Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Be Insufferable or Win an Election. Pick One.

[EDIT: Boy it sure is going to be ironic when the reactions to this post (being exactly what I'm talking about) make me toss my support behind Biden.]


The worst part of democracy is the losing part.

And Warren lost pretty hard last night. (Edit: And has suspended her presidential bid as of this morning.)

However.....while I know that everyone who wants Sanders to go all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. so badly that they're wetting themselves is going to get a real itchy head from this, I would ask you to consider it loving advice from someone who wants us progressives to do a lot better against Biden than I think we're going to. And just let me say this ONE last thing to the Sanders supporters out there before I pop backstage for a costume change and become one of them:
  • You are not gonna win if you don't win more people to your side. Probably regardless (because the vast majority have not been convinced of the merits of a "socialist revolution," and are super nervous about taking anything they perceive as a chance on such a high-stakes election), but if you're filled with hope and bluster, you better change your tack from chasing down people who are "wrong on the Internet" and arguing with them until one of you unfriends/unfollows/blocks the other and switch to a much more compelling timbre. It's time to CONVINCE people. You do NOT have the numbers to win right now, so acting like Thanos ("I am inevitable.") is just going to go about the same way for you––no time travel needed. 
  • You have to realize you're trying to win PEOPLE over, not just win ARGUMENTS. Treat people like they're stupid. Treat people like they're ignorant. Treat people like they're insufficiently revolutionary if they haven't come to the same conclusions about the same things as you have. Call them bootlicking class traitors if it makes you feel better. But then you lose. Because that's not how to get votes.
  • "My way or the highway" is not how to govern a pluralistic society. It is how to govern a dictatorship. If you're going to play purity politics and drag anyone who disagrees, but you still want to be in charge, you need to win a coup. Bring guns. Don't lose.
  • You have to understand that messaging and message are different things. It's possible to tell people that everyone is getting a peggycorn pony and a rainbow gun that will make them orgasm with every trigger-pull (and not only will there be no need for taxes to pay for it but taxes will be abolished completely for everyone), but then to be SUCH an asshole that you turn people off completely from wanting that because it's you trying to give it to them. You can be selling free health care and college and jobs for everyone, but if the way you're doing it is to tell them that they are the evil establishment that is as bad as Trump, you might as well be trying to sell a box with a corn-laden turd in it. 
  • You're going to have to deal with electability arguments now. (Ironic, right?) Trust me when I tell you that people will ABSOLUTELY NOTICE if you are a flaming hypocrite about dismissing the same arguments you were MAKING about others, like....three days ago. You're going to want a more cogent, salient point in defense of not taking the safer road to defeat the worst president liberal values have ever seen.
  • You cannot just get mad at everyone you don't persuade. That's called intimidation, and it doesn't work in free and fair elections (which we kind of still have....sort of....I hope). There is another politician out there (and his followers) who gets mad at everyone he fails to persuade. Don't be like him (and them).
  • You might want to learn your candidate's platform and give him support beyond the stuff that––I gotta be honest––looks a little cult-of-personality-ish. People are going to ask questions like how how Sanders plans to pay for things. It would be really great for you to care enough about the candidate you want to govern you and everyone else that maybe you know the answers beyond "He just WILL." 
  • While you're at it, you should learn your candidate's voting record before you attack others for things Sanders has also done. It makes you look focused on him as a person instead of politics, platforms, and policy. Bernie voted for that crime bill you're trying to hang as a millstone over Biden's neck. He voted for Fosta/Sesta. You need to stop giving ONLY him the benefit of the doubt for having some complex calculus when it comes to complicated nuance or even just outright shitty votes.
  • You cannot speak matter-of-factly about how wrong someone is on a matter of political opinion without them having a negative reaction to that. You have to use "I" statements. You have to say things like "I feel" or "I hope" or "I think."  If you use statements like "Full stop," "Period," or "That's just how it is," every psychologist on Earth is going to tell you that (statistically speaking) the person you are talking to will walk away with a MORE ENTRENCHED opinion. This is not a social movement where you need to ostracize people for as long as it takes for the social repudiation to sink in and them (or more likely their children) to realize that they're the asshole. This is a partisan political movement in which you need to build a coalition who has your back (effectively, in about the next eight weeks).
  • You cannot confuse no one wanting to talk to you (because you're so unpleasant) with no one disagreeing with you. The fact that no one is on your wall picking a fight with all your pro-Sanders posts doesn't mean everyone agrees with you. It might just mean that everyone who would have done so has unfollowed you until 2021 when they hope you'll have calmed down.
  • You cannot discuss the outcome of the general election like you have anointed yourself the arbiter of What Will Be™. Talk about polls. Talk about your feelings. Talk about past elections that were similar. But every time you say "Only Bernie Can Beat Trump" without A) Evidence or B) The Slightest Acknowledgement That You Aren't Actually A Prophet, someone on the fence says something like "Sanders is a lot like Jesus. I like him more than his followers," and then goes and spends their $18.50 on a nice meal at Olive Garden.
