Now that the “superprepared warrior realist,” feminist superstar, and paragon of the mainstream left Hillary Clinton has “officially” secured the Democratic presidential nomination—thanks in no small part to a farcical and overtly corrupt primary process—Bernie Sanders supporters can prepare themselves for months of intensive sermonizing from agents of the American oligarchy who will scarcely bother to conceal their condescension as they politely disabuse us of our political illusions.
The formula is straightforward and naturally platitudinous. It’s been used often enough already to qualify as a cliché, but don’t expect that to give the Clintonoids a moment of pause. They will continue to push forward, doing their utmost to feign empathy with the quixotic “Berniacs” who over the past few months they repeatedly insulted with allegations of sexism, misogyny, racism and outright physical violence. Dismissing Sanders’ voter base as practitioners of one or all of the above was commonplace during the primary season, beginning with the specious “Bernie Bro” phenomenon, which sought to undermine Sanders’ legitimately populist image by highlighting chauvinistic comments (supposedly) made by a handful of his supporters on Twitter—that vaunted medium of sophisticated intellectual discourse.
“Bernie has a bro problem” the headlines gleefully read. It was a clever (that is, cynical, Machiavellian, cunning, etc.) means of diverting attention from his actual platform, the bottom line of which is equality across the board, and shifting it onto a nonissue that had exactly nothing to do with the candidate himself. And it was pretty effective. “Journalists,” “pundits” and “political commentators” righteously demanded that Sanders himself apologize for the “appalling” and “despicable” actions of his most ardent followers (Sanders, being the overly-obliging person that he is, actually did so).
Meanwhile, those same journalists, pundits and political commentators cried foul at suggestions that perhaps Mrs. Clinton should be made to answer for the vehement support she offered her husband’s destructive (and at times racist) policies when he was in the White House and she essentially served as co-president.
Putting the heat on Hillary for supporting her degenerate husband’s crime bill, welfare reform, “free trade” agreements, “humanitarian interventions,” etc. was actually a manifestation of our culture’s hatred of women; or so we were told by our liberal authorities. By tying Hillary to her husband’s atrocious record, we were denying her agency, holding her under the oppressive yoke of the fading patriarchy. Of course, few things could be more sexist than the argument a lot of Hillary’s acolytes deployed in defense of their queen: she was merely being a dutiful wife, going along with her husband; she can’t be held responsible. Talk about denying agency.
One would think that a woman who asserts that any allegation of sexual assault should be heard and investigated might have some hang-ups about staying wed to a man who has been accused of sexual assault by several women, one of whom maintains that Bill Clinton forcefully raped her. But this too is off limits—not because it’s sexist, but because it’s an old Republican canard. Since her story represents a threat to Hillary Clinton’s façade as a champion of women the world over, Juanita Broaddrick is accorded the same degree of credibility and respect that most accord Glenn Beck. Politics is a dirty business, indeed.
Getting back to the point, the people who maligned Sanders supporters as race-baiting women-haters are now, ironically enough, desperate for their solidarity. We must band together to slay the greatest evil this world has ever known: Donald J. Trump. That, of course, is the crux of the argument. But there’s also a sly attempt to take for granted that the arch-neoliberal and arch-neoconservative Hillary Clinton somehow shares important political ideas with Bernie Sanders. Absurd, to say the very least.
Take a recent column in the New York Times by liberal pundit Nicholas Kristof, titled “Sanders, Clinton and, er, President Trump?” It’s a typical patronizing appeal to Sanders voters in which the author takes a paternal tone with his target audience, issuing solemn warnings about the “liberal disenchantment” that supposedly led to the nefarious Republican regimes of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In other words, Kristof is going to do us all a favor and kindly tell us why we’re stupid and what we can do to redress that stupidity (“punditsplaining”?).
But first is the obligatory Bernie-Sanders-has-done-great-things spiel. “Bernie Sanders has had a stunning impact this year, helping set the political agenda and winning the passionate embrace of a demographic a quarter of his age,” Kristof writes, before calling Sanders a “socialist,” immediately raising questions about the author’s knowledge of basic economic/political concepts.
