Saturday, February 22, 2020


Do you want to hear me talk about primaries? Probably not. Anyway, I keep starting to write stuff and then putting it aside. No one knows anything about what's going to happen, people who think they do are wrong, what's the point? But I thought I'd put my disconnected thoughts down anyway. And apparently it actually worked this time, if you're reading this!

So yeah, I support Bernie Sanders. I support him because I like his positions, I like his consistency over the years, and, you know, when you actually listen to him and see legislative efforts he's been involved in, you realize that he really is a profoundly decent person. I know there's this image of him as the dyspeptic old man hectoring you about healthcare, but if see him in one-on-one interviews, you know that's partially true at best. Not that people shouldn't be hectored about healthcare. I know some don't like his affect, but he just reminds me of cool old English professors I've had. So clearly, mileage varies. Can he win? Well, again, nobody knows anything, and the fact that this election is so high-stakes tends to short-circuit people's ability to do risk assessment. I...think so? God I hope so. But really, you just can't say it enough: no one knows anything.

Of course, one of the big concerns about Sanders is that the word "socialism" will be toxic to some large swath of voters. And, you know, again: maybe? Especially since in reality he's not actually particularly radical; he's not talking about nationalizing the means of production and liquidating the kulaks. But my feeling is, capitalism, if you hadn't noticed, is destroying the world, and if we just decide that breathing the faintest word of any possible alternative is just too toxic and can't be done, we're basically admitting defeat. And I don't want to do that. Then the other concern is his age. And I won't lie, that ain't great. I have no defense against this. He seems healthy for a seventy-eight-year-old, let alone one who recently had a heart attack--certainly as mentally sharp as ever, unlike Biden--but I wish he were younger. Still, these are extraordinary times, and you go with what you have.

If you talk about Sanders, anyone who doesn't like him is inevitably going to go on about Berniebros, but here's my question: are Berniebros a real thing? Don't get me wrong; obnoxious, extremely-online Bernie fans who make misogynistic tweets are a real thing (even if some percentage of them are Russian trolls). But the question is, are Sanders fans actually uniquely bad in some way, or is this just the way it is: you have a candidate who inspires a lot of passion in a younger group of followers, and, you know, this is what you get? That's my feeling. In any event, people who use this group of people as a disqualification for the candidate himself were obviously just looking for ex-post-facto justifications to hate him, so to heck with them!

I'll tell you something else, though, which definitely disqualifies me as a possible Berniebro: I also like Elizabeth Warren. I know it sort of seems like she's stalled out, but hell, knows? I would be extremely happy to vote for her in the general election. I do wish she wouldn't talk about how much she "loves capitalism" and that it just needs rules; this to me is self-evidently untrue. But still. A lot of Sanders fans point to various of her policies as not being radical enough, and here's where we get to the real split, but I don't think it's the split that they think it is. The thing that nobody wants to acknowledge is that all this talk about universal health care plans and whatnot is largely academic. Not that we shouldn't talk about it and get it in the public consciousness, but in the short term, that's all we're doing. When, even in the absolute best-case scenario, you still need Joe Manchin to vote for your plan...well, there's a hard limit on how much you can actually get done. And I think Warren's rhetoric acknowledges this more than Sanders' has (not that her plans would have any better chance of passing in a republican-dominated congress). There are, it has to be said, an awful lot of Sanders supporters who are certainly not stupid but nonetheless have what seems to be to be a delusional belief that he's going to be able to get this radical vision enacted via sheer force of righteousness, and I can definitely understand how Warren supporters would be annoyed that she's not getting support because she's thinking more in terms of electoral reality and everyone hates reality. There's a debate to be had: is it better to engage in aspirational, utopian thinking; or is it better to deal purely with the world as it is? I tend to think the former; you're never going to get what you want if you don't dream big. But it's okay if you think differently; it doesn't make you a bad person. I'm sure you're relieved to get my seal of approval.

I would like to insist, however, that if we're going to reach an accord, Warren supporters do the same for us. Some are perfectly reasonable, of course, but holy shit is Sanders hated among a non-trivial percentage of them. "Malignant narcissist" is about the nicest thing they'll say. Fervently wishing for him to die, explicitly comparing him to Trump--I know emotions are running high, for obvious reasons, but some people nonetheless need to get a grip. Look long and hard at yourself in the mirror and realize you are being fucking assholes and stop doing that.

Those are the only two candidates I actually like, but I'm not a maniac. I will vote for Biden, Buttigieg, or Klobuchar not super-happily, but willingly. However, if the primarily competition is between any of them and Bloomberg, I'll support them with a spring in my step and a song in my heart, because holy shit (Warren got huge points in my book for the way she flayed him alive in the debate on Wednesday). Yeah, I think. Anyone but Trump. But goddamn, man, Bloomberg gives one pause with that philosophy. At a certain point, I am purely pragmatic: even if I don't like any possible candidates, I will support whoever I think is going to, if not actively help people, at least cause as little harm as possible. You can't just do this airy, theoretical shit when real people's real lives are on the line. But I wonder, would Bloomberg actually be better?

This is all acadmic, I think; I don't really believe Bloomberg will be nominated (yeah, famous last words). He's eerily similar to Trump in too many ways, but unlike Trump, who, we have to admit, has a kind of charisma that anyway appeals to his base, Bloomberg is just a charm vacuum, and I question his ability to win purely by blanketing the country in advertising. But if he did, we would have to admit: democracy is dead in this country, or at least in a deep coma. Two authoritarian, right-wing plutocrats vying to see who can buy the presidency. Inspiring.

BUT, life goes on, at least for those of us who aren't the immediate targets of right-wing rage, and there are authoritarian states and authoritarian states, and even if both choices are bad, they're still choices. So would Bloomberg be less bad for the country than Trump? Well. He spear-headed direct, systemic racist policies as mayor. He has a bloodcurdlingly misogynistic history. He even, good lord. has a fucked up psychosexual history with his daughter (is this the real life? It feels like a parody). Beyond that, he supported out-and-proud white nationalist republican representative Steve King. He poured huge amounts of money into the reelection campaign of "my" Senator, the reliable repulsive Pat Toomey. With a record like that, it's hard not to wonder.

Still, I must begrudingly admit that fair's fair: I'm willing to stipulate that Bloomberg would definitely not start a nuclear war. He's not a climate-change denialist. Presumably he would more or less go along with those Democratic policy initiatives that he basically doesn't give a shit about one way or the other. Certain people say things like "oh, he'll be able to do worse things than Trump because the Democrats will just go along with everything he wants 'cause he calls himself a Democrat!" but honestly, I don't even know what that means; it strikes me as delusional thinking by people who are predisposed to hate all Democrats all the time no matter what. As I say, it would be hideous if the choice came down to Trump vs Bloomberg. But it IS a difference, no matter what any leftier-than-thous say. Just because someone's taken a bad beating, you don't just say, welp, you're going to die anyway, so we might as well give you a few extra kicks to the kidneys! You do the best you can to ease the pain.  They might get better!  It could happen!  But in any event, it's all you can do, so you do it.

Still, let's be positive! Bernie 2020!


Post a Comment

<< Home