Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Narcissism of #BernieOrBust

Hillary led a historic blow-out in South Carolina this weekend. Unless something changes, she is very likely to win the Democratic nomination. Despite--or maybe because of--this, there is a growing #BernieOrBust movement of people who say they will only vote for Sanders in the general election (if Hillary is nominated they will either stay home, vote Green Party, vote Trump, etc.). This is predicated on a feeling that Hillary is too corrupt, bought off, or otherwise of the status-quo to be worth voting for at all. For them, it's Sanders or nothing.

The Omnivore got a closer look at the Sander's position listening to an NPR Podcast OnPoint with a Sanders detractor and a Sanders supporter. The link is here.

The anti-Sander's allegations:
  1. Sander's plan, when you add it up, includes far more taxation and centralized control than any modern European socialist country -- this was alleged, and was not refuted.
  2. Sander's early days were as an unreconstructed for-real socialist who wanted closer ties with Iran while they were holding American hostages. This was, also, alleged--but not rebutted (the Sander's defender called it horrible "Red-baiting"--but never suggested it wasn't also true).
  3. Suggestions that Sander's projected growth rate of 5+% sustained is insane debated--but not substantially proven.
  4. Both sides agree that Sanders would face a daunting political challenge in trying to implement any of his ideas.
In other words, from that debate, The Omnivore came away with the conclusion that Sanders is a disaster--it's a good thing no one thinks his policy ideas could get the political traction they need. The key points, to The Omnivore, were that the Sander's defender tried to debate the pieces of the Sander's tax plan while the Sanders-Attacker had said "you need to add it all up to see how bad it is" and when the host told the Sander's Defender that he was dodging the question (he clearly was) the guy had no answer.

Secondly, a caller suggested that Sanders' ultra-high taxes were just an opening position for bargaining and he wouldn't really get those. Maybe--but taxation rates are not a negotiation for price-of-sale but rather an consensus-building exercise. If this is really Sander's tactic, it's probably the wrong one.

Finally, the Sanders-Defender said that if not for big thinkers and protest in the streets, progress would never have happened. He said that the status-quo would have been maintained and mixed marriages, for example, would be illegal. He said "incrementalism" doesn't produce results.

The Omnivore points out that we got Same Sex Marriage under the "status quo" and allowing gays to serve in the military. We got a massive healthcare overhaul (ObamaCare) under the status-quo. We got the Stimulus.

If this is the best Sander's defender they could find, he's not all that good.

Indeed, the basic reasons to support Sanders seem to come down to two positions:

The Omnivore's assessment of this is that the #BernieOrBust position is narcissism, pure and simple. Why? Green-Party candidate Jill Stein. If you just went "Jill who??" consider that (A) you are not a BernieOrBust voter and (B) There is a far-left party in the US that is called the Green Party and she is the candidate. 

On the issues, she is nearly identical to Sanders (exceptions are gun-ownership and a few others--but she clocks in as either further left or just-as-left). If you think hard-core Sanders voters have not heard of her, you're kidding yourself (and if they haven't, it's political malpractice). The only things that Dr. Jill Stein has that Bernie does not are a medical degree and an even lower chance of winning a national election.

In voter's Game Theory, each voter tries to maximize the power of their vote--to make it count. When voting for a 3rd party, like The Green Party, the voter is reducing the power of their vote to zero (neither Jill Stein nor Rosanne Barr had any chance of winning) in order to play a different game: one of Identity. There is no chance that the Green Party will become any kind of national force in America so the value of a Green Vote is in signaling--it says I am a cool activist who votes my conscience (or I am a rebel, iconoclast who does not support your dominant paradigm!).

To put it another way: no one voting Green is going to be capable of being quiet about it.

The #BernieOrBust position is almost identical but is, effectively, even more self-serving.

Consider the following:
  1. No one voting either Green or Democrat thinks that it is immaterial who the next SCOTUS judges are. They may claim there is a tactic where it's worth the risk of a conservative court to make broad changes in 2020--but we'll get to that later. The point is that it's acknowledged as a significant risk.
  2. No Sanders or Stein voter believes their candidate would be able to make sweeping policy changes without a massive, revolutionary wave-election in congress. This makes some degree of sense: the conditions under which Dr. Jill Stein would be elected president probably would usher in a Green Congress (to the extent seats were up). Without that, however, everyone acknowledges that even if they got the Presidency alone, it would be an uphill battle.
This combines to make a provable case that if you are voting policy/"your conscience" and are voting ONLY Sanders, you are voting your identity over your professed policy goals.

How do we know? Because you are voting for Sanders because he has a greater chance of being president than Jill Stein so you are still involved in Game Theory-Vote-Power-Increase while claiming not to be (Stein would, in almost every case, get you more of what you want--but you know she can't win so you are selling out "just a little" to vote Sanders).

Spelling It Out

The conditions for a Green Election would look unmistakable. The Democrats would have to be on fire and the GOP would need to have collapsed. Neither is clearly the case. There would have to be an electoral void of candidates and a wide-and-deep mandate from the middle for Green policies. This, today, is evident exactly nowhere.

As such, it is obvious that the next president will get to make the extremely important 30-year-policy effecting nomination of one or two Supreme Court Judges. These judges could roll back any progressive gains or establish them for decades depending on who picks them.

No one thinks that Hillary's picks would be effectively identical to Ted Cruz's or Marco Rubio (Trump: Wild Card). 

As such, a vote for Jill Stein is saying you are willing to accept conservative SCOTUS judges for the value of your Green Party vote. This, clearly, is narcissism.

Ah, but now, Bernie has a greater chance of winning, so a vote for him isn't unreasonable, is it?

Not in the primary, no. In the primary you get to state your preference--if enough people agree, then the party apparatus is obligated to choose the candidate the party members want. The #BernieOrBust strategy, however, is an attempt to signal commitment  as an influencing factor--or to signal identity the same way a Green Party vote does.

The Omnivore thinks it's the latter.

Why? Well one reason is the terms in use. People citing #BernieOrBust talk about Clinton being a crook or waffling in her time in office or her decade+ years ago Iraq War vote. None of these seem proportional to the SCOTUS issue in terms of material impact.

But there's another reason: asymmetry. 

Allan Cliffton, a Hillary supporter at ForwardProgressives issued a call for solidarity behind either candidate in the spirit of beating the Republicans.  He was told by numerous Sanders that they were #BernieOrBust--what about Hillary-Only voters?
Now you might be asking yourself, “But those are all anti-Hillary, where are the Clinton supporters saying they weren’t going to support Sanders?” Well, there weren’t any.
This is meaningful because Hillary Clinton, although in most meaningful respects a feminist icon, clearly isn't an identity vote. Hillary is a pragmatic candidate for incrementalism, protection of progressive gains, and old-school female empowerment (first woman president). She isn't cool. Voting for her doesn't make you cool.

This is why there aren't very many #HillaryOrBust voters: in the event of a Sanders nomination, Hillary voters would likely be horrified that Sanders would likely lose--and be even more horrified by the prospect of any of the Republican candidates (including, but to a far lesser extent John Kasich). As such, they'd likely vote however they could in a defensive posture.

For the Bernie Supporters, that probably looks like selling out--but it isn't. It's the opposite.

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