Monday, February 3, 2020

Why I am supporting Warren over Sanders, others

With Iowa caucuses toady and since I am a somewhat active member in my local Democratic party, I am well past due documenting why I will be caucusing for Elizabeth Warren. (Better late than never?) While my political ideology aligns more with Sanders than Warren, I view getting progressive legislation passed to be more important. Being ideologically "pure," so to speak, doesn't mean much if they are ineffective as President. Jimmy Carter comes to mind as an example of someone who I would seem to align with well politically, but their ineffectiveness as President may have set back more progressive politics. (Worse, Carter proudly identifying as an Evangelical Christian, despite having little in common with them politically, may have inadvertently helped their rise to political power.) Consequently, this post is going to be much more about why I am not supporting Sanders than it is about why I am supporting Warren.

Sanders, for much of his career, has not been a member of the Democratic party, preferring instead to be a principled outsider, though he caucuses with Democrats in Congress. While there are reasons to admire him for doing that, my concern is that he doesn't have enough allies in Congress to pass legislation. Since we live in a country still resembling something like a democracy and since we should be striving to restore our democracy and not resort to executive orders to push a progressive agenda, the next President will need every ally they can get.

I was reminded recently as well that Sanders has only managed to get seven bills passed. That appears to be a fact and that really doesn't seem like much, especially when two were for the naming of post offices and another for designating Vermont Bicentennial Day. The website I link does provide somewhat of a defense of Sanders and I do generally agree, so I'll quote them here:
Does 7 not sound like a lot? Very few bills are ever enacted — most legislators sponsor only a handful that are signed into law. But there are other legislative activities that we don’t track that are also important, including offering amendments, committee work and oversight of the other branches, and constituent services.

Warren, on the other hand, managed to proposed and established a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while she was a Harvard professor! She helped to create an important bureau without even being in office! She has also, unlike Sanders, expressed a willingness to work with Democrats. I recognize this is a point of frustration for many so-called progressives (I'll abbreviate as SCP for short from now on) as they are tired of the "old guard" of politicians and, because Warren is willing to work with them, some SCP's view Warren as a fraud and an operative of that old guard. While I sympathize with these concerns, I believe it is the political reality we live in.

This brings me to the "political revolution" Sanders was promoting four years ago. It's not coming. I don't know what more there is to say, other than to make clear that I believe Sanders needs it to happen to be effective. While I do not believe Sanders himself is using the "political revolution" rhetoric much this year, he did put out a campaign ad recently called "Transform This Country."

I generally like the ad. It has a nice message about fighting for people you don't know as much as you would for yourself. But, there's a conditional in Sanders' speech: "If you and millions of others are prepared to [fight for people you don't know], not only will we win this election, but together we will transform this country." I'm just not convinced that will happen. Good luck finding millions of people willing to do that! Sure, I have no doubt Sanders can find millions of people willing to vote for him, but that is not equivalent.

While this has to do less with the election itself, I must acknowledge and discuss issues I see with a number of Sanders' supporters. Earlier, I mentioned so-called progressives. Allow me to elaborate on that at this time. I am concerned that there are many who claim to be progressive but that their claims are bogus and are more about making themselves feel superior to others. In other words, I worry they are self-righteous. These are people I might also call Bernie Bros as they seem to be not only predominantly male, but white as well. The Bernie Bro seems to be mostly focused on economic issues, healthcare being the big one, but don't seem to be overly worried about other issues such as criminal justice reform. I'm not sure if I've seen anyone better exemplify the Bernie Bro mentality than Krystal Ball who hosts The Hill's Rising. She is critical of everyone to the right of Sanders, implying that they are immoral if they don't support Medicare for all, but will also bash SJW's (social justice warriors). It may seem odd for someone to question the morality of those who don't support better health care and then turn around and criticize those who have concerns regarding issues relating to racial discrimination or women's rights or transgender rights, etc, etc. But I think it goes to show that these Bernie Bros have a very narrow policy focus. That would be fine so long as they wouldn't be moralizing toward others.

The reason I bring this up is because I am concerned that, if Sanders were to be the nominee, they'll scare people away from voting for Sanders. No, this isn't exactly an "electability" argument. I do think Sanders is electable, but I am concerned about some of his supporters screwing up. I found a quote from Krystal Ball that seems quite lacking in self awareness. She says, "No one is going to vote for a party who looks down their nose at them." Yet, she seems unconcerned about the impacts of looking her nose down on others. Really, I suspect the problem is she doesn't realize she's doing that. I don't think many of the Bernie Bros do. That quote, though, is why I find these supporters concerning. I agree with what she says there. So I hope the Bernie Bros like her come to their senses.

