In a piece for the L.A. Times, James Carden doles out the usual reasons he thinks Clinton lost the election and, as all non-Clinton voters who didn’t support Trump, refuses to take any responsibility for his own actions. (“Stop blaming anti-war progressives and ‘Bernie Bros’ for President Trump”):
Instead of pointing the finger at “Bernie Bros” for Clinton’s defeat, mainstream Democrats might ask themselves if supporting arguably the most pro-war candidate in the party’s history was what actually midwifed the Trump presidency. Was nominating Clinton, a supporter of the Iraq war and a politician who unreservedly played the race card against candidate Barack Obama in 2008 the right thing to do?
Was it a wise decision to nominate someone who pushed for an expansion of the war in Afghanistan, for a needless and reckless war in Libya, and for wider war in Syria?
Were the Clinton campaign’s deep financial ties to billionaire Haim Saban, who only a month ago smeared Congressman Keith Ellision by calling him an anti-Semite, not worrying?
Were the Clinton Foundation’s lucrative links to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and the Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk something to be shrugged off?
But questions such as these seem to be out of bounds these days.
First, there are a lot of factors to blame for Clinton’s loss, and the candidate is surely a contributor herself. The biggest perpetrators in my mind are Trump voters and right-wing media. By and large they gave unmitigated support no matter how revolting Trump continuously revealed himself to be, and for voters this showed that they were either woefully uninformed, hated Clinton too much to vote another way, or actually liked what he said and did. That’s the first line of blame.
Second, I don’t necessarily blame Green party voters, for example, if they never had any intention of voting Democrat anyway. You know, the kind of person who thinks even Bernie Sanders isn’t progressively pure enough to vote for over Donald Trump—i.e. a lost cause. Nor do I necessarily blame Republicans who went for Johnson because they thought it was a principled stance against Trump, even though that’s what we wound up with anyway. I still blame both these groups in that they should have known better—how does anyone look at Trump and Clinton and not understand that Trump is a maniac?—but for whatever reason they didn’t and they don’t. They’re still at fault, but there was probably no chance to sway them away from their choices, and so yes, they’re to blame, but people like me aren’t likely to get them to think differently, so in the short term it’s useless going after them.
Third, those questions aren’t out of bounds. I don’t need lengthy explanations as to why you as an individual are uncomfortable offering support for a candidate like Clinton in a vacuum—it’s understandable enough. But those questions are also only relevant insofar as you believe that the opposition (Trump) wasn’t worse or likely to be potentially worse in those and in other cases. It’s like being in a situation where you have the capacity to pull a lever which will switch the train tracks from its current path of running over five people to another of running over one person because you don’t want to be responsible for death. Well, that’s great for you to have that personal code, but it doesn’t do much good for the helpless saps tied to the tracks. So by all means, raise those questions; there are legitimate criticisms to make of Clinton. But don’t think for a second there isn’t a wider context.
Instead, progressives and anti-war Democrats have been the target of baseless accusations of unpatriotic disloyalty, some of which would be funny, if the stakes weren’t so high.
No, progressives and anti-war Democrats who didn’t vote for Clinton have been the target. I know this because I’m both progressive and anti-war and am a registered Democrat, and no one’s blamed me—because I voted for Clinton. I supported Sanders in the primary, but because, as Carden points out, the stakes were so high I didn’t have to think for a second whether or not I was going to support Clinton in November. I seriously do not understand why this certain cadre of progressives does not understand this point.
I’ve asked this question before and I’ll ask it again. Were the situation reversed and Bernie Sanders had been the nominee instead of Clinton, and come election day a contingency of pro-Clinton supporters and ‘Third Way’ Democrats and centrists held out in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in large enough numbers to help tilt the electoral college in favor of Trump, would the progressive ‘Bernie Bros’ still be blaming the Democratic party and the flaws of their own candidate? Or would they blame the voters who didn’t turn out for Sanders because they “couldn’t in good conscience” vote for him (for whatever reason), even though he was running against a guy as vile as Trump?
We’ll never get to know. The cynic in me says a lot of the progressives who voted for Jill Stein or wrote-in Bernie Sanders or stayed home counted heavily on Clinton winning, largely so they could get on their moralizing, purity-troll soapbox and bemoan everything Clinton did. It’s a calculated effort—you get to act as though you’ve taken the ethical highroad, even though your intransigence permitted the election of a megalomaniac you acknowledged was worse. The only way progressives who didn’t vote for Clinton could have evaded partial blame is if, in an alternate reality, we knew for a fact that that particular contingency of voters wasn’t large enough to make a difference, or if Trump had won by such large numbers that a perfect Democrat coalition still couldn’t have defeated him. But that’s not what happened, so they are in part to blame. They’re not the sole perpetrators, but for people who go on and on about responsibility, they should be smart enough to realize that their moralizing only holds water if they own their decisions and the predictable outcomes.