Thursday, March 5, 2020

Be Insufferable or Win an Election (Part 2 The Very Reasonable Debaters)

We're jumping in straight from Part 1, so if you need an introduction, head over there. As a reminder, this is the last thing I'm writing TO Sanders supporters before I BECOME a Sanders supporter, and I hope it is taken as the loving advice it is:
  • You cannot dismiss the existence of people who are so mean (particularly online) that they have been mentioned ALL. THE. everyone.....all over the Internet. Everyone has a story about them. Some people are afraid to post articles or their opinions because of them. I've blocked six people in the last week––all of them supporters of Sanders who have cheerfully River-Danced with their clompiest shoes on a few of these bullet points. THEY EXIST.   
  • My friend is done.
    No, my friend is not a centrist.
    My friend is a pro-revolutionary socialist.
    You are just not being QUITE as reasonable as you think.

  • You cannot dismiss the experience of encountering the people above as merely the bad luck of meeting "the worst of you." That's just a complete dismissal of a genuine problem. It's straight up #notALLSandersSupporters. I don't know what percentage are out there being shitheads and making people feel miserable about saying anything other than "Hail Bernie," but it is either enough in numbers or vociferousness that even Internet veterans (who KNOW goddamn well what the difference between the occasional taintwaffle and a non-trivial chunk of a movement looks like) have noticed, have several stories, have complained about it and mentioned it as literally the reason they are soured on Sanders, and are not fooled by being Jedi Mind Tricked with "You don't think this is actually a big deal!" It's more than a few. It's enough.
  • If it's not you, great! Wonderful.'s not so few you get to ignore it or dismiss it. 
  • Understand what the consequences are if you blow off criticism.... If you don't acknowledge it.... If you refuse to listen..... You can do ALL those things, but don't stand there like the surprised Pikachu meme when you lose.
    "But we told them how wrong they were so hard, and so many times, and on every single post we could find!!!!"
  • If you want to convince more folks to vote for your guy (and better yet, donate their time, money, and energy), deal with this instead of getting mad at people who bring it up. Getting mad at people who bring up their mistreatment falls into an ugly pattern of abusive behavior, and I really don't think that's the look you are going for.
  • You cannot erase people who complain about these encounters by making it all about you and how you've had some rough experiences too....especially (and hear me on this) if you try to say that it was THEIR first choice and THOSE followers who were actually out there being mean to YOU. This is just desperately close to something called DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse victim and offender). I'm not saying you're lying that you took it on the chin from the followers of that person's first choice––maybe even from one of their friends or something––and you can't exactly really DARVO in a situation with thousands of people and groups, but it's a really bad time to make it about you. Read the room. It is a time to commiserate or offer condolences. It's a time for sympathy. It's a time to make them feel heard. It's a time to say, "I hate those Bros out there giving us a bad name. I'm so sorry that happened." It's a time for "I feel your pain." and "Yes, we can." Not a time for you to tell them "Actually you're the problem, bucko." Also, these situations often have a lot of mitigating factors (who's in whose space, who is using "I statements" and who isn't, who is being a jerk, who is taking criticism as "persecution"). They can't be broken down so easily into "Yeah, well, your people did it to me too, so I guess you should just shut up." This is enormously derailing energy. 
  • Try some empathy or sympathy. Or even better, try not standing for that shit any time you see it and making sure that people you want to woo have a real sense that you understand how frustrating it can be to have their political calculus and difficult decision reduced to "corporate shill as bad as Trump" or to be told that if Sanders doesn't win, violence is the next step. (Again....think about who else [and his followers] says that sort of thing.) Make them feel like you're on their side. Like, you know, maybe you actually care about them and their life and don't just want to suck up their vote to feed the "revolution machine" and move on with a barbaric yawp. 
