Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Smashing The Neoliberal Democrat Echo Chamber

The chart above is a real-time illustration of one of the most beautiful events in American political history: the official waking-up of the majority of the American left. Up until very recently, most Democrats didn't seem to care about the corruption within their party. For the most part, liberals did not speak out when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. They did not abandon the belief that Obama represented real progressive change when he supported Bush's Wall Street bailouts as a senator. They did not work vigorously to replace the Democratic Party's current leadership throughout the decades-long saga of warmongering, neoliberal policies, and unconstitutional surveillance perpetrated by Democrats. And yet in 2016, they finally became willing to embrace a genuinely progressive option, with Bernie Sanders having had more support among Democrats than Hillary Clinton at one point during the race and then won the nomination in the alternate universe where the Democratic primaries weren't fraught with voter suppression and electoral fraud.

But while the majority of liberals have stepped up, that majority is for now a very narrow one. At the most, Sanders was found to have been winning against Clinton nationally by two points, and while that number would doubtless be many times larger had it not been for the anti-Sanders tactics that I mentioned, a little less than half of Democrats remain loyal to their party's status quo.

And this claim is backed up by polling of Democrats on other issues. 54% of Democrats feel represented by their party, a number which, while no doubt bigger than it would be if all of the Democrat-leaning independents who have Demexited in recent years still considered themselves Democrats, is a disappointingly high one. All of the potential establishment Democratic candidates included in the latest 2020 Democratic nomination poll (Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Al Franken) enjoy the combined support of 46% of the Democratic electorate, though the survey also shows Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner. In other words, almost half the left still does not understand the nature of corporate power and the grip that it holds over their party, and convincing them otherwise is an important step in revolutionizing Democratic politics.

Easier said than done.

Occasionally on my online browsings of the political landscape, I've encountered people on social media who represent that 45% or so of liberals who still think the Democratic Party and its leaders represent their interests. And aside from the occasional sensible-or moderate, if I may-member of this bunch, they show themselves to be extremely closed-minded and hostile towards anyone who questions their party. When I've criticized Obama for refusing to adequately reform the banking system and thus setting us up for a new Wall Street crash, they've correctly accused me of "thinking I know more about this than the president." When I've shown Hillary Clinton supporters who incredibly knew nothing of their candidate's legendarily destructive foreign policy record a comprehensive history of it from a credible source, they responded by calling it lies and right-wing propaganda. When I most recently showed a supporter of the DNC's new chairman Tom Perez an article about how their leader enabled massive tax breaks for hedge fund mangers as Secretary of Labor, I was told that this wasn't the case because "Democrats don't vote for tax cuts."

I could go on for maybe three more paragraphs recounting the impressive efforts that I for one have seen loyal Democrats take to maintain their belief that their party and all of its members (except, of course, for the Berniecratic ones) are reliable defenders of progressive values. And when they do, on the rarest of occasions, acknowledge an illiberal action that a Democrat has taken, they re-frame it by saying progressives who criticize the given Democrat are looking for purity, or worse, that the given Democrats' action is completely acceptable. It's a seemingly impossible task to convince the typical pro-establishment liberal that they're wrong in supporting these "liberal" corporatists-or, more often, that they're supporting corporatists in the first place.

"I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to bring up a legitimate concern about the Democratic establishment in a debate with a party loyalist and been told that I’m crazy or ridiculous because it’s a concern they’d never encountered before" Caitlin Johnstone vents in her own essay on the problem of what she calls the neoliberal echo chamber. "Whether I’m discussing a WikiLeaks release that didn’t get much coverage or the fact that Hillary Clinton really seemed to be gearing up for an all-out war with Russia, I have never, ever been met with sincerity or had my concerns directly addressed in an earnest debate of ideas with a Hillary voter. Not once. Not one single time, ever, to this day. And I’ve spoken to a lot of them." As she also said, "We now live in a society where sources that don’t confirm one’s bias are immediately dismissed as 'fake news,' and nothing is considered true unless Wolf Blitzer says it. This is killing political discourse in America, and it’s turning us all into idiots."

It's also hurting the success of a genuinely progressive movement at a time when it's needed most, both by depriving this movement of members and distracting its members with hours of unsuccessful efforts to change the minds of party loyalists who refuse to listen to facts. In this essay, I'm going to avenge the frustrations of me, Johnstone, and no doubt millions of other Sandersists by attempting to provide a guide to changing the minds of the seemingly unreasonable.

