Consider all those who would be elated if Sanders becomes the new President of the U.S. Among them, many positions contend. For example:
1. Openly support and also work for Sanders. Vote for him to get the nomination.
2. Openly support Sanders but do not work for him. Vote for him to get the nomination.
3. Praise Sanders but vote for Clinton to get the nomination.
People in Group 1 presumably favor Sanders’ policies over Clinton’s. They also feel that working for Sanders has enough chance of having positive effects to warrant giving their time. For some the positive effects are simply Sanders in office. For others the positive effects include building a lasting movement.
People in Group 2 presumably favor Sanders winning for the same reasons as those in Group 1, but they then look at all the things they can currently do with their time and decide that working for Sanders would accomplish too little to outweigh other priorities they have.
People in group 3 presumably fear that Sanders would lose to Trump, Cruz, or Rubio, who they believe Clinton would beat. They hope Clinton gets the nomination to avoid that horrible result.
Now suppose you want to argue with someone in Group 1 that they should not support or work for Sanders. Given the reasons at play, you would need to show that Clinton’s merits outweigh Sanders’ merits or demonstrate that despite Sanders’ merits being greater, Trump, Cruz, or Rubio would beat him. Or, as to work allotment, you would need to show there are better things than working for Sanders for people to do.
Suppose you wanted to argue with someone in Group 2 that they should not only vote for but also work for Sanders. You would need to show their work could help Sanders win or help build a movement even if he loses.
Suppose you wanted to argue with someone in Group 3 that they should support Sanders. You would need to show that Sanders would beat Trump, Cruz, or Rubio, or claim that his losing would be better than Clinton winning, for what it would set in motion for later.
Despite how obvious the above is, it seems many serious writers in outlets reaching pretty much only the audience I am assessing are making very different arguments than these. They endlessly repeat that Sanders isn’t really what they mean by a socialist and that Sanders doesn’t have their views on international relations or some other focused concern. They warn that the Democratic Party and its elites will fight fiercely to prevent his nomination. They bemoan that the Democratic Party is corrupt and serves corporate interests. Elections are bought and sold, they tell us, and elections are diversionary. They write all this, however, in outlets where every reader knows it all and has read it all many times. Their repeating the familiar claims seems to me to add nothing for their audience. More graphically, it doesn’t refute or even acknowledge actual reasons for their readers’ views. So who is it meant to affect? These writers never say Sanders’ merits are less than Clinton’s. They say the opposite. They never offer options for activity that they think ought to replace relating to the election. They rarely address electability. So what is their point, and their motive? (And just to be clear, this same would apply, for example, if Clinton were running against Trump and left writers just repeated endlessly to left readers that Clinton serves corporate interests, etc. Everyone voting for her from a left constituency, would be doing so simply because they wanted to block Trump, and would be immune to such comments, so why spend endless time making such comments over and over, as many will, if it comes to that, I would wager.)
So I find myself unable to discern the logic and motives of many essays about the election and candidates unless I assume that they are not concerned with convincing their audience of anything, but only seek to go on radical record, so to speak – regardless of the practical implications for the people they actually have any hope of being read by.
Put more positively, do left writers hope to inspire Sander’s supporters to push Sanders toward adopting still better views? If so, which seems fine to me as a purpose, why do many of these writers disrespect Sanders’ supporters as being befuddled by media madness or otherwise misguided? Is that a good way to make a case that those supporters ought to seek more from Sanders? Wouldn’t it make more sense to offer positive positions one would love to see Sanders take, positions that would enhance his positive prospects, all in a way that respects his supporters?
Similarly, I don’t understand why those who repeatedly trumpet that elections are a waste of time that drains energy and distracts us from more important endeavors appear more vested than most others in writing repeatedly about elections, much less doing so without offering anything new, much less doing so in a way ill suited to accomplishing anything positive. Am I missing something? Is there a positive agenda served by these writers, that I don’t see?
Do I think Sanders self-consciously favors revolutionary institutional changes toward a new society of a sort that I myself would favor? I don’t know Sanders’ deepest desires, but I doubt it. If he does, he has at the very least long kept it to himself.
Do I think Sanders’ views on various matters could, when taken simply as views and not as policies in a campaign, be better? Yes. But, again, unless I were to think I had some better views to suggest to usefully pursue in the campaign, and a way for those to be heard, so what?
To me, what matters is, Are Sanders’ views the best of those being offered? My answer is yes, by far. And I haven’t heard anyone on the left say otherwise.
Also, does the constituency he is reaching – and the fact that he is overwhelmingly disdainful and independent of big money – promise better results than the allegiances of any other candidate? Again, I think yes, by far, and I haven’t heard anyone on the left say otherwise.
Do I think Sanders’ victory, especially compared to any other candidate, would be meaningfully valuable for large numbers of people both in short run policy terms and in longer run changes to American politics and, yes, activism? Of course it could turn out otherwise, but, yes, I certainly think so. Would anyone on the left say otherwise?
Do I think Sanders could beat Trump, Cruz, or Rubio if he manages to beat Clinton? That, to me, is the only serious question I have heard raised by any leftist that actually bears on people’s practical choices. And, at the moment, yes, I think overcoming Clinton is the more difficult hurdle. It isn’t just that the polls say so, it is that even in context of endless attacks, I think he has far more likelihood of unraveling the right wing support base, while retaining and enlarging his own. So if we get closer to the convention and against the odds (which he has so far, indeed, been overcoming), Sanders is in a position to get the nomination over Clinton, then my current view is that if he did, he would then continue on to win the national election in what would likely be an incredibly involving, educating, and inspiring contest, breeding all kinds of continuing commitment.