Earlier this week, I wrote about the cycle of Democratic disillusionment. I guess this week's theme is problematic political activism, because today's focus is another popular bit of non-thinking spreading in anticipation of the upcoming election. It's also something we'll need to squash to end the cycle.
In short, today I'm writing about the [preemptive!] scapegoating of progressives for Biden's loss against Trump. Here's what it looks like in a tweet:
I could also give you a viral Facebook version, and a viral Instagram version of different people arguing the same point, but I'll spare you and I want to keep this short.
Today's post is for anybody arguing anything similar to the following:
Biden losing to Trump will be because of progressives, or people to Biden's left, voting either third party or abstaining from voting.
If this feels like déjà vu, that's because it's eerily similar to a common postmortem of the 2016 election. The only differences being you need to swap Biden for Clinton, and keep in mind the election hasn't even happened yet and we're already assigning blame for the loss.
I bring up 2016 because everyone making this point is also bringing up 2016. Ask 10 people arguing this regarding Biden why they think Hillary lost, and I'd bet my bottom dollar 9 would at least partially pin it on "privileged white progressives" or burned "Bernie bros."
Does it matter that the data we have from the election make it painfully, exceedingly obvious that wasn't the case? Even The New York Times, an outlet entirely unsympathetic to Sanders, pointed the finger elsewhere.
Or, alternatively, take a look at this pie chart:
Looking that that pie chart, which wedge do you think is most deserving of the "blame" for Trump winning? The tiny orange "voted other" sliver of 2.2%, the giant beige "didn't vote" wedge weighing in at 29.9% (notedly, the true winner of the election)?
How deranged does our worldview have to be to ignore that massive slice of the pie not voting, and point the finger at the tiny sliver who didn't "vote wisely," and shame them for the outcome of this election?
(Trick question: the culprit is the fact that Clinton has .3% more votes, but still lost – the blame goes to the electoral college, obviously. But that's a topic for another post.)
Alright, enough 2016. I'm really, really sick of relitigating that fiasco – especially because everyone seems so unwilling to learn from it, engage with the facts, and take a look anywhere near a mirror.
My issue with today's problematic activism isn't just that it's ahistorical. It's also prehistorically wrong.
Let's talk about the election that hasn't even happened yet, the group getting blamed for Biden losing it, and how hilariously bad the reasoning is behind all of this.
First, the entire pitch for nominating Biden hinged on "electability" because, his advocates argued, he would bring moderates and former Trump voters over to the blue side. Maybe other people argued other things, but I didn't hear any of that. All I heard was Warren and Bernie are "too progressive," too "radical," and we need someone who can appeal to the center, moderates, and even left-leaning Republicans.
Blaming his loss on progressives makes absolutely zero sense if appealing to moderates for "electability" was your case for Biden. You can't say he'll win because he appeals to a different demographic than you blame for his loss.
Following this [lack of] logic, if Sanders had been nominated and lost, we could have blamed it on centrists for not supporting him. That's "electability" right?
Why stop there? We could exhume Che Guevara's corpse, run that as the Democratic nominee and say it is "electable," then blame the literally-pro-life faction of the Dem base for the corpse's loss. Am I doing politics right? Can I be a pundit now?
If Biden is not elected, but you were saying he was "more electable" because of his moderatism/centrist appeal, then you're a real bastard if you blame progressives.
Run a progressive campaign if you want to blame progressives for the loss. If Obama had lost in 2008, and people blamed progressives for not showing up and voting if they didn't show up and vote, fair. Correct. I'd have felt that. My bad.
If Obama had lost in 2008, and you blamed moderate Democrats, centrists, and left-leaning Republicans, you'd be a jack-ass. He wasn't trying to appeal to those people.
Run a progressive candidate if you want to bring out the progressive vote, and be grateful when some moderates show up. Run a moderate candidate if you want to bring out the moderate vote, and be grateful when some progressives show up. You can't have both. Pick one.
Biden has explicitly said nothing would fundamentally change if he's elected. He's running an anti-progressive, moderate campaign. Even today's tweeter-in-question has said as much:
Blaming the people for his loss who he is intentionally ignoring, whose policy goals and vision for the country he's actively preventing, makes absolutely zero sense. It's asinine. Even if it wasn't hypocritical (which is obviously is).
Finally, and maybe this should have been firstly, all of this voter shaming bullshit is patronizing, infantilizing, and an all-around terrible way to be a person to other people.
Assuming that everyone who is casting a vote is an adult, and that they have actively taken the time in their life to vote (which is often daunting, but will be especially daunting during a literal pandemic), aren't you an asshole if you're telling them they did that wrong? Or "unwisely"?
Oh wait – those first two aren't assumptions. Those are just facts. So maybe that third one really isn't up for question.
When only about half of the electorate isn't voting, shaming a tiny fraction of the third you feel entitled to because they didn't vote how you dictate they vote is misspent energy, even if you're okay with being an asshole.
Recruit that other 50% – literally the largest contingency. If your candidate is worth voting for, make your case. They're waiting to be convinced.