osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Some reflections on the end of Primary Season

First, thank God that's over. Now we have the road to Philly (much more on that below).

Second, I will confess to my own tribalism and modest disappointment. I should have liked to have seen a Jew nominated for President. Given the demographics, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime -- if at all. But so it goes.

Third, What to Expect On The Road To Philadelphia. Both Clinton supporters (the Establishment Wing of the Democratic Party) and Sanders supporters (the Progressive Wing) face choices. Most critically, is this about unification or adulation. Are you willng to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goals, even if it means letting the other wing keep its dignity, declare victory, and never admit that you were right and they were wrong -- for all values of "you" and "they."

Before folks fly into paroxysms of rage or despair or whatnot over Sanders' statement that he will "continue the fight to Philadelphia," I urge reading the full quote and context. Sanders pledged to fight hard for delegates in D.C., and to "take our fight for social, economic, racial and environmental justice to Philadelphia."
Please note the deliberate ambiguity of the statement. Sanders will fight to win delegates in D.C. But it is the "fight" Sanders (and his delegates) will take to Philadelphia.
There is a lot that Clinton supporters can learn from how Tom Wheeler went from pet dingo of the cable industry to social hero of progressives for the Open Internet (a blog post I've been meaning to write). One of these thing is "try to actually LISTEN, and understand the signals from the other side."
In May of 2014, when Wheeler announced his initial proposal, the vast majority of progressives were utterly convinced the fix was in. But as the campaign progressed, it became clear that Wheeler was starting to shift. Progressives remained deeply suspicious, of course. Many doubted the "cable dingo" could become the fierce watch dog of the public good. But mood began to shift on the progressive side and we began to see more talk portray Wheeler as wavering between making the right decision on Title II v. the wrong decision rather than inherently corrupt.
A key point was a bit of street theater outside the FCC in (I think) September. Protesters staged a mock tug of war between "special interests" and "the people" with a mock Tom Wheeler in the middle pulled back and forth between the two sides while a chorus chanted a variation of the old union song "Whose Side Are You On?" ("Whose side are you on, Tom?") At the dramatic moment, "Tom Wheeler" stops wavering, stands up and loudly proclaims "I'm with . . . THE PEOPLE!!" [Cheers from the crowd!]
The message, for those who paid attention, was that Wheeler was being transitioned from a villain to a hero. Yes, there were still a lot of activists who were convinced that Wheeler could not be trusted and lusted to do the bidding of his cable masters. But it was a signal that the pro-Title II forces could unify behind the FCC if they did the right thing.
Sanders' comments about taking "the fight for [various flavors of] justice" needs to be read in the same vein. It is deliberately ambiguous because getting concessions on policy issues requires a credible threat that Sanders may "pull a Kennedy" and play spoiler at the convention. But because Sanders has things to gain for progressives, he has incentive to reconcile and come into the tent.
I can hear the Sanders floor speech now, referring back to these words. "I promised you I would take the fight for [various flavors of] justice to Philadelphia, and here we are! The Party platform is the most progressive it has been since Johnson or Roosevelt. Blah blah list of accomplishments. Now, we must come together to break the greatest glass ceiling of all by electing Hillary Clinton as President of the United States! [cheers] But after the election, our fight for various flavors of justice will continue. [Exhortation to crowd to continue the political revolution. Dire warning to anyone, Republican or Democrat, who tries to thwart the 'political revolution'.] [This last will lead to endless media frenzy over whether Sanders "did enough" or "undercut his message," and prompting endless grumblings and speculations from those who don't like the Democratic Party moving left.]
Which brings me to my own dire warning to the Clinton folks.
First, take a victory lap. You earned it. For those who feel moved by a woman finally being the nominee of a major political party, rejoice and savor. It is a major win and a major change. We have hopefully laid to rest the idea that we as a society are somehow "not ready" for a woman to be President. Certainly, as Obama's presidency has shown, it will bring all the haters and whack jobs out in even fiercer droves since -- like ISIS when they are losing the war -- desperation will amplify their hatred and misogyny. But as Hillary Clinton herself would undoubtedly be the first to say: part of the challenge and courage of being a pioneer is facing down that hatred.
But now there is a choice. Do you want *unification* or *adulation*.
Because if you want unification, then you are going to have to le the Sanders folks talk themselves into it. That means even when Sanders supporters say the most horrible, terrible untrue disrespectful things and continue to insist that Bernie, not Hillary, is the true progressive, champion of the people, and would have won but for the way in which the entire system is "rigged" against outsiders who don't knuckle under to the Establishment -- YOU LET THEM RAMBLE ON. As long as the conclusion is "but we have forced Hillary to the left, and our constant pressure and vigilance will make sure that she and her Administration keep their promises, so we will all work together to defeat Trump and get her elected."
At most, limit yourself to a sarcastic remark and the warm inner glow of winning.
"But that's so not fair." Right. It's not. But you're supposed to be the pragmatic grown ups, remember? That means welcoming the progressives to the fight to elect Hillary (or at least defeat Trump). It means letting them take credit for all the things you Clinton supporters know in your heart that Hillary really deserves credit for. it means letting them say all manner of terrible things about Hillary even after Hillary won. Because this is about unification and winning in November, not about adulation and getting all those who nasty progressives to finally admit they were wrong and you (and Hillary) were right and didn't we tell you so.
