Dec 13, 2015 by

By Laurence Lewis

Daily Kos


Whenever I hear a self-described progressive say that we ought to let the Republicans win the presidency and thus force the Democratic Party to adhere to “our principles,” my first reaction is to assume that the person speaking is but another privileged idiot: White, male, young, doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck, doesn’t have to worry about whether he’ll be able to afford his medical bills or whether he’ll have a roof over his head next month. In the interest of full disclosure, I can be considered to fit some of that category, myself.

But privileged idiots apparently don’t remember recent history, and how well such petulance worked out in 2000, when some hoped suffering through a Bush presidency would fix the Democratic Party. And privileged idiots either don’t understand or don’t care to understand what real suffering is. There are exceptions to almost every rule, but you don’t hear much privileged idiocy coming from African-Americans or Latinos or young women whose lives may be endangered if Roe v. Wade were repealed or overturned. You also don’t hear much of it from climate scientists.

When I saw this Salon headline by a self-described Bernie Sanders supporter referring to the possibility of a Hillary Clinton nomination, I assumed the writer was just another privileged idiot.

Just let the Republicans win: Maybe things need to get really bad before America wakes up

A GOP victory would bring disaster. Perhaps that’s necessary to destroy their credibility — and wake up Democrats

To most people who are both intelligent and capable of empathy, the word disaster is a red flag. Disasters are to be avoided. Disasters are bad things. People suffer during disasters. One can be unhappy that we are not living in a utopia without deliberately courting disaster—if one is intelligent and capable of empathy.

Now, Salon of late apparently is trying to provide a diversity of leftish views, even if that includes publishing the likes of H.A. Goodman, who may be the single biggest moron ever to be published by a leftish media source. From declaring support for Rand Paul, to last announcing last summer that Bernie Sanders was the Democratic frontrunner, to recently somehow managing to string together coherent sentences while seriously claiming that Hillary Clinton will come in third in the Iowa Caucuses, Goodman seems to be on the path to television political commentator. Because with such consistent quality idiocy, if Goodman doesn’t soon become a regular on the Sunday talk shows, you will know that the failing upward standard applies only to conservatives. So when I saw that Salon headline, I immediately assumed Goodman was the author. The usual truism about making assumptions applied: I was wrong.

Of course, my other presumption about privileged idiots remained, and so I decided to check out the biography of the author, who was actually one Shane Ryan. I assumed Ryan would be a classic privileged idiot, and with a quick web search discovered that Ryan does indeed appear to be youngish white male who doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck, and doesn’t have to worry about whether he’ll be able to afford his medical bills or whether he’ll have a roof over his head next month. He appears to be a sports writer who recently spent a year traveling the hot zone of the professional golf circuit in order to write a book. In other words, given the headline of his piece at Salon: A textbook privileged idiot. Ryan can blithely consider the pros and cons of courting disaster because if disaster strikes he knows he won’t be the one to suffer. He can observe it on television, over drinks, from the bar near the green of some country club’s 18th hole.

In this case the messenger is the message, but it is worth taking a very brief tour of how a privileged idiot “thinks.”

And Ryan begins by attempting to prove the awfulness of Hillary Clinton, because when touting the courting of disasters, one must have a narrative that purports to justify it. And he links to another piece at Salon by yet another privileged idiot, whose rationale for loathing Hillary Clinton begins with this:

1) Hillary’s personality repels me (and many others).

Of course, given Hillary’s standing in the polls, it would seem that even more people aren’t repelled by her personality, but to privileged idiots their personal feelings always take primacy. But let’s glide right past that to the question of how someone making such a statement as their first argument against a political candidate can ever be taken seriously as a political analyst. The explanation for that repulsion is the usual litany of cartoon clichés, and the usual unspoken standard that Clinton is unusually or uniquely repulsive. This isn’t a detailed exegesis of why one candidate is better than the other, it is demonizing a candidate, first and foremost, on a visceral level, because of her personality.

Now, the biggest problem for privileged idiots such as Ryan is the simple fact that most progressives favor Hillary. He doesn’t resort to the “no true progressive” fallacy so commonly espoused by his ilk, because he has an even bigger facepalm to project:

Among Clinton’s predominantly liberal supporters, male and female alike, we see a lot of projection — people who seem to be mistaking her for Elizabeth Warren — and not a lot of introspection.

Yes. Just as John McCain hoped to court women voters by putting a woman on his ticket, apparently presuming that women wouldn’t know or care whether there was a difference between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, Ryan apparently presumes that Clinton’s supporters are incapable of discerning the difference between two powerful and popular politicians, apparently because, you know, they both have lady parts. It’s just not possible that Hillary’s overwhelming lead in the polls is based on people respecting her political skills, her resume, her stands on the issues, and even— yes— her personality! Liberals who support Hillary Clinton just aren’t as politically astute as the privileged idiot on the golf cart.

