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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Is New York the Moment We Finally #FeelTheTurn ?

The New York Observer is the latest weekly to endorse Hillary Clinton. (The recent New York Daily News endorsement is here, the very early and very sweeping New York Times endorsement is here, should you want to refresh your memory.) News-stands and paper boxes festooned with Clinton covers must now be so numerous that some city blocks feel a bit like immersive virtualities celebrating the Clinton campaign. The first paragraph of the Observer endorsement sounds the usual notes:    
Ms. Clinton may be the most uniquely qualified person to run for the presidency in a generation. Her work as secretary of state gave her firsthand experience understanding complex foreign policy issues and dealing with allies and adversaries. Her service as New York’s junior senator demonstrated that she understood how to leverage federal agencies, pierce the byzantine budget process and find support from Republicans to secure essential funds for New York after 9-11. And her perspective gained as first lady—to say nothing of the bruising battle to reform health care—was invaluable. It is difficult to think of another candidate with such varied and valuable experience.
Progress in the context of partisan governance, especially to the extent that it can be shepherded from the White House, requires wide-ranging experience, a firm but engaged temperament, a facility with frustrating processes, coalitions with diverse stakeholder constituencies and organizations. It certainly involves more than just strident repetition of ideal end-goals almost everybody on the left already agrees on but only some seem willing to work on. Of course, there is a range of education, agitation, organization available to radical movement struggles that push partisan governance to greater exertions and transform the conceptual terrain of the possible and the important on which partisan governance, problem-solving and reform plays out.

But supporting a preferred candidate in a partisan primary election is not a revolutionary act. A job interview for the Constitutionally defined position of the Presidency isn't a street fair or a drum circle (both of which I agree can be fun in their place), or a teach-in about ideal policy outcomes in socialist utopias (which many of my lectures to my students turn out to be) or a celebrity fandom exercise (which is a form of consumer-capitalist acquiescence I happily leave to you kids). To pretend that partisan primary politics is radical -- let alone revolutionary! -- politics is to render partisan politics ineffectual and radical politics vacuous. As someone who knows both partisan and radical politics are indispensable to progress but neither alone are adequate to make and sustain such progress I truly abhor the lazy, insulated, wooly-headed debasement and derangement of each by too many supporters of the Sanders campaign.

I will not predict that Clinton will put the Democratic nomination in the bag in New York this Tuesday. In most ways that matter she already managed this feat March 15 but far from ending the contest that date marked its intensification, and an increase in its wastefulness, misrepresentations, divisiveness. I would like the focus of the campaign to shift to Democratic party unification, down-ticket organization for a potential wave election, and full-on resistance to the death-dealing madness of the Republican Party from the authoritarian top of the ticket down to the bigots wrestling for control of local school boards. The Observer's endorsement ends in a New York state of mind that gives me a measure of hope that this may be the moment we #FeelTheTurn:
Hillary Clinton understands “the system”—our political brinksmanship—and how to work within it to disrupt it. Bernie Sanders, whose ideas are occasionally noble, chooses to believe it can be kicked over like a sand castle. We like to believe she learned some of her pragmatism (some call it “cynicism”) as a New York politician and from the history of our politics. Play the long game, work the system, be an operator, not a hand-wringer. Dewitt Clinton, Al Smith, Robert Wagner, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and even Daniel Patrick Moynihan would all approve. We believe that Ms. Clinton appreciates and will be able to revive that spirit...

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