Month: July 2016

‘What do you hope to accomplish with “Bust?”‘

Most of my interactions with Hillary supporters have been fairly negative. They’ve been insulting and condescending towards Bernie and Jill supporters, and I in return have no trouble hurling vitriol towards people who are being asshats. However, today I was asked a very polite question from a Hillary supporter. I gave a brief answer (Twitter does not lend itself to anything else), but I think it’s a legitimate question, and it should be given a detailed answer.

The question, as seen in the title of this post, regards what the Bernie or Bust movement hopes to accomplish with its ‘or Bust,’ that is, with our refusal to support Hillary in the general election. So here are a few things we seek to accomplish, or at least that I seek to accomplish.

1 OUR CREDIBILITY

We’ve said for months we would not support Hillary under any circumstances. What happens if we change our minds now, without any external reason to do so? After all, we always knew Trump might be the GOP candidate. We said we wouldn’t support Hillary against Trump. If we change our minds now, why would anyone believe us in 4 years if we say we won’t support the next (or the same) neoliberal corporatist the Democrats run for president? Ultimatums only work if we follow through, and ‘or Bust’ was an ultimatum. For the sake of our future credibility, we must follow through.

2 REFORM LIBERAL POLITICS

One thing that must be understood about Bernie vs. Hillary is that, unlike many primaries, it was not a primary contest to determine which candidate was better for implementing Democrat policies. It was a contest between two very different political platforms, with Hillary representing the Establishment Democrats, and Bernie representing a brand of liberal politics that honestly the Democrats generally oppose. Bernie tried to transform the Democratic party from within, making it move to the left. He failed. ‘Or Bust’ seeks to either 1. force Democrats to realize that if they want to win, they need to court the left in the future, or 2. to start an entirely new major political party, either a brand-new one, or by elevating an existing party such as the Green party to higher prominence. Indeed, there are enough liberal independents and liberal democrats that if we were to all band together, we would likely outnumber the remaining centrist and right-oriented Democrats.

Basically, if we keep voting for the Democrats no matter what candidates and policies they offer, things will never change. We demand change, either fundamental change to the party (which strikes me as exceedingly unlikely) or by creating a new party. We’re willing to accept that by refusing to fall in line with Hillary, we risk Trump. In the future, if Democrats are serious about avoiding GOP leaders, they’ll need to compromise with us. Alternately, we will go off to form our own party.

And speaking of compromise, Sanders was a compromise for many of us. For example, I fully support the points in Stein’s platform which involve forgiveness of all student debt, implementation of Basic Income for all, and changing our government to have proportional representation. I was willing to compromise with the Democrats and back Sanders, despite the fact that he did not back any of those points. It is unfair and inaccurate to characters Bernie or Bust as ‘unwilling to compromise.’ No, we were willing to compromise. But compromise has to go both ways, and we won’t compromise all the way to Hillary (Hillary is not even a compromise; she is the quintessential neoliberal candidate).

3 PERSONAL INTEGRITY

Even if we aren’t numerous enough to prevent a Hillary victory, we refuse to reward the Democrats for a primary filled with election fraud (exit polls in 11 states are well outside the margins for the UN to declare an election bogus, and all of them were in favour of Clinton) and unethical, possibly illegal, collusion by the DNC to sabotage Sanders.

In fact, even if I liked Hillary and her policies, I would not vote for her, not after the DNC leaks. Some might argue (even Sanders has said as much) that the DNC and Hillary are separate entities. Fair enough. But consider that Clinton, rather than condemning the exit poll discrepancies or the DNC collusion, has refused to say anything about the former, and hired Debbie, the former DNC Chair and one of the chief architects of the DNC’s sabotage of Sanders and promotion of Hillary. Whether Hillary was personally aware of what the DNC was doing is aside the point when she rewards the people involved by hiring them.

No, we have too much integrity and self-respect to reward the Democrats and Hillary for a victory that is tainted.

4 SOME OF US LEGITIMATELY PREFER TRUMP ANYWAY; MOST DON’T SEE ENOUGH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES TO REALLY CARE

This is a bit of a controversial one. But some Berners are not merely willing to risk Trump winning, we would actually prefer him. For most of us, this is at least in part because we believe a Trump victory would galvanize a liberal counter-movement. For some, like Cassandra Fairbanks (see her youtube video on Trump), it is because Hillary’s foreign policy is scarier than Trump’s. For some such as myself, it is because we trust Trump on trade more than Clinton (already, political insiders are saying they believe Clinton will flip back to supporting the TPP).

And no, we don’t like Trump’s racist or misogynist comments, but as one person put it, ‘Everything people fear from Trump we’ve already seen from Clinton.’ A wall with Mexico? Clinton VOTED for it. Screwing over poor workers? Clinton saw to it that Haitians could not get their minimum wage raised. Disastrous foreign policy? Clinton was the prime mover in destabilizing Libya and turning it into an ISIS stronghold. (For the record, I’m pretty interventionist, but only when we can actually control the situation with some kind of assurance). Anti-choice SCOTUS? Clinton picked Kaine, a pro-life politician, for her VP!

