Friday, February 12, 2016

How privileged people rationalize supporting Clinton, or Answering Stephanie Zvan

I won't address the opening comments in Stephanie Zvan's Bernie Sanders and Revolution Betrayed. They're there to elicit sympathy, and I have sympathy for her. I suppose I could say a bit here about growing up in the civil rights struggle, being driven from my home by death threats from the Ku Klux Klan, and so on, but the important thing you should know about what follows is I was a Democrat until the 1990s. I voted for Bill Clinton in '94, knowing he was effectively a moderate Republican, then watched in disgust as he abandoned even the easiest promises he had made, like allowing gay people to serve openly in the military, a job the Democrats left to the Log Cabin Republicans.

So I became a socialist in a country where that was still a dirty word. I voted for Nader in '96 and 2000 and watched the Democrats blame him instead of the Republicans, the Electoral College, or the thousands of registered Democrats in Florida who voted for Bush. I thought I would never vote for a Democrat again, but the Iraq War came along and I was in Arizona, where my vote would matter, so I did a little volunteer work for Kerry and voted for him. In 2008, I knew Obama was just another neoliberal Democrat (see Adolph Reed's description of him in '96*), but I hadn't been able to vote for Shirley Chisholm when I was young and I was still in a state where a vote for a Democrat could affect the Electoral College, so I voted for a black guy for novelty's sake. In 2012, I was back in Minnesota, a safely blue state where my vote wouldn't matter, so I cast my ballot for Jill Stein.

Now, I should probably add one more important thing here: I've been a feminist since I was a boy in the '60s who admired Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis. My father didn't believe in dividing work between boys and girls, so I never had the chance to think my sister should do less or deserved less than I did. I've watched the different schools of feminism divide since then, each proclaiming itself to be the One True Feminism, and now it's true I'm not a bourgeois feminist. But I'm still a socialist feminist whose heart is with women like Eleanor Marx, Dora Montefiore, and Emma Goldman.

Enough preamble.

Stephanie opens with a pretense of objectivity by granting some small virtues to Sanders:
Sanders had some history of pragmatism as mayor and accomplishments using that approach.
Then she dives straight into the favorite argument of people who tell us to compromise ourselves, pragmatism, a code word for "don't think, just trust me":
...his reputation for choosing close advisers based on loyalty and ideological purity was bolstered by his choice of a campaign manager who’s never run a national campaign but has run his previous campaigns, as well as other major advisers who have worked for him but not on anything of this scale. (Clinton’s choices, by contrast, have much more experience.)
It is true that no one can accuse Clinton of having an ideology that she has stuck by (see her shifting positions on universal health care and gay marriage), but it's odd to complain about Sanders' choice of campaign manager when his campaign is doing well and hers is casting about wildly for a way to win without having to resort to the superdelegates. It is true that Clinton's managers have more experience, but one should ask, "Experience doing what?"

Stephanie's next complaint reveals astonishing obliviousness:
He was busy stirring up dissatisfaction, because that’s his best political strategy.
Does this mean Stephanie didn't notice Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter or any of the many responses to the failures of the Obama administration? Or does it mean she thinks Sanders is responsible for #OWS and #BLM? It's clear she doesn't think Sanders' popularity has anything to do with inequality. To her, it's only about "stirring up dissatisfaction."

Her next charge:
Then the data breach happened. As bad as it was, the reaction from the Sanders campaign was worse.
She doesn't bring up the incompetence of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She doesn't note that the Sanders campaign did not create the breach and in fact reported the breach, or that Sanders fired the people who may've tried to use the breach improperly or may've only been trying to verify the extent of the breach. Stephanie wants to smear Sanders, so she uses whatever she can. (If you'd like an impartial account of what happened, try Bernie Sanders Campaign Data Breach Controversy : snopes.com.)

Oddly, Stephanie then says she was "done" with Sanders because she was tired of scandal. Yet any comparison of Sanders' and Clinton's long careers make it clear who wins the scandal contest. Yes, the Clintons have been falsely accused of many things by their more-conservative opponents. But even if you ignore all those, the charges from the left remain. (For one example, see Why Elizabeth Warren can’t endorse Hillary Clinton.)

Stephanie then links to an astonishingly ignorant article that claims "Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all" as though single-payer hasn't already worked in many countries. There are many traits conservative Democrats share with conservative Republicans, and one is an unwillingness to look beyond the US's borders for solutions that have already worked for decades. (A decent place to start researching single-payer: 5 Myths About Canadian Health Care.)

She also complains that Sanders has not consulted often enough with the military in general or Larry Korb in particular. I don't understand this complaint, so I'll simply agree that Mrs. Clinton has always been the more hawklike of the two and move on. (ETA: Korb praises Sanders: Bernie Sanders Is More Serious on Foreign Policy Than You Think.)

