So I went all Jeremiah on liberal attack-chihuahuas who are incapable of letting a criticism of Joe Biden go past (like sexual assault!) without the conditioned reflex of “refusing to vote for Biden is voting for Trump.” (Why don’t we ever say, “Refusing to vote for Trump is voting for Biden?”)
Which apparently leads some to believe that I advocate not voting, or refusing to vote for Biden . . . even though I’ve not taken a public position on what you should do. And I won’t choose a side about what you or any of the millions of other anonymous voters do, because . . . listen closely . . . remarkably few people give a rat’s ass what my “position” is anyway, and I don’t have to choose one. They can and will do whatever the hell they want.
Now, I’ll grouch about the uber-left’s latest outrage-performance over Senator Sanders’ endorsement of Joe Biden. Might as well piss off everybody.
These sectarian performers are not nearly as numerous as the mass of nervous liberals and terrified subaltern communities (who’ve been victimized by Trump); but they are about 1,000,000 times as loud.
They’ve been dealing with movement envy ever since the social democratic coalition was developed around the Sanders campaign, and their first impulse after 120 years of doing the same things over and over is still to “rule or ruin.” That gets accomplished (in their minds) through mostly male cohorts who argue socialist dogma like drunken monks brawling over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. During respites from their own ideological fratricide, they attack anyone on the left who is “too soft,” another artifact of this fraction’s stubborn masculinism.
Their highly effective methods include (1) making web sites for the masses with no masses (this used to be selling their newspapers), (2) publishing position papers and analyses that are read by other members of the cohort, then arguing about them until there is a factional break (“bloody splitters!”) that divides 30 people into six breakaway groups, each contending for the role of revolutionary vanguard, (3) dividing the world into the pure-chosen and the apostates based on arcane ideologies (while claiming to be historical materialists who put practice before ideas), (4) writing manifestos and programs and “strategies” for “the masses” with whom they have no substantial connection and with whom they exercise no influence, and (5) swarming public apostates with denunciations as a form of internal virtue-signaling or emotionally-soothing sour-grape-ism.
For the record, I’m not judging from afar . . . I had all these tendencies for years. I’m ranting against smoking as only an ex-smoker can do.
It’s easy to fall into, because the world seems more manageable and less scary when we encompass it with abstractions. We can stand off at a distance . . . a God-like distance, high above the everyday . . . where confidence in our mental constructions remains untouched and unharmed by any more granular phenomenon that might call those captivating and reassuring abstractions into question.
These folks are shocked, shocked I tell you . . . that the perfidious social democrat from Vermont — “we always knew he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing” — is doing exactly what he said he was going to do from the outset, which is endorse the Democratic nominee, because he regards Trump as an existential threat.
Those people I with whom grew irritated about the patellar reflex — “Abstention is a vote for Trump” — actually do have a point, even if they have fallacious ideas about what makes people vote and the annoying habit of hectoring and scolding and talking down to people they think are less-than.
Trump is actually a pretty dangerous guy, because he is a racist, sexist arch-narcissist with enormous power, because no one is really challenging that power, and because he is incredibly fucking stupid. Oh, and because he has a real popular base, which includes a dangerous fraction of armed whackos. (I know, I know, if he is stupid, how did he succeed? This question, of course, assumes that success can never be predicated on stupidity, but history bears out how masses of people can be chumped by charlatans with deadly regularity.)
At any rate, our erstwhile leftist purity cops are using Sanders’ endorsement to confirm all their attack-lines, because the endorsement “proves” that he was just a “sheepdog” trying to hold the rest of us in captivity by the Democratic Party. When confronted with the (probably correct) argument that Trump is actually the greater of two evils — right now — there is one of two responses: (1) this “lesser-evilism” is the means by which the Democratic Party (and the capitalist duopoly) maintains its power [true!], or (2) more perversely, that somehow allowing the DP to go down in defeat hastens the collapse that will usher in the new age led by the 4th, 5th, or 6th International.
The “sheepdog” accusation conflates action with intent, of course. It presumes that the action of endorsing a lesser-evil candidate is indicative of the primary intent being to sustain the power of the Democratic Party establishment — a conspiratorial (encompassing, reassuring) point of view. Instead, most people (Sanders included, imo) are simply looking at the situation and acknowledging that the DP is actually positioned to maintain that power right now whether we like it or not, and that — for right now — the consequences of Trump’s reelection will be worse than those of a President Biden.
These are two different motivations for the same action, duh.
What some forget, as they wring their hands about Sanders’ tactical endorsement of Biden, is the fact that Sanders, almost an octogenarian, tirelessly (heroically, in my view) led the most credible challenge in many decades to the political establishment, and one which continued in other venues until he was finally shot down in South Carolina, whereupon the world was upended by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Holy black swan, Batman!
Sanders, by backing Biden, has now “betrayed” the movement for which his candidacy was a strategic focal point because he did exactly what he told that movement he was going to do all along should he lose the nomination. “Betrayal!” Like being a spy or traitor during a war. It’s like a bunch of pretend-generals whipping up their pretend-armies by “confirming” the utter and irredeemable evil that is represented by the enemy-apostates.
What is the alternative? For right now, nothing actually — not in the real world, but here’s where we ascend again to an altitude sufficient to see only abstraction, and deliver the Pure Truth . . . “we must build the revolutionary party.” This goal has been around in the US since 1917, at least on the left. Oddly enough, regardless of the tireless and repeated efforts of that left (it can be very committed and energetic; I was), this party has never materialized here.
The latest attempt has been the Green Party — filled with veterans of the ineffective left — which hasn’t been able to win more than a handful of votes in General Elections, and which . . . you guessed it, is still split into two separate factions over arguments about which losing structure and which losing strategy is “correct.” Each side blames the continued marginalization of the left on the other, never considering that neither leadership clique has a snowball’s chance in hell. Because the “strategies” emerge out of the heads of the cliques and not out of the actual everyday lives of most people. An article of faith (among the Marxian-inflected) is that ideas are reflections of lived experience, not the contrary; and yet the organizing principle of these marginal formations seems consistently to be that practice must follow preexisting theory as articulated by the grouplet’s main intellectuals.
It may sound as if I’m trying to have it both ways — acknowledge that Biden is a shit candidate and that many people won’t vote for him on that account, or join in the purifying denunciations of anyone who dares to vote Democrat as a means of stopping Trump. It sounds that way because we have largely accepted that this binary choice is somehow reflective of reality. It’s not.
This binary choice is two soldiers fighting each other from their foxholes, neither realizing that the battle has already ended. Not because anyone has won, but because there’s a storm brewing over the battlefield for which neither side is prepared. A storm that will fundamentally change the terrain of this former battlefield.
There are others, apart from sectarian leftists who are denouncing Sanders, too, of course. Mostly dudes with a penchant for absolutism. But my longest experience has been with the sectarian left, who keep looking at that little rock, thinking it’s a seed, and waiting for it to sprout and grow into that idol called The New Future.
November might as well be 2030. We have no idea what will shake out before that election, much less afterward . . . except that COVID-19 can resurge, or another pandemic break out, and except that we are facing years of economic chaos, and except for the fact that climate destabilization will continue apace, and except for the fact that in the US we are culturally and politically completely dysfunctional and have nearly completely lost all control.
The sectarian left doesn’t have The Correct Strategy any more than anyone else does.