Some on the left seem to make it their mission to invite the contempt of others. I’m always reminded of an appearance by the late Harvey Pekar on David Letterman’s show, decades ago. Pekar’s message could be boiled down to, I’m the left, and you all suck. Ah, politics. Winning friends and influencing people! His hatred was pure! Some on the left fall prey to this, if only occasionally.
Me, I need all the friends I can get, and not just because of my sad personal life. As a politically-interested person, I want people to like me enough to take an interest in the political jive I am dishing out. So I have to wonder about what is sometimes referred to as “call-out culture.” This culture consists of poisonous tweets, back and forth, between partisans of one or another candidate. Some of these exchanges have resulted in people losing their jobs. Online debates, and tweeting especially, affects the personality, like those “You’re not you when you’re hungry” commercials.
I don’t want to go out on a limb here, but I suspect none of these battles change anybody’s mind about politics. In 140 characters, the scope for reasoned argument is lacking. Little edification is forthcoming. So why engage? I could identify with some Old Testament desire to mete out an eye for an eye, but that ought to get tedious very quickly.
Clinton partisans have fomented the legend of the Bernie Bro. Bernie’s followers are held to be overwhelmingly white, male, and abusive in social media. Examples are easy to find, but all such evidence amounts to anecdata. The vitriol actually flows in both directions. With real data, it has been well-established that the whiteness and maleness of Sanders’ supporters follow strong regional and age-based patterns. The Clintonoid gloss extends to the voices of minority and female Sanders partisans, who speak of being ‘erased.’ (If you look, you can find them. It isn’t difficult.)
Naturally, the Bernie Bro story dovetails with the spurious substitution of race and gender for class discussed previously. It is the most vapid of policy arguments. Out of a variety of motives, it has become the stock in trade of a squadron of (neo-) liberal pundits. I suppose the most charitable explanation is that such people feared a Sanders nomination would doom Democratic electoral prospects. They were in the tank for Clinton, but with the best of intentions. Sad thing about politics: it can lead you to really fuck over your friends.
Absent the powers of mind-reading or psycho-analysis, speculating about motives is not a productive line of inquiry. The upshot is clear enough. The stigmatization of Sanders supporters was one low-down form of political warfare in service to the Democratic Party’s chosen heir to the presidential throne, incidentally casting discredit on the social-democratic policies these same pundits claim to always support.
One might imagine that the Clinton campaign might welcome challenges from the left, the better to stress its moderate bona fides. Advocacy of social-democratic policies ought to magnify the reasonableness of less radical proposals. When such challenges grow formidable, however, the imperative of political supremacy – control of the Democratic Party’s brand – wins out. The strategy of the elites becomes one of rule or ruin. I do acknowledge that the Clinton campaign has shown some restraint, if only out of self-interest; they need Bernie’s voters in November.
Delegate allegiances notwithstanding, the Sanders uprising remains in place and may be cultivated. In reality it is multi-racial and embraces both genders. It seems to have especially roused Arab-Americans and Native Americans, heretofore neglected voices in our politics. In general, the working class itself is become increasingly composed of minority group members.
What will our neoliberal anti-racist/sexist crusaders say in the face of future labor upsurges led by African-Americans and Hispanics?