GELFAND’S WORLD--Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, and a bunch of people instantly lost their minds. We're seeing pleas to support a minor party such as the Greens, or simply not to vote. The argument is all dressed up in the language of rejecting having to choose between the "lesser of two evils," but it's ultimately a version of political narcissism. Rather than support Clinton, a candidate who is viewed as too imperfect to be worthy of anything but scorn, we are being asked to join a revolution of the small minority in the hope that it will explode into a majority, even if nothing like that has happened since 1789. Well, in the spirit of ultimate irony, this is coming to a head on Bastille Day, even if it's 2016.
Permit me to remind you that the last time something like this whole formulation succeeded, we got George W. Bush as president for eight years. We got a forever war and a devastated economy. We're still recovering from the Bush recession after nearly eight years, and we're still at war. Was getting revenge for not having Ralph Nader on the Democratic Party ticket really worth it?
Because this self-defined progressive group views Hillary Clinton as no better than any other politician, we are being asked to commit a giant act of political vandalism, taking a chance that we will get something (and someone) truly evil. The strategy relies on the off chance that the people who will suffer most -- the poor and the working class -- will react to their upcoming misery by rewarding the folks who put them into it. Yeah, sure, after eight years of Bush, the one thing I wanted most was to put Nader in control. Not.
The rejectionist argument seems to be that if enough people say No to politics as usual, then the political parties will eventually get the right idea. There are multiple problems with this logic, not the least of which is its profound distain for democracy. But that's just one little quirk. The main problem is substituting a utopian fantasy for making incremental progress. It's a perfect case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. And I'm not all that sure that the aspirations of the Bernie or Bust clan are all that perfect anyway.
The core of the argument comes down to one thing. It's whether or not we accept the fact that even modest improvements take time and struggle. The corollary is that the improvements we get are not going to feel entirely adequate. The reason is that there is a substantial bloc of voters who disagree with the liberal notion of public good. They will fight us all the way. They have always fought against progress.
Nevertheless, we won a partial victory in Obamacare. One commenter referred to Obamacare as the biggest Democratic innovation since the days of Lyndon Johnson. It's what has allowed some of the people I know to get health insurance and to have a doctor.
Just the other day, the National Labor Relations Board voted to improve the rights of people who work for large companies as chronic temporary employees. It's a huge deal, because they get less pay and worse benefits for doing the same jobs. The reform has been a long time coming, but it's here. And it would be in grave peril of being reversed should Clinton not be elected president.
As an aside, I would like to bring up one question for all the people who are so devoted to Bernie Sanders. If you are so trusting of him and his judgment, then why are you rejecting his judgment in this one thing, the endorsement of Hillary Clinton? The endorsement comes from the real, flesh-and-blood Bernie Sanders. What you seem to want is the plastic-idol version, an idealized Bernie Sanders who will stand atop the ramparts in an act of civil defiance.
No such luck. Sanders has been a politician most of his life. He understands how the Senate works, and by extension, he knows how political progress develops in the United States. In other words, the real Bernie is not the guy you're demanding.
There is also democracy itself to think about. More voters supported Hillary than Clinton. It's a fact. Bernie's supporters (and the Sanders campaign itself) have complained bitterly about the Democratic National Committee, claiming that they rigged the primary calendar to limit the number of debates and schedule them at awkward times. There may very well be truth to this, but let's remember that during the last couple of months of the primary season -- when Bernie Sanders was getting maximum exposure and news coverage -- that's when Hillary did the best in states like our own California. Losers can blame the process, often with some truth, but the last few months of the Democratic primary season did not merit such critiques. The voters had plenty of information available to them, and they made their choices.
There is a difference between believing in democracy as it is, and in hoping that some day, democracy will go your way.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected])