Skip to main content

Shaun King is Why the Left is Still Fighting Over Hillary vs. Bernie

There's a line between pushing for a more progressive party and undermining it because you're a sore loser.

Shaun King is upset with the Democratic Party because, dammit, people keep voting for candidates he doesn't like. You see, Ralph Northam, the decisive winner of last week's Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, just isn't progressive enough for King despite having run on a very progressive platform. In fact, Northam's campaign was so progressive, there was very little daylight between his platform and that of his opponent Tom Perriello, whom King considered the "real" progressive in the race. 

This is why the primary debates were respectful and lacking the vitriol of the 2016 primaries. At the same time, Democratic primary voters were excited to vote, exceeding 160% of turnout over the previous gubernatorial primary. And after he lost, Perriello immediately backed Northam, vowing to work together to beat the Republicans. By all reasonable metrics, last Tuesday was a huge win for the left. Yet King is throwing a temper tantrum over it. rushing to point out that Northam voted for Bush twice and considers himself a fiscal conservative. Therefore, in King's mind, he's not a liberal and the Democratic Party is just awful for backing him:

Hear my heart — I know politics are local and I know Virginia has some conservative leanings, but that the choice for governor in the state is now an open conservative and a closeted one bothers me — particularly because the Democratic establishment enthusiastically supported Northam.

Funny thing, though: In the name of transparency, Northam is the one who admitted to voting for Bush, something he didn't have to do, but he also said it was a mistake:

Northam’s two votes for Bush ― which he told the Times he now considers “wrong” ― were not the first time his Democratic credentials were called into question. “At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to politics,” he said. “Knowing what I know now, I was wrong and would have voted differently.” 

King would have you believe that Northam's politics are set in stone and evolving is simply not in the cards. That's why he calls Northam "closeted." This belief that Democrats cannot change their opinions over time is a core tenet of the hard left. It's a convenient (and extremely dishonest) way to subscribe ill motivations to establishment politicians who embrace a more progressive stance. Without this particular lie, it's impossible to maintain the false narrative that Hillary Clinton and the DNC aren't really progressives when their entire platform is the most progressive it's ever been.

King's hypocrisy stand fully revealed by what he doesn't say. While he was fully supportive of the Bernie-backed Tom Perriello, he neglects to mention this progressive hero even once in his article. Possibly because he lost and is not currently relevant but possibly also because it's hard to complain about Northam having some conservative positions when Perriello himself is pro-life and voted for the horrendous Stupak Amendment:

On abortion rights, though, he broke with the pro-choice movement and backed a 2009 amendment to the Affordable Care Act, known as Stupak-Pitts, which set back reproductive freedom by putting obstacles in the way of private insurance coverage of abortion  

Since then, Perriello has evolved on the issue and wouldn't you know it? That's just A-OK with King because as long as you're not an establishment Democrat you're allowed to evolve on an issue. This suggests that King's support for a candidate has less to do with their positions on issues and more to do with whether they're challenging the Democratic Party. For the record, Perriello's anti-abortion stance was a problem for me so I voted for Northam but I said it before the election and after: If Perriello had won, I would have happily voted for him in November (unlike King, I live in Virginia) with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I wouldn't have whined about it because in politics you don't always get what you want, something that King seems to have forgotten. It's OK to push for more reform and demand accountability. It's not OK to undermine the only thing standing between us and another Republican governor because your guy didn't win.

This compulsive need to undermine the party is why we're still fighting over the 2016 election. While most of us are trying to move on, find candidates to run against Republicans and crush them in 2018 because of the existential threat they now represent to our democracy, King and his fellow Bernie dead enders still cannot tolerate the fact that they are not in control of a Democratic Party that refuses to give them power they did not earn. They cannot accept that while they did move the party to the left (to which I give a non-sarcastic, "yay!"), Berners that just got fully engaged in politics couldn't wrest control away from the people who have been pouring their blood, sweat and tears into the party for decades. This is why King is so offended by Joy Reid's very accurate assessment of the anti-Democratic hard left;

MSNBC's Joy Reid all but confirmed as much in a widely shared tweet earlier this week in which she said, "Bernie and his followers are like that college friend who stays at your place for weeks, pays $0, eats your food & trashes your aesthetic."

That Reid, who makes a living as a political commentator, came to this conclusion about Bernie Sanders and his millions of followers was deeply disappointing, but revealing. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America. He has done far more for the Democratic Party than it has for him.

That's still the talking point among "real" progressives, by the way. "Popular" Bernie and his followers (who lost by three million votes, proving that showing up to vote is more important than having large rallies) are far more important than the majority of Democratic voters who voted differently. You can see why Reid compares them to squatters. They couldn't be bothered to put the work in until the last minute and they do not represent the majority of liberal voters, but we really should just give them the keys and let them sleep in the master bedroom. The rest of us can go sleep in the tool shed or something.

King makes a desultory attempt to claim legitimacy as someone who has been a lifelong Democrat but that does not at all describe the majority of the "I hate the Democratic Party" haters. Overwhelmingly, they just got "woke" when they decided Bernie was the coolest thing ever but were completely disengaged before that. There's a reason they completely failed to take over the Democratic Party in under a year and it's quite similar to why Donald Trump and his band of hip outsiders couldn't figure out how to turn on the goddamned lights when they first got to the White House: They don't know what they're doing yet.

Fortunately, not all of Bernie's followers are part of King's dwindling whine brigade. Most of them have gotten over the election and a rather healthy number of them are running for office at various levels of government. Personally, I'm looking forward to them winning office, getting to work building a better future and immediately being labeled traitors by the hard left. But that's a story for another day.

King ends his anti-Democratic kvetching with a lament about how the party lost so many seats and governorships in the last 8 years. This is also a common refrain from the hard left; that the Democratic Party never wins anything and never has. Of course, when you remind them that in 2009, we had the House, the Oval Office and a supermajority in the Senate and that in the last 40 years only the Democrats have achieved a supermajority in the Senate (three times, no less), they don't want to discuss that. It ruins the "Dems are hopeless" narrative they cling to.

You can easily make the case that the DNC under Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was terrible. She abandoned the very smart and very effective 50 State Strategy and was a part time leader of the DNC. What you cannot say is that the party is manifestly incapable of winning and has to be scrapped. That's a lie being sold to bolster hostile "outsider" candidates at the expense of the Democratic Party. That will not further the progressive agenda, save the environment or end police brutality. But it will make people like King feel superior to those of us deemed unworthy and that really seems to be the point here.

All that being said, in no way should this article even slightly dissuade you from following King's writing. His constant reporting on racism in America is immeasurably valuable (as demonstrated by the rage he induces among racists). Just because his political advice is suspect doesn't diminish his activism for racial justice. That's called "nuance" and the Bernie or nothing crowd could stand to practice some.

There are 505 days left to the 2018 elections. That should be more than enough time for hard left to finish whining about 2016. Maybe. Feel free to call me a neoliberal sellout, establishment hack, blah blah blah. Just remember that while it may make you feel better, you're not helping, you're part of the problem.

Please consider becoming a paid member of The Daily Banter and supporting us in holding the Trump administration to account. Your help is needed more than ever, and is greatly appreciated.