Since I’m blogging about the Democratic primary, as usual, my obligatory disclosure that, were I voting today, I would vote Warren.
While I’m a Warren supporter, in no small part, because I think she’s more realistic than Sanders on how to pass legislation, I haven’t liked the derision from some quarters of Sanders’ attempt to build a movement. As some asshole with a blog noted:
…I’ll remind readers that I’m a life-long Democrat, have donated to Democrats, and have volunteered for multiple Democratic campaigns. Hell, I once registered absentee to vote in a Democratic municipal primary. I’ve also never missed an election. So don’t bring that you’re a Johnny-come-lately BernieBro crap here.
Being a Democrat isn’t like joining a union. In a union, there are formal benefits, such as group negotiation, union legal representation, and so on. There are often informal benefits, such as getting help from your brothers and sisters when you face a personal crisis, such as a family tragedy, or unemployment. But what do I get for officially being a Democrat, other than a shit ton of junk snail mail and email? It makes me laugh to think that my local Democratic party is going to show up and help me when I face a crisis. From a rank-and-file perspective, the Democratic Party is an electoral brand, nothing more. Even the Democratic Socialists of America will fix your tail light for free. But Democrats?
Right now, the Democratic Party is a brand–it’s not going around to members trying to help them, unlike a group like DSA which does things like helping people who are about to lose their homes. Last week (which, in the era of Trump scandals, is about as old as the pre-Cambrian), a despondent veteran who had massive medical debt and who didn’t see a way out other than suicide went to a small Sanders rally, and told Sanders about his problems. It’s clear he had a lot of physical difficulties (including Parkison’s).
Sanders was lauded for how he treated this man, but that’s not really the point: I think many of the Democratic candidates would behave as well* (and Clinton would have too in 2016). But I also think someone in that desperate situation probably wouldn’t believe if they went to another candidate’s rally that they could get some kind of help (even odds Biden would say something tasteless and tacky). That’s the difference between a movement and a party–people expect, or at least hope, that a movement will help them, that it’s not just about getting their votes.
As a Warren supporter, I have to wonder if she or other Democratic candidates can engender that sort of connection. I don’t mean that in an ersatz pundit theater criticism way either. But that sort of belief does matter, and it can win elections.
*Not convinced about Biden though.