Last night, I read Shaun King's "Atlanta Mayoral Race Shows What Happens When Progressives Don't Compromise" and almost wept with joy. As one of the loudest voices in Bernie's movement, King has spent an awful lot of time playing purity politics. If his preferred candidate didn't win, then fuck everything and Bern it all to the ground!
Until, at least, we almost lost control of Atlanta, a city King cares deeply about, because of that childish bullshit. Now King understands the cost of tearing down the Democrats when progressives don't get their way. And, oh my, did he let his fellow progressives have it.
After setting the stage between the two candidates, the establishment Democrat Keisha Lance Bottoms and "independent" but clearly right wing, borderline racist, Trump-adjacent Mary Norwood, King blasts "progressives" for doing their best to get Norwood elected. They did this not because they preferred Norwood but in order to punish the Democrats because the Bernie-backed candidate came in 5th in the primaries:
Every single day, though, I saw self-proclaimed progressives attacking Bottoms. They wouldn’t always endorse Norwood, but they would actively and consistently tear down Bottoms.
Between the two available options, Bottoms clearly best represented the positions, policies, and people progressives should care about most. Yet at every single mention of her on Facebook or Twitter seems to get pushback from the left; some progressives will call her supporters a sellout, say they are supporting the Democratic establishment, and ask if they are being paid by the Democratic National Committee.
This is foolish. They speak as if the more progressive option was to support Norwood. It wasn’t — at all.
If you're a Hillary supporter, this will all sound eerily familiar. As in, you could literally replace "Bottoms" with "Clinton", "Norwood" with "Trump" and write the exact same thing. This is not a coincidence, it's a deliberate campaign of sabotage undertaken by angry progressives out for revenge because, hey, it worked last time, right?
And lest you think that's coming from me, a Shillary Wall Street neo-liberal sell out, here's Shaun King, super Bernie fan saying exactly the same thing:
This is where progressives find themselves. When the preferred progressive candidate doesn’t win, either because they ran a bad campaign, struggled in the two-party system, or lacked the support they needed in other ways, progressives too often proceed to tear down the establishment candidate. I’m not speaking in code here about Hillary Clinton, either. I’ve seen this in races all over the country.
Progressives are terrible losers. And don’t get me wrong: I hate losing, too. I despise it. But when my preferred candidate loses, I simply don’t feel like I have the right to set the whole election ablaze.
King may not feel he has the right (although he used to) but a lot of his fellow progressive feel entitled to their temper tantrum.
Here's what, for me, was the most important part of the article. It's a message to those progressives possessed of so much privilege that it never occurs to them that other people will pay the price for their alleged moral purity:
It’s far too easy for people who won’t be directly harmed by conservative policies and leadership to trash a Democratic candidate they didn’t prefer, at the risk of assisting their opponent. This isn’t me echoing the “If you aren’t for me, you are against me” style of politics. In primaries and large-field races, you should go hard for the candidate you love and support. But when you lose, a transition should take place.
Read that again and savor it because it's rare to hear a progressive say it: "It’s far too easy for people who won’t be directly harmed by conservative policies and leadership to trash a Democratic candidate they didn’t prefer, at the risk of assisting their opponent." This is how Trump got elected. Just enough "progressives" followed the lead of spoiled jackasses like Susan Sarandon and Jill Stein because they weren't part of the communities (black, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ in vulnerable areas) that would bear the brunt of a Trump presidency. For them, any price was worth paying to punish the Democratic Party as long as they weren't the ones paying it.
Not terribly progressive, is it?
King finishes off article with a bit of reality that I've been advocating for the past two years nonstop:
But I have to be honest with you: Hating good candidates because they aren’t perfect is getting old. Critique their policies. Investigate their decision-making and financing. Do those things! But when a race comes down to a left-leaning Democrat and a right-leaning conservative, stop pretending like they are one in the same. Stop acting like the Democrat has cooties. Stop acting like you are so holy that you can’t lower yourself to vote or support a person endorsed by the establishment.
This type of thinking loses important elections and puts real people in harm’s way.
I want to tattoo that on Glenn Greenwald's face and make The Young Turks broadcast it on a loudspeaker 24/7 in the middle of Times Square.
Back in June, King was doing the exact same thing by attacking Ralph Northam when he won the Virginia Democratic primary over Bernie-supported Tom Perriello and I tore him to shreds for it. Today, I'm thrilled he finally saw the light. We may disagree on the ultimate direction of the party (not as much as he might think, though) but at long last we both recognize that the "Bern it all down" kamikaze mission of the Purity Left has nothing to do with progress and everything to do with petty payback.
But the real takeaway here is this: If Shaun King can get over 2016, so can the rest of them and holy crap are Republicans in trouble when that happens. The only thing that gives them a glimmer of hope in 2018 and beyond is a divided left. If that fades into the background, losing control of the White House and both chambers of Congress will be the least of their problems.
There are 332 days left to the 2018 elections.
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