  • Ditch the sexist double standards right. fucking. NOW. And while you're at it, stop dismissing the effect they have on the outcomes. Yes, I know that you didn't personally say "I could never vote for a WOMAN!" as you cast your ballot. You personally believed NONE of your reasons for hating her had anything to do with misogyny. I get that! But, see, that's not how double standards work. And that's not how modern-day scripts of supremacy and marginalization work. They're more subtle, more insidious, harder to recognize. Do you really believe a man of such competence would have done so poorly? (And if you think you would, perhaps ask yourself why you thought Sanders was being so REASONABLE when he suggested that a woman would have a harder time winning.) A huge number of polled folks said they would have her if they could have waved a magic wand. So what happened? Stick to policies and platforms if you didn't like Warren (or Klobuchar or Harris...), but be careful how you speak of her (them) and do the same due diligence you would for Sanders if he did something (like, say, signal that he was willing to negotiate on the abortion hard line) that the left considers "bad." Those same progressives you want to court and even fire up to donate and canvass are DEFINITELY going to notice if you are out there swinging around your huge throbbing D.....ouble standard.
  • Don't blame Warren for the loss of votes you feel you were entitled to. I realize the field is now mostly down to dudes duking it out (if Biden has his way, perhaps literally), but you know as well as I do that if there's a way to blame Warren for Sanders' performance going forward, a subset of supporters are going to cling to that like a lamprey on steroids. 
You have to realize you're trying to win people over, not just win arguments.
  • You must be open to the idea that, even if you feel your own personal motivations are pure and free from some sort of systematic double standard (like sexism), it is possible that a very sizeable number of your fellow supporters are adding enough bigotry to their attacks to change the perception of your entire group. That perhaps your meme pages, your friends, your media, your chat groups, the arguments you're hearing and repeating, or a thousand other sources up the "food chain" from you may be affected by motivations not so unsullied as you know your own thought process to be, including––we absolutely KNOW FOR A FACT––Russian psyops intended to divide the left so that Trump wins again. If someone calls something out that they think is harmful, you can roll your eyes and tell them they're simply wrong if you want, but it's probably not going to win you their vote. 
  • You have to stop nursing that persecution complex. Have people been unfair to Bernie? You bet. Politics is hell. Have they been unfair to The Left? That's the side that it's always okay to bash. Have they been unfair to YOU? All evidence suggests that if you give a shit about something on the internet, you've probably gotten unfair pain for it more than once. Has the MEDIA been unfair to Bernie? More than he deserves, for certain. But crawl down off that goddamn cross or walk away from mainstream politics. If you dismiss it all because "'they' hate us", you also dismiss people with thoughtful criticism. People with suggestions that, if implemented, would IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES. People who are literally telling you what the obstacle is to earning their vote. (Which you WANT.) You can't just ARGUE with them and try to Jedi Mind Trick them all into the fact that their concerns don't matter because sometimes people are mean to Sanders too. You know who else (along with his supporters) just complains and complains and complains about how everyone is persecuting him all the time and they are terribly unfair and fake-news witch-hunting him? (Okay, that last clue made it too easy.)
  • Watch out for that cult drift. Watch it, and be ready to hip check others going down this road. Because anyone who is not already stanning hard for Team Bernie is going to get super fucking nervous with every person they see acting like this.
Text version at the end of the article.
You're looking at #3 and #9 right? Super hard?
  • You cannot gloat, and you cannot shit on people's first choices. Just don't. You know that feeling you had when you realized (I mean really realized) that Secretary Clinton was going to be the nominee in 2016? Well, they're (we're) going through that now. Try to muster some fucking compassion unless you want them Bidening out of spite. But then, Sanders supporters wouldn't know ANYTHING about doing stuff out of spite or....oh wait....
  • And you triple dog dare don't want to turn around and retroactively blame their already-lost-candidate for how badly Sanders is doing now. You pretty much won't get me to go NeverSanders because I've seen what Trump can, and will do, to the people I love, but every time I hear some baseless we vs. them attack on Warren out of the mouth of a Sanders supporter, like "corporate whore" (particularly if it includes a misogynistic gendered slur), or I see someone saying that she should have dropped out sooner because Sanders was entitled to the votes she took (because of course every SINGLE Warren voter would have gone Bernie otherwise), I will get that much closer to leaning back, doing nothing until July 14th, and just watching Biden cinch it without a peep. I won't like him (Biden) any more than I already don't, but the giveashit will just drain right out of me. My five dollars a month and occasional blog post might not matter for much, but I'll donate to flipping the senate and write about voter re-enfranchisement. Hell, I'll buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies and eat them while I write an editorial about the beauty of non-comma appositive phrases before I'll stand for that bullshit. And I am not alone. So curb the worst devils of your nature. (And help the person next to you curb theirs.)
  • Except Bloomberg. You can probably do Bloomberg. Anyone who thought he was awesome isn't coming around to your side of the "soul of the Democrat party" anyway. What a landfill inferno that was. (Way too big to just be a trash can fire.)  **changes the words to Disco Inferno** "♫Burning burning....♪"
  • According to polling, Sanders pulled in fewer "Bernicrat" voters (those who won't vote in the general if it's not Sanders on the ticket) than in 2016, so you are not the infusion of young blood that's going to save the Democratic party. You might want to consider this when you attempt to persuade (instead of badger, remember?) the bigger, better-funded, more civically engaged, has-been-here-the-whole-time-not-just-every-four-years wing of the party you mean to lead.
