STOP TELLING THE LEFT TO SHUT UP, & START ADDRESSING OUR CONCERNS
Dear Moderate Liberals:
Stop your whining about how mean Bernie and his supporters are being to your candidate and start addressing some of our concerns.
No. Bernie does not have to start taking the heat off of Hillary, and no, the left does not have to shut up for the sake of political unity. We are a movement, and we are a significant bloc in the Democratic Party, and for too long this fact has been ignored. Part of that is our fault, submitting to fear of the right wing boogey man, but the greater responsibility must fall to the party establishment, a party establishment that the Clintons have had a significant role in building.
Look, I’m not trying to be one of those so-called Bernie Bros who believes its my candidate or nothing. I understand the stakes are high and the Democratic Party is going to have to be unified if it is to counter the awful prospects of either a Trump or a Cruz presidency. As a Bernie supporter I’ve even suggested that Sanders tone down his attacks on Clinton and focus on the greater threat of growing conservative extremism. But now I’m getting annoyed with the sniveling coming out of the liberal mainstream.
Take, for instance, Paul Krugman. I admire this great economist. Readers of my blog might note how often I reference him. I read his blog daily, never miss his columns, and will tune in whenever his head is talking to other heads on the magic box in my living room. I will continue to do so. His critiques of Sanders’ policies have been pointed and valuable. The bottom line is, he knows his stuff and I trust him.
But he’s on the wrong track in his critique of the left. Namely, that the left is mindlessly regurgitating the same canards of the right-wing slander machine when we suggest that Clinton is untrustworthy. From a recent post, Krugman suggests, “Sanders supporters have, to a much greater extent than generally acknowledged, been motivated by the perception that Clinton is dishonest, which comes — whether they know it or not — not from her actual behavior but from decades of right-wing smears;”
Um…no we’re not. We are very well aware of the right-wing smear machine and its incessant attacks on any popular Democrat, it’s unyielding dedication to conspiracy theories in the face of overwhelming evidence. The reasons why the left does not trust Hillary isn’t because of right wing fantasies. It’s because of left-wing critiques. Look, Bernie Sanders did not create left-wing criticisms of the former First Lady. If you have any experience with the left press, presumably Krugman should have at least a little familiarity, criticism of Clinton triangulation is about as old as Clinton triangulation.
It was Clinton’s (Bill’s, in this case) third way policies, mainly Reaganomics that protected Medicare and Social Security, that stripped the Democratic Party of its New Deal, Great Society and New Left influences. Hillary, as one of the most active First Ladies in American History, was a central architect of this disastrous structure. The left was expected to go along because, well, Medicare and Social Security. In the meantime, it was the Clintons, not the Reaganistas, who were instrumental in pealing away most of the New Deal. The left has not forgotten this.
True, Hillary has since shifted to the left. I, for one, see this as a good thing. I see no contradiction in a candidate for public office shifting her position in response to public pressure. This is a little something called democracy. The problem is, with Hillary’s history and corporate backing and Super PACs, how do we know that, upon entering office she won’t experience another epiphany and shift back to the original, now defunct, third way politics? What Krugman, and Vox.com and other mainstream Democrats need to understand is that this is a legitimate concern that deserves to be addressed.
After all, we’ve been courted thus before, ending only in heartbreak. Remember the public option? Remember card check? What happened to Senator Obama’s promise to put on a comfortable pair of shoes and join the picket lines in support of collective bargaining?
Yeah, I’d say the left has some legitimate grievances. If Hillary wants us to vote for her, she should take it upon herself to alleviate these concerns.
But she’s not doing this. Instead she’s playing the scold, shaking her finger at protestors who have reasonable concerns about her campaign contributions, or the patronizing elder who “feels sorry” for young Bernie supporters who don’t do their own research. Really? That’s a funny reason to feel sorry for people. Thing is, we do conduct our own research. It doesn’t take much digging to find the corporate bed that Hillary has been laying in for years. How about explaining your Super PAC as effectively as Sanders has explained why he is doing without one. These are legitimate concerns not to be taken lightly by someone who wants the support of a significant political bloc.
What the mainstream Democratic machine fails to understand is that the disenchantment on the left is not something that Bernie Sanders invented, it’s something that he’s giving voice to. The left has been increasingly disconnected from the Democratic Party since the rise of the Blue Dogs. The Democratic Party has, for the better part of my life, abused the liberal base. Every serious compromise of the Obama presidency has started with the Administration taking left policies off the table without even a reasonable attempt to get the GOP to do the same with right-wing policies.
And there is only so far that the left is willing to be taken for granted by the party. After all, this is the same party that was shocked when the base stayed home in 2010 rather than pull the lever for Democrats. Shocked despite the fact that the Dems were silent after the White House Chief of Staff referred to us as “fucking retarded,” then went on to say “fuck the UAW.” It seems that the left is expected to accept this level of disregard and even disdain from the Democrats because, hey, the alternative will be much worse.
For the most part, this has been an effective strategy on the part of the Democratic Party. But using fear to corral votes is a short-term strategy at best. It doesn’t take long for those scolded young people of any age, so brushed off by the front-runner, to realize that there’s always a Tea Party, a Donald Trump, a Ted Cruz that the supposed Party of the People would have you fear in order to coerce your vote. Ultimately, you will have nothing to show for it. If you wait for that magical year when there isn’t a scary right-wing movement waiting to descend upon us, you are in the wrong country.
The moderate liberals would like us to shut up while we demand to be heard. Sorry, there’s no compromise on this. We either shut up for the good of the party or we speak louder and take the chance that the party suffers. Shutting up means we are silenced yet again. Speaking louder means running the risk of a right-wing White House. The moderates would have us believe that the right-wing White House is significantly worse than political invisibility. I’m not convinced of this. One of the means of gaining a voice within an institution is to become a credible threat to that institution’s existence. Perhaps we’ll have to weather a right-wing shit storm for a few years if we derail the Democratic Party, but it is clear that if the left wants to have a voice in the one of the major parties (third parties are simply not viable at the national level) then we better become a credible threat.
On the other hand, the Democratic Party establishment can avoid the political costs by simply addressing our concerns, giving us a seat at the table. What do we get in return for our support of Hillary? What’s in it for us? A NotRepublican in the White House just isn’t doing it any more. We have a voice. We have an infrastructure. We have our networks. Why should we use it to support your candidate? Because the alternative is worse just doesn’t do it any more.
So I’m hearby changing my position on Bernie’s campaign. Strategically, from the left, it makes no sense to slow down when our presence is becoming stronger. Sanders should run as hard as he can and challenge the front-runner at every single turn for every single questionable dollar she has received, every single position she has flipped on, every single promise that she is making to every single constituency. If Hillary is “sick of it,” oh well. Until Hillary stops taking the left vote for granted and starts addressing our very real concerns, Clinton should not feel comfortable about us turning out for her in November.
If Hillary or any other Democrat wants my vote, it will have to be earned. I’m tired of voting against Republicans. Give me someone to vote for.