I was rambling on about twitter earlier, developed my thoughts, and thought I would share. I think the major part of why this election is so frustrating for me is that neither of the candidates excite me the way Barack Obama did in 2008. Everything about that election was just magical to me- I still remember sitting in the hotel room at the conference I was attending on election night with my boss, and we were drinking and hooting and hollering every time another state went for him.
There was just something there in the man that just seemed larger than the times, and that exists to this day. I hope I am wrong, but deep down i don’t think I am ever going to feel that way about a candidate again. He was, in full dork speak, my Neo. I would crawl over broken glass for the man, and still would. Mind you, his record is not perfect. From my perspective he’s been pretty bad on a few issues, but when I balance that with how far we have come, and the grace and dignity with which it has been accomplished in the face of a worthless cowed media, backstabbing blue dogs, and a sociopathic opposition party, and I still marvel at what has happened these past eight years.
I love documentaries, and I often sit and play them like one would a podcast or the radio while I am working, and one that I play quite frequently is Ken Burns on the Roosevelts. I was a newly minted Democrat when Obama took the stage, and he made me a Democrat for life. The same can be said of Obama about me as can be said about the people, now dying off, who still have pictures of FDR in their living rooms.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Bernie, and I think I like the Hillary that isn’t media managed and shielded from me with a screen of bullshit from her sycophants, and I love listening to Al Franken and Sherrod Brown and Zephyr Teachout and Elizabeth Warren up there busting the balls of big banks, but they aren’t Obama to me and never will be.
Having said that, I also get that there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton that I felt and feel about President Obama, so I try not to be too much of a dick about the nonsense that gets spewed. You can decide whether or not I have succeeded, but if you decide I haven’t, just think about this- I am actively holding back most of the time when I talk about these campaigns. The Bernie Sanders supporters can be some of the most irritating human beings on the planet, as if they took every annoying fucking trait of the Paulites and said to themselves- “Let’s take this to eleven.” Likewise, the thick slime of the permanent Clinton advisors, who will literally say anything, even if it defies all logic and reason, makes me want to gag at times. I think the utter gibberish her supporters spew is also one of her best attributes- she can command such a loyal following that they will willingly debase themselves publicly in support of her. That’s loyalty. And in politics, that is useful and EXTREMELY valuable.
I think the thing that makes me jaded, though, and again, this is just me blabbing, is that I don’t feel like I had to make things up to be outraged about when defending Obama. People were really doing the things that pissed me off. People who should know better were saying outrageous things. I didn’t need to make things up to appear offended about- there was so much offensive shit being launched at Obama that you couldn’t keep up with it.
On the other hand, I watch the online Sanders/Clinton supporters (and again, this is my fault for doing so), and as I discussed in a private discussion with someone else, it is as if they have taken the “Republican bitch slap theory” of politics and turned it on its head and created the “butthurt theory of politics” – the idea that whomever is most grievously offended is the one who you should support.
The TNC piece yesterday is a classic example- Sanders supporters have been wailing and screaming that TNC is somehow doing Hillary a favor, and that this is an attack on Sanders and TNC is in the Clinton camp. Likewise, many onlince vocal Clinton supporters also seem to think this piece on Sanders’s decision to not support reparations is somehow good news for
John McCain Hillary. Meanwhile, I’m reading it and thinking to myself “English, do you people speak it?” Here’s a generous snippet:
What candidates name themselves is generally believed to be important. Many Sanders supporters, for instance, correctly point out that Clinton handprints are all over America’s sprawling carceral state. I agree with them and have said so at length. Voters, and black voters particularly, should never forget that Bill Clinton passed arguably the most immoral “anti-crime” bill in American history, and that Hillary Clinton aided its passage through her invocation of the super-predator myth. A defense of Clinton rooted in the claim that “Jeb Bush held the same position” would not be exculpatory. (“Law and order conservative embraces law and order” would surprise no one.) That is because the anger over the Clintons’ actions isn’t simply based on their having been wrong, but on their craven embrace of law and order Republicanism in the Democratic Party’s name.
One does not find anything as damaging as the carceral state in the Sanders platform, but the dissonance between name and action is the same. Sanders’s basic approach is to ameliorate the effects of racism through broad, mostly class-based policies—doubling the minimum wage, offering single-payer health-care, delivering free higher education. This is the same “A rising tide lifts all boats” thinking that has dominated Democratic anti-racist policy for a generation. Sanders proposes to intensify this approach. But Sanders’s actual approach is really no different than President Obama’s. I have repeatedly stated my problem with the “rising tide” philosophy when embraced by Obama and liberals in general. (See here, here, here, and here.) Again, briefly, treating a racist injury solely with class-based remedies is like treating a gun-shot wound solely with bandages. The bandages help, but they will not suffice.***
…That a mainstream Democrat like Hillary Clinton embraces mainstream liberal policy is unsurprising. Clinton has no interest in expanding the Overton window. She simply hopes to slide through it.
But I thought #FeelTheBern meant something more than this. I thought that Bernie Sanders, the candidate of single-payer health insurance, of the dissolution of big banks, of free higher education, was interested both in being elected and in advancing the debate beyond his own candidacy. I thought the importance of Sanders’s call for free tuition at public universities lay not just in telling citizens that which is actually workable, but in showing them that which we must struggle to make workable. I thought Sanders’s campaign might remind Americans that what is imminently doable and what is morally correct are not always the same things, and while actualizing the former we can’t lose sight of the latter.
A Democratic candidate who offers class-based remedies to address racist plunder because that is what is imminently doable, because all we have are bandages, is doing the best he can. A Democratic candidate who claims that such remedies are sufficient, who makes a virtue of bandaging, has forgotten the world that should, and must, be. Effectively he answers the trenchant problem of white supremacy by claiming “something something socialism, and then a miracle occurs.”***
This, too, leaves us in poor company. “Hillary Clinton is against reparations, too” does not differ from, “What about black-on-black crime?” That Clinton doesn’t support reparations is an actual problem, much like high murder rates in black communities are actual problems. But neither of these are actual answers to the questions being asked. It is not wrong to ask about high murder rates in black communities. But when the question is furnished as an answer for police violence, it is evasion. It is not wrong to ask why mainstream Democrats don’t support reparations. But when the question is asked to defend a radical Democrat’s lack of support, it is avoidance.
The need for so many (although not all) of Sanders’s supporters to deflect the question, to speak of Hillary Clinton instead of directly assessing whether Sanders’s position is consistent, intelligent, and moral hints at something terrible and unsaid. The terribleness is this: To destroy white supremacy we must commit ourselves to the promotion of unpopular policy. To commit ourselves solely to the promotion of popular policy means making peace with white supremacy.
To me, this looks like a teacher addressing two pupils. One pupil, the teacher has decided, is a transactional leader, and basically is what she is and we know who she is. The other pupil claims to be a transformational leader, yet either is unwilling or unable to even imagine what really needs to be done to change the status quo. It may seem like a stronger condemnation of Sanders because teachers are always angrier with the students who could do better, but the indifference towards the apparent complacency of Clinton regarding these issues is in itself scathing. Why either Sides supporters would want this discussed widely is beyond me, because it is not the kind of thing I would want said about my candidate.
It’s also a brutal assessment of where we are as a party. Why are reparations off the table? We’ve done reparations before. Yes, it’s messy, and yes, it’s divisive, but so was ending slavery and so was the civil rights movement and so was the fight over gay marriage and we survived them all and are better as a nation for it. As Ta Nehisi says with far more style than I ever will, if we can’t as a party say to ourselves “why not,” then maybe we should sit back and ask why we are here in the first place.
After we beat the Republicans in 2016, of course.