A More Serious Rebuttal Than Salon's Latest Hillary-Hating Dudebro Deserves
December 7, 2015

Salon is now making a regular habit of publishing long, self-righteous essays in which Bernie Sanders fanboys explaining why it would be an awesome idea not to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Here's the latest one: Shane Ryan's "Just Let the Republicans Win: Maybe Things Need to Get Really Bad Before America Wakes Up." This has already been well rebutted by Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns & Money and Allison Hantschel at First Draft, but I'll add to the pile-on.

Ryan writes:

If Hillary lost because progressives abstained from voting, it’s possible that Republican incompetence would be laid bare, and that they’d run the country into the ground over the next four years. If that’s what it takes to show the people that a leftist political revolution is the only viable way forward, it will have been worth watching Hillary bite the political dust. Come 2020, we could be looking at a landscape where progressive politics can finally gather enough momentum to sweep the country, and usher in a new era of FDR-esque reforms.

It isn't merely that a lot of irreversible bad stuff happened after 2000, when we also heard this (or 1980, when Your Aging Correspondent first heard that a bad right-winger's election might fan the flames of lefty revolution in Heartland America). It's that, when the disgust with the GOP finally reached critical mass six years after Bush won the presidency, the Democrats elected in response were, in many cases, from the centrist wing folks like Ryan abhor. The Democratic winners n 2006 included Blue Dogs like Heath Shuler in the House and Claire McCaskill in the Senate, not to mention the rejected-but-reelected Joe Lieberman. The large Democratic majorities elected in 2006 and 2008 included the folks progressives (understandably) railed against when they watered down President Obama's stimulus plan and rejected a public option on healthcare. Sorry, years of GOP awfulness may eventually lead to the election of Democrats, but those Democrats aren't necessarily going to live up to the progressive ideal. And in the interim, Republicans can do a hell of a lot of damage.

Ryan thinks Republicans are showing Democrats the way:

There’s an analogy here to the far-right conservative movement, which has become so influential in the Republican party that establishment candidates are finding no traction in their own circus of a primary contest. Unlike progressives, the conservative far right has realized the extent of its power -- they had a certain psychological advantage in the early days, propelled as they were by religious fervor -- and for Sanders supporters to do the same, it’s imperative that we don’t capitulate to the Democratic party’s big money wing. If we do, we’ll never be taken seriously.

But the way "the conservative far right" has asserted its power in recent years is not by getting its candidate nominated for president -- it's by winning primaries in races for the House and Senate (and contests even further downballot). I don't see any evidence that the Hillary-haters are doing the hard work of insinuating themselves into state and local Democratic parties in order to wield influence in non-glamorous off-year races.

Ryan has contempt for Hillary Clinton's attempts to embrace progressivism in this campaign:

... she has tacked leftward merely to combat Sanders’ progressive momentum -- going against a lifetime of pro-Wall Street, pro-business action ... not because she actually espouses any of her shiny new positions....

if Ryan envies the success of Republican ideologues, he should recognize that a great deal of that success has come precisely because GOP Establishment hacks -- most notably, Mitch McConnell and, until recently, John Boehner -- have saved their seats by imitating their party's zealots just the way Hillary is trying to imitate progressives. See also Lindsey Graham and John McCain. They've allied themselves with ideologues in order to save their own political necks -- and that's helped their party move rightward. Clinton's newfound progressivism, sincere or not, might be doing the same thing for her party, in the other direction.

However, zealots don't automatically start winning every battle when they decide to fight. Look at what's happened in the GOP in the Tea Party years: The zealots got a lot of their people into office in 2010 and 2012, and yes, they intimidated Establishment figures, who moved to the right -- but the Establishment fought back, suppressing Tea Party insurgencies in a lot of races in 2014. And now the zealots are striking back in this year's presidential primaries. To some extent, it's a conservative crackup. Zealots have had a lot of success, but they're still fighting with the Establishment, and the party, as a result, could be about to lose its third straight presidential election -- something that's happened only once to one of the major parties since Harry Truman left office. Ongoing intramural war is a potential consequence of a revolt of the zealots. How would that be good for progressivism? And who suffers in the interim? Wouldn't it better to do the best we can this coming November, and inject a little more progressivism into the party from the bottom up now and in the future?

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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