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“Caring About The Political Fortunes Of The Causes”: If Bernie Sanders Wins, Centrist Liberals Are Morally Obligated To Support Him

In modern electoral politics, moderate and centrist Democrats are well-known for browbeating leftists with the lesser-evil argument. Democrats might not be particularly concerned about, say, child poverty, but they’re still better than Republicans on just about any issue you care to name. Obama might drone strike American citizens, but at least he doesn’t start full-blown wars of aggression that kill hundreds of thousands of people.

And that’s true, so far as it goes. However, there is a small but distinct possibility that moderates might find themselves on the receiving end of such an argument in the next election, if a leftist like Bernie Sanders wins the presidential nomination. As Matt Bruenig points out, they don’t seem to like this possibility. But they better be prepared for it.

For an example of a Democratic partisan, here’s Mark Kleiman explaining why he doesn’t agree with “emo-progs” (i.e., left-wing critics of Obama), in a post from a couple years ago entitled “Confessions of an Obamabot”:

What the emo-progs refuse to remember — now, and in the run-up to the 2010 election — that I never for a moment forget is that, whatever the failings of Barack Obama the human being, “Barack Obama” the political persona is the leader of the Democratic Party (and thus, effectively, of the entire progressive coalition) in a battle with a well-organized, well-funded, and utterly dedicated plutocrat-theocrat-racist-misogynist-obscurantist-ecocidal Red Team, whose lunatic extremism is now actually a threat to republican governance. If I’m reluctant to help Rand Paul and Glenn Greenwald add NSA! to Benghazi! and IRS! and Solyndra! and all the other b.s. pseudo-scandals designed to make Obama into Richard Nixon, it’s not because I’m in love with “The One:” it’s because, for good or ill, the political fortunes of the cause I care about are now tied to Obama’s political fortunes. [Washington Monthly]

Interpreted narrowly, this is a reasonable point. It is very often taken too far, of course — as with the people who blame the 97,000 Nader voters in Florida in 2000 for Gore’s loss of that state, instead of the 2.9 million who affirmatively voted for Bush. I would further add that Democrats should not always be supported without question. Centrist hack Democrats like Andrew Cuomo do not care about left-wing priorities like affordable housing and quality public transit — indeed he has actively worked against both. In Cuomo’s case, it is worth risking a potential loss in order to change the political incentives in New York at the state level.

Still, in America, tactical voting must always be a consideration. And for voters in swing states, that consideration is powerful indeed. Republicans really could do spectacular damage — just look at the smoking wreckage the last GOP president left.

The question is whether moderates are willing to swallow such an argument if Sanders manages to clinch the Democratic nomination. It’s still an extreme long shot, but it’s not completely out of the question.

After all, something similar happened in the U.K. just last week, with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. The reaction was not encouraging. Moderate liberals, like New Labourite Tony Blair, who all but begged his nation on hands and knees not to vote Corbyn (and probably added 10 points to Corbyn’s victory margin in the process), are furious. Some Labour MPs have reportedly even approached the Liberal Democratic Party about defecting.

Of course, that’s in the U.K., a genuinely multi-party democracy. There is less of an obligation to support Labour when the Greens or Scottish National Party could end up being part of a liberal coalition. In the U.S., there are only two real national parties, thus greatly strengthening any lesser-evil argument.

So unless moderate liberals’ arguments were 100 percent hypocrisy, should Sanders lock down the nomination, they will be obliged to support him. If they really care about the political fortunes of the causes they care about — ObamaCare, climate change, women’s rights, a higher minimum wage, keeping 27-year-old Heritage interns off the Supreme Court, etc. — they best start saying “actually, democratic socialism is good” in front of a mirror. They may need the practice.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, September 20, 2015

September 22, 2015 - Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Progressives | , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Good advice!

    Like

    Comment by lrfalstad | September 22, 2015 | Reply

  2. Bernie is out speaking the truth about important issues. He is also talking about civil discourse to find common ground. Contrast that to any other candidate. The dilemma is people do not understand what socialism is. We are a capitalistic with some governance (no insider trading, collusion, interlocking boards, fraud, e.g.) as well as socialistic (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, food stamps, bankruptcy, e.g.). My guess is most Americans do not think of it that way.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | September 22, 2015 | Reply

    • That should be food stamps. I love auto correct.

      Like

      Comment by Keith | September 22, 2015 | Reply

      • I knew what you meant. Fixed already.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by raemd95 | September 22, 2015


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