Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Drawing Lines in the Sand


I started becoming politically active on Twitter a few months back, energized by the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who stands as the intellectual and philosophical heir of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination for President of the United States on May 26, 2015. You can see the video of his announcement here:


More musings, after the jump:




Since then, I have noticed a disturbing tendency among the supporters of particular candidates to circle the wagons and snipe at one another, rather than engaging in a serious discourse about issues that matter. That's what I appreciate the most about Senator Sanders, and it makes me sad when I see that sometimes his supporters do not share that trait. Senator Sanders has never (and pledges that he will never) run a negative ad in an election, and he has repeatedly refused to take the bait from reporters who ask him to criticize his chief primary opponent, Hillary Clinton.

My first encounter with this distressing phenomenon was with a Sanders supporter who is rabidly anti-Clinton. I don't remember precisely what she said, but I know that it was a very hyperbolic attack on Mrs. Clinton, and I felt compelled to step in. I tweeted back at her something along the lines of "That's not a fair characterization. Mrs. Clinton is heads-and-shoulders preferable to any of the candidates in the current GOP field." She called me a sexist Clinton-lover, and when I asked if she had even looked at my posts (by then my Twitter feed was swarming with Bernie Sanders posts and retweets), she asked why she should bother looking when she knows I'm a sexist tool. Then she blocked me. I'd been following her for a couple days before that point because I'd found her posts interesting, and they kept getting retweeted by people I followed, but apparently one little disagreement means I'm no longer allowed to interact. I still see her tweets occasionally when other people retweet them. I just ignore them now.

More recently, I had asked a social welfare nonprofit whether it would be working to help elect progressive candidates to Congress and the Senate during the general election next year. There's been a lot of focus on the upcoming presidential race, but it's probably even more important that liberal voters work to ensure that like-minded candidates succeed in their congressional races, since ultimately it is the legislature that proposes and enacts legislation. Someone retweeted that tweet, and another person responded with a non sequitur: "I'm giving my time and money to the only Dem who could end up President in 2016 - Hillary Rodham Clinton." This having nothing to do with what I asked, I thanked this person for her input and politely told her that wasn't what I asked. Her response: "I'll support those who support Hillary so no, I won't support 'progressive' candidates." This seemed problematic to me for several reasons:

First, Mrs. Clinton's campaign has been tacking very progressive in recent months, probably at least in part as a reaction to Senator Sanders's popularity.

Second, I am absolutely certain that every progressive Democrat running for Congress or the Senate in 2016 will support Mrs. Clinton, should she turn out to be the nominee for the Democratic Party.

Third, I know for a fact that Senator Sanders has repeatedly stated that he will not run a third-party candidacy in 2016 if his bid for the nomination is successful. It is clear that he would be a stalwart supporter of Mrs. Clinton, should she turn out to be the nominee for the Democratic Party.

Fourth, I never asked her to support any candidates, unless she is the executive officer of the social welfare nonprofit I asked my question to.

And finally (and most importantly), I think it is dangerous to have a party structure that shuns primary challengers and those who would support them, during the general election. It undermines the integrity of the primary process and weakens the Democratic Party in a time of heightened polarization between the two dominant political parties.

I reminded this person that Senator Sanders would support Mrs. Clinton, were she to be nominated, and she promptly blocked me. I'm not sure whether she blocked be before or after I sent the reminder.

We as a people are too quick to block out speech that we find offensive. It's driving us more and more into groupthink and further from a functional society. I encourage everyone who reads this post to reach out to someone who disagrees with you, and try to have a respectful conversation. Let people who annoy you continue to annoy you. Let people who disagree with you explain why they feel the way they do. No conversation is wasted if it allows you to learn something new about one of your fellow human beings.

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