Looking For Political Love In All The Wrong Places

Ed at Gin and Tacos makes an excellent point that I’ve been struggling to put into coherent words (boldface mine):

One of the primary criticisms leveled at Sanders’ supporters is their reliance on the logic that while he might not be giving black activists much of what they want, there is no other candidate who comes as close to addressing these issues. In other words, Sanders is the best of what’s available so black voters should support him even if he doesn’t actually do much for them. He’s a “friend” to that portion of the electorate.

I understand reflexively why black activists find this response patronizing and unsatisfactory. What I don’t understand is how it differs fundamentally from what all of us – black, white, young, old, gluten intolerant – are told every time we suffer an election. Have you never been party to, either as the speaker or the recipient of wisdom, the “Well he’s better than Bush/McCain/Romney/Beelzebub” conversation? I’ve seen it here every time in the past decade that I’ve written something critical of the Democratic Party or its candidates…. If you stay home the Republicans win and then we’re really boned.

In that sense, the message Sanders and other Democrats have so relied upon over the past several decades is condescending and defeatist, but it isn’t uniquely condescending and defeatist to black voters. It’s a shit stew on which every voter with a more than casual interest in any issue that isn’t pre-approved by the Moneyed Interests must chow down every couple years. The activists and Sanders campaign critics are correct to point out that the issues in question were being ignored. But unless you’re in the NRA or fighting to increase the wealth of the oligarchy, everybody’s issues get ignored….

It is fair to say that since these issues are in a literal sense life and death issues for some people of color in this country that an extraordinary response should be forthcoming from Democratic candidates (Republicans can safely be presumed to make no response or an utterly terrible one). That is valid; I hope the leading Democratic candidates do take these issues seriously because that’s what serious issues deserve. But it certainly isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that candidates have half-assed an issue and fallen back on the “Well, who else are you gonna vote for, this is the best you’ll do” argument. When those activists said “We’re being ignored!” part of me thought, well, who isn’t? They’re correct to say that the system isn’t responsive to their interests because the system isn’t responsive to the vast majority of the electorate’s interests.

My support for Sanders is based on three things:

1) Clinton will be the eventual nominee.

2) Sanders is one way–not the only way–to put pressure on Clinton to adopt policies liked by the rank-and-file (could we for once, not have to fight our own party’s attempt to further shred what remains of the social safety net?).

3) A strong Sanders showing could–not necessarily will–force Clinton to lay down some very concrete markers on certain issues. This matters as there’s a ton of political science research that indicates presidents try very hard–and are often successful–at fulfilling major, specific campaign promises (Bush’s “read my lips, no new taxes” and Obama’s abandonment of the public option are notable exceptions).

I realize there are quite a few people who are ‘feeling the Bern’, but, for me, cranky old cynic that I am, this is entirely transactional: they’re using me, and I’m trying to use them.

If you want unconditional love, buy a puppy.

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4 Responses to Looking For Political Love In All The Wrong Places

  1. Doris Drake says:

    Not sure if you received/read this, but I find it very thoughtful.



  2. noddin0ff says:

    I’m disappointed that Sander’s was targeted for the reasons above. Didn’t seem that well thought out and made me question the legitimacy of the voice (not the cause). Made me think that they were targeting the politically weak and frail because they could get away with it. And then made me think…

    Axiom #1: Protest is not progress. IMO, the problem with with most current activism is the failure to realize this. It’s OK to protest to raise awareness, but if your cause doesn’t put some real solutions on the table, you’re just spitting into the wind. Maybe I’m not listening closely enough. While I support the intention of the Black Lives Matter protests, I don’t hear solutions. And, as noted, the protests seem to be poorly targeted.

    Axiom #2: Twitter is not grass roots. Real change takes real organization. Social media seems good for getting the word out, but so far it seems a ill used tool for building grass roots consensus of the kind that elevates protest to progress. It’s one thing to push an agenda, its quite another to get a plurality to care enough to join your agenda.

  3. Scott Garren says:

    Have you and Ed read Bernie’s program on racial justice? https://berniesanders.com/issues/racial-justice/

    It is comprehensive. The idea that Bernie’s position is weak and patronizing seems completely unjustified to me. Ed then says that we are being patronized and offered a lesser of two evils option by Sanders but he offers no specifics, just vague complaints. Bernie has a very detailed program he is putting forward: https://berniesanders.com/issues/. If there are issues or programs you think are not strong enough by all means say so, otherwise keep quite. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem.

    Of course Bernie will not win if people keep saying so instead of getting out and organizing!

    • Chris G says:

      Scott, thanks for the link. I don’t see a whole lot of daylight between Sanders’ platform and Campaign Zero’s.
      To those who see things Ed’s way, what’s the complaint? Is it your take that Sanders’ votes as a Congressman and Senator haven’t been consistent with his statement of what he supports? If so, what do you believe Sanders that should have done (should be doing) that he didn’t (isn’t)?

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