The Liberal Purity Problem

Photo credit: "Busted," by Paul Cross. Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

There is a guy that goes to the bar around the corner from my house. We’ve only ever chatted a few times as I went out for drinks with my husband. I’ve always been polite. He looks like he could be a lumberjack with a thick black beard and always in plaid, but he drinks overpriced craft beers and you know he only owns Apple products. That kinda guy. He’s a hipster and a liberal, and he represents everything about the political left that I fucking loathe.

We met this guy on Election Night. We had spent all day clipboarding for Hillary, knocking on doors until the bitter end to make sure that registered Democrats knew their polling locations and had remembered to vote. Knowing we had done all we could, my husband and I stopped into the brand new tap house that had just opened up down the street. We were in the mood to celebrate as we watched this shitshow of an election finally die and history be made.

Enter Beard Guy.

He’s there to do the same thing and watch the election results roll in, but he wants to debate and talk about how the electoral commission is rigged and we’re all screwed anyway. He cryptically reveals, unprompted, that he didn’t vote for either candidate. I force a smile and resist the urge to throttle him as I wonder if I was looking at the second person to tell me that night that they were proud to have written in Mickey Mouse. But who cares! His wasted vote was already wasted.

Well, you know how that shit went down.  

Months later, being quite a bit more jaded and bitter than I was last time we met, Beard Guy comes into the bar again. He reveals that he wrote in Bernie Sanders. And I want to fucking throttle him again.

Here’s the thing about writing in Bernie Fucking Sanders. If you truly believed that Bernie was the only viable candidate and that he might actually pull in enough write-in votes to be President, then I don’t fault you. But you probably didn’t believe that. If you are so deeply religiously observant that you felt that casting a vote for either major candidate would literally consign your immortal soul to the burning of everlasting hellfire, then I don’t fault you. But you probably didn’t believe that.

If you wrote in Bernie Sanders, what you actually wanted was Hillary. You just wanted the rest of us to vote her in for you. Sure, you didn’t like her, you didn’t want her to be President, she wasn’t smiley and young and hot and likable. You wished any other woman was the candidate, blah blah blah horseshit blah, but you wanted her more than you wanted Trump.

Unless, like dozens that I talked to, you really felt that Trump or Hillary would leave us all equally fucked. Equally. Fucked. Do you know what kind of person is equally fucked by a Clinton or Trump presidency? The kind that is so privileged, so rich, so white, so well-educated and well connected, that there’s no way you would face any consequences from either President being in office. You weren’t ever going to be fucked. But you might’ve just had to sacrifice an inch of your ideological purity.

You wanted Hillary to win that election. You just wanted the rest of us plebes to vote her in for you so you could maintain your precious moral high ground. You wanted her to win and to have the right to say “Well, I  didn’t vote for her” every time she was too hawkish or too pro-corporation or too female for the next four years, and you could go to bed at night knowing what a good, pure little Liberal you are.

If you loved Bernie because you wanted to help poor people, then guess what? You fucked them when you didn’t help Hillary defeat Trump. You didn’t want to help poor people, you liked the idea of yourself helping poor people. Or you wanted to help poor people, but you wanted to hate women more.  The reality is that the middle class is bleeding out. Hillary wasn’t perfect, but people don’t need perfect right now, they need something, anything, any kind of relief. But they wouldn’t vote for someone that they agreed with only 80% because it wasn’t 100%, and there were no personal risks involved for doing so, and they didn’t like her unsmiley face.

Do you think that many folks who rely on Medicaid to live voted third party? Did black women write in their perfect, ideologically pure candidate? Did Hispanics conscientiously object to Clinton’s Wall Street ties? No. They turned up.

We have to be better. We’re liberals because we think we can make the world a more fair and decent place to live for the people who have gotten a shit deal from life. I liked everything Bernie had to say. He seemed to encapsulate that message neatly, almost perfectly. But I had to look at what was actually getting accomplished. Hillary had a track record a mile long of actually making things better for the people who were getting screwed, even when it was politically inconvenient, even when it was unpopular. Bernie had a list a mile long of shining speeches and an unshakeable ideology that he never deviated from, even once, and that was…about it. In terms of actual legislation that he had actually pushed through, he had diddly squat.

Speeches don’t help the disadvantaged, legislation does. Even when that legislation involves compromise, even when it only makes it to 70% of where it needs to be. Or 40%, or even just 10%. Single mothers would have been much better served by a woman who wanted to enact paid maternity leave and who also got paid a lot of money for corporate speeches than a billionaire who thinks he can grab them by the pussy. Immigrants would have done much better with a woman who wanted to close private immigration detention centers and was more hawkish than someone who wanted to eliminate grants for sanctuary cities. American national security would have been better served with a woman who shared information on a private email server that was vulnerable to attack than a man who bragged on Twitter about sharing classified information with the Russian Foreign Minister over lunch. Only someone with absolutely no skin in the game could possibly feel otherwise.

We on the left need to get our shit together and finally learn the difference between an enemy and an imperfect ally. That help will come too late for all of the youth that are going to be deported, the people who are going to die when Medicaid shrinks, and the National Park lands that will be privatized and sold off. But hey, I’ve heard a lot of you say you would’ve voted in the first female President if she had just been Elizabeth Warren. If she runs in 2020, maybe you’ll prove me wrong and stand behind her, even when she doesn’t turn out to be the literal Second Coming.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!