to invest these critiques in the person of Hillary Clinton in particular or pretend support of Sanders constitutes in itself the quintessence of such critiques or some circumvention of their issues is so wrongheaded I don't even know how to respond to it apart from an expression of exasperation tinged with real despair. I do not know that you engage in such facile discursive maneuvers -- or whether your complaints about the Hillary monster come from such a place -- but if you do not you will have certainly noticed that these moves are commonplace and are no doubt as offended by them as I am, preferring your own much more substantial reasons to support Sanders over decades-old Republican anti-Hillary talking point and Naderite party false-equivalency theses.

In the spirit of your corresponding observation: Bernie Sanders is not the enemy any more than Hillary Clinton is. Sanders is a contrarian career politician, a Senatorial back-bencher in a secure seat from a tiny, white, more than usually liberal, homogeneous New England state. He's seventy something and probably having the time of his life after many years' of public service. It's hard to begrudge him all that, and for most of his career I've mostly liked and admired him. Both are flawed politicians; neither is a Saint nor a Monster -- though they both seek a Presidency that has something truly monstrous about it, and there is something worrying about anybody narcissistic enough even to want that position.

Be that as it may, progress requires education, agitation, organization on the part of movements that crystallize in partisan reform legislation. The Presidency is an indispensable, also inadequate, position within the practical and institutional terrain on which change is made and sustained. The Sanders campaign seems to me be mis-educating millions about the complexity of progressive issues and their stakes and the ease of their attainment to those who believe in his vision with their whole hearts, all the while denigrating organization/s as the "Establishment" and seeming sometimes to disdain the process of legislative compromise altogether. All this I find hard to forgive. The bullying and bigotry of too many of his supporters I find even harder to forgive, and I am ambivalent about the role of his campaign in enabling this sort of thing given his eschewal of the twice winning, daily growing, REAL real America represented by the Obama coalition for appeals to working-class and liberal gentrifying whites and, as a matter of course if not intention, white resentments and privileges.

I really do strongly prefer Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders as the probably sociopathic candidate to my right I'll be protesting for the next eight years. I do so like it or not NOT from ignorance but from knowledge, I do so like it or not NOT from hypocrisy but with conviction, I do so like it or not NOT as a sell-out but as a democratic eco-socialist feminist queer who foregrounds white supremacy in my understanding of injustice and violence in the American case. I am sorry should you find this advocacy a continued source of embarrassment, but I do thank you for your kind words of support and truly for the engagement of your thoughtful and engaged comment. Best to you.


Unknown said...

First of all, thank you for such a regardful and eloquent answer. I really appreciate it!
Overall, I have been finding political openness and been having good sharing with Bernie supporters so far, so I do not feel the same as you about the general spirit of his campaign. Have to say, though, that I share with you the concern that, if Bernie is elected, there may be an increasing demoralization of progressive ideas every time he has no option but to go pragmatic (and he unfortunately will have to go pragmatic very often). There is this underlying debate concerning the limits of political will in a side and the limits of class conciliation policies in the other. Once such issues have strong implications over (and against) both reformist and "revolutionary" flanks of the Left, it doesn't seems to me that this debate has been taken properly among Democratic candidates/voters until now.
Finally, no intent of mine to question your (dis)beliefs neither to insinuate corruption against others' candidates purely as a rhetoric weapon. I'm just not the least bit condescending with Mrs. Clinton lack of ideological transparency. (Even though I agree that there is a common effort to belittle her by using unfair standards, and some Sanders supporters are helping Republicans on that.) It is not a sin to change perspectives (actually, it can be a virtue), but I do not like the way she is handling her own inconsistencies throughout this campaing. Since you brought the problem of vanity up, I do think Hillary could make use of some humbleness right know. Maybe that is the reason why I felt a little unconfortable with your comment on her speech in the New Hampshire Town Hall.
Best to you to.

Dale Carrico said...

I lecture people too much online -- an occupational hazard of being a lecturer, I guess! I enjoyed our exchange, I wish you and your candidate the best of luck, and I look forward to unite with you and the rest of the left come November to defeat the vile GOP at every level of public life.