  • That's right! You are attempting to elect the leader of the Democratic party and you're doing so by turning to DEMOCRATS and asking them to join you in a movement that is to the left of most of them. And risky. And particularly scary when the stakes are so high that they want to play it safe. You might want to think about not treating them like they're the enemy. 
  • This is a political movement with social dynamics, not a social movement with political dynamics. The platform you want may have a lot to do with financial equality and inequality, but this isn't a situation in which civility politics are a derailment. This is a situation in which you actually very much can "do yourself no favors." A non-trivial number of people have left Sanders or been turned off by him because of the way they have been treated by his supporters. You DO have to think about your tone. 
  • You are not the one who gets to decide if you are being friendly, reasonable, "just debating," "just asking questions," "just bringing up some concerns." If someone tells you that you're being insufferable, you can't just insist that no, you're not. In an eight-week race to persuade others to your cause, other people's perceptions of your jackholery is all that matters. (Yes, I know the primary may not really be over until July 13th. I'm thinking about when things get pretty gosh dang locked in.) You have to listen to people who tell you that you're coming off as combative, being vitriolic, jumping in with knee-jerk defense so aggressively that it feels truculent. Remember, you can't just BEAT these people in some online contest of who-gets-in-the-last-word. You want them to go into a voting booth and AGREE WITH YOU, so "winning" your debate doesn't just mean getting someone to quit the field only to betray you later. ("The Warrenisters send their regards!")
  • You absolutely, positively, unequivocally CANNOT brazenly hold the fate of the country hostage by saying that the Dems better come around to Sanders because, by God, you will not vote for Biden. You may think that. You may even plan on doing that. And I'm not here to tell you anyone is entitled to your vote or malign a political calculus that causes deeply marginalized folks to abstain from voting altogether (though I would hope the last election has been evidence that even though things can't get better at non-glacial speeds, they can always get WORSE). But if you want to entice anyone to your cause, you better shut the fuck up with the "Do this, or else!" narrative. As a threat, it will absolutely have the opposite effect you intend. 
  • You HAVE to stop with the conspiracy stuff. The DNC bylaws absolutely suck, Superdelegates are anti-democratic. (We can talk about how they do provide a block against populist tyranny, but maybe another time.) Democrats are to the right of center and would be the conservative party in most other developed nations. The establishment will work to protect their own power. And watching the D triple C try to keep their centrist dinosaurs from being primaried was breathtakingly out of touch. But even STILL....there's a difference between the DNC outright rigging an election and some other politician outmaneuvering Sanders. There's a difference between the DNC rigging an election and making political alliances. There's a difference between the DNC rigging an election and Sanders not getting the votes he needs in a fair democratic process. This is a contest where coalitions matter. Where bringing people to your way of thinking matters. Where you want to earn and call in favors. And frankly, where not being a member of the party probably has some downsides. It's a contest in which you can't just repeat the word "revolution" and "corruption" so many times that you come to believe anyone who moves against you is obviously playing dirty pool. Sometimes they're just playing pool, but they know how to make the trick bank shot. And sometimes you lose in democracy because you didn't convince enough folks. It's not actually a conspiracy. 
  • You better shut up with the "both sides are just as bad" shit comparing moderates to Republicans. You need those moderates, and egregiously insulting them is a pretty good way to get them to go online and buy some Biden signs for their front lawn. You may have a point of view from which both parties share certain harmful ideologies like capitalism or imperialism, and there is room to talk about that in the wide umbrella the Democrats cast in what is unfortunately a two-party system.... Certainly the moderate wing of the democratic party is at odds with the progressive wing on a number of issues....  But the kids in cages, the people in danger of losing health care, the women who stand to lose control of their own bodies, the folks who are terrified about their physical safety should Trump win again, they are simply ERASED completely by such a reductive, facile political bit of bumper sticker* wisdom. (*It's not even nuanced enough to be a sound bite.)
  • You cannot preemptively say that the only result you will consider valid is if you win. That if you lose, the game was clearly rigged all along. (I mean if you're polling at 75 points maybe, but....that's not what's going on here.)  That is the tactic shared by.....well, by now I hope you know. 
  • You have to stop treating Democrats to the right of you like they're worse than Trump. Look, I get it: the DNC is a shart in a hot tub and the moderates among them are fighting your every progressive policy. But here's the pisser of it, and there's no getting around it: If Bernie becomes the President of the United States but Dems lose so many down-ticket races because he acts like they're the bad guys, then none of this sweet revolution will ever actually happen. You won't have the votes! Presidents have different powers than Congress and doing what they want requires a Congress that won't stop them. You have to be ready to grudgingly deal with legislators in purple states who've made some decisions you aren't happy with. If Congress goes red, it won't matter who the President is. If you become uncompromising purity politickers, you lose it ALL. 
  • 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. Time to deal with the people who are out there basically being anti-ambassadors for the cause you mean to have sweep the nation. Time to start acting like like the diplomats you are going to have to be to your cause. Time to sell this revolution.
This is the only way you.......**AHEM**.......this is the only way WE can win.

