Thursday, June 09, 2016

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

I'm having trouble distinguishing between Sanders supporters and Trump supporters, because both seem to support the candidate as Idea, not the candidate as capable person.

Sanders, arguendo, represents a revolution .  He's long ago stopped talking about healthcare and tuition, and gone to talking about process and procedure.  It isn't attributed to him directly (not by a quote), but the Politico piece says Sanders has gone from not caring about Clinton's "damned e-mails," to hoping she is indicted and so derailed.  It is a last desperate hope for power; not the actions of a politician who wants to do some good in the world.

Clinton is slammed because she had support in the Democratic party before she started.  That support, of course, runs counter to the "new people" Sanders supposedly brought to the party.  But why do those people get more credit than the rest of the voters in the primaries because they are "new or "young"?  Because Sanders?  Because reasons?  If Pennsylvania reflects the nation, and 10% of those "new people" would just as soon vote for Trump, what does Sanders bring to the party at all?

Trump, too, brags that he's brought new voters to the GOP.  Funny, they look like the same old white aggrieved GOP voters to me.  Trump just finally tore the mask off, berating even Federal judges because of their ethnicity, a bridge too far for GOP office holders (well, all but a few of the more extreme Representatives).  You can object to government in the abstract, but when you go to undermining the justice system in the specific, that's too far for even GOP senators like Jeff Sessions, a man who damned near supports secession and nullification.  Damned near; and that's as near as they dare get.

Trump goes much further.

So does Sanders.  He rails against the "establishment," and wants to re-write the rules of a party he's never wanted to be a member of, so he can have access to all that party offers (mainly, ballot access in all 50 states to its Presidential candidate).  What else could he be seeking?  If the Democrats are so corrupt and sclerotic as he implies, why not start a new, pure, clean party?  Why try to flush the stables, unless you want the horses for free?  Sanders wants to reshape the party in his image because he rallied people and got acclaim and won some primaries, and now he's entitled.

Entitled to what, it is reasonable to ask.  Entitled, apparently, to be the Establishment.  He doesn't like the one we have, so he wants to replace it with one of his own.  His Establishment, something he's entitled to because....well, why, exactly?

Trump clearly thinks he's entitled to win the White House because crowds love him and he won the GOP primary and Hillary Clinton is corrupt (film at 11, or on Monday, whichever comes first).  Sanders think he deserves to win because people cheered for him, and he raised $200 million dollars in small donations (and spent it all without winning the race).

I keep saying I'm more radical than Sanders, yet I keep making arguments that defend the status quo. Actually, my objection to Sanders is that he isn't radical enough.  He doesn't want to restore democracy or return power to the people; he just wants to let somebody else sit at the head of the table.  And he wants to command control of that seating arrangement, which in the end is neither ethical nor a sign of integrity:  it's just grasping for power.  It's all Donald Trump wants; it's all the Tea Party wants: to be in control and to impose their agenda on the nation.  (I even heard a Sanders supporter on Diane Rehm this morning looking forward to a future where there would be a "liberal" Tea Party.)

Hillary Clinton wants to lead the nation; Sanders wants the nation to shut up and listen to him until they realize how right he is.  It's an interesting contrast, which makes me prefer Clinton over Sanders ever more as time goes on.  But, as I said, I'm more radical than that.

Or he would tell a parable for those who had been invited, when he noticed how they were choosing the places of honor:

He said to them:  "When someone invites you to a wedding banquet, don't take the place of honor, in case someone more important than you has been invited.  Then the one who invited you both will come and say to you, "Make room for this person," and you'll be embarrassed to have to take the lowest place.  Instead, when you are invited, to take the lowest place, so when the host comes up he'll say to you, "Friend, come up higher."  Then you'll be honored in front of all those reclining around the table with you."

"Those who promote themselves will be demoted, and those who demote themselves will be promoted."

Then he said also to his host:  "When you give a lunch or a dinner, don't invite your friends, or your brothers and sisters, or relatives, or rich neighbors.  They might invite you in return and so you would be repaid.  Instead, when you throw a dinner party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and blind.  In that case, you are to be congratulated, since they cannot repay you.  You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
Luke 14: 7-14, SV.

That latter, I should note, has a direct connection to Derrida's concept of the gift as something freely given which cannot be part of a system of exchange (i.e., repayment).

Jesus said that in the basiliea tou theou the first would be last and the last first.  What he envisioned was a constant churn, but not a race to the top; rather, a race to the bottom.  Bernie Sanders wants to be exalted so that he can rule from the place of honor (and yes, Hillary Clinton wants to rule, too, from the place of honor; you don't run for President without wanting power and having a powerful ego).  My argument against him is that what he seeks isn't radical; it's just rearranging the deck chairs.

If Bernie wanted to be truly radical, he'd be promoting that vision for social justice, rather than free college and health care paid for by Wall Street.  So far as I'm concerned, both Clinton and Sanders are incrementalists.  But revolutionaries don't get elected; they seldom even get listened to.  So my pragmatism says:  quit promising things you can't possibly deliver, and which really won't solve that many problems (how much social justice is achieved by free college tuition?).  And my radicalism says:  you still aren't radical enough.

It's the Idea that compels me; but the Idea compels me to change; it doesn't compel me to change others.

'Tis a quandary,  I tells ya.


  1. I have been thinking about a Sanders supporter who complain that his critics "have failed to understand him" when it's clear that they do understand him and they don't agree. It's typical of atheist-secular-leftists that they assume that if someone doesn't agree with them it is due to their "failure to understand" not that they merely don't agree. I think it's typical of the atheist religion of Marxism, perhaps the most irony generating of all ideologies, in that it is a system of absolute faith in to men's dogmatic, pseudo-scientific, system. The various sects and denominations of Marxists are like a parody of Christian sects, in that they argue endlessly on the topic of what Marx really meant and if not Marx, what some latter day Augustine figure meant.

    I think that Bernie Sanders' period as a Trotskyite in the Socialist Workers Party reveals a lot about his limits as a thinker and a politician. In that he's a lot like Christopher Hitchens, the classic neo-cons and other ex-Trots. They are attracted to thinking which doesn't really require self-doubt, self reflection and a serious reconsideration of even your own shifting thinking. I think their thinking tends to drift along with where their interest lies at any given point.

    I don't think I fail to understand Bernie Sanders, like you clearly do, I think I understand him better now than I did before he ran for president. And I don't like what I see.

  2. Your analysis makes sense, and identifies why I don't find Sanders revolutionary. The revolution he wants (like any revolution, frankly), is for him to be in power to do what he wants to do.

    Power simply doesn't work that way; especially in a democratic system; but fundamentally, power seeks its own end: people just end up being its conduit.

    And yeah, I run into a lot of very minor thinkers (mostly in comments at Salon) whose last redoubt is always my failure to understand. At some point explanation breaks down, and they cling to their beliefs like a dog with a bone, and the fault is yours for trying to take that bone from them.

    Bernie's been chasing the wrong goal for decades, but he's not going to figure that out anytime soon. Clinton is a better choice if only because she's more sensible. She's sat next to the President (twice, now); she has a better grasp of the job. Of course, the difference between sitting next to the chair, and sitting in the chair, is the difference between the lightning bug, and the lightning.

    But Sanders thinks he'll be elected Zeus, and command the lightning. I think Hillary knows better.