He wastes no time getting to the point, however, concluding his opening paragraph with the following injunction: “It’s time for [Sanders] and his followers to stop sniping and start uniting” behind Hillary Clinton. If they don’t, Kristof cautions, employing a bit of sophism, “they could help elect a man antithetical to everything they stand for.” First of all, as loath as everyone is to admit it, Trump is not antithetical to everything Bernie Sanders stands for; which is to say, the orange-faced demagogue has actually made a number of valid points while bulldozing his way through the GOP establishment.
For instance, Trump’s position on “free trade” is identical to Sanders’, and it happens to be the right one, as far as 99 percent of the American public is concerned. Sanders and Trump also converge on the issue of the United States’ inordinate funding of NATO (the enormous military alliance that specializes in provoking Russia and thus courting WWIII). At the CNN Democratic debate in April, moderator Dana Bash put the following question to Sanders:
“And just following up, Senator Sanders, Donald Trump also argues that NATO is unfair economically to the U.S. because America pays a disproportionate share. So how is what you say about NATO and your proposal different than his?”
To which the obvious and correct answer is: Why does it have to be different than his? But the question’s insinuation is equally obvious: Making common cause with Trump, regardless of how logical it is to do so, is going to be frowned upon, because Trump is Caligula reincarnated. Again, common sense tells us that Trump is right on the NATO question, but admitting as much is akin to hating Mexicans, so we have to pretend that our position is somewhat different, even though it’s exactly the same. A small but representative example of the media’s abiding manipulation of political discourse.
Back to Kristof, who writes that “in 2000, many liberals regarded Al Gore the way some see Clinton today, as a flip-flopper short on inspiration and convictions. So a small number voted for a third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, probably helping put George W. Bush in office.” Once again his point is diminished by the fact that the underlying assumption is wrong. People who criticize Hillary Clinton from the left don’t do so because they perceive her as a “flip-flopper” lacking conviction. They criticize her for her well-documented service to corporate power, her enthusiastic support for Israeli atrocities, her insane hawkishness toward Russia and her predilection for killing innocent people with bombs, among other things.
That aside, the notion that voting third party is a reckless and ultimately dangerous decision is losing its cogency, if it ever had any to begin with. Third-party voters—and hopefully there are many more of them this time around—understand that meaningful change in this country presupposes a subversion of our inveterate two-party (or two-factions-of-the-same-party) political system. By “holding your nose” and voting for Wall Street’s vetted candidate, you are casting a vote for the system itself, and you’re hindering real progress. And all for the sake of… what, exactly? Expediency? It’s always rich to hear establishment pundits charge the #NeverHillary crowd with myopia. Nothing could be further from the truth. In trying to establish a viable third party, one not subservient to the economic elite, these voters have an eye to the distant future, one in which the U.S. actually functions as a democracy. How short-sighted of them!
An article aimed at bringing disobedient Sanders supporters into the Clintonoid fold wouldn’t be complete without a list of issues on which Clinton and Sanders allegedly agree. Thus, Kristof informs us that, in addition to a number of social issues, the two candidates see eye to eye “on Wall Street excesses, income inequality and college debt.” It shouldn’t be necessary to deconstruct the forgoing assertion, such is its inanity. Enabling Wall Street excess is Hillary Clinton’s raison d’être, hence the necessity of articles like Kristof’s, the central purpose of which is to convince us otherwise.
“I understand the passion and heartache of [Sanders’] followers,” Kristof concludes, “but I watched such idealism help elect Nixon and George W. Bush, and I flinch at the thought of similar idealists this year helping to elect a President Trump.”
Who says Sanders supporters are heartbroken? “Pissed off” might be the better descriptor, on account of the undemocratic fashion in which presidential nominees are elected in this country. Furthermore, the repeated use of “ideal” and its derivatives in this context (not unique to Kristof’s column) is significant: it implies that to desire a political system that works for 99 percent of the population is to dimly give oneself over to an impossible fantasy—just the sort of notion, incidentally, our corporate masters would have us adopt. So here’s a modest appeal of my own: Don’t fall in line.