Moral Failure of Partisanship and the Political Machine

The policies that Hillary Clinton has supported and promoted have led to millions of people, in the US and other countries, to be pushed into poverty, imprisoned, and killed. Bernie Sanders is no dove on foreign affairs, but Clinton makes him seem like a pacifist in comparison.

That isn’t an exaggeration. It is simply looking at Clinton’s record on tough-on-crime bills, welfare reform, and wars of aggression—along with much else that could be detailed. The data shows all this to be true, the real world results of it. It can’t be rationally or morally denied.

So, how do her supporters rationalize this away? Just because it only hurts the poor and powerless it doesn’t matter… just because the disenfranchised and silenced masses can’t be heard we can ignore them with a clear conscience… out of sight, out of mind… really? Is this what goes for ‘lesser evil’? That is depressing and demoralizing. If this is the best that American ‘democracy’ can offer, we are in far more trouble than I thought.

I ask this not simply in the context of campaign season. It is a question about all of democracy or the hope and possibility of democracy. It isn’t just about supporting a candidate. More importantly, it’s about supporting the public good, of putting the people before politics and partisanship.

The cynicism of realpolitik in America is no doubt depressing but also quite pointless. It doesn’t really achieve anything, besides the same old problems endlessly continuing, status quo for the sake of status quo, a grim political determinism of learned helplessness. Don’t Americans ever take seriously the dreams of a better country? If not now, then when? A dream deferred is a dream denied. What are people afraid of?

I honestly would like an answer to these questions. They aren’t hypothetical or idle. But I know few people would have the moral courage to answer them.

Why don’t those millions of lives harmed matter to Hillary supporters? That is a deadly serious question. If she is elected president, how many more millions will be harmed by her policies? It is guaranteed to be a high number. Doesn’t that bother anyone besides those who are already concerned? Is this status quo of machine politics acceptable? Why should we tolerate such inhumanity and immorality? Do we really want more of this corporatist neoliberalism and neo-imperialist neoconservatism? Why? How does that make the world better for anyone?

My criticisms here are the same criticisms I’ve directed at Republicans. Why would I hold Democrats to a different standard? If I did hold two different standards, that would be both cynical and hypocritical.

Does anyone honestly believe that voting for lesser evil will ever lead anywhere besides evil? This isn’t speculation or hyperbole. Those are real lives of people impacted, many dead because of specific policies that get bipartisan support from professional politicians, both those like Bush jr and those like Hillary Clinton.

Is this really the best of all possible worlds that Americans can envision?

I honestly find Clinton more depressing than Trump. Clinton support shows that people are still willing to tolerate all of these vast problems, no matter how bad it gets. Many people would rather deal with known problems than to have the moral courage to face new possibilities.

This is particularly true of the party establishment who would rather lose the election than lose control of the political machine. That is why Trump has the GOP insiders so scared. But the Clintonian New Democrats realize that even though Hillary is unlikely to beat Donald they can at least put on a show that will convince the Democratic base that the Democrats lost honorably and that we just need to try harder next time, commit to partisan loyalty even further.

In that case, Sanders like Nader would get blamed for the failure inherent to the Democratic Party. The party officials will never be held accountable by Democratic partisans. Nothing will change and the same mistakes will be repeated. It’s a failure of imagination to an extreme degree. It’s a vision of fear, with both parties arguing that the other is the lesser evil, when in reality both parties are two sides of the same political evil.

I just don’t understand the type of ‘liberal’ who will vote for a warmonger like Hillary and think that somehow absolves them of all guilt until the next election cycle. That is more demented and horrific than most silly satements made by authoritarians. At least, authoritarians are being honest.

These fake liberals aren’t really indifferent. They are willfully ignorant. A person can’t be accused of indifference when they simply refuse to be aware. It’s plausible deniability. They can go on pretending to be good liberals and lying to themselves. That is the nature of evil. No mass atrocity could ever happen without the complicity of self-identified good liberals. It goes so far beyond mere indifference.

This is what happened after 9/11. Many liberal Democrats became strong supporters of Bush policy. It is so easy to make the average liberal into a fearful war hawk. Research has shown how easy this is to accomplish. This is why the lesser evil rhetoric is so effective. It is the Achilles’ heel of the liberal, and the only psychological defense would begin with awareness, but that first step is the hardest. People resist self-awareness because then plausible deniability loses its force. It is easier to just not think about it too deeply or for too long. Just hold one’s nose and vote, and once again forgetting about it all until the next election.

I’m a dreamer. I see the immense potential in humanity. It is amazing what we humans are capable of, when the conditions are right and we are challenged to be our best. What an awesome society we could create. And I don’t think it would even be that hard. Just the willingness to imagine it.

I don’t just want to blame others. This is about all of us. It’s not just a failure to understand but also a failure to communicate.

I struggle with that. It’s hard enough just trying to grasp the potential that is within us and what it might mean, in what we envision and in how we live our lives. I’m far from perfect in this regard. Still, I don’t want to make excuses for myself or for others. If we are failing our own stated principles, let’s use that as a starting point. Failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s merely the awareness that we could and should do better.

That is why voting matters so much, even as the electoral system is rigged. It isn’t just the person we vote for. More importantly, it is the vision we vote for. When we unconsciously vote for a disempowering vision, we give away our power. I don’t think even people who vote for Hillary feel inspired by their choice. They know it isn’t a good thing, but they’re afraid and that is all they can feel or see.

