Friday, June 30, 2017

The Real Reason So Many Loyal Democrats Hate Bernie Sanders


Now that it’s been around a year since the Bernie vs Hillary contest ended, I’ll be making it clear in pieces like this that I’m not just critiquing the worldview of many Clinton Democrats. I’m by extension commenting on all the demagoguery, blind tribalism, and narrow-mindedness that’s been driving our society toward self-destruction in recent decades, from the creeping in of fascist logic like “If I have nothing to hide, why not let the government spy on us all?” to the rise of neoliberal hatred for the poor. And while the ideology I’m mostly critiquing is partly based in a desire to maintain one’s economic and cultural status, it seems to mainly stem from something less subconscious: aversion toward what deviates from the traditional groupthink.
To put things in perspective, the facet I’m talking about makes up a very small fraction of the public. 80% of Democrats now view Bernie Sanders favorably, and 30% of Americans are Democrats, meaning I’m basically attacking the neoliberal equivalent of the Green Party. But the minority of Hillary supporters that continue to oppose Sanders and his followers deserve some focus, not just because unlike the Greens they have enormous institutional forces aligned with them, but because their choice to fight Sandersism has some interesting psychology behind it.
It’s not an armchair assessment that much of Clintonite hatred for the progressive insurgency stems, as I said, from pure tribalism; this is made almost explicitly clear in any of the anti-Sanders tirades that rank and file party loyalists continue to frequently compose online. He and his supporters aren’t even Democrats, the affront so often goes. They should stay out of our party and go start their own, or even better stop engaging in any kind of dialogue about the problems within the Trump opposition. How dare they ask questions! How dare they diverge from what the Democratic Party tells them to think! The fact that this animus comes from something so base as “you’re not part of the group” may be masked by additional types of attack lines, but that frequented “you’re not a Democrat!” statement is a tell.
These attacks have of course been used by the party bosses who have a direct interest in shutting out dissidents to the corporate state, but that anyone not trying to maintain their position as a power player would agree with them says a lot about tribalist thought. This is the same logic that’s been applied to almost all the cruel and bigoted behavior throughout human history; we’re part of the group, you’re not part of the group, so you deserve to be treated as inferior.
Thus the alarm calls from party loyalists who in many cases actually support Sanders’ agenda: he chooses not to identify as a Democrat! And neither do a lot of his supporters! They’re even applying scrutiny to our leaders! They’re upsetting the natural order by not conforming!
Like all instances of this closed-mindedness, the Clintonite hostility towards Bernie Sanders looks pretty silly when you point out its nature. Complex and media echo chamber-affirmed as the loyal Democrats’ case against accepting progressives can get, it’s all the result of the human mind’s easy mistake of distrusting what comes from outside the tribe.
Thankfully the fact that humans have a group instinct doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doomed to bigotry. The trick is to recognize the whole species as part of one’s tribe. That way instead of worrying about how something will affect any party or country or clique, the priority will be whether it helps the factory workers who are threatened by neoliberal trade, the communities of color that would be hurt by furthering the drug war, the middle eastern civilians who would be endangered by continuing American imperialism.
I know that last part sounded trite, but empathy really is all that can prevent calamity. Work to stop the government from making society even more unequal, most immediately by calling moderate GOP senators about voting against repealing the ACA. Build institutions that can counteract the oligarchical agenda of both parties, a suggested avenue for doing so being to get involved in the Democratic Socialists of America. And as the case of tribalist thinking I just illustrated implies, be wary of falling into a similar pattern. It’s 2017, and there’s just no time for things like that anymore.

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