I see these fights all the time, and sometimes I even get INTO these fights. I’m going to write down my view in one place (here), so I don’t have to keep repeating it.
I’m supporting Bernie Sanders IN SPITE OF all the objections raised by all the leftier-than-Democrats. I think I’ve understood all those objections. I think many of the leftier people have not understood MY RESPONSE to those objections.
(I’m taking Howie Hawkins as an example, because I’ve heard him mentioned more often than any other Green candidate, and I think he’s likely to become the Green Party’s nominee for 2020. But these arguments would apply to any candidate from the Green Party or any of the USA’s several socialist parties.)
Yes, Howie Hawkins — or any left-of-Democrat candidate — DOES have policies that are at least a little better than Bernie Sanders has. We could debate how much better, but that’s really beside the point.
Yes, Bernie’s proposals are different from those of a real socialist. Yes, Bernie endorsed Hillary after she cheated him. And Bernie has many other seeming imperfections too. I can explain away some or all of those, but that’s really BESIDE THE POINT.
Here is the main point: In my opinion, Bernie is the best presidential candidate among those who HAVE ANY REAL CHANCE OF WINNING in 2020.
Now, that still leaves four points for us to debate:
(a) Some of my left-of-Democrat friends are convinced that Bernie has no chance of winning. Well, your crystal ball and mine are giving different messages. I’m just stating MY OPINION, my guess, based on what I think when I look at the political landscape and how it appears to be changing. No, I don’t feel certainty about this opinion of mine. We could debate about the reasons for our different guesses, but let’s not. One leftier fellow asked me, “are you pretending the events of 2016 didn’t happen?” I responded, “no, are you pretending that the events of 2016 didn’t change anything?”
(b) Some of my leftier friends are convinced that Howie (or some other third party candidate) actually DOES have a real chance of winning. Sorry, I don’t think so. I wish he did. And I agree that the present arrangement is unfair, but it’s not my doing. I’m just telling you what I see. One leftist friend of mine told me that he had never even heard of Howie Hawkins until he read an earlier version of this essay. … A few of my Green friends are saying “if only everyone would get on board, we could win this thing.” Well, certainly, IF. But how likely do you think it is that everyone will get on board? Again, I’m only stating my own guesses; yours may differ.
(c) Some of my friends think that another actually-could-win candidate — e.g., Elizabeth Warren — is better than Bernie. Well, I could debate that too, but not here and now.
(d) Here is what may be the trickiest and most important point. Some of my lefty friends say that whether you have any real chance of winning should not be a deal-breaker. They talk about lesser evil and the “ratchet effect.” They say the Democrats and Republicans are the left and right sides of a single entity that has been repeating this cycle for decades, moving further to the right step by step; they say we need to “break the cycle.” Then they talk about “building the party,” which may take another decade of wandering in the wilderness. After that finally we can make some third party strong enough to actually win. That’s actually two points:
(d1) They’re saying Bernie is a sheepdog, a sellout, who never had any intention of working for the people. I think that’s a lot of bs. Bernie Sanders has been consistently promoting progressive values for 40 years; that’s longer than the Green Party has existed in the USA. He’s not going to throw away a lifetime’s effort for anything I can imagine. I would trust him more than any other politician I can think of, including any Johnny-come-lately in the Green Party. You can make those accusations about most other Democrats (including maybe Elizabeth Warren), but Bernie is not most other Democrats. Bernie is breaking all the clichés about politicians.
(d2) “Building the party” would take another decade or so. But WE DON’T HAVE ANOTHER DECADE. I’m a mathematician, and I fear that most people won’t understand this next statement of mine until it’s too late. The climatologists have been understating the effects of feedback loops and tipping points. The IPCC says catastrophe is headed our way, and millions will die by century’s end, but I see worse — I expect human extinction by 2040 if we don’t make huge changes fast. (I have explained that in https://leftymathprof.wordpress.com/climate-timid/ in more detail.)
The IPCC recently said we have until 2030 to turn things around, but I think it’s more like 2025. That doesn’t leave us enough time to build a revolution or a third party, but it might be enough time to elect Bernie. I prefer Bernie for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is this: Among the candidates with any real chance of winning, Bernie is the only one taking climate seriously enough. Bernie is our Hail Mary pass to avoid extinction. Support Bernie as though our lives depend on it, BECAUSE THEY DO.
2019 Nov 5, version 1.02.