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Civilité, vacuité, malhonnêteté

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Man everyone hates Howard Schultz is running on a platform of “civility.” As is virtually always the case when an elite with far more wealth and status than relevant expertise is invoking the concept, it means “I can dish it out but I shouldn’t have to take it”:

But principally, Howard Schultz was being rude. In the tweet, and in a dismissive two-paragraph Medium post it linked to, his characterization of Medicare for All and its supporters was abusive and unfair:

With no way to pay for it, no chance of getting bipartisan support in Congress, and the potential for significant ramifications in treatment and innovation, this proposal confirms what we already knew: Sanders and the far-left wing of the Democratic party are out of touch with reality.

Being a leader requires making hard choices and being honest. Bernie Sanders’ plan does neither and only serves to advance a far-left agenda.

Rather than treating Medicare for All advocates as people with valid political interests, which should be incorporated into the balancing act of democratic governance, he presented them as illegitimate “far-left” claimants who are “out of touch with reality” and need to be forced out of the discussion.

And he did this right under a banner that said (in crummily kerned lettering) “civility.”

It is fine, in our political system, for a greedy billionaire to fight against universal health coverage for people who have less money than he does. It’s evil, but if it’s what he wants, he can advocate for that. It’s less fine, but depressingly normal, for him to make that argument dishonestly and incoherently, by framing a change in coverage as a loss of coverage, and by trying to argue simultaneously that Medicare for All is a serious threat and that it is politically impossible to pass. (His banner reads, in full, “honesty civility results.”)

But it is grotesque for Schultz to do this while he claims to be elevating the level of political discourse. There is nothing civil about his message. It’s a plain attack, smarmily packaging itself as something higher than an attack.

But in a sense, Schutlz is the perfect potential vanity wank candidate. One thing all third-party candidates for president have in common is that if they became president they wouldn’t be able to do anything. But Schultz isn’t really pretending he wants to do anything but engage in his mindless magical thinking about ending partisanship by fiat. And if he ends up fracturing Trump’s opposition just enough to ensure his re-election, well, that’s good news for his bank account!


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