This got a little long, so I'm going to make a separate post about a certain subset of Sanders supporters who are particularly difficult online. You know the ones.


  • Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.

    1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group/leader resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.
    2. Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
    3. Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
    4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
    5. Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
    6. Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
    7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
    8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
    9. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
    10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I'm really surprised you thought such a comment WOULDN'T be deleted in my space (this is MY blog––wipe your feet), but I promise you that if you can reword it like it's not a "gotcha!" that is ironically pulling about three of these bullet points, I'm happy to have reasonable discussions on my page.

  2. Very good piece but way too long. I would love to share this with a number of friends but I know not one will have the patience to get through the whole thing. These things need to be said. And this needs to be shared. Any way you could edit it down a bit?

    1. No, I'm afraid not. You can put a redacted version into the preview text when you share. Sometimes I make a decision to speak to an Internet attention span and sometimes I make sure to get it all out.

      I think part of the problem is precisely THAT 3,500 words looks "way too long," and this isn't something I'm willing to oversimplify to cater to that trend.

  3. Brilliant. But I admit to scanning a couple paragraphs toward the end. Thanks for not trying to distill this into attention grabbing bullet points.

  4. 3 wheelbarrows full of heavy-bricks writing. I liked it. "Ur trying to win people over, not just win arguments." WashPost just wrote about a Bernard Brother who'd given up shit-posting on FB under his own name bc it alienated EVEN his fellow Bernie canvasser. Instead, he switched to exclusively shit-posting on safely-anonymous Twitter. He does some heavy self-reflection in the article... but ultimately can't decide whether he's going to sit out the election if Bernie doesn't get the nom.