BEEN THERE

Posted in Rants on March 16th, 2016 by Ed

I really like Bernie Sanders.

Beyond liking him I have great respect for how well he has done in this election. On paper we would not expect the campaign of a 74 year old Jewish Vermonter who has been in Congress for 25 years to get a presidential campaign off the ground let alone have some success. He has energized left-wing voters and raised issues that need raising, requiring the other candidates (especially in his own party) to take those issues seriously. His presence has been nothing but a positive.

Long-time readers know my feelings about Hillary Clinton. I have no opinion about her as a person but border on despising her as a politician. I don't care to sift through all the Election 2008 posts to prove that to you if you're a new reader, but now in 2016 I feel no differently about her. She's a weathervane, an neoliberal on economics, and, like her husband, more than willing to get in line with the interests of neocon foreign policy hawks and law enforcement when she feels it will benefit her. She has the "right" position on a lot of issues too, but the amount of baggage it comes with is substantial.

All that said, at this point it appears very unlikely, although not impossible, that Bernie Sanders is going to win the Democratic nomination. Before you get in a tizzy about crooked rules and superdelegates, be aware that Clinton leads Sanders by a considerable margin in pledged delegates. That is to say, if there were no superdelegates she'd still be winning. We saw in 2008 that superdelegates are a bandwagon crowd when both candidates are viable. They backed Hillary until she started losing; when Obama took the lead, they backed him. Were Sanders to take an Obama-like lead this year, I firmly believe they would jump ship on Hillary again. They're in it to pick a winner, not to impose their will on the Democratic Party or pay back favors to the Clinton family.

Upcoming primaries on the West Coast will feature states in which Sanders is likely to be strong. Needing nearly 60% of the remaining pledged delegates to catch Clinton in that category makes his victory unlikely at best, though. He doesn't just have to start winning every contest, he needs to start winning every contest handily. It's possible. But it's not probable.

As that becomes increasingly clear, here comes the flood of "If _____ doesn't win the nomination, X% of (Democrats/Republicans) will not vote for (actual nomination winner)" stories. You've already seen them. We saw them in 2008, when Clinton supporters allegedly were going to vote for McCain or not at all rather than Obama. We saw it in 2012 with every GOP contender's fans and Mitt Romney. And it's all bullshit. It's a false narrative. People say, mid-Spring, that they're so mad they won't vote for Clinton if Sanders loses. They'll throw tantrums. Then they'll get over it, and by November they'll show up and vote for her. They won't feel good about it. But that doesn't matter, practically. Everyone who has been through more than one election cycle realizes that this process is not one that feels good or that gives us our ideal preferences. It's one that gives us two choices and we pick the one who isn't a complete lunatic. It's a bad system; at present, however, it is our system. I don't like it. Nobody cares whether I like it.

If life was about getting what we wanted and having great choices, we wouldn't be getting out of bed at sunrise to go to work right now. I don't like Hillary Clinton, nor will I feel particularly excited about voting for her, but when the other candidate is running with the support of actual white supremacists you just kind of suck it up and pick the less-bad one. The amount of white privilege that goes into a statement like "I'd rather stand on principle and end up with Trump than blah blah blah" is too obvious to dwell on here. If you lack the self-awareness to understand why, ask someone who isn't white and when they're done silently loathing you maybe they'll explain it and help you out.

In the end – of the election process, that is – there are some people who will waste their vote on a third party candidate who isn't going to win or skip voting altogether. That's their right, obviously. But despite Republican wishful thinking claiming otherwise, the vast majority will get over it and vote for Clinton. Especially when Sanders, as every major party candidate in memory has done, endorses the frontrunner and asks his supporters to support her moving forward.

I understand how they feel, the Sanders people. In 2000, my second presidential election, I was a staunch Naderite. I know all the arguments because I've made all the arguments, about principle and corporate Democrats and how the system won't change if we continue to reward it. That was 16 years ago. The current Republican candidate(s) make George W. Bush look like FDR. The stakes are high, and this is not a joke. We have to live with what happens here, whether it is our ideal outcome, an outcome we don't like but can live with, or one that puts some of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues at risk of having to hope for the best under a candidate openly supported by and supportive of neo-Nazis.

In reality it probably won't matter; Trump is going to get blown out regardless of what you or I choose to do as individuals. But on the off chance that you live in one of the handful of places where your choice might actually matter, think hard over the next few months about how much your Principle is really worth to you. Pay close attention to Trump/Cruz and ask yourself if you can't summon the strength to vote for a lame, DLC corporatist Democrat to decrease the chance that those men won't soon have control of the White House with a pliant Republican House majority.

Choose wisely.

SECOND VERSE, SAME AS FIRST

Posted in Quick Hits on March 16th, 2016 by Ed

If you're looking for interesting non-fiction reads you could do substantially worse than Vincent Cannato's American Passage: The History of Ellis Island. It gives a good historical overview of the island itself but, more interestingly, a tour through 19th and early 20th Century nativist / anti-immigration movements in American politics.

The striking thing is to compare historical examples to the modern equivalent on full-throated display through the Trump campaign. The rhetoric of anti-immigration rabble-rousing has not changed in 150 years. Not one bit. A simple ctrl-F find and replace for the relevant nouns – Irish, Italian, Oriental, Mexican, A-rab, etc. – would fit the material seamlessly into any period in American history. And this is true across classes as well, from the highbrow arguments about "stock" and "moral tone" from your Henry Cabot Lodge / National Review types to quasi-economic "They Took Our Jorbs" rhetoric to the lowest kind of racism and xenophobia. The modern anti-immigration movement is the latest iteration of an ideology that hasn't had a new idea in two centuries. If the "terrorist" angle feels new, refresh your memory on what "anarchist" meant in the context of Gilded Age politics.

Most ideas evolve over time, if only incrementally. You almost have to admire the immutability of xenophobic rhetoric. Almost. It's like the Rock of Gibraltar of being an asshole.