Trump would at worst be a bad president whose idiotic ideas would be blocked by a bipartisan congress that hates him, and we could oust him in 4 years and replace him with a real liberal.

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Yes, all lives matter – and deeper problems with intersectionality

Given the recent spate of violence against cops, particularly the Dallas shooting wherein white cops were targeted in a racist attack, there has been more discussion about Black Lives Matter, and how much responsibility they bear for this kind of violence. Obviously, the movement itself does not officially condone violence (insofar as any widespread movement can ‘officially’ do anything – these kinds of popular movements do not have the kind of official hierarchy that would allow for an official stance in the technical sense).

First, in terms of responsibility for the attacks, they likely bear as much responsibility has the right-wing politicians do for the Planned Parenthood attacks. But that is not the issue which I wish to discuss here. Rather, I want to discuss something else: the reactions that many left-wingers have to the response that ‘All Lives Matter.’

I recall that last year at NetRoots, a group of BLM protesters interrupted Gov. O’Malley as he was speaking, being incredibly rude and disruptive. Quite frankly, anyone being rude and disruptive in this manner should have been thrown out immediately, regardless of what they were protesting. However, O’Malley was very polite in response, agreed with them, and said, ‘Yes, of course, all lives matter,’ or something along those lines. This outraged the protestors. In defense of their outrage, one article argued that O’Malley’s response was like going to an event supporting a cure for breast cancer and saying ‘all cancers matter. To which there are two points:

  1. Is that really so bad? If I were speaking to a group of people interested in curing breast cancer, saying how bad cancer is in general doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
  2. And no, it is not like that. This was not a BLM event that O’Malley went to. He was a candidate for president speaking at a general political event, which deals with many problems, not just the problems upon which BLM wishes to focus.

A better analogy could have been made. Black Lives Matter is concerned with unwarranted violence against black people by the police. But this is not a fundamental problem; it is a symptom of two underlying problems. Those are 1. police who are willing to use unwarranted violence, and 2. racism among police. It is fine to focus on this particular symptom, namely the resulting violence against black people, but nobody should be offended when someone (including a politician like O’Malley) chooses to focus on these fundamental issues rather than on this one symptom.

So a better analogy, again using cancer: Suppose that a breast cancer support group goes to a pharmaceutical research company and asks them to research cures for breast cancer. Is it somehow horrible if the company responds with ‘Of course. We research cures for all kinds of cancer, because all cancer is bad?’ Certainly that is an appropriate response. There’s nothing wrong with a pharma company focusing on breast cancer, but there’s also nothing wrong with them researching cures for other kinds of cancer, either. In fact, if they were to find a cure for cancer in general, that would also solve the breast cancer problem.

Likewise, when someone says ‘black lives matter,’ and a person such as myself or O’Malley responds that all lives matter, we are saying the same thing, and it is ridiculous that anyone should be offended by this – especially when it is at a political event that is designed to deal with all the problems facing the country today, and not at a specialized rally for one special issue. Or more to the point: I do not care if anyone is offended by this response. I don’t want people harmed by unwarranted police violence, and I won’t pretend this is a uniquely black problem, even if it can be shown that it is worse for black people due to the problem of racism among cops (this is debatable, at least when it comes to fatal force: the NYT recently noted a study which showed that fatal force does not have a racial bias in policing, although other types of force do – but I have already been told by one SJW to stop citing this study, presumably since it doesn’t agree with their narrative). If we could end unwarranted fatal force in policing, we would have, in the process, solved the problem upon which BLM focuses. Ironically, if we could end racism, we would not ipso facto solve the problem upon which BLM focuses, since unwarranted force among police would still affect everyone. And if BLM fully succeeded, we would still have the problem of non-blacks facing unwarranted force from police (like the white man tortured to death in handcuffs by police, who then celebrated that their jobs were safe: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/georgia-cops-high-five-tasing-psychotic-man-death-video-article-1.2644038).

More generally, intersectionality has this problem of treating anyone who does not focus on the specific problems ‘in the intersection’ as though they are terrible people. Granted, when there are problems faced by group A and by group B, then those in the intersection A∩B will face all these problems, plus perhaps some problems that are unique to the group A∩B. But there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the problems of group A, without singling out A∩B for special attention. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the problems of A-B (those members of A that are not in A∩B) either. And there is nothing wrong with focusing on A∩B’s specific problems – however, it should be noted that often those problems are mere symptoms of the fundamental issues faced by groups A and B separately, and hence dealing with those fundamental problems is arguably more important. What is wrong is claiming that unless a person focuses ‘on the intersection,’ that they are somehow racist/misogynist/other -ist. And what is also wrong is pretending that solving the problems of A and the problems of B would not solve most of the problems of A∩B.