As the Democratic National Convention winds to a close, I’m witnessing many people rejoice with Hillary’s (imminent) acceptance of the Democratic nomination. Cheers for her experience, her intelligence, her qualifications, and her drive ring through the air as supporters celebrate the success of her campaign. And, they are quite right to celebrate. It was a successful campaign. But, I don’t want to celebrate.
I’ve mostly kept quiet about the election lately, having given myself over to disillusionment. But, I wanted to write about something else I’ve been witnessing besides the jubilations. I have been witnessing a deluge of scorn. This scorn isn’t directed at the usual suspects: Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the Right in general. No, this scorn is directed at Bernie Sanders supporters and the Left. The reasons for the scorn are obvious. The rationale is not so clear. The reasons:
Sanders supporters, the Bernie-or-Busters, are going to throw the election (that hasn’t happened yet).
Fact: The overwhelming majority of Bernie Sanders supporters will support Hillary in the general.
Trump is too dangerous to allow to be president. This issue is unprecedented and demands the suspension of your values in order to stop the greater evil.
True. Donald Trump is too dangerous and should not be elected President. If you’re in the center or on the Left, you will probably agree with this. If you disagree, you might not actually be on the left side of the political spectrum. However, Donald Trump is certainly not unprecedented. Abroad, he reminds Italians of Silvio Berlusconi. At home, Barry Goldwater supported the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Or, we might remember the foreign policy blunder of the Iraq War, which killed over 500,000 people and lead to the creation of ISIS. The amnesia is astounding.
Sanders needs to reign in his supporters. They are disgusting, selfish, sore losers who just can’t admit that they can’t have what they want. They are children who can’t admit when they are beat. Their booing and jeering is causing a split in the Party. Their uproars and disruptions are demonstrating weakness in a time when we need Party unity.
Because calling the people you supposedly need to court disgusting is certainly the best way to win them over. People love being called disgusting and selfish.
As Emmet Rensin points out, this behavior is strange and paradoxical: Sanders supporters are painted as threats to the Party who will hand this election to Trump while they are simultaneously a minority force to be laughed at and dismissed. They are a force that does not need to be taken seriously, yet the threat is serious enough to warrant a ton of coverage. The question this attitude asks is not: Why is there so much discontent in the Party, but why are they doing this to us?
Meanwhile, the protestors outside the convention, whose number is much greater than the protestors found at the RNC, are being kept behind high barricades. It almost looks like the wall Donald Trump promises to build, but that might just be my dark sense of humor.
It’s quite interesting to see otherwise calm people rage at Sanders supporters for throwing an election that hasn’t happened yet. They point to Ralph Nader in 2000. They laugh at the supporters who have thrown their support behind Jill Stein. Again, the question is not: What causes people to make such decisions, but why are these fools so foolish? Don’t they know what’s good for them?
This ignores the material conditions in which people make their political decisions. Critics assume that all Bernie supporters are white and privileged and they can afford to live under four years of Trump. “People of color and women will all suffer under Trump, but you’ll be just fine.” Never mind the people of color and the women and children who have suffered from the perils of regime change and the humming of drones. It also ignores the year of rhetorical hyperbole from the liberal media where Donald Trump has been painted as an existential threat that no one will survive. It ignores the obvious fact that not all Bernie supporters are white men. Many of them are women. Many of them are people of color.
What drives this disdain for the Left, those who liberals should supposedly be in solidarity with? It’s usually not the moral reasoning. Most liberals would agree with helping the poor, addressing terrible race relations, and a general reformation of the voting process. But, maybe it is the moral reasoning. It is not that the Left and liberals disagree on the moral issues, it’s that the Left doesn’t put them aside when it comes to policy and platform. All know and agree when something is unjust, the Left just doesn’t know when to shut up about it.
And, that’s the wedge. It’s easy to have disdain for the Right because we can feel they are ludicrous and always unjust. But, for liberals, those farther Left are a reminder of a vision that they agree with in principle, but fail to adopt when given the opportunity. They might be forced to admit they agree with the principle but won’t act. Or, they actually don’t agree with the principles which means they no longer have the moral high ground which bound them together against the Right. I don’t think they can handle the dissonance that creates.
