Last fall, a study published by the The Journal of Politics found that the Democratic voters who preferred Hillary Clinton in 2016 largely have more authoritarian psychological tendencies than Sanders supporters do. Julie Wronski, one of the political scientists who carried out the study, has said that they defined authoritarianism as “an individual’s psychological preferences for social conformity over individual autonomy,” a trait which they looked for among a series of selected Democratic voters. They found that Clinton voters consistently rated higher on the authoritarian scale than Sanders voters did, with “the probability of voting Clinton [increasing] dramatically from 0.18 to 0.867 as young Democrats shift from the lower end of authoritarianism to its maximum value.”
This study explains the behavior and cultural pathologies that so much of the Democratic Party’s base has participated in in recent years. To be fair, I’ve personally met people that voted for Clinton in 2016 who have a quite nuanced view of the world, and who’ve supported the Democratic Party only because they see it as necessary to stop the Republicans. But there’s been so much evidence in recent years, both anecdotal and (in the case of the study) scientific, that’s shown the most loyal parts of Democratic Party’s base to be aggressively attached to the neoliberal, imperialist mentalities which define their party’s leadership.
Throughout the 2016 Democratic primary, it became apparent that Hillary Clinton could most solidly maintain support among the kinds of people who wouldn’t concede that there was anything wrong with their candidate, and who were eager to malign Bernie Sanders and anyone else who challenged their position. Shortly after the 2016 election, the blogger and experienced online political arguer Caitlin Johnstone recounted about the mentality of Clinton’s remaining supporters: “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. 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.”
At least within online forums, I’ve had the same experience. The Clinton Democrats I’ve interacted with often aren’t aware of the imperialist aggressions that Barack Obama and the Clintons have perpetrated, and the Democrats who do acknowledge these actions tend to rationalize them by claiming that they were all necessary. The fascistic chants of “USA!” that Clinton delegates gave at the speeches of CIA director Leon Panetta and General John Allen at the 2016 Democratic National Convention hinted at how generally comfortable these Democrats are with empire; rather than examine their party’s allegiance to Wall Street and the military industrial complex, Clinton’s backers have directed much of their energy towards spewing hatred against Sanders and his supporters. This was especially the case in the first few months after the 2016 election, when bitter pro-Clinton bloggers like Roy Delfino wrote a litany of angry screeds denouncing the Bernie movement.
It’s predictable that a demographic which so zealously defends their favored political personalities, as well as the militaristic and capitalistic values that these politicians represent, has been very effectively swayed by the pro-war demagoguery and McCarthyism of the recent anti-Russia campaign. The Democratic Party, the American intelligence community, and the corporate media have promoted the bogus “Russiagate” scandal not so much to harm Trump and the Republicans, but to target the left. The release of the Mueller report shows the Trump-Russia “collusion” narrative has been a lie from the start, and Trump’s vindication on the matter has now greatly helped him going into the 2020 election. The people who’ve been hurt by Russiagate are progressives, socialists, and those who oppose the warmongering that’s been carried out by both Trump and the Democrats.
By painting Trump as “Putin’s puppet” and attacking him whenever he hasn’t completely fulfilled the political and media establishment’s desires for cold war escalations with Russia, the new cold warriors have been able to associate the anti-war left with a nefarious allegiance towards Vladimir Putin. No one has been able to oppose the manufactured anti-Russia propaganda narratives, NATO troop advancements against Russia, sanctions against Russia’s people, or U.S. interventions in Syria and Ukraine without being attacked as a Russian operative. This year, pro-war pundits have even started attacking Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian asset because she opposes the illegal U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela. The consequence of all of this has been massive new censorship measures against independent journalists and alternative media outlets in the name of fighting “fake news” and Russian propaganda.
Russiagate, which has been so thoroughly hammered into our discourse that I’ve even seen many Sanders supporters who’ve bought into it, is the tool that imperialist propagandists use to get liberals to trust U.S. the intelligence community and to support war. And among Clinton’s supporters, who’ve had an egoic urge to defend their position after the loss of their candidate, these manipulations have clearly worked very well. After the U.S. strike against Syria last year, a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showed 49% of Democrats supported President Trump’s action despite the fact that it constituted a blatant violation of international law. A Gallup poll from this February has shown nearly half of Democrats see Russia as America’s greatest enemy. And following the hysterical reaction from anti-Trump neoconservatives when Trump raised the possibility for a Syria withdrawal, a survey came out this January showing far more Democrats than Republicans want America to continue its involvement in Syria and Afghanistan.
Democrats have been an aggressive war party since Obama decided to continue and expand on Bush’s wars through escalated dronings and bombings. But after Russiagate, much of the party’s supporters are now solidly on the side of the Washington imperialists. Neoconservatives like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been rehabilitated as allies of liberals because of their opposition to Trump. And war criminals like George W. Bush and John McCain have been glorified in recent years by Democrats who are entirely too comfortable with aligning themselves with these types of figures.
This toxic shift in the consciousness of liberal America has been engineered seemingly deliberately by politicians and pundits. It was Hillary Clinton and her team who decided to use Russia as a public relations tool within 24 hours after their election loss. And the media figures who share Clinton’s agenda for war escalations with Russia have often very transparently exploited Russiagate to manipulate public perceptions and policy outcomes; Rachel Maddow even explained at the start of Trump’s presidency that she and others would use Russiagate to pressure Trump into keeping troops near Russia’s borders.
The new cold warriors aren’t going to let their anti-Russia campaign die, even now that Mueller has proven Russiagate itself to have been completely wrong. The larger belief that Russia is an enemy that’s “attacking our democracy” is being used to justify the persecution of Julian Assange, and to continue the drive towards escalations with Russia. Hillary Clinton is using what relevance she still has to push the world in these dystopian directions, with Clinton having recently written a factually challenged Washington Post op-ed that claims Russia committed “a serious crime against all Americans.”
As this march towards lost freedoms and world war continues, we now can expect the Democratic Party’s base to reliably go along with it. In their desire to conform and to see themselves as in the right, establishment Democrats and the other loyalists to the U.S. empire have put themselves in a very unfortunate situation.