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How To Build A Strawman: Learning From the Master



Jamelle Bouie made an anodyne point about the mix of support for the Sanders campaign yesterday:

The point is neither difficult to understand nor should it be remotely controversial. Sanders voters are, on balance, more liberal than Clinton voters. But many Sanders voters (like Clinton supporters) are ideological moderates or don’t have coherent ideological views. Sanders’s margins in West Virginia, for example, were essentially identical among Democrats who ID as “very liberal,” “somewhat liberal” and “moderate,” and as has been widely discussed Sanders won among both voters who wanted policies more and less liberal than Barack Obama, although his margins among the former were larger.

The point is simply that you can’t impute a single, collective worldview to Sanders voters. It would be ridiculous to say that Sanders’s unexpectedly strong campaign doesn’t reflect an increasingly liberal Democratic electorate (which is reflected in the party moving to the left, even if to Freddie it’s always 1996.) It would also be ridiculous to claim that each and every Sanders voter — including those whose candidate preference order is Trump > Manchin > Sanders > Clinton > Obama — is screaming for MOAR SOCIALISM.

No point, however, can be simple enough to stop Freddie deBoer from what now occupies virtually all of his time on the internets, arguing with imaginary liberals:

This is a misreading in almost farcical bad faith. Bouie does not deny that there are people to his left. He does not deny that there are supporters of Bernie Sanders who are to his left. He does not deny that Sanders is to Clinton’s left. Bouie did not make the argument that deBoer attributes to him, for the obvious reason that nobody believes these things. It’s about as pure a strawman-burning as you’re ever going to find. He’s arguing with literally nobody.

And, of course, this is a close cousin to the argument that if you make the (unambiguously true) observation that white supremacy is a significant factor in explaining Trump’s capture of the Republican nomination, you therefore oppose policies that would help working-class voters. Needless to say, Freddie is also a big fan of this argument, and also needless to say has identified a grand total of zero liberals who have the views he attributes to them. He’s become so obsessively focused on arguments that everyone on the left of the American political spectrum he perceives as being to his right is Doing Leftism Wrong or is a closet conservative I’m not sure he would be capable of engaging with an actual argument with an actual liberal even if he wanted to. It’s all strawmen, all the way down.

And now, the punchline:

Projection is one hell of a drug.

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