Hillary Clinton and the angry left

So I have a lot of friends on the left who just hate Hillary Clinton. And I love that they hate her so. Why?

First, because to me their hatred says that they want progressive policies, but without the politics necessary to get them. Everybody should just realize that single payer health care and environmental regulation and a living wage and so on are the simply the right thing to do.  No one should have to argue about it or compromise for it.

But that’s not how democracy works. It’s not enough to simply know what the right policies are, you have to get people to vote for representative legislators who then have to make those policies law, and then you have to get the administrative branch to execute those laws, and have judges uphold them when they are challenged. And that process works at multiple levels. Moreover, there are nearly 200 independent territories in the world, and there are people in each one who, at least in principle, are allowed to make their own decisions about how they want to use their resources, and so on.

I’ve read so many Jeremiads, litanies of the sins of statesmen, capitalists, fascists, totalitarians, revolutionaries, and on and on and on. And I still believe a better world is possible! But the American left is so often terribly narrow in it’s aspirations. What do I mean? Take the antipathy for NAFTA, common on both the left and right (both blame the other for it, as a general rule). It often boils down to a sentimental longing for manufacturing jobs. Jobs that required only a high school education, at most, which used skills already widely understood to American men, which would produce familiar products. The hours would be long enough to satisfy the craving for the badge of “hard work” but not so demanding as to preclude time with family, regular vacations, and so on. Compsenation would be commensurate with skill level, of course, but at minimum would include full health and dental benefits, and enough take-home pay for a stand-alone house in a nearby suburb, which of course would be suitably outfitted with a range of the latest in conusmer goods. A food system that could deliver the option of beef, chicken, or pork, lobster or fresh, wild caught ocean fish, every night to the average person. The option of voting – the choice to care or not – and if you just didn’t have time to really engage in the process, nothing to worry about, but, of course, also a civic engagement that would allow the individual to really matter.

In short, what people seem to want is the right to live unconsciously. And what makes people crazy about Hillary Clinton is that she’s always consciously engaged in the political process. She is by no means alone in her engagement – but she represents the kind of person who made a long term commitment to politics when she was young, and has accrued the expansive personal network and attendent influence that comes with decades of involvement in political campaigns and policy making and so on. People wanted Bernie Sanders to just go storming into the Democratic party and rewrite the platform. And when it didn’t happen all those starry eyed partisans hollared about injustice!

And the thing is that, even though she lost the Presidential election, Hillary Clinton is still a major figure within the Democratic party. And it makes the left crazy because they want her loss to mean that they get to be in change now. “Okay, you lost, you failed! Now get on your private jet and fly away and let us work on our socialist revolution.” It’s important that Clinton be craven and greedy – she’s not allowed to want to do the right thing. Because capitalism is wrong – at least, according to the left. Sort of. When it suits their purposes anyways. Hillary Clinton got paid for making speeches to Goldman Sachs! She must be corrupt!

Never assume that someone else must not be authentic. It’s tremendously dangerous. Because if your theory of how things work depends on some particular individual being a liar, and it turns out they are telling the truth, your entire view falls apart, which is some ways the worst sort of disaster. To me, the insistance of the left that Hillary Clinton represents the failures of the Democratic party is a demonstration of the left’s reliance on that failure. The left doesn’t want to win elections. They just want to be right.

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