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Politics as Tattoos, Revisited


Building on my post yesterday about the left approaching electoral politics like it approaches a new tattoo–an extremely individualistic expression of personal consumer values that avoids solidarity politics in favor of atomistic displays of individual virtue–let me link to this Shaun King article about how progressives responded to the Atlanta mayoral election when the Bernie-approved candidate failed to reach the top two for the runoff.

Anybody who knows Atlanta politics knows that Norwood is about as conservative as an Atlanta politician can get. She has sometimes voted for Republicans but has also voted for Democrats. She calls herself an independent but has moderate to conservative leanings. For instance, she proudly received the endorsements of the state and local police unions and bragged about this on the campaign trail. She seemed to outright refuse to denounce President Donald Trump on multiple occasions and struggled mightily to explain why multiple times. Her campaign treasurer, Republican Jamie Ensley, was an open Trump supporter. In a conversation in which she asked attendees to not record her, she was heard calling African-Americans felons and thugs. And like Trump, her voting base is nearly 80 percent white. She exists as a credible candidate in Atlanta because white voters back her so strongly.

Every single day, though, I saw self-proclaimed progressives attacking Bottoms. They wouldn’t always endorse Norwood, but they would actively and consistently tear down Bottoms.

Between the two available options, Bottoms clearly best represented the positions, policies, and people progressives should care about most. Yet at every single mention of her on Facebook or Twitter seems to get pushback from the left; some progressives will call her supporters a sellout, say they are supporting the Democratic establishment, and ask if they are being paid by the Democratic National Committee.

This is foolish. They speak as if the more progressive option was to support Norwood. It wasn’t — at all.

This is where progressives find themselves. When the preferred progressive candidate doesn’t win, either because they ran a bad campaign, struggled in the two-party system, or lacked the support they needed in other ways, progressives too often proceed to tear down the establishment candidate. I’m not speaking in code here about Hillary Clinton, either. I’ve seen this in races all over the country.

Progressives are terrible losers. And don’t get me wrong: I hate losing, too. I despise it. But when my preferred candidate loses, I simply don’t feel like I have the right to set the whole election ablaze. And that’s the rub for me. It’s far too easy for people who won’t be directly harmed by conservative policies and leadership to trash a Democratic candidate they didn’t prefer, at the risk of assisting their opponent. This isn’t me echoing the “If you aren’t for me, you are against me” style of politics. In primaries and large-field races, you should go hard for the candidate you love and support. But when you lose, a transition should take place.

Keisha Lance Bottoms is not perfect. Hell, if you thought Vincent Fort was perfect, you probably aren’t from Atlanta. But I have to be honest with you: Hating good candidates because they aren’t perfect is getting old. Critique their policies. Investigate their decision-making and financing. Do those things! But when a race comes down to a left-leaning Democrat and a right-leaning conservative, stop pretending like they are one in the same. Stop acting like the Democrat has cooties. Stop acting like you are so holy that you can’t lower yourself to vote or support a person endorsed by the establishment.

This type of thinking loses important elections and puts real people in harm’s way.

Right. The idea that both parties are the same or that two candidates are basically the same because you are mad that your candidate lost affects people’s real lives. The difference between Bottoms and Norwood is really big and quite realistically could have cost people’s lives if the latter had won. The difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was vastly greater and we already know that people are dying because of Republican governance who would not have died under a Democratic administration. But when you have idiots such as Rania Khalek actually making arguments that Donald Trump is a better and more humane person than Hillary Clinton and getting real attention for doing so, you have someone who is indirectly responsible for all the terrible things happening in the United States during this horrifying administration.

Voting is not about virtue signaling. It’s about protecting as many lives as you can, voting for the candidate who will help the most people and hurt the least people. That usually means making compromises, sometimes holding down your bile, and always choosing a lesser evil because we all have evil inside of us that power will accentuate. The sooner the left learns how to apply the politics of solidarity to general elections and they sooner they stop parading around their virtue like their new tattoo, the better off we will all be.

What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is solidarity. A lot of people on the left throw around the word, but not with any clear definition. Solidarity is not people sacrificing to support you. Solidarity is you sacrificing to support others. In the case of an election, it means that you have to put away your own anger and make the choice that hurts the least people.

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