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Morality Plays Need Cartoon Villains, Even if They Have to be Invented



I fully endorse everything Erik says about 1)the contest between two ideologically indistinguishable left-liberals over who will take a position whose importance tends to be vastly exaggerated, and 2)how re-ligating the primaries — from the perspective of support for either candidate — is both counterproductive and tends to turn people’s minds into mush.

This interview contains the reductio ad absurdum of seeing the DNC race through the prism of the Assassination of Saint Bernard Sanders by the Neoliberal Coward Hillary Clinton. Most of the words here aren’t really worth engaging with. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether Democrats are DOOOOOOMED stories will hold up better than the identical stories told about Republicans in 2008, and the argument that “Hillary Clinton sucks” is the only acceptable thing to discuss about the 2016 elections is obviously useless retrospectively (many variables determined the outcome of the election in addition to the limitations and tactical errors of the Democratic nominee) and prospectively (Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee in 2020, so problem solved!) But this is revolting:

You’ve got Keith Ellison, [who] in many ways is a very promising figure. He has an idea of remaking the party from the ground up and registering people to vote. Rebuilding the party at the base. Ellison is being challenged by Tom Perez, the secretary of labor under Obama — soon to be replaced by a fast-food executive. It’s all so grim. Perez is a guy who wanted to race-bait Bernie Sanders, but now is running against the black Muslim guy on some kind of white identitarian grounds — it makes no sense at all.


Right! It’s like termites eating the house from within. It’s about to collapse. Democrats were very complacent about it during the campaign. They were convinced that the Republican party was a “dumpster fire,” a party in meltdown. No, the party meltdown is their own. Ellison has at least a strategy for building from the bottom up. Perez is a top-down kind of guy. Very Clintonite. He pretends to be very pro-labor, but not really. We now just parenthetically see the SEIU, which has been a very important part of the Democratic coalition, about to cut its budget by a third.

Much of this — like the idea that there’s a disagreement between Ellison and Perez about whether it’s desirable to register voters — is just silly. The idea that Perez wanted to “race bait” Sanders is a ludicrous distortion of some banal political observations. But what’s appalling is the assertion that Perez isn’t “really” pro-labor. This is either risibly ignorant or flatly dishonest. As Erik has said, Perez is almost certainly the most progressive and effective Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins. He used his regulatory powers to advance the interests of labor in many important ways. (Of course, when your stock in trade is minimizing the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties at a time when differences are massive and getting bigger, ignoring this is crucial.) Before that, he was a very progressive and effective head of the Civil Rights Division. To assert that Perez is a phony who isn’t really pro-labor is an absolutely disgusting smear completely at odds with his record, as disgusting as portraying Ellison as an anti-Semite or claiming that Ellison isn’t a real midwestern populist because you know.

But, of course, since this isn’t really about who will be the DNC chair, anything as mundane as Perez’s actual record and actual positions is beside the point. Bernie is truth, Bernie is beauty, Hillary is the antithesis of truth and beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. In this context Perez and Ellison are just stock figures in an ongoing re-enactment of the 2016 primaries, and people engaged in this rather lame hobby will project what they need to onto the actors. If you need to morph Tom Perez into Rahm Emmanuel to make the fantasy more vivid, I guess that’s what you have to do.

Ellison and Perez are both excellent as American public officials go, and I have no idea which is a better fit for the (not really very important) DNC job. Symbolically, the fact that the head of the DNC is coming down to two candidates from the left of the party should make it clear that the question of whether the direction of the party should be left of 2008 and way left of 1996 has been settled in the affirmative. That some people on the left for whom despising the Democratic Party is a central element of their political identities will refuse to take “yes” for an answer shouldn’t distract the rest of us going forward.

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