Next she fails to notice that any Underwear Gnomes analogy calls for three points, not four, saying,
As far as I can tell, this is his plan for us:
Discover our economy has problems
Vote for me
????
Revolution!
Now, I think she had to add the line about discovering our economy has problems because the neoliberal Democrats she prefers do their best to avoid addressing economic inequality, and when they do, it's with vague expressions of sympathetic helplessness. I could play the Underwear Gnomes game like this:
1. Vote for Mrs. Clinton because she's a woman
2. ???
3. Glorious future in which the elite and the exploited look exactly alike in terms of race and gender!
It's a fun game, but I think we should both leave it to South Park.

Next she links to Shakesville: What Is Bernie Sanders Even Doing? I'm not a Shakesville fan so the spin on Sanders' use of campaign money doesn't affect me. But I do find it significant that they don't bother to note who Clinton gets her money from. (See Hillary Takes Millions in Campaign Cash From ‘Enemies’: Clinton named the drug and insurance industries among her “enemies,” but has accepted millions in donations from them.)

Stephanie then makes an argument that only makes sense to an opponent of universal health care by linking to 22 States Are Not Expanding Medicaid. Here's What That Means for Their Residents. This is one of the great failures of Obamacare. If Sanders succeeds, every resident of the US will finally be covered.

Stephanie is proud that the well-financed Clinton folks began organizing early in Minnesota and complains that Sanders should've gotten here sooner (I believe this is called concern-trolling). It's true that currently Hillary Clinton is crushing Bernie Sanders in new Minnesota poll, but anyone who cares about electing Democrats should not overlook this fact from that article about Democrats competing with Republicans here:
Sanders ... crushes Trump, 53 percent to 37 percent, 10 points better than Clinton does in the same matchup.
And frankly, anyone who bets on how Minnesota will go would do well to wait until we're closer to making our vote. I live in a multiracial blue-collar neighborhood where you can see Sanders yard signs, but there's nary a one for Mrs. Clinton.

Stephanie says one thing I agree with entirely:
Getting Millennials and people of color into the political system–not just to the voting booth–is the revolution we’re actually going to get.
She apparently hasn't read articles like Why Young Democrats Love Bernie Sanders | FiveThirtyEight or In South Carolina, Young Black Voters Could Put Holes In Clinton's Firewall : NPR or Why Are Millennial Women Gravitating to Bernie Sanders? | New Republic.

She ends by linking to a nice collection of religious quotes about justice, so I'll share my favorite, James 2:18:
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
Both Clinton and Sanders have a long history of deeds. Sanders was arrested when he was young for protesting segregation; Clinton worked for Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act. Sanders has supported gay rights for decades; Clinton has opposed them, and only changed her position a few years ago when polls showed most Americans supported gay marriage. Sanders has worked for universal health care; Clinton has worked to keep universal health care "off the table". Clinton only reluctantly agreed to support a $12 minimum wage; Sanders has been an enthusiastic supporter of the $15 minimum wage. Clinton talks vaguely about education; Sanders wants free public universites for everyone. And lest anyone say "pragmatism" again, there is nothing Sanders wants that has not been successfully implemented elsewhere.

The simplest division between Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters is not age or gender or race. It's the class divide: most Clinton supporters benefit from the status quo, and most Sanders supporters suffer under it. Clinton feminists ignore the consequences of Clinton's policies on working class women, perhaps because those women are invisible to them, perhaps because they care more about the symbol of a woman in power than helping the women who are struggling today. This may be why people whose primary concern is gender are sticking with Clinton, while people whose primary concern is race are turning away from her. (See Michele Alexander's Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote and Ta-Nehisi Coates Is Voting for Bernie Sanders Despite the Senator's Opposition to Reparations.)

Having been The Class Guy for ages, I'm fascinated by this split. No matter how much the champions of privilege fight for Clinton, even if Clinton wins, this is true: Bernie Sanders is the future of the Democratic Party.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the Minnesota Caucus. If he is not defeated by his greatest obstacle, the Democratic Party leadership, I will then vote for him for President.

ETA: A Key Divide Between Clinton and Sanders Supporters: Income - The New York Times

*
* Adolph Reed on Obama in 1996: "In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices: one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program—the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle class reform in favoring form over substance. I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics here, as in Haiti and wherever the International Monetary Fund has sway."

Related:

On Hillary Clinton, superdelegates, and how the Democrats shafted McGovern in '72

Sanders feminists versus Clinton feminists: illustrating the main schools of contemporary feminism