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Dealbreakers and Dreaming of the Good Republican

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bernie-sandersAbove: neoliberal sellout, probably to the right of the last real liberal president Richard M. Nixon

I basically agree with the overall thrust of DeBoer’s intervention into the Sanders-and-feminism debate. Obviously, Clinton has been subject to all kinds of sexist abused and criticism, some of that is inevitably going to come from Sanders supporters, but most Sanders supporters are not sexists and there are reasonable ideological reasons to prefer Sanders to Clinton. (I also recommend Rebecca Traister’s argument from the other end.) I can’t resist, however, pointing out one of the strangest tropes to become a thing among the leftier-than-thou set:

What’s not strange is that, as a socialist, I would not support Hillary Clinton, who is to the right of Richard Nixon.

Omitted: a single issue on which Hillary Clinton is to the right of Richard Nixon, let alone a full comparison that would show Nixon far to Clinton’s right. (Nixon only vetoed some of the environmental legislation that massive veto-proof majorities of a Democratic Congress put on his desk! Oh for the days of real liberals in the White House!) We’ve been through this many times and I won’t go through it in detail again, but since it’s of particular relevance to the upcoming election, let us consider Nixon’s first choices as Supreme Court nominees: William Rehnquist, Warren Burger, Lewis Powell, and Clement Haynsworth. He got only 3 out of 4, but this was enough to do stuff like effectively overrule Brown v. Board. Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees would be justices like Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. SPOILER: these justices would be well to the left of William Rehnquist, fairly reflecting the ideologies of both nominating presidents.

But the strange tendency of allegedly tough-minded leftier-than-thous to fantasize about imaginary Republicans who are better than contemporary Democrats aside, at least deBoer is talking about not supporting Clinton in the primaries, which in itself is fair enough, right? Alas, things started off on an even sillier level:

To begin with, I have repeatedly and publicly said that I won’t vote for Bernie Sanders due to his stances on Israel, immigration, and guns.

I…what can you even say? Bernie Sanders — far enough to the the left as to, as Traister says, be significantly less likely to win the White House than Hillary Clinton if he got the nomination — is not left-wing enough to be a Democratic nominee worth supporting? This isn’t unprecedented — Naderites ran a third-party candidate against noted neoliberal sellout Paul Wellstone, remember — but this doesn’t make it any less unserious. And even leaving aside the fact that “dealbreakers” don’t really make any sense in the context of electoral politics, these dealbreakers are highly uncompelling. What practical difference would Bernie Sanders being a wet on gun control (while representing a tiny rural state in Congress) make? Do you think he would veto any of the zero gun control bills Congress would pass in his first term? Seek out liberal judges specifically because they support Heller? Do you think anyone who gets elected president of the United States is going to eliminate American aid to Israel or get well to the left of Sanders (who supports a progressive version of comprehensive reform, the DREAM ACT, and expanded DACA) on immigration? Do you think these differences are enough to be indifferent about Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz becoming president of the United States, likely with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress? (There would be a lot of heightened contradictions, I’ll give you that.)

Look, if your support for the leader of a major brokerage party that has to assemble a national majority coalition is conditional on the candidate having positions that are identical to yours, you really should stop paying attention to (and certainly forget writing about) electoral politics and spend your time worshiping at the altar of a stagnant pool instead.

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