I totally sympathize with feeling overwhelmed. That is why I don’t even feel like demonizing Trump supporters. People are frustrated. I get it. I just don’t want Americans or any other people in the world to simply give into that frustration and give up hope. We really are capable of so much more.

14 thoughts on “Moral Failure of Partisanship and the Political Machine

  1. The answer is that Clinton is doing this for her own political ambitions.

    There isn’t anything else driving it. You can tell when she talks like a progressive that she lacks authenticity. She will continue the status quo, not turn the US into say, a Scandinavian social democracy.

    • But that doesn’t explain why so many ordinary good liberals are supporting her now or who say they will vote for her if she wins the nomination. Nor does it explain why blacks, especially poor blacks, would support her. What do any of these people have to gain by promoting Clinton’s political ambitions?

  2. Benjamin, I agree with everything you say here and applaud you for it!
    I think the answer to your puzzlement is the sheer amount of propaganda the average American is subjected to in the course of the day. Whether it’s TV ads, billboards, news reports, movies, reality shows, sporting events, or whatever, the rah-rah pro-America hype is relentless. Didn’t you know? — We’re “exceptional”! We’re “the greatest nation on earth!” “We’re number one!” Virtually every person in America is subjected to this same hyper-patriotic BS day in and day out, 24/7 — it never ends. And it makes enough people think that despite its flaws, the status quo ain’t so bad. So they keep voting the same types of politicians into power year after year, even though it’s against their best interest.

    Aldous Huxley and George Orwell wrote about it more than 60 years ago. But how many Americans today read “Brave New World” or “1984” — or more contemporary analysts like Neil Postman or Noam Chomsky? There’s your problem. As Huxley predicted would happen, we now live in an entertainment society and too many people would rather amuse themselves than do what you and I are doing, trying to give serious thought to our troubled times.

    • Yeah. Propaganda is a major part of it.

      Few people can even begin to guess at the level and amount of propaganda directed at the public. It’s not just the standard propaganda put out by government agencies.

      The most powerful propaganda is corporate, from advertising to astroturf, but also the more common forms of the propaganda model in terms of what is and isn’t allowed to be spoken of in the MSM and how it is framed. Most powerful of all probably is the entertainment media of tv shows and Hollywood movies, as stories dominate the mind in a way nothing else can.

      It’s powerful stuff. The more unaware people are of this the more easily they are deceived, manipulated, and controlled.

      I understand all this. But I can’t quite understand how others don’t understand.

      How can one not see what is directly in front of one’s face? Someone like Hillary Clinton apparently is the train coming down the track that gets mistaken for the light at the end of the tunnel. Many people run toward that light as if it is their salvation.

      Many of these good liberals are fairly intelligent, well educated, and informed. These aren’t ignoramuses. Any ignorance that they possess is clearly willful. Of course, the whole propaganda machine makes that ignorance go down easy. But that doesn’t make these good liberals any less complicit.

  3. There is one thing I suspect many don’t understand. It took a long time to get where we are now. Someone like Trump didn’t come out of nowhere. And it can’t be blamed just on crazy right-wing rhetoric.

    Decades of lesser evil voting by Democrats made someone like Trump inevitable. It’s because the political left was unwilling to offer real solutions and reform that the American public finally has become so frustrated and angry that they are willing to take serious a ranting demagogue.

    That is the problem of always being distracted by the short term results of the next election. Those in power have taken a long view. You want to see successful strategy, consider the Southern Strategy. Those who gained power didn’t do so by constantly compromising.

    I understand the seeming failure of the Democratic Party is in reality a success for the Establishment. Those like the Clintons don’t want solutions to problems because, from their perspective, the status quo isn’t a problem. But what perplexes me is that average Democrats who claim to want solutions haven’t figured out this game yet, even though it keeps leading to the same sad results.

    When will Democrats get as frustrated and angry as the supporters of Trump are right now? Will it take Trump getting elected before all the good liberals will finally get serious about what they claim to believe in? But when they do wake up, will it already be too late?


      I’ve seen lots of claims that Sanders is only winning because of white men; among every other demographic, he loses. That simply isn’t true. In Vermont and New Hampshire, he beat Clinton among all women voters. In Oklahoma, as I said, he nearly tied Clinton among women voters. In Nevada, he nearly tied her among Latino voters (though the experts are still debating that one). In Massachusetts, as I said, he got 41% of non-white voters. We don’t have any exit polls for Colorado and Minnesota (at least not on CNN’s website, which is the one I’ve been using), but given the size of his victories there, I would be surprised if Sanders didn’t win or tie with Clinton among non-white voters and perhaps women voters.

      First, Sanders has 399 delegates and Clinton has 596 delegates.

      Second, both of them need 2026 delegates to win. Thus far, Sanders is 20% of the way there, Clinton is 29% of the way there. Given how far they have to go, that’s not that much at all. We’re now moving into territory that’s friendlier to Sanders than most of the states have been thus far. He’s been slightly under-performing, she’s been slightly over-performing. There’s no reason to think that may not now be reversed.

  4. I don’t think its over, but Sanders will have a tougher time as he did worse than I expected.

    I’m especially disappointed at my old state, Massachusetts, as Sanders barely lost their, but still lost. Granted, Clinton spent a lot of advertising money.

    Nonetheless, I think that he should stay until the end. For one, it has led to more progressive candidates. The other is that the future belongs with the Progressives.

  5. I still think though that as more of Generation Y begins to vote, things are going to change in a big way. Sanders will not be the last New Deal. Maybe in 2020, or 2024.

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