Recently I had an experience on twitter where I saw somebody posting a link for an article that criticized presidential hopeful Kamala Harris and blamed Bernie Sanders for this criticism. The thread was full of people with nothing but vitriol for Bernie Sanders going so far to call him both a racist and a misogynist. My wife has noticed to that criticism of certain democratic candidates erupts into divisive attacks against Bernie Sanders supporters. When I asked for evidence of any connection to Bernie Sanders and a critique of Kamala Harris I was given none. This twitter account had 31K followers and had a lot of posts implying dark money and nefarious works of Bernie Sanders to attack the democratic establishment. The account belongs to Tom Watson and his credentials seem reputable, but for one who claims to be a journalist, he seemed to present no evidence of many of his claims.
But perhaps people like these are a dime a dozen on the internet, but it does make me extremely worried about this future election. What we need is at least some unity, preferably with people who voted for Trump, but if we can’t get that we have to at least be striving for some unity in the left. Identity politics seems to be winning the day, and the left has been described some as divided into all sorts of small groups. The tribalism that we characterize the right with in terms of racism and xenophobia seems to me just as rampant across many groups on the left. It may not be some of the more obvious ones like skin color, religion, or nationalism, but it’s still there and what’s most worrying is that it seems to be based on very minor differences in overall worldview. It seems to me the more that liberals are at each others throats this just increases the odds that when it comes to general election time more people will stay home if their horse didn’t win the primary, or might actually go across the aisle because they are so bitter after all the in fighting. There is no reason that Bernie Sanders fans should not support Kamala Harris at this point and vice-versa, but more importantly we have to get our heads on straight about why we are voting for a particular candidate. This isn’t sports and who ever puts on the jersey we like we have to root for. Government’s goal is to enact the best ideas about how to govern, and this should determine who we vote for.
After the last election I, and I know many of my friends did a lot of research and reflection of how we got to where we were. As incredulous as Trump’s win was, to suggest that it is the fault of anybody who tried to run for the job who had generally good ideas and who represented more compassion and benevolence than Trump. Nor should we be accusing each other because we supported who we thought was going to be the best liberally minded candidate. As a Bernie supporter I was certainly disappointed, but it was clear to me that Hillary was better than Trump and I supported. Bernie fans who voted for Trump, I think were misguided, but I don’t think this should start casting blame on inspirational politicians who challenge the establishment. If your vote for a candidate is solely based on gender, or racial identity, or the party they belong to, you are just as guilty of the same behavior as somebody who didn’t vote for someone based on their gender or racial identity. If you are liberal what you should be for is fighting for a future in which the content of the individual running for office is the reason to vote for them. And while I think there is enormous value to new generations to grow up in a time with female president and/or ethnic minority president, there is also enormous value in having them grow up with leaders who intelligent and empathetic, and who have good ideas that are going to help people have better lives.
It’s also worth remembering that the Russian interference in the election is very real, and one of the ways it worked is by exploiting division. I recently listened to this podcast interview on Sam Harris podcast with Renee DiRiesta who has done a lot of research into how Russians used social media to exploit divisions between people. Not only getting more support for Trump, but trying hard to suppress democratic voters from going to the polls. It did make a difference. They are still doing it. The same tactics have been used by terrorist organizations to recruit, and it can it it also being done within our country as well. We must resist the temptation to be divided, and while I’m certainly not suggesting that we don’t take a stand on certain issues, if you are spending a lot of time arguing with people on social media you are simply wasting your time. Twitter and Facebook can take all the steps reasonably allowed to try and prevent fake accounts, but people intent on manipulation on a mass scale through social media will find away around us and it is up to use to be aware and responsible users in the end.
The anti-establishment writing is on the wall, and it was for the last election, but the DNC refused to recognize it. Trump was no anti-establishment answer but it what many people were looking for. Likely that sentiment is going to be there again and it is going to be a source of contention on the left. For those of you who followed Bernie his goal was never to actually win, but to shift the conversation. To stay focused on issues and to address the anger that many Americans were feeling towards an economic elite that were bleeding the country dry. Not all of his ideas were great, and whoever you end up supporting will probably not have all the best ideas either. I suggest:
- If you want to discuss politics, discuss the issues. Avoid name calling and personal attacks.
- Stay away from social media for your information and to keep your emotional health in check during this election season. It’s a ridiculously long cycle in the U.S. and it’s easy to let your boredom lead you down the path of social media, but it is not your friend, and there are entities on there aiming to continue to divide people. Don’t let it work. Not only do you share many similar concerns with your fellow democrat, but probably also your fellow Republican.
- Consider supporting a few newspapers monetarily. These platform that are free and run on advertising are prone to attention getting not truth finding. Good information and journalism costs money. Do some research on what papers have good investigative research and get an on-line subscription
- Promote empathy by sticking with politicians who demonstrate it, and also be giving it to your fellow human.