"But Obama didn't have to!" Actually, Obama did. That was the whole party unification thing. Obama warmly embraced Hillary, praised her campaign and welcomed her support. And Obama was gracious about it despite a very nasty campaign in which Clinton had painted Obama as unfit for the Presidency due to youth and lack of experience, and where many Clinton surrogates had stooped to playing on racism. Because the Obama people were about winning and Obama was still doing that Lincoln thing about not holding grudges and stuff.
In saying all this (which is not different from anything else I said over the last several weeks), I also have a dire warning for the Sanders supporters. There is an opportunity here to create real change in the Democratic Party, which is the most efficient way shaping U.S. policy (as opposed to creating a third party). That means finding a way to unify with the Establishment Wing. The Establishment Wing legitimately represents a majority, or at least a massive plurality, of the Democratic Party. Progressives must recognize this political imperative in the same way the Establishment Wing must recognize the political imperative to unify with the progressives. If I may permit myself one geeky reference -- this should not be a meeting between the religious caste and the warrior caste under the Star Wheel, where one side surrenders and the other side emerges out of the fire triumphant. This needs to be a negotiated settlement around which both wings of the party can rally.
First, I remind Progressives that Clinton cannot control all of the people around her -- whether they are her troop of clueless, vindictive Maenads wandering all over social media, the members of the Democratic Party establishment who do not want the party to move to the left, or the punditry actively trying to keep a storyline of internal conflict alive for the rest of the election. Because progressives also have a choice -- what is the best way to advance the goals of the progressive movement?
Certainly I agree with statements Nora Rivkis and other Sanders supporters on my f'list have made about wanting someone who has a long and proven record of sharing the same ideals and goals -- especially when that record includes a time when these ideas were heretical rather than fashionable. The question is whether Hillary and the Democratic Party establish can, in fact, earn your vote. And yes, I recognize that She -- but even more importantly They -- must actually earn it and not assume it or try to pressure it from fear of Trump. Taking the fight for [various flavors of] justice is not symbolic. It is not something to be satisfied with platitudes and a floor speech. There must be clear and real reason to believe that a Hillary Clinton Administration will look like it was assembled by the Hillary Clinton now embracing the Fight for Fifteen, opposing TPP, and breaking the cycle of incarceration.
But that is the purpose of the fight. Remember, this is not a cult of personality around Sanders. It is a movement for political revolution that is designed to reverse the "conservative revolution" of the previous 30+ years. The goal is to require centrists like Clinton to evolve, to make the cause of social, racial, economic and environmental justice mainstream rather than insurgency. If it is impossible to believe that the Democratic Party is capable of shifting left, then progressives need to abandon the pretense of reforming the Democratic Party and start a genuine third party.
Because the fact is that Hillary did win the majority of Democratic primary voters. We can argue over whether the voter problems had disproportionate impact on Sanders (and we exposed in this primary a large number of systemic defects that need to be corrected before the general election in November.) (Looking at you Arizona and NY!) We can argue over whether being the candidate of the establishment gave her significant advantages. But even when everything is taken into account, even if die hard Sanders supporters believe that under different rules and circumstances Sanders would have won a majority, the fact is that the Centrist wing (or if you prefer establishment wing) of the Democratic Party is AT LEAST as big as the progressive wing (if not slightly larger). These are *exactly* the people who need to be persuaded by progressives that we must actively embrace the importance of collective action through our elected government to build infrastructure for all, actively work to reduce inequality, and make the promise of our democratic society real.
So like Hillary supporters, Bernie supporters face a choice. Is it about unification around reform or adulation? if it is about advancing and continuing the political revolution, than that means knowing when and how to take a victory. Sanders gained his reputation as "the amendment King" in the Senate by playing this exact game. He knew (and knows) how to take what wins you can today not because it is "settling" and being "pragmatic," but because today's wins are the foundation of tomorrow's wins.
So advancing the revolution means not getting personally insulted when you see people denigrating Sanders or his followers. It means you don't rise to the bait every time someone says something nice about Hillary. It means letting Hillary's supporters take their victory lap. It means distinguishing between Hillary herself and those around her with agendas. It means letting some insults and indignities jus roll off. Because the progressive movement and the political revolution are about achieving goals for the public good, not about feeling good by venting your feelings.
Passion is our rocket fuel. We embrace it. But it fuels us, not rules us. As progressives gear up to take the fight to Philadelphia, remember that the true prize is not wresting a Sanders POTUS nomination from a divided party but in moving a united party to the policies progressives have tirelessly championed for more than a decade.

Is this about unification or adulation? Is it about getting the right result, or about personally feeling good? That is the question both the Sanders wing and the Clinton wing need to make as the Democratic Party heads to Philadelphia.

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