Privileged idiots such as Ryan blather about Clinton being owned by Wall Street, without even bothering to take a look at her plans for financial regulation. It’s just one of many facile clichés common to reflexive Clinton criticism, full of sound and fury, signifying ignorance. But serious progressive economists who have strong track records of being proven right with their economic prognostications have provided serious commentary about Clinton’s financial regulation plan. And they may actually see her plan as preferable to that of Sanders, and/or they may see holes or flaws in it, but you don’t see Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz and Mike Konczal dismissing it with the simple catch phrases championed by Clinton’s simple-minded critics. They all see it as a serious plan worthy of serious consideration by those capable of serious consideration. One can argue whether or not her plan is preferable to that of Sanders (and for the record: I think both plans are very good, and both have holes, and combining the best of both would be best), but anyone arguing that Clinton isn’t serious about financial reform reveals much about themselves and nothing at all about Clinton’s plan for financial reform.

The other facile cliché persistently spewed by Clinton’s perpetual critics on the left is that she is a warmonger. There is no question that she is more hawkish than Sanders, and her vote for the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq cannot be forgotten, but those critics take such comparisons to absurd and at times unhinged extremes, as if Sanders were the next coming of Gandhi and Clinton is all but slavering for carnage. The reality is that Clinton acknowledges that her Iraq vote was a mistake, but even more importantly proved that understanding when she opposed the 2007 Bush surge in Iraq, and that same year voted against a military funding bill that removed language setting a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq. Unlike the Republicans, she also supports the nuclear arms treaty with Iran. And just as Clinton’s purported hawkishness is wildly overstated, so is the supposed purity of Sanders. Whether it’s his support for the $1.5 trillion boondoggle F-35 because it benefits his home state, his support for the use of drones, or his support for continuing the endless failed war in Afghanistan, Sanders is very much a creature of the Washington establishment. For complicated reasons, good people sometimes support bad policy.

Once we gets past the cartoon caricatures, there is the reality that while Sanders adheres more to progressive ideals on issues of war and peace than does Clinton, he is far from a paragon of idealism. To support Sanders but refuse to vote for Clinton against the Republicans is not about adhering to idealized standards of principle, it is about adjusting principles to justify a standard that is based on hypocrisy rather than ideals. On issues of war and peace, Sanders is far from perfect, but it is fair to argue that he is better than Clinton. On issues of war and peace, Clinton is far from perfect, but it is beyond question that she is paradigmatically better than any of the Republicans.

If one supports Sanders but is unwilling to vote for Clinton under any circumstance because one wants to pretend not to be enabling whatever military misadventures one thinks she might pursue, one is explicitly stating that one thinks the use of drones and continuing the war in Afghanistan and a $1.5 trillion military-industrial sinkhole are acceptable. One also is explicitly stating that one doesn’t actually care about the horrors and wastes of war, because not only would any Republican president also pursue whatever military misadventures Clinton might, they also would go well beyond them, such as scuttling the nuclear deal with Iran, thus making war with Iran all but inevitable. To privileged idiots such Republican horrors are but more sacrifices on the safely-insulated altars of their own self-righteousness.

Ryan says he hasn’t yet made up his mind whether or not to sit out the presidential runoff if Clinton is nominated, but he considers the idea with the full weight of his privileged idiocy:

But! If Hillary lost because progressives abstained from voting, it’s possible that Republican incompetence would be laid bare, and that they’d run the country into the ground over the next four years. If that’s what it takes to show the people that a leftist political revolution is the only viable way forward, it will have been worth watching Hillary bite the political dust.

You show them, Shane. And never mind the American troops and Iranian civilians who would die in the inevitable war that would follow Republican rejection of the nuclear treaty Clinton supports. Because they wouldn’t be you, Shane. And never mind the Syrian refugees who wouldn’t find a safe haven on our shores, or the Latino immigrant families whose lives would be torn apart, or the unarmed African-Americans who would continue to be shot dead by unreformed thugs using the cover of badges, or the millions of people who would lose their health insurance, or the women who would die in back alleys because they no longer had the legal right to make medical decisions about their own bodies, or the GLBT parents who might lose custody of their children or other basic human and civil rights, or the millions of people who would be left unprotected from the banking and financial market abuses that Clinton’s financial regulation plan would have prevented, or the very existence of labor unions, labor rights and minimum wages. Because they wouldn’t be you, Shane.

And never mind the further erosion of democracy itself, as voting rights and campaign finance laws were further eviscerated. Gun regulation not only would not move forward, the regulations established by President Obama would be removed. And all of it would be encoded by another generation of extremist activist Supreme Court justices. And then there’s climate change. Forget about doing anything about climate change. Because we can just piss away another four years, not just not making things better but making them worse.

To privileged idiots such as Shane Ryan, these are abstract sacrifices to be considered among many other abstract political calculations. Because he knows that he won’t be the one doing the sacrificing. It’s not his blood. It’s legitimate to debate which of the Democratic candidates would be better, but it’s dishonest and flat out stupid to claim that either is close to perfect or that either is even in the same paradigm of awfulness as the Republicans. And it is not just stupid but unconscionable to relegate others to the incomprehensible suffering another Republican president would make inevitable, just so one can pretend to be making a moral stand that is not only immoral but intellectually vacuous.

The very essence of privileged idiocy.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks. This is the most accurate, most incisive political commentary that I’ve read this year.

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