Friday, April 29, 2016

Kevin Drum's scathing critique of Bernie Sanders, Kevin Drum

I want to step back a bit and explain the big-picture reason that I never warmed up to Bernie Sanders...I think he's basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause...
Bernie's explanation for everything he wants to do—his theory of change, or theory of governing, take your pick—is that we need a revolution in this country...[but] the revolution that Bernie called for didn't show up. In fact, it's worse than that: we were never going to get a revolution, and Bernie knew it all along. - Kevin Drum
So as far as I can tell, Drum opposed Sanders because...he uses the same revolutionary rhetoric that everyone else does? Clinton's campaign surrogates are quite openly "ready for the revolution". Obama's 2008 candidacy routinely relied on all kinds of revolutionary rhetoric, from his promises to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" to the Soviet agitprop aesthetic of his famous Hope poster; as Sara Robinson wrote at the time:
Barack Obama is walking away with the moment because he talks of "hope" -- which...is the very first thing any would-be revolutionary needs. And then he talks of "change," which many of his followers are clearly hearing as a soft word for "revolution."
Indeed, Clinton attacked Obama for this rhetoric at the time, just as she and her surrogates are attacking Sanders for it now. Listen to Drum today, and you hear the direct echo of Clinton's 2008 critique:
...if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog...In place of this, he promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that's never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails...do they give up? I don't know, but my fear is that some of them will...
I recall reading some compelling criticism of this kind of "false hope" rhetoric at the time:
...the most jarring statement I heard...was Hillary Clinton's admonition that "we don't need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered." ...the way she put it was horribly off-putting...I'll bet that "false hope" line stuck in a lot of craws. After all, I'm pretty sympathetic toward her, and it stuck in mine.
That was 2008's Kevin Drum, who seemed fine with revolutionary rhetoric when it was coming from Obama. In fact, he wanted more of it:
Obama obviously has the talent to move people, and at some point he's going to have to decide whether he's willing to use that talent to start persuading the American public of the value of liberal policies, not merely the value of coming together and "making change." The latter might get him elected, but it won't get him elected with a tailwind of public opinion actively in favor of implementing a liberal agenda... 
"Change on a scale that much of the status quo should find terrifying"? ...Frankly, I'd be pleased to see a hint of this now and again in Obama's campaign, but I just haven't...I don't really see him tapping into popular anger at all. There's a part of me that wishes he'd dip a toe in those waters occasionally, but I haven't seen it yet.
Relying on "a tailwind of public opinion actively in favor of implementing a liberal agenda" despite entrenched right-wing opposition sounds a hell of a lot like what Sanders is calling for, but I guess Drum thinks he's actually calling for something more analagous to a straight-up proletarian revolution? If only.