Mr. Shane Ryan has a reiteration of his very special arguments for intentionally throwing the 2016 elections to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz should Bernie Sanders not be the Democratic nominee. His central argument — a little of the ol’ heighten-the-contradictions isn’t so bad if you assume that the incumbent president in 2020 has a 0% chance of being re-elected — is self-evidently silly, and you require further elaboration as to why you can click the handy link above. I did, however, enjoy this response to an increasingly salient objection to this strategy:
GODDAMIT, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SUPREME COURT SEATS UP FOR GRABS. IF WE LET THAT DEFINE HOW WE VOTE, WE WOULD NEVER, EVER MAKE ANY PROGRESS IN THIS COUNTRY. THEY’RE ALL OLD! ALL OF THEM! THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN OLD, AND THEY WILL ALWAYS BE OLD! YOU KNOW THIS MERRICK GARLAND DUDE THAT OBAMA NOMINATED? HE’S 63. THAT’S A “NEW” SUPREME COURT JUSTICE. THAT DUDE COULD DIE. AND SURE, WE COULD ALL DIE, AT ANY MOMENT, BUT HE’S LEGITIMATELY OLD ENOUGH TO DIE IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE.
STOP TRYING TO STRONG-ARM SANDERS SUPPORTERS INTO VOTING BECAUSE SOME SUPREME COURT SEATS MAY BE UP FOR GRABS. JUST STOP. THEY ARE ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS UP FOR GRABS. YES, SOME OF THE JUSTICES MIGHT DIE. YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE MIGHT HAPPEN? NONE OF THEM MAY DIE. WE HAVE NO IDEA, SO WHY SHOULD THAT DICTATE OUR VOTE?
Leaving aside the fact that he treats a vacant and pivotal Supreme Court seat as a hypothetical rather than a fact, this is the kind of reasoning with which Homer Simpson has been making America laugh for more than 20 years. “If you consider one obvious horrible downside of my all-downside no-upside strategy, then we will never be able to put it into practice.” Somehow this doesn’t become more convincing when you type it in all caps. LGM has obtained an exclusive transcript from a brief period in which Ryan ran a medical advice chat:
Q: I have a peanut allergy. I was wondering how best to avoid…
SR: LOOK, IF YOU WANT TO MAKE ANY PROGRESS STOP BRINGING UP SO-CALLED “ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK”! IF YOU CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT, HOW WILL YOU EVER BE ABLE TO EAT A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH?
Q: But I can’t even afford an epipen right now and…
SR: TELL BIG ALLERGY TO STOP TRYING TO STRONG-ARM YOU INTO BUYING THEIR DRUGS. GO OUT AND ORDER A PAD THAI WITH EXTRA CRUSHED PEANUTS. I HAVE AN EXCITING NEW THEORY THAT IF YOU EAT LOTS OF NUTS NOW YOUR ALLERGY WILL MAGICALLY VANISH IN 4 YEARS! TRY IT OUT AND LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES.
SR: WHERE DID YOU GO? I ALSO HAVE AN EXCITING THEORY ABOUT HOW THE RIGHT PRESIDENT COULD FORCE A REPUBLICAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO END ECONOMIC INEQUALITY AND CURE CANCER IMMEDIATELY!
Moving away from this particular brand of nonsense, there is a broader point to be made here. This kind of thinking can be found everywhere in politics, but a minority of Sanders supporters seem to have the idea that politics should be the immediate boring of wet tissue paper. If Sanders does not win the nomination, it proves that trying to change politics through the primary process is futile, and so the only possible alternative is a course that has an extensive track record of failure and no practical or theoretical path of success. This also reflects, of course, a president-dominant assumption (one, again, that is found everywhere on the political spectrum) that the way parties change is through top-down leadership from a president or presidential candidate. This assumption remains common although at least on the left side it’s happened exactly zero times in American history. (Lincoln, FDR, and LBJ were all from the moderate faction of the party before assuming office.) This doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try — and 2016 presents a unique opportunity for someone perceived as being well to the left of the political spectrum to still be favored in the general. But the idea that the only possible way of moving American politics to the left is to get an optimal presidential candidate in any particular election doesn’t make any sense, and that goes double for an election in which neither Sanders’s “political revolution” nor Clinton’s pragmatist incrementalism are going to make any headway with a Republican House.
Another thing with the taking your toys and going home flounce is that it understates what Sanders has already accomplished. He was always a massive longshot to win the nomination. Clinton was one of the strongest frontrunners in the history of the contemporary primary process, and a 74-year-old white guy from a small, unrepresentative rural state isn’t the ideal candidate on paper to make a challenge from the left. And yet, he’s been more successful than anyone could imagined, and successful in a way that will make a real difference in the party. This is a long game, not a short one. Forget heighten-the-contradictions nonsense — keep up the fight for Bernie and ensure that he shows strength through June. And then think of how the political energies he’s unleashed can effect political change at every level. The 2016 Democratic primaries aren’t the end of the struggle (and wouldn’t be even if Sanders won.)