So, I went through the posts from a guy I know on Facebook, a progressive activist from Chicago who posts a lot of political stuff, and picked out the articles about Hillary Clinton. The first is something about Hillary talking smack about Bernie’s grandkids, the next is about how Hillary hired “Monsanto’s Man in Iowa” to run her campaign there, a third about Politifact declaring Hillary’s attacks on Bernie to be false, and then a fourth claiming that Hillary blames the victims of the foreclosure crisis for their hardships. The view that emerges from this is not so much “Hillary Clinton is wrong” but rather “Hillary Clinton is false.” And this is a fairly common view of her on the progressive left. She isn’t a fellow Democrat, she’s the enemy.
And this is, I think, one of the fundamental problems of the Sanders campaign. Hillary Clinton, for all her flaws, is the establishment candidate in this race. She stands for a continuation of the Obama administration. Even though Sanders is technically challenging Clinton, what’s at stake is the symbolic leadership of the Party. I think there are progressives at the margins of the Party who would love to see their ideas come to the fore, but in doing so they risk losing sight of the common interest. If Clinton does not become President in 2016, it will be a tragedy for the nation, a passing up of a unique opportunity. If she loses to the nomination to Sanders, it will be a tragedy for the Democratic Party.
“The fundamental difference between the Trump and Sanders crowd was that the Sanders crowd has more money, the natural consequence of the American contradiction machinery: rich white people can afford to think about socialism, the poor can only afford their anger.” -Stephen Marche, “The white man pathology: inside the fandom of Sanders and Trump” (Guardian)
But now Clinton is getting nervous about Bernie, and so she’s attacking him and alienating his followers in the process. Ezra Klein breaks down what that’s all about in “Hillary Clinton doesn’t trust you” — the title cleverly inverting the common aversion to her. Basically, the left still wants single-payer health care. Clinton, having lead a disastrous attempt at reforming health care back in 1994, knows a little too well that reform has to be really cautious, because people freak out when you change existing arrangements of health coverage. Bernie boosters don’t have time for all that noise. They want socialized medicine yesterday and they find it hard to believe that not everyone realizes they’re totally right.
This brings me to a blog post from a Professor of Philosophy at Wabash College that I found through Rob Saler. The author is talking to her brother, who lives in an intentional Christian community in Chicago called Jesus People USA, and he describes “…a certain perspective on efforts at conversion that he called, ‘dive bombing.’ ‘Dive bombing’ is when you come from above and attempt to strip your target of their (false) understanding of the world so that you can then replace it with yours. This approach, he pointed out, is very condescending. And it works by establishing that someone else is wrong.”
It seems to me like this is actually quite common in political rhetoric. Among the Republican Presidential candidates it is near the only game in town. The Party is united behind dismantling the Obama legacy. Notice how Trump, at the last debate, took on the mantle of anger. It was observed (by Vox) on Twitter that what makes Trump different from the other candidates, who say “I understand your anger,” is that he says “I’m angry.”
Sympathy is a powerful thing. It feels good to have your own thoughts and feelings validated. On the other hand, feelings don’t write policy. What keeps me up at night lately is the thought that progressive resentment of Hillary Clinton will make possible the election of a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump. And we will lose all the progress made over the last 8 years because we can’t bear the idea of Hillary as President. I suppose, in some sense, that if the Democrats can’t get it together to elect her, then the party doesn’t deserve to go on as it has. Who knows? Maybe the Party system is in the process of collapsing, as the grasp of democracy upon the Nation slowly recedes.