The Right does not seem to have this issue. Those in the center usually capitulate to those further on the Right. You only need to look at the government shutdown and the advent of the Tea Party to see evidence of this tendency. Yet, on the Left, it is those further left who need to capitulate to those in the center. And, this is only done to capitulate to those further right than they. This is why the Democrats can run a candidate and platform that is supposedly progressive, but lacks support for a single payer health care system, is not critical of the TPP, and does not even mention the word fracking (to be fair, it does advocate for a $15/hour minimum wage and treats gun violence as a public health issue).
One of the great successes of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was not its platform. Her platform was basically: “Well, at least I’m not that lunatic.” This is the reason Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders threw their support behind Clinton. Why Sarah Silverman, who originally supported Sanders, can call Bernie-or-Busters ridiculous. And, why Elizabeth Banks can make a speech comparing Trump to the dystopian world of The Hunger Games. It is all to stop Trump, the harbinger of the end of days.
The great success of Hilary Clinton’s campaign was its ability to pit feminism against socialism. It made the Left, socialist supporters look like sexist assholes; Bernie Bros who don’t like Hillary because she’s a woman. And, it separated the feminist movement from it’s engagement with class relations. It articulated feminism not as a collective movement about the liberation of women from both oppressive social and labor conditions but as a project of neoliberalism: trickle down feminism we just need to lean into.
“It’s Hillary Clinton’s turn. It’s time we had a woman in charge and voting for her is a feminist act.”
But by that logic, voting for Sarah Palin, for Michele Bachmann, for Marine Le Pen, or for Margaret Thatcher is also a feminist act.
“Hillary Clinton is going to shatter the glass ceiling and demonstrate that a women will be capable of leading a nation.”
I’m sure the election of Hillary Clinton will not end sexism in America any more than the election of Barack Obama ended racism.
“Hillary Clinton will be an inspiration to girls everywhere, proving that, they too, can lead nations”
Yes, Hillary Clinton will inspire girls everywhere, proving that, they too, can grow up to drop bombs on people.
The defense of Hillary Clinton’s record and character misses one crucial point: Hillary Clinton does not need us to defend her from sexism. As one of the most powerful women in the world, she is insulated (not immune) from much of its effects. She still managed to become an influential lawyer. She still managed to be an influential First Lady when Bill was governor and president. She and Bill have always been regarded as a power team. She still managed to be a powerful senator and a powerful secretary of state. She did this despite the ridiculous amount of sexism facing her. And, I’m sure she won’t lose any sleep over my criticism of her either.
One of the great powers of Clinton is her ability to inspire thousands of tepid defenses of her right to make obscene amounts of money from the very structures she vows to dismantle and then getting to call criticisms “hating the player, not the game” as if she doesn’t actively (as a political actor) have a hand in making the rules of the game herself! This is why we can paint the mythical Bernie Bro as sexist and the protestors at the DNC as sore losers. It turns their valid criticisms of Clinton’s political history into character assassinations. It turns their rightful criticism of a Party that has ignored them into a political spectacle where the protestors are the Fools.
Donald Trump is the personification of America’s narcissism and the most extreme hubris of American exceptionalism. I don’t want him to be president. But, there is something extremely wrong with voting based on fear. It only encourages us to cast votes to avoid trouble instead of casting votes to create conditions where such trouble will not arise. Hillary Clinton is not immune to the hubris of American exceptionalism either. It takes hubris, after all, to claim that America “has never stopped being great” while running a progressive platform. Spoiler alert: This is not a progressive attitude.
There is also something wrong with painting any criticism of Trump as support for Clinton and painting any sort of dissent against Clinton as the creation of an existential crisis that will only help Trump get elected. This is the result of the two-party system which turns everything into a zero-sum crisis. It ignores the fact that on November 8, 2016, most Americans will go to the polls to decide between two individuals who are completely out of touch with the lives of everyday people.
And, perhaps that’s what the Left is fed up with. The false choices dressed up as empowerment. I am told that my only two options are an overblown, fascist Cheetoh and a neoliberal war hawk. While we might call one the lesser evil of the two, it doesn’t mean the lesser evil is not still evil. To me, neither of them are good options and I don’t quite understand why they are appealing options to so many.
I will most likely vote for Hillary Clinton in November. But, do not tell me that this is empowering or that it will be good for America or the world. Do not tell me that I should feel good about this choice because I’ve averted us from some crisis. That is neoliberal thinking at its finest: the idea that I, one individual, have the power to swing the world between good and evil, the Light Side and the Dark Side, with the mere checking of a box. That is a false sense of power and we should not be seduced by it.