Wednesday, May 01, 2019

We can be Indivisible

Learning the lessons of the 2016 US Presidential election campaign—both their own and Republicans’—Democrats are embracing a new campaign for a simple unity pledge. The idea behind it is simple: A unified Democratic Party can defeat the Republicans, but a divided one won’t—and the USA has no issue that is more important than getting rid of the current regime. This could be everything.

The video above is a segment from today’s The Rachel Maddow Show and talks about the Indivisible Pledge. The Pledge for candidates is in three parts:
Make the primary constructive. I’ll respect the other candidates and make the primary election about inspiring voters with my vision for the future.

Rally behind the winner. I’ll support the ultimate Democratic nominee, whoever it is — period. No Monday morning quarterbacking. No third-party threats. Immediately after there’s a nominee, I’ll endorse.

Do the work to beat Trump. I will do everything in my power to make the Democratic Nominee the next President of the United States. As soon as there is a nominee, I will put myself at the disposal of the campaign.
Sen. Bernie Sanders was the first candidate to sign the Pledge, and, as several people have pointed out, this is a great way to head off the divisions that happened in 2016 when many of his supporters refused to vote for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the General Election. No one knows how many many of Sanders’ supporters did this, but those who did helped put the current occupant of the White House into power. The number we’re talking about doesn’t matter: Even if we’re talking about, say, five people, that’s five too many in a close election, as 2016 was and 2020 may be.

The other aspect of this is that if the Democratic candidates spend their primary campaign shooting at each other, it will weaken the ultimate Democratic nominee in the minds of general election voters. That happened in 2016 (among other problems and issues not related to this particular issue).

So, if Democratic Candidates take the Indivisible Pledge, it will encourage their supporters to do so, too, and that’s even more important (the Grassroots Pledge is very similar to the Candidate’s Pledge). Even before the Indivisible Pledge was announced, I was saying that Democrats should never trash Democratic candidates we don’t support, but, instead, we should be talking about the candidate we like and/or the issues/positions that make us like them. It’s that easy! We don’t need to tear down other candidates in order to build up the one we like; if their positions are as good as we think they are, they’ll be every bit as attractive to other voters, which is why we should boost them. At the same time, trashing other candidates won’t do anything to make ours seem better, it’ll just weaken a candidate who may end up being the Democratic nominee.

Naturally, not everyone likes the “speak no evil” nature of the Indivisible Pledge. Writing on Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley wasn’t having it:
The problem with unity enforcement, though, is that it tends to protect the status quo, because it means never criticizing the frontrunner, which gives party insiders and major donors—who are free to line up behind particular candidates before they even launch their “exploratory committees”—even more influence than they already have.
Since Mathis-Lilley isn’t a Democratic candidate, I’m free to say this: That’s a stupid thing to say. No one is saying don’t express legitimate criticism, it’s that we should avoid attacks and smears. There’s a huge difference between attacking a specific candidate, as Mathis-Lilley did, for having a fundraiser conducted by a corporate lobbyist, and saying “candidates should not rely on corporate lobbyists to raise their campaign funds”. The former is an attack on specific activity people may disagree about, or people may be willing to overlook, and the second is a legitimate position to take. There are ways to make one’s point without tearing down candidates personally.

This matters because one of the Democratic candidates—either one of the announced candidates or one yet to announce—will be the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Until actual votes are actually cast, we cannot know who that nominee will be, so by attacking individual candidates we may actually be weakening the eventual nominee.

Obviously there are a few people who disagree with the basic premise here, namely, that pragmatism matters more than “principle”, but I personally have no time for that sort of self-righteous moral superiority. The 2020 election could very well be our last chance to save American democracy, and it’s morally indefensible to take any position other than that of the Indivisible Pledge.

Republicans don’t have this problem. Even before the current regime took control of both the government and the Republican Party, there was an old saying that was and remains true: Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. That means that, traditionally, if Democrats don’t “love” their candidate they’ll stay home on Election Day, whereas Republicans will vote for their candidate no matter what. Obviously that’s not true for all voters all of the time, but that’s not the point: The phrase describes typical behaviour.

Democrats need to worry less about loving their candidate and more about being pragmatic: Electing the only alternative to the Republican, and that will be whoever the Democratic nominee is. Sure, we may not “love” the Democratic nominee—we may not even like them very much. But if the Democrat doesn’t win in 2020, we may not get another chance to find a candidate we can love.

To be blunt: Let’s not fuck this one up.

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