}

Friday, May 20, 2016

Harsh realities

There’s a simple fact that some people will refuse to hear, but it doesn’t change the fact itself: Hillary Clinton will be the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, and there’s absolutely no chance that it will be Bernie Sanders. It’s time that people started to prepare for the battle in November. But, that’s not the only harsh reality some Democrats need to face up to.

Hillary Clinton needs fewer than a hundred delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot. That means that she needs only 12% of the remaining available delegates, and no one could seriously argue that she won’t actually win far more than that percentage.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, would need to win every single delegate remaining, plus peel away a more than a hundred of Hillary’s superdelegates. Neither will happen. The odds of Bernie cobbling together some sort of hybrid—say, most of the remaining delegates and half of Hillary’s superdelegates—also won’t happen.

This isn’t about favouring one candidate or the other, it’s about arithmetic.

Bernie Sanders has done the best in caucuses and open primary states because both allow non-Democrats to participate. But, even that’s a relative thing: Bernie won the open primary in Indiana, but only got 44 delegates to Clinton’s 39—nowhere even remotely close to the percentage he’d need to score an upset in the final contests. In Oregon, Bernie won just under 60% of the delegates, which at this late stage is also far too low a percentage to give him any hope of a last minute upset.

So, it’s dishonest for Bernie’s campaign to lead supporters to think he could still win, and it makes them look silly when they repeat the meme. But in recent months Bernie’s most fervent fans have had a clear problem with facts.

Before the Oregon primary, my social media feeds were filled with declarations from Bernie’s most fervent fans that there was a “conspiracy” in Oregon to deny Sanders a victory, and the Democratic National Committee and the state government were in collusion. It was all delusional nonsense, based a complete lack of understanding of how Oregon’s system works. And, when Sanders won, not a single Sanders supporter admitted that they’d been wrong. Funny, that.

This paranoid fantasy that the DNC, state parties, and even state governments are all engaged in a conspiracy to deny Bernie the nomination is very concerning because it ignores all facts and reality that show what nonsense it truly is. The rules they so relentlessly attack were drawn up a very long time ago, before anyone—including Bernie—had announced their candidacy and those rules were—or should have been—well known to everyone before anyone announced. Not knowing or understanding the rules does NOT mean they were created to prevent Bernie from winning the nomination: His inability to win enough votes is the reason he won’t win the nomination, not the rules that were set out in way before the contest began.

There absolutely needs to be campaign reform, which is a huge topic in itself, but I have no desire to play a game of whack-a-mole with Bernie’s most fervent fans about why some arcane rule or other isn’t part of an imaginary conspiracy against Sanders.

Pretty much anyone paying attention to the campaign has heard the negative comments about Bernie’s most fervent fans, the “Bernie Bros” being chief among them. They’ve certainly dominated social media, but that doesn’t mean they represent all of Bernie’s supporters.

Bernie is attracting the “anti-Hillary” voters among Democrats and Independents. Because those voters are motivated primarily by anti-Hillary animosity, they’re highly likely to engage in inappropriate behaviour and rhetoric, thereby tarnishing ALL of Bernie’s supporters with tinges of sexism, racism, and even violence toward those who don’t support Bernie. I’m quite sure that those are not the people that Bernie himself thinks of when he thinks of his supporters, but neither can he utterly reject them, not if he really wants influence at the Democratic National Convention.

Bernie’s supporters claim that Hillary’s most fervent fans are “just as bad”, always a dangerous claim to make in politics, given the extreme reliance on the perceptions of people with an ideological dog in the fight. As with Bernie’s most fervent fans, I’ve also seen inappropriate behaviour and rhetoric from Hillary’s most fervent fans—but it’s been entirely different.

And that’s what concerns me the most about this: The battle lines between Bernie’s most fervent fans and supporters of Hillary are becoming not just fiery, but also quite toxic—much to Republicans’ glee. Every time one of Bernie’s most fervent fans says a Clinton supporter is “an idiot” or needs to be educated, or refers to Hillary as “$hillary” (and her supporters as “$hills”), or declares that Hillary is “just Trump with a vulva”—all of which I saw yesterday evening—they’re doing the Republicans’ work for them.

Today, I saw some of Hillary’s most fervent fans mocking Bernie’s supporters with language that was mostly ageist (calling them “Bernie Brats”, for example, or referring to Bernie as "grandpappy") and implying his supporters are too young and naïve to really understand the issues. But I didn’t see any of Hillary’s most fervent fans calling Bernie’s most fervent fans “an idiot”, or dismissing their apparently deeply held opinions as paid for by big corporations, or declaring that Bernie’s most fervent fans are all neo-conservatives. The only directly comparable thing I personally saw was when one of Hillary’s most fervent fans referred to one of Bernie’s most fervent fans as a “progressive”—with quote marks, just as Bernie’s most fervent fans do to Hillary’s.

And then there’s this: I have a personal, real-life friend who is a kind, compassionate, thoughtful, and very intelligent person who has taken down several posts talking about Hillary because Bernie’s most fervent fans took it as their mission to tell her how very wrong she is to support Hillary. Ironically, the most recent deleted post was a share of an article about why more people don’t openly support Hillary on social media.

My friend’s experience is with real people, not “bots” as the two sides sometimes dismissively call each other. What my own Facebook friends have posted have been almost exclusively in support of Bernie, often trashing Hillary, while the two or three people I know who post about anything positive about Hillary always do so with a compliment of some sort about Bernie. Hillary’s supporters simply don’t have the same freedom to express their support for their candidate as Bernie’s supporters do, and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise.

But—and this is the most important thing I can say about this—SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE! Social media encourages people to be extreme and exclusionary, to denigrate and condescend to others rather than have a rational discussion. What happens in social media is NOT in any way transferrable to real life and doesn’t even remotely mirror the behaviour of the majority of people. Heck, I can’t even be sure that either candidate’s most fervent fans aren’t actually Republicans trying to sow division and animosity among Democrats.

So, while on social media this may seem like the most toxic Democratic primary election campaign we’ve ever seen, in the real world, it’s quite different.

A new poll from Gallup has found that 70% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the Democratic race is not harming the Democratic Party at all. Hillary’s supporters are somewhat more certain the process has not damaged the party than are Bernie’s supporters, which is interesting given the narrative that Hillary's supporters allegedly blame Bernie's supporters for wrecking the party's chances in November, but that difference is within the margin of error and may not be very significant.

What I worry about, however, is that it’s not merely the perception of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that matters, but them combined with non-aligned Independents. No candidate can be elected president with the support of only Democrats or only Republicans, so the opinion of non-aligned independents matters. Does the ongoing fight for the Democratic nomination—especially since the end result is known—turn them off? We simply don’t know.

Still, the important thing in this poll is that the vast majority of Democrats clearly don't participate in or pay any attention whatsoever to Internet fights. Nor should any of us. It seems to me that the most fervent fans of both Bernie and Hillary would do us—and the country—a favour if they’d grow the fuck up and stop acting like spoiled children arguing in the schoolyard. The stakes are far too high for that childish nonsense. The Republicans will be united in November, and Democrats must be, too.

And that, too, is a harsh reality both sides’ most fervent fans must grasp.

The graphic up top is an Internet meme I spied this afternoon, though I have no idea who created it. It mocks the declaration of some of Bernie's most fervent fans that Hillary is the same as Trump, an utterly stupid idea, of course, so this struck me as funny.

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