Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why Openly Criticizing Hillary Helps Hillary

To all of those people complaining that Bernie supporters are being too harsh on Hillary, politely telling us to shut up about our analysis and policy concerns:

I get that you believe Hillary is likely to win and you think we're damaging the Democratic candidate's chances of winning.  I can accept the value in party cohesion in a non-transferable plurality system.  But I think there's a vital point you're missing about the importance of being hypercritical of the front-runner progressive.

Hillary isn't stupid. She's brilliant and incredibly knowledgeable.  She has incredible resources and a powerful campaign machine that undoubtedly reads trends very well.   She and her skillful campaign managers must be just as aware as any of us what the American people are asking for.  If Bernie has something that she doesn't, and this is so important to his supporters that they wouldn't vote for her, then the only way for her to pick up on that is for them to be loud about it.

Let's assume the scenario where Hillary is going to win the general.  If, during the primary, all the Bernie supporters just kept quiet about why they think she's so much worse that they wouldn't vote for her in the general, then she's going to be her normal Hillary self in the general.  The fiscally progressive constituents who oppose her won't vote for her, and this hurts her chances of winning.  There's nothing Hillary can do to redeem herself to people who've kept silent about why they hate her.  She has no recourse.  People will be apathetic, their concerns will go unaddressed, and all of those people keeping quiet just won't vote.  Some of them will hate Trump more, but plenty others won't.  There will be widespread apathy and her votes will suffer.  In any case, we make the marginal amount of progress towards economic inequality that Hillary's proposing, and don't attempt to push as far as Bernie wants to. No president goes into office and accomplishes more than they promise.

If, however, her detractors are very clear about why they prefer Bernie, and share the hell out of our criticisms, then this forces her hand. She is forced to show how she can do those things that we expected from Bernie, but don't believe she will do. Assuming she is interested in power and money, she's not going to ignore our demands. She sees this social media outcry, and does what any logical politician would do: she makes some promises that assuage our concerns and win our votes back. If she can do this, which is completely dependent on her willingness to listen to our demands (which is what a representative should do anyway), then she doesn't just get Bernie supporters to shut their mouths and reluctantly vote for her; she gets Bernie supporters to be as avid activists for her as they were for Bernie.

You see, Bernie supporters aren't just in love with Bernie.  They're in love with his message, and his willingness to fight for substantive change.  We don't care that it's Bernie.  We care that it's socialism.  We care that we can trust him to represent us, not just white-collar friends and benefactors.  We care that his policies would actually shift the balance of power in government.  We care about the policy.  If Hillary embraced that message and those policies, then you can bet that we'd fight for her tooth and nail at the general.
We want America to get on board with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and adopt universal healthcare, but it doesn't matter to us who pushes that through Congress.  We want oppressive trade deals to be vetoed, but it doesn't matter to us who signs the veto.  We want marijuana to be legalized, but it doesn't matter who speaks up for that liberty.  We want Glass-Steagall back, but it's unimportant to us how that happens.
If Hillary wants to win the primary and subsequently get the support of the Sanders constituency, which is a huge part of the country, then she has to show us that she can do what we're asking.  For her to do what we're asking... we have to ask it.  Relentlessly.

Maybe this adds a different perspective to the strategic advantage of being open about our criticism.  But more importantly, this entire discussion about what information or analysis citizens should hold back in the election season is fundamentally absurd.  Elections are the only time that citizens have any power over their representatives.  If we don't take the opportunity that elections provide us to make demands of our representatives, then what kind of democracy are we?  What does it say about us that we are more willing as a nation to "get a Democrat in office" than we are to serve the interests of people being extorted by a plutocratic ruling class?  What does it say about us that we're calling certain policies impossible when they've been implemented all around the world, and to great success?  What does it say that we are asking people being crushed by the heavy, invisible hand of capitalist oppression to silence themselves for the sake of electing somebody whose agenda largely helps the economically privileged?
You think it's off-putting that we'd speak ill of a moderate progressive who's fighting for less change than her primary opponent?  I think it's appalling when people would rather protect politicians' images than help spread the message of those under-served by mainstream Democratic policy.

If anybody has data that corroborates or undermines this hypothesis, please share in the comments.

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