I say "seemingly" because as is evidenced by the massive amounts of superstitious, bigoted, and just plain strange beliefs that most human beings on the planet have been able to give up over the last several centuries, decades, and even years, people are generally much more capable of reason than they appear. Prior to 2010, most Americans did not support gay marriage, and now 61% of them do according to the latest public opinion poll on the issue. Just a few years ago, most Republicans denied climate change in spite of all evidence being against their belief, and then in 2015, a narrow majority of Republicans were found to now acknowledge climate change. A similar shift in consciousness can happen among the "fauxgressives," and there are several ways you individually can bring it about.

While this piece doesn't contain some sort of fool-proof guide to immediately converting every Clintonist you see towards the Sanders revolution, it does include the next best thing. Namely, a guide to setting these individuals on a path that ultimately leads to them changing their minds.

Enter the case of Michael E Sparks. His story is probably a common one among the millions of former loyal Democrats who were transformed into revolutionaries during last year's primaries: prior to around the middle of 2015, he was someone who deeply cared about bringing change, but was largely clueless about how to do so. He always assumed Democrats represented a threat to the status quo. He planned to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. He even exemplified the behavior of watered-down, pro-establishment liberalism in that he was convinced recycling would help the environment despite the exact opposite being the case. "I was delusional…" he  wrote in his confession of this period in his life. "And I was enjoying my delusions. I really have no one to blame but myself." But at some point in the early stages of the 2016 election, he then says, he had an awakening.

"I was blissfully ignorant," he writes, "just trying to make up my mind which amazing Democrat to vote for when my friend sent me a text. 'I notice you post a lot of pro-Hillary stuff. As an ally, how do you feel about the idea that Hillary only shifted her stance on gay rights, now that it is political suicide for her not to?' I was so ignorant. I replied 'Hasn’t she always been for gay rights?' My friend started sending me links and videos.
After about 20 minutes, my head was swimming. 'How was this possible?!' Hillary sounded like a Republican. And it wasn’t just recent comments she had made before The Senate. She had toured the country in support of DOMA. How did I not know this? I listened to NPR. I took reusable bags with me to the grocery. I was a hardcore liberal. How did I not know this?!?!"

What followed was a powerful account of how, after this incident, Sparks went down a slippery slope that his friend had set him on. He started looking into other potentially surprising parts of Clinton's record and found things about her he never would have guessed; she'd voted for the Iraq War. She had deep and secretive ties to Wall Street. In almost every way, it seemed, she had betrayed the values of the progressives who were keeping her campaign alive, and Sparks' newfound awareness of this fact ultimately led to him not just adopting a nuanced view of the Democratic Party, but declaring it to be the exact opposite of an ally. "We are all being duped by a Republican in disguise," he wrote at the end of his story.

The bad news is that I don't know if this can happen with every remaining Democratic loyalist. As Sparks notes earlier in his account, he had signed a petition asking Bernie Sanders to run for president and was thus already theoretically open to choosing Sanders over Clinton. Sparks is also a generally very inquisitive and open-minded person. That doesn't seem to be the case with a great deal of Clintonists, including a Hillary supporter and close friend of his that he later recounts having one time tried and failed to convert. His friend, like seemingly most other Democratic loyalists, was simply unwilling to listen to evidence that goes against their beliefs. The good news is that as I said, all human beings are capable of reason, and Sparks has put together a guide to bringing that reason out of anybody.

Sparks' guide to successfully smashing any given echo chamber, as he lays out in a piece from  earlier this month, is genius, because it so closely resembles what his friend did two years ago to turn him into a Sanders supporter: give up on trying to change the other person's mind. By this I mean that while in an argument with a Clintonist or anyone else, your goal should be not to completely transform their worldview on the spot, but to simply try to open their mind, through patience, respect, and then an offering of some but not too many arguments for your position. This will likely make the other person very much open to accepting other aspects of your viewpoint. Again, you won't be able to radically change someone's worldview with this approach, but you will be able to change it just enough that they'll be inclined to start further looking into your view on their own. At that point, as was the case with Sparks' own experience, the formerly ardent Democratic loyalist will be on a slippery slope where the more they learn about the true history and dynamics of their party and its leaders, the less they'll like it.

Please read Sparks' article in full, and try to apply the methods it details on every Democratic loyalist you encounter. As the political pendulum swings away from Trump and the GOP, the Democratic establishment and its allies in the Deep State are using every means at their disposal to regain power in these next few years, quite possibly culminating in the new Cold War-entailing election of guess who in 2020. And the continued allegiance of much of the Democratic electorate is essential in their terrifying quest for the establishment of an Orwellian state of never-ending war and autocracy.

We must win over the Democratic loyalists, or else when they do all eventually turn against their leaders, it will be too late for them to avert disaster.

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