Y’know, I hadn’t really intended to post politics on this blog, nor had I really expected to kick off the blog with a political post. But after reading Barney Frank’s hit piece on Bernie Sanders at the Politico, I simply felt the need to explain a few things to those Democrats who clearly don’t understand Sanders’ appeal to the base, and who have (as in that piece) begun the push toward what will surely become a more shrill demand for support for Hilary Clinton as time goes on.
Don’t get me wrong — for me and many of my friends here in Ohio (and other battleground states), we’ll support Hilary when we (likely) have to in the general election. The possibility of SCOTUS nominations is too important to us not to. That said: It’s just as important that centrist Democrats finally Get It, if they’re to have any hope of winning the next election — because past history (and hectorings) tends to show that they don’t Get It at all. And what they don’t Get is that history shows us time and time again that Democrats don’t win unless the progressive base comes out to vote for them.
Let me repeat this, for it bears repeating: Democrats don’t win elections unless the progressive base comes out to vote. And Hilary Clinton is going to have to project something better than “least worst” if she’s going to inspire the progressive base to come out and vote for her.
Frank makes a valiant effort to pump up Hilary’s record in his Politico essay, arguing that she was on Obama’s left during her 2008 campaign. But he devolves into the same rhetoric that centrist Democrats tend to fall back on: that the progressive ideals that might lead one to vote for Bernie are just so much “wishful thinking.” To give him credit, Frank is the “good cop” on this front: the centrist “realpolitik” rhetoric which is sure to follow will no doubt stop just centimeters short of Emmanuel Rahm’s evaluation of the progressive left as “fucking retards,” as it usually does.
So let me say it once again: Democrats winning an election without the base’s help is wishful thinking. That, friends, is the brutal realpolitik Democrat centrists have been digging in and hiding from since at least 2000. And it’s time to put an end to that hiding — look where it got them, and the rest of us, in 2000-2008, after all.
Why does Bernie Sanders appeal to the base? Because he’s in tune with their values (which, poll after poll tends to suggest by the way, is also the values of the majority of the American people). Call it wishful thinking if you must, O “pragmatic” centrists, but understand: This is who you have to appeal to if you want to win elections. The “undecideds” and “centrists” cannot and will not help you, no matter how you try to court them.
Perhaps it isn’t fair to judge Hilary by her husband’s record. Perhaps Hilary has always been on the left of even her husband (who, you’ll remember, supported such things as the Clipper chip, DOMA, and NAFTA, and signed off on the repeal of Glass-Stegal). Perhaps — but as so many of our parents told us growing up: “Life isn’t fair.” Hilary is going to have to find a way to take a page from Obama and sell herself as being at least somewhat in tune with progressive concerns, no matter what her actual voting record is.
This is what centrist Democrats seem to fail to understand: Obama campaigned using the language of progressives, and as a result, progressives got out there and quite literally drove voters to the polls to vote for him, especially in those states — like mine, Ohio — where the rules about absentee votes made early voting a possibility. It was the idealists that delivered that election for Obama, even if his actual voting record wasn’t, in all honesty, all that progressive.
Reality check: do you see people driving voters by the vanload to the polls for Hilary? Yeah, I don’t either, at least not right now. This is realpolitik talking, O centrist pragmatists — those who hath ears, let them hear.
Yes, yes, yes, there are some parts of the progressive base who have come to the conclusion that there isn’t any significant difference between the two parties — and for the moment, they’re still damnably silly to say so, if only because of Supreme Court nominations. That said: the onus is on the “pragmatists” of the establishment to convince them there’s a difference. Emphasis: “convince.” Not “hector, harry, and condescend,” which tends to have the opposite of the desired effect.
No, it may not be fair. But that’s the realpolitik of the situation. And the “pragmatists” can either accept that as fact and work with it, or continue to berate the base, as they have in the past, with predictably similar results — loss after loss. And the blame for it will, whether they care to admit it or not, rest with them, not with Bernie Sanders, nor with his supporters, if that’s the path they choose.