Garrett (garote) wrote,

A response to invite more discussion:

Another divisive image meme from the Bernie camp. Pass it along, if you want, I guess.

Bernie's popularity has risen by the sword of memes and zealotry, and it is now in danger of dying by the sword of memes and zealotry. You can claim that the other three remaining candidates - and/or their supporters - have behaved similarly, and you can find examples, but in terms of proportion, the Bernie camp has it all sown up. Do an undirected search of the major corners of the internet and see for yourself.

I'm especially annoyed by this specific meme. It reduces each of the four candidates to a single idea, each of them negative except Bernie, and those ideas conform with the defining narrative for the left, for this election cycle.

That narrative is usually expressed like so: Bernie is "revolution". Hillary is "corporate shill". Cruz is "religious nut". Trump is "racist hicks". On the left, all discussions, all memes, all editorials orbit this narrative. Almost everything everyone on the left says, conforms to this narrative.

But it's not a truthful narrative, it's just an emotionally convenient one. It lets people on the left place themselves on a nice high pedestal - with the Bernie supporters on the highest one - and lets them drop rocks on everyone below.

The simplest one first: Yeah, Ted Cruz is deeply religious. That's just about all the left knows about him, and for them that's enough. But he's also an extremely aggressively libertarian candidate. He wants to dismantle huge pieces of the government, and starve the remainder nearly to death. This - not his religious ambitions - is what makes him both a dangerous candidate and a weak and reviled one. He's still in the race mostly because of how deeply divided the Republican party is over Trump. And say what you will about the Republican party, but they have been carrying a torch for reducing the size and scope of the federal government - rather than expanding it - for decades. Even if the candidates they field with that platform don't survive the campaigning, at least they field them. Ergo, Ted Cruz.

An aggressively anti-growth candidate would never, ever appear in the modern Democratic party. The best you'll get is Bernie, whose ideas revolve around using "big government" as a necessary counterbalance to, and/or substitute for, the power of "big corporations" and the rich. It's worth considering that the more bloated the government - the more money it collects and redistributes - the more opportunity there is for large private organizations to divert that money under the table. But that's outside the leftist narrative this season.

Next: Trump is massively popular. Check out these disturbing general election poll numbers. Most of the working class on the right is in favor of him, and most of his support in general is working class. And they have their reasons. Left or right, government has been actively sabotaging their lives with inane subsidies, tax law shenanigans, conform-or-die regulations and deregulations, and yes, that subject Trump loves to beat on, trade agreements. But that doesn't square with the narrative, so that whole mass of people is mocked for "voting against their interests"; a dismissal with an underlying assumption: that these people are ignorant, bigoted, and racist. Take these ugly assumptions and spin up a whole picture from them, and presto, you get the Trump narrative: Fascist dictatorship. So convenient; so easy to dismiss.

His platform is mainly a love letter to large and small businesses and a gigantic pile of tax cuts, along with some ill-conceived immigration policy that would make Reagan barf. It's way more modern-era Republican than fascist. You could apply the label to his foreign policy: His website proudly floats the idea of deploying the navy into the South China Sea specifically to threaten China for the sake of trade, and that's got fascism written all over it, and is also a Very Bad Idea. But fold it in with the rest of his campaign speeches and professed policies, and the big picture becomes protectionism. It becomes anti-globalization. That's what excites his working-class base. Trump being champion of a liberal cause like anti-globalization is way too much for the narrative to handle. Would I call him a liberal? *snort* Heck no. Is this a liberal cause? Well, yes. It is.

And the most complicated one: Clinton is arguably the single most well-known female politician in the entire Western world. That means a whole lot of exposure - positive and negative. She is allied with one large SuperPAC ("Priorities USA Action") that has collected about 67 million in large donations, all intended to be spent endorsing her (the largest chunk being 6 million from George Soros, boo, hiss.) A couple of other, smaller SuperPACs have collected for her as well. Aside from this, she has her own official campaign, which has collected 180 million in donations - about the same as Bernie.

Hillary has a long and winding history of fighting for progressive causes, especially in health care and education, but diverges from the leftist scorecard on a number of things, especially in the military and foreign policy. That's probably why she ended up being secretary of state (and a good one, IMNSHO). She has moved slowly to the left over the last 30 years but is still not categorically on the left, a state that is quite aggravating to people who like their politics black-and-white. Still, the idea that she is "in the pocket of big business" coalesced when Bernie entered the race, as the way to distinguish Bernie from her. Was Obama in the pocket of big business when he was elected? Nobody was saying so - yet his 2008 campaign donations by industry were pretty similar to Hillary's donations (including SuperPACs) right now. And if donations alone were enough to set the attitude of a president, shouldn't we all be championing Trump instead? (Well, no - Trump wears his jovial attitude towards big business on his sleeve.) Assuming Hillary in 2016 is the same Hillary from 2008, what's different this time around? Bernie, obvs.

I've been over her platform in other discussions, pointing out repeatedly that even if it's not as wholeheartedly leftist and progressive as Bernie's (excepting gun control), it's still obviously leftist and progressive. And I'll happily argue it again, if only for the point that "oligarchy" is not a fair or accurate summary of it. If she's too well integrated with the political scene for you, well, you might prefer Trump, who has never held any public office. If she's too pro-government for you, you might prefer Ted Cruz, who wants to hack the government up and burn it. If she's too pro-rich for you, which is an odd accusation given her platform, then I guess Bernie is your guy.

Just to be clear, I'd happily vote for Bernie or for Hillary. I'm a bit tired of Bernie's revolutionary anti-rich schtick and I'm deeply concerned about his ability to control spending, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. I'm also annoyed that Hillary had to "evolve" on issues that have seemed pretty clear to me all along, and I don't like the idea of a family dynasty any more than I liked it with Geroge Bush Jr. On the other hand I really like that she's the only candidate who is running a campaign without an obvious scapegoat. It's what I liked about Obama. Even if the most she'll ever promise is 8 more years of an Obama-style presidency, that sounds pretty good.

I don't like Trump's tax plans, or much of the rest of his platform, and I can't find anything to like about Ted Cruz. But still, dismissing these people with inaccurate one-word labels is no help to anyone. The Bernie campaign really needs to control its own smugness if it's going to maintain a head of steam.
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