When it comes to Warren supporters, however, I have not noticed a superior attitude that could turn off voters. Granted, since I align more politically with Sanders, I am likely exposed to his supporters social circles more. So I acknowledge this could be an issue of sampling bias. Yet, I still have to make my decisions on what I know and not what I don't know. That I have not encountered many toxic Warren supporters is another reason I have for supporting her. While looking at supporters of candidates may not seem all important, I think it is because it is the supporters of the candidate in the primaries who will likely become the bulk of the volunteers that will be out canvassing for the general elections if their candidate becomes the nominee for the general election.

Now I'd like to quickly cover notes on other candidates.

While I am concerned about Sanders not having allies in the Democratic party, I have no issue with candidates who have no Republican allies. In fact, given how Republicans blockaded legislation under Obama (and are now doing the same against the House) and are protecting the criminal President in office now, I find it naive to even consider working with Republicans. Forget them. Sure, we'll need to retake the Senate, but that will be a much easier task than getting a sufficient number of Sanders allies into office. And so I am basically dismissing Biden and Klobuchar for being candidates who want to reach across the aisle. (I'll add that, of the two, I am more favorable of Klobuchar.)

Buttigieg still seems a mystery to me. It's not really clear to me what people see in him. I'm not the first to say that he seems out trying to appease as many groups as he can where one minute he's trying to portray himself as progressive but the next he's either criticizing progressives for wanting to fight hard or making right-wing talking points. There are also concerns that, while mayor of South Bend, he had the black police chief fired due to pressure from his donors. Whether or not Buttigieg was actually influenced by his donors is not clear, but it seems that big money donors believe Buttigieg can be bought and that's a scary thought. Also, I have found his "Medicare for all who want it" plan to be a joke. Primarily, he says he's going to fund it by repealing the Trump tax cuts. That's a problem as those tax cuts were not offset themselves. Therefore, they can't be used to pay for anything. They have to be repealed to keep us from going further into the red as it is.

Yang is perhaps the only other candidate worth mentioning due to his popularity with more active party members. While I am supportive of the idea of his Freedom Dividend, he seems quite naive when it comes to politics and even philosophy. One big concern I have is he has talked about not prosecuting people from the Trump administration, suggesting we need to look forward, much like Obama did when he took office in regards to the Bush administration. The problem with this is that, if there are no consequences for committing a crime, then there is no deterrent from committing more in the future. (Note too that they never talk about looking forward when it comes to every other criminal currently in jail!) Another one of his bigger proposals is "human-centered capitalism" where we are to look more at indications of well-being more than GDP. While that's not a terrible idea on the surface, I have no clue how he plans to actually implement such an idea. He says, for example, he wants to "reward people and organizations who drive significant social value." It's not clear, though, how he'd go about identifying these people and organizations nor how he would reward them. It would be interesting if the reward were monetary considering he wants to get away from that type of capitalism.

I'd like to add that it is prior experience from that atheist movement that leads me to distrust some people calling themselves progressive. Back 10 years ago or so, it felt like one of the top critiques of religion was the treatment of women, particularly under Islam. But then 9 years ago atheist women began to object more strongly to the way atheist men were treating them and many atheist men basically told these women to STFU. Perhaps the most disruptive came from Richard Dawkins where he pretended to write to a Muslim woman, mocking and minimizing the problems American women deal with because those problems aren't as bad as those faced by Muslim women. It was not only a childish thing of Dawkins to do, but rather hypocritical considering his name had risen in popularity for criticizing religion mainly in some of the least religious countries in the world. But Dawkins reaction and similar reactions of many other atheist men revealed that their criticisms of religion was more about being self-righteous and, particularly in the criticisms of Islam, racist. It revealed that their claims of better morality were bogus. The atheist movement slowly collapsed into irrelevance after this.

I'll also note that, here in Cedar Rapids, I gave up on the atheist movement around August of 2014, I believe, where white male atheists were expressing a desire to be welcome in the Republican party and wishing it weren't so dominated by Evangelical Christians. I found it disturbing that the racism and the sexism of the party did not seem to bother them. From then, I saw them as privileged white guys who were whiny that they didn't have even more privilege. When I listen to these white Bernie Bros who seem mostly focused on economic issues, I cannot help but hear people of privilege wanting more privilege for themselves and not necessarily for others.

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