As I watch the Democratic primary lurch closely towards self-destruction, I keep asking myself why are so many Democrats projecting their fantasies onto two candidates whose feet are definitely made of clay? Granted, this has been going on since the start of the silly season (italics added):
…what I’m seeing is that many who identify strongly with a candidate hold opinions that are very different from the candidates. Now, there’s [nothing] wrong with that per se: if your guiding star is to beat the Republicans, because you think any Democrat would be preferable to a Republican, then so be it. It’s not how I would play it, but at least you’re aware of what you’re doing.
But what’s odd is that there is a lot of self-projection: supporters will often assume that their candidate would echo their own positions (which are usually to the left of the candidate’s positions), except that the candidate has to move rightward to win elections. Why on earth would you think that? Liberals and progressives need to realize that if they help elect conservative and moderate Democrats, when elected, they’ll act like… conservative and moderate Democrats.
….My point is not to dig at particular candidates since good politicians strive to be the perfect foil–that’s the job. President Clinton was a master at this, and Bush didn’t do so poorly with all of that ‘compassionate conservative’ hooey. Even though anyone who closely followed the Republican base and the Southern Republicans (and, in particular, the Texan GOP) knew exactly what was coming. (Molly Ivins, Intelligent Designer bless her, certainly tried).
It’s one thing to make a rational and reasoned calculation, but enough with the self-projection. They’re just politicians.
Over at Sadly, No!, HTML Mencken has similar thoughts:
It’s not the support or supporters I object to, it’s the enthusiasm and the fanatics. For any politician. But especially for such mediocre ones. After all, it’s not as if either Clinton or Obama are exactly FDR incarnate; they are both fairly average “liberal” politicians who are thoroughly schooled in the arts of serial triangulation. They ain’t radical; nor are they idealist; they are simply better than any Republican alternative. They’re good enough for a vote (with or without one’s nose tightly held) but that’s it. It just won’t do to mask this homely reality with fawning, drooling praise of either politician.
For the most part, the left blogosphere (Atrios in particular) has been good about reining in the fanaticism. The operational phrase lately is, “my candidate sucks” — a very healthy and sensible attitude to have, because it’s the gospel fucking truth.
HTML Mencken raises one reason why some Democrats are self-projecting onto Clinton and Obama:
The answer, I think, is related to that most childish desire: the security blanket. More specifically, it’s the comfort found in the will to believe, and especially believe in an authority. Or as Klein himself explains in one of those admissions that the older people who dote on him like to tell themselves are evidence of his growth but are in actuality merely reminders to all of his incredibly ill-suited (for a political animal of any substance) instincts:
[W]hat’s really warped in me is not where I stand on the political spectrum, but the trust and assumption of good faith with which I can approach the news, and the Republicans, and all the rest.
Oh, to believe again! Oh, to be able to turn the page, to forget the bad
Nixon ReaganBush years, to sacrifice vigilance and skepticism, to pretend that all the damage was an accident, an aberration and not an inevitable result of the stupidity and wickedness of the Republicans in particular and reactionary ideology in general. Oh, to go back again to the halcyon days when honest conservatives and sensible liberals honorably and civilly overcame their differences to form a trustworthy government! Yes, yes: this infantile desire is the thumb that, once placed in one’s mouth, will always become a hook.
I’m not entirely sure I agree–the null hypothesis that people are fucking morons is always a good starting point–but I’m in absolute agreement about how harmful this is:
It’s not that they want to permanently rollback the wingnuttery (which is, after all, the source of the country’s malaise); no, that would mean a long-term commitment or something, totally beyond the pale. Too radical! Instead, they find far too much to like in the personalities of fetching Mr. Obama or nice Mrs. Clinton — and, much more tragically and dangerously, find in their candidacies and shallow, tepid politics so very much symbolism to project deep and understandable feelings onto. A bunch of misplaced affection for two altogether boring and typical politicians. Enthusiasm is good in politics, but such emotion would better serve the country if, say, it took the attitude that conservatism as represented in the political arc of Goldwater-Reagan-Bush is a monstrous failure and therefore permanently unacceptable to every decent, conscientious American. (Yes, this can be construed as “going negative,” a road which many people feel themselves too good to travel. Very well, if one must be “positive,” make fucking sure it’s not in any sort of compromise whatsoever to those whom one should be against: centrism, like bipartisanship and “Moderation,” is a vice not a virtue.)
I think some Democrats, and my impression is that it’s more a phenomenon of the Obamaites*, have forgotten that Clinton and Obama are means to various ends. They work for us, not vice versa.
*Before Obama supporters blow I gasket, I voted for him.