Old Wars, New Generals
For the good of the country, we are often told, the infighting between liberals (or, as they are properly understood, the party of nice rich people) and the left must cease. Exactly which faction is supposed to lower its guns first is implicit, but so far they refuse to do so, having had a lot of experience with getting shot.
At the heart of this dispute is who, exactly, is still fighting the battles of the last Democratic primary. The Sanders-adjacent left are usually found to be the guilty party here, though I’m hard pressed to understand why: most of the leftists I know have moved on to facing the problems of the current administration of frauds and reprobates, while liberals seem over-focused on unlocking a largely imaginary Russian conspiracy to steal the election; doing so, they seem to believe, will somehow give the White House to Hillary Clinton, its rightful owner, rather than just sticking us with a Mike Pence who is president in name as well as function.
Of course, a lot of this is just internet beef, which is easily mistaken for the real world for those of us who have vowed to never stop posting and make Twitter our Tell of Megiddo. Reality, though, bears a much more uncomfortable resemblance to the internet than either side might care to admit: Hillary Clinton recently emerged from her deep-woods vision quest to engage in some Kremlin-bashing, while the tedious Bernie Sanders keeps on pushing the same old socialized medicine and free college he’s been annoying America with for decades. Polls show that the number of Democrats with a low opinion of Sanders is minuscule, but in life as on line, the people who hate him the most tend to be pundits, columnists, and other prominent media types who have louder voices and longer reaches than the average voter.
What’s particularly odd about the anti-Sanders liberals is the line of attack they use. Just as it is a matter of faith that young Donald Trump was recruited by a fresh-faced KGB agent named Vlad, it is taken as gospel that Sanders ignores the issues faced by women and people of color in favor of a white-bros-only socialism. This is in stark opposition to the politics of Hillary Clinton, champion of minorities and feminist superstar. Despite the fact that this was never even remotely plausible, even in the early days of the 2016 Democratic primary, it is lively enough in the minds of Clinton supporters that to this day they still use it as a cudgel against Sanders, who still has the tenacity to be proposing legislation as part of his job as a senator. Twitter heaves with the sighs of Clintonites who are so utterly sick of Sanders’ Caucasian-centered communalism (Hillary having been somehow promoted to non-white status, perhaps by virtue of being married to America’s real first black president); articles in major publications defend her record as a champion of the underrepresented. (It was recently argued that her notorious speech about “superpredators” was fine because she didn’t invent the term and certainly didn’t mean to apply it to children. The former claim is true without being particularly relevant; John Dillinger may not have invented bank robbery, but it’s fair to say that he practiced it from something of a bully pulpit. The latter is muddied somewhat by the fact that she used the word “kids” in the exact same sentence.)
It only takes a little examination to discover that the Democratic mainstream, addicted as they are to the politics of respectability and of valorizing lofty speech over practical action, is being terribly selective when they praise Clinton’s record in this regard. She isn’t responsible for the politics of her husband, of course, but she has long defended his decision to gut the poor with ‘welfare reform’, which hurt communities of color disproportionately. She disavowed his (and her own) role in the devastating federal crime bills of the mid-’90s only reluctantly, and they too were positively crippling to communities of color. Her tenure as head of the State Department was marked by a lot of flowery rhetoric about promoting women’s rights all over the world, but the most essential right there is — the right to live — was frequently abrogated as her continuation of America’s cruelly violent foreign policy cost the lives of tens of thousands of women. The family of Berta Cáceres would likely not be too impressed with Clinton’s commitment to women’s rights, and those who freely quote her e-mail dripping with concern for the young Yemeni girl devastated by the war there are awfully reluctant to admit that the war took place entirely on her watch and was hugely escalated, with American aid, at the behest of her good friends in Saudi Arabia.
In spite of all this, it is Sanders who receives the most criticism as being hostile to the interests of women and minorities, but given his record, it is hard to imagine that this criticism has any basis in reality other than his reluctance to throw America’s poor white population under the bus. Sanders’ record on civil rights has been unimpeachable since he first marched with Martin Luther King; he was even more welcoming to Black Lives Matters activists than was Clinton, who repeatedly treated them with scorn and condescension. He has the same 100% rating as Clinton does from Planned Parenthood, and supports fully unrestricted access to abortion, while Clinton hedges her bets about late-term pregnancy termination and chose Tim Kaine, hardly a champion of choice, to be her vice-president. As for the alleged white-cis-male-centered nature of Sanders’ socialism, it is hard to imagine how it can be defended. His universal health care and universal college programs are, well, universal; they will benefit literally everyone, but no one more so than poor women and people of color, who tend, for obvious reasons, to have less money and material resources than white men. It is unfathomable to me how blacks and women would not be helped by free college or Medicare for all, and yet many people make that very argument.
The reason this is important — the reason that we should care that the primary is still being litigated, and that we should insist that it be the Democrats who lay down their guns for once — is that it makes a very crucial practical difference. Sanders — still far and away the most popular politician in America, even among women and minorities — leads an energized and insurgent left, and he is proposing legislation that could cripple the vicious and hateful dreams of the Trump administration. Clinton, meanwhile, lost an easily winnable election, has tons of negative perception (for right or wrong), and is in no position to effect politics at all — and yet her Democratic party still treats her like a leader, and by most accounts is trying to quash the proposals of the Sanders left and ensure their establishment people remain in charge. If we want to win this war, and if we want to win it for everyone, women and minorities very much included, we have to eventually take the baton away from Field Marshal Haig.