  • If (notice I've said "if") these bellicose Sanders supporters are running around on your social media comments without pushback or getting conspicuous silence (or maybe even love reacts?) to their most incendiary rhetoric, or if you are kind of letting them dogpile someone who wanders into your space to share an alternative perspective, then you don't get to turn around and say that they don't speak for you and who are we to judge you by the worst of you, "for SHAME, you hasty generalizers!" Those aren't rogue bad actors who you can't possibly be responsible for. That's a trend you are allowing. That's an atmosphere you've fostered. That's like saying that we can't consider white supremacy posting boards and 4chan culture when someone shoots up a church. We absolutely can and should, and lone wolves who haven't noticed they are soaking their paw in the Palmolive of incendiary rhetoric aren't as lone um....the other.....uh.....wolf packs.....of one. If you've allowed this, possibly fostered it, then you have to deal with the fact that it's not just a couple of bad actors. You can either tackle that inconvenient truth, or you can see how well your primary goes with....what looks to be, pretty consistently, about 30% of the Democrats' electorate behind you. But what you can't do is tell everyone who brings it up that they're full of shit and their lived experience is not real or that it's just a couple of you (when it's a LOT more than that and when it happens all the time). While hasty generalizations are definitely a problem when stereotyping demographics, a group that refuses to denounce and SPANK its worst members isn't actually fooling anyone: maybe they're sort of okay with what's going on. Maybe in places they don't talk about at parties, they sort of like those threads and agree with those comments. And then it becomes really tough to say "They don't represent me." Cause actually they kinda do. Folks do have bullshit detectors for this sort of thing.
  • Be ready to police your own. (Or get someone of comparable privilege to do it if you feel like the power differential means you can't.) Call them in if they need it gentle and private. Be ready to denounce people who go too far. Be ready to make your movement the change you want to see in the world. If you don't, all these people you want to bring over to your side (and who you absolutely NEED) are just going to go find nicer people to talk politics with. They will exchange ideas with moderates and still think socialist revolution is a radical idea on voting day. Remember, even if you chase them off and "win," (RAWR!) and even they avoid you online because you made them regret every conversation, they still get a vote.
  • You really need to stop unfriending/unfollowing/blocking people who have some criticism of Sanders (or his supporters). I mean, that's a good way to no longer feel bad. (And I pause here only to tell you that self-care is important and you should make your boundaries reflect that.) And in a social movement the marginalized community has no obligation to lean in. But again, this is a political movement. And again, what this doesn't do is court their votes. Actually it kind of makes you look cult-like in your inability to handle criticism the way most political movements are at least a little better at. The more insular and self-referential and all or nothing your world becomes, the bigger the surprise is going to be when you can't get your numbers up over low to mid 30%. It feels good when you're in it, but when you realize you're out of touch, you're going to have to face the facts that your cloistered discourse is the reason why.
  • You cannot completely exculpate a leader from the behavior of their followers, especially if that leader talks about others in the party he means to lead as if they are the enemy and embraces a we/they narrative around the folks whose support he desperately needs. That fosters an atmosphere in which moral imperative causes any means to justify the end. If it was one or two yahoos out there being epic shitheels, maybe, but Sanders hasn't done enough to tell his followers to knock it the fuck off. I don't know if he doesn't see the problem, thinks it's overblown, or just kind of likes it when people go feral on his behalf. But he has offered little more than the "Stop that" we have seen from someone ELSE when "very fine people" were out doing their white supremacy thing. As one of his supporters, you have to own that. And the reason why is because it's going to cause people to question either how much Sanders really wants them to actually stop, OR how well Sanders can lead if he can't even get control of the people who apparently think he is infallible. Saying that he has NO control over his zealot followers is actually.....a little scary. (Edit: Sanders has gone on record as being opposed to this behavior even as recently as a few hours after I first wrote this. Unfortunately, I noticed that the reaction to this was that things have gotten worse in the last 24 hours or so. Maybe the memo is still being distributed?) 
  • You know that way you feel? Like you KNOW how to make things better? You just KNOW and if people would just....fucking.....LISTEN to you, so much would be better? Well almost everyone else actively in politics feels that same way too. So you need to get out there and have some conversations with a little humility and see what happens. You can't court someone's vote by letting your allies treat them like shit and then getting MAD at them if they dare to mention it.
  • As I said before, congratulations. It's basically a two-person race now between Biden and Sanders and I'm even hearing rumors as of this writing that Warren will drop out. [Edit: This morning, to my renewed sadness even though I saw it coming.] Unfortunately, I'm sorry to say, you're up against a VERY savvy politician. Time to be ambassadors. And time to deal with the people who are out there being ANTI-ambassadors. You want your cause to sweep the nation, not leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Time to start acting like diplomats. Time to sell this revolution.

This is the only way you.......**AHEM**.......this is the only way WE can win.

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