Monday, November 28, 2016

Election 2016 Fallout Part 7: On the Non-Pragmatic Left

(7) On the "non-pragmatic" left.

First things first, this post was originally going to be about what I was calling "the far left." But, I'm not sure the people I'm talking about are actually more "left" or more progressive than Clinton supporters. Then, in light of the various rounds of "Hillary Clinton's pandering to identity politics lost her the election" think pieces, I was going to call them "the non-identity left," but of course that movement, too, is about identity, even if invisibly so (implicitly white, male, cis, hetero).

After more thought, the group I think I'm more accurately talking about is the non-pragmatic left. That is, people who do not seem to comprehend that in reality:
(a) people enter into positions of power while inheriting a set of circumstances that they usually are not responsible for creating - such as foreign entanglements, human rights crises, budget deficits -  but nonetheless must respond to; and
(b) being in a position of power necessarily means making some decisions that will hurt people and, yes, perhaps even lead to some people's deaths no matter what decision is ultimately made.
In the real world, one cannot simply say, "Wait, I don't like these circumstances or possible outcomes so I'm just going to go back to a previous save point and do things differently so I arrive at a different present set of circumstances so I can make a decision that corresponds with my political purity test."

Example from pop culture: In the re-imagined mini-series Battlestar Galactica, Laura Roslin is faced with an immediate moral dilemma soon after she is sworn in as President.  Various human survivors are floating around in spaceships after the Cylons launched a massive surprise attack. The Cylons have found the human fleet and could very well wipe them out with their superior technology. Only some of the human ships have technology that would allow them to flee, and the human military doesn't have the capacity to defend all of the human ships. Nor can the ships with better technology take on and support all the people from the older ships.

And so, Roslin is presented with the choice: Does she order all of the human ships to stay and fight together, possibly resulting in all of the remaining humans dying? Or, does she order the ships capable of leaving to do so, while leaving the other ships behind?

Neither option is "perfect." They both actually suck. People will die either way and people could also have valid critiques no matter which option is chosen. That's the tragedy inherent in the situation. There's no ideal outcome. When history gets re-told on the BSG equivalent of Fox News or US Uncut, Roslin could come out looking like a heartless monster either way (unless she were a white nationalist, then she'd be called "dapper." Ha ha, fuck you very much): "Reckless Roslin decides to stay, mass casualties ensue!" or "Cowardly Laura flees, innocents die!"

I think we must always render valid critiques of political leaders' choices when merited. But, I say that with the recognition that political leaders are oftentimes, in the real world, faced with "no good solution" problems.

With this recognition, it is evident to me how a long history of public service can, with framing, become a massive liability in our political climate. Anti-establishment sentiments run high, and I'm not sure this sentiment is particularly new or unique to our times. Perhaps every generation needs to see for itself that being "an outsider" (ha!) doesn't render leaders capable of contriving perfect solutions to problems that have no perfect solutions.

I'm not claiming Clinton should not ever be validly critiqued or that every situation she was in was as tragic as the one President Roslin experienced. (And, I'm realllllly not here to re-litigate all the Clinton conspiracies and grievances.) My larger points are that situations are usually more complicated than people give leaders credit for and the vast majority of us are operating from an information deficit about the full range of facts anyway.

And, in case this post sounds particularly harsh to people I might be naturally allied with otherwise, here too is a larger context.

During the past 18 months, I've probably blocked more Bernie Sanders supporters than Trump supporters on Twitter. I've been called a "Hillbot." A "shill." I was called "salty af" for critiquing Sanders' Pope-visit during the Democratic Primary. Because it's really cool how some on the far left can overlook how the Pope is the leader of one of the most sexist, anti-trans, anti-gay Establishments in the world, but could forgive Hillary Clinton for literally nothing.

I've had teenage Bernie fans practically cry in rage-disbelief at me, "But how could you support HER?" taking it for granted that Bernie is 100% a saint and Hillary is 100% corrupt. Many seemed ignorant of decades of unfair smears against her. I've been told I was condescending for expressing fear that third party voters would serve as spoilers this year, as in 2000, when I discussed my regrettable Ralph Nader vote.

Over the months, I had run-ins with people on the far left who wanted to see Trump defeated but who wouldn't support Hillary Clinton, the only person with a realistic chance to do so. I watched in disbelief as even some major feminist sites played the "both sides are just as bad" game or refused to take sides. Someone at a popular feminist site even took Clinton's win for granted, predicting that fifty years from now, "We’ll hang our heads and think, 'we were there when' we elected a candidate who killed thousands, and called her a feminist to boot."

Jill Stein and Susan Sarandon suggested that Clinton would actually be worse than Trump.

And.... here we fucking are.

Melissa Batchelor Warnke recently noted in the LA Times:
"I am deeply sorry that Hillary Clinton lost. The left made many mistakes; among them was not having the gall to stand up to the far left. The far left was so rigid in its orthodoxy that it repeatedly punished those trying to strategize about electing the Democratic candidate with self-serving accusations that those who disagreed with their tactics were racists, sexists or sellouts. We let the left of the left have its way.

And the far left wanted to be morally superior more than it wanted to stop Donald Trump."
She further writes that "lefty politics" have become a "claustrophobic minefield." And, it's hard for me to disagree, being in the blogging game for about 10 years.

For instance, I've seen this happen too many times to count: a popular feminist makes a mistake on Twitter or in pop culture or in a blogpost and, instead of just critiquing her, it's like BAM we have a half dozen lefty articles saying "ugh, aren't we all so done with her?" and then.... whether or not you're "done" with her becomes a lefty purity test/virtue pose.

I can't. I just fucking can't.

Forget having empathy or compassion for bigots and conservatives. We don't even have it for each other on the left, let alone for a flawed woman like Hillary Clinton who worked her fucking ass off her entire life and who had the temerity to run for President while not being a politically-pure snowflake. I don't even exonerate myself from this compassion-lacking group, because goddamn, this shit is hard and frustrating.

I mean, it pisses me right off that, heavens to Betsy, the thought of dirtying one's pristine hands by voting for a competent woman who who had made mistakes, over a garbage nightmare candidate gave some on the left too bad a case of the ickies. It's not just that some people couldn't privately vote for Clinton, they had to not vote for her and then virtue pose about it all over social media. Or, they wrote in Bernie. Voted 3rd Party. Didn't vote at all. Voted for a giant meteor strike to kill us all instead (ha ha, fuck you).

Like, if there was ever a time for the left to unite..... this was it, folks! But no.

Now, many of these same leftists seem to be largely horrified. They're "in shock." Some didn't actually vote for Clinton but now want the Electoral College to make Clinton President because ... ummmm?

It's also said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. I believe that, but by the gods you will never convince me that either Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein were ever "the perfect" in this conversation. And even if they had never made mistakes in their immaculate lives, had they become President they too would have been confronted with difficult choices and would then likely be lambasted by non-pragmatists for being "sell-outs," as well.

Politics is compromise, politics is compromise, politics is fucking hard-ass compromise.  We can and should debate all day about what should be compromised, but to ever get anything accomplished we have to compromise.

Non-pragmatists critique those of us who acknowledge the role of compromise in politics and vote for the "lesser evil." They decry what "lesser evilism politics" have wrought. What these people overlook is that every politician ever will always be "a lesser evil" because, NEWSFLASH, no human is perfect and, repeat after me, politics. is. compromise.

What I can say is that the non-pragmatic left will likely now get none of what they wanted instead of some of what they wanted. So, that was productive.

CORRECTION. They will get two things they wanted: a complete unwillingness to compromise and extremism. So, there's your fuckin' silver lining.

My preferred method of virtue posturing

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