Confronting an Obstacle to Democratic Unity against Trump and the GOP

Confronting an Obstacle to Democratic Unity against Trump and the GOP

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A piece that I posted here a few days ago I posted also on another website, opednews.com. My work has been appearing on that site for over a decade (a total of 546 articles).

Opednews has has some virtues I appreciate: first, it is run by a very fine and good fellow (Rob Kall); and second, it has a lively culture of commenting, so that real discussions regularly break out. Not always wonderful, but often valuable. Generally well worth engaging.

The opednews community and I share some very important perceptions and values. But the mindset of the community as a whole is also different from mine in some fundamental ways. Although one way of describing the difference would be to say that“they are a good deal further to the left than I,” I don’t think that the right-left thing really captures what’s essential.

Let me put it this way: the difference between us comes out when I write about the Democratic Party, and some of its leaders, as something so much better than the alternative that it makes sense to support it.

Whereas I see the Democratic Party, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton as having some important virtues, even if they also fall considerablyr short of what I would ideally want them to be. Many of my interlocutors, when they compare the Democratic and Republican Parties, are of the “not a dime’s worth of difference” school of thought.

So whereas I see Hillary as a shade of grey, considerably lighter than any Republican alternative, some of them see her on the wrong side of a nearly black-and-white dichotomy.

Thus it was predictable that, when I posted that piece with the title, “What Bernie Should Do Now: Good for Bernie, Good for Hillary. Good for the Nation,” my essay would garner pretty much only comments that attacked Hillary, attacked the Democratic Party, and in effect attacked me.

My experience around these kinds of disagreements has given me no reason to believe that something will be accomplished if I engage their statements. (One such experience a couple of months ago left me despairing of the possibilities for rational discussion, and also feeling personally bruised.)

But I’ve learned over the years that it is very difficult for me to give up on people.

I find that I can’t really give up on my deeply conservative rural Virginia neighbors, for example. These are in many important ways good people, and they also have given  reflexive support to every Republican candidate and every destructive position their leaders take.

By now — after running for Congress here, and after observing my wife’s campaign for the state senate, both of us against truly deceptive establishment Republicans — I really should recognize that they are completely locked into the false picture they’ve been sold by the destructive political force that has taken over the Republican Party in our times. It would be entirely reasonable for me to give up on my efforts to change any of the minds within what I’ve called “The Uncracked Nut” of the Republican base.

But, nonetheless, I keep writing op/ed pieces, which are addressed to these people, using the only tool in my tool-kit – rationally argued demonstration of the truth about our political reality – and publishing them in the local newspapers.

I rely on some kind of faith that somehow if I really do show them the truth, at some level they’re going to take it in, and that it will slowly eat away at the chains that tie them to the Koch Brothers, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and the whole Republican Party. I act on that faith, even though I see no evidence that such hopes are well-founded.

And so also in that spirit, I wrote back to these commenters in the following way, starting with addressing a guy who was berating me for treating Bernie Sanders as a guy who most probably was not going to get the nomination.

I voted for Bernie. I’m rooting for Bernie. I also believe, as I argue in the piece above, that my advice may give him his best chance. The futures markets give him at best a 1 in 10 chance of getting the nomination, and I do not claim that I know better.

Whenever I post a piece like this, which is my attempt to point to the best way forward given the actual political realities and choices we face, I reliably get the kind of response that can be seen here on this thread. Namely, utter rejection of any path that accepts any joining forces with tainted powers. In this case, the “taint” is the flawed probable Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton. “No redeeming qualities. I will never vote for her.” No “lesser of two evils.” “Bernie or bust.”

When the Bushites were in power, I wrote against their unwillingness or incapacity to deal with reality. Reality, I argued, may be flawed. But it is the only thing we’ve got. And if we ignore it, it will come back to bite us.

The same is true for the left as it is for the right. Reality is what we’ve got. And we’ve got to deal with it.

I do not have any enthusiasm for Hillary. But the question is, as I asked [a previous commenter] above, “if the choice is President Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump, [are you] indifferent?”

According to my grasp of the probable scenarios of a President Hillary or a President Donald, and according to my sense of what a responsible morality has to say, to be indifferent between those two reflects either a misperception of reality or an abdication of moral responsibility.

My morality is based on what’s best for the world. Perhaps what I encounter here is a morality that is based, instead, on what maintains some sort of personal purity.

In a subsequent comment, in response to a “not a dime’s worth of difference” kind of comment about Hillary vs. Donald, I added:

You lump Hillary and Trump together. But consider this:

Let’s say that the Supreme Court vacancy is still there when the new president takes office. The Court is now split 4-4 between the more liberal and more conservative. We’ve seen what terrible things have happened from the Court during the 5-4 conservative majority. (e.g. Citizens United, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act). 

Can we not assume that Hillary would appoint someone who would vote with the four justices appointed by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

Can we not assume that Donald Trump would appoint someone who would restore the majority that the conservative corporatists had before Scalia died?

Does this not mean that at stake in a Hillary-Trump race would be whether the Court continues to be the reactionary force it has been now for years, or whether the liberals will have a majority for the first time in decades?

Wouldn’t that stake in the coming election, even if there were nothing else, be enough to warrant unifying behind whichever candidate — including Hillary– emerges as the Democratic nominee?

  • Southern Liberal

    Great post. I’ve encountered such situations myself ever since I started reading various liberal and progressive blogs.

  • True Blue

    I agree on efforts at unity and sticking it out; see Garrison Keillor’s take on fleeing Trump.

  • Anonymous Is A Woman

    Dealing with the purists frustrates me. Their hearts are in the right place. But their actions are detrimental. You are right that there is a moral obligation to vote for the person who will do the least harm. The least harm to the environment. The least harm to a woman in need of an abortion. The least harm to a minimum wage worker struggling to join a union that will fight for his/her rights and better wages. There are everyday battles we will lose if Trump and the Republicans win and keep Congress.

    But my best argument is that many of those same people refused to vote for Al Gore in 2000. Ralph Nader made the argument that Gore was a corporatist and there “wasn’t a dime’s difference between him and Bush.”

    But looking back: Would Al Gore had gotten us involved in a disastrous war in Iraq? Would we be facing ISIS today (they grew out of the destabilization of the Middle East caused by nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan)? Would we be hurtling toward an environmental disaster scenario caused by global climate change under a President Gore? Oh, I think not.

    Al Gore became a hero to the very people who voted against him only a few years after that 2000 election. But they should have known his dedication to environmentalism. Did they never read “Earth in the Balance” when it came out in 1992?

    Actions have consequences. Elections have consequences. And our earth, our women, our workers do not have the luxury of ideological purity. A lot is at stake, not least of which is the Supreme Court, where bad decisions have set us back. We have the chance to right that course now. How could anybody sit that out?