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Idealists, Pragmatists, and True Believers

« May 2016 »

Memo to a certain subset of Sanders supporters: BE IDEALISTS, NOT TRUE BELIEVERS.

So, I suppose I gotta do this. Right before I took a week off, there was an incident involving Sanders supporters and the Washingon State Democratic Party. Accounts vary. Blame varies. But this comes after enough stories of "BernieBros" and bad behavior on social media that we need to talk about the difference between an idealist and a true believer, and why it's OK to be the first, and bad to be the second.

Idealists are good. One of the reasons people, myself included, are more inclined to support Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton is that he's an idealist, and she isn't. What she is is sometimes called a "pragmatist" and sometimes called a "sellout", and the truth falls somewhere in between. Either way, it's not very appealing, and as we've mentioned before in this space, it can be a problem.

An idealist says we should all have ponies. That we deserve ponies. That ponies are awesome, and a right, not a privilege. An idealist makes the case for everyone to have a pony because they believe that everyone's lives will be better if they have a pony.

Your Clintonian triangulators and your Obamanian pragmatists know that ponies are a tough sell, so even if they think that maybe everyone would be better off with ponies, they won't come out and say everyone should have ponies. They'll suggest improving access to community ponies or providing tax breaks to families who spend only to upgrade farms, because that's all they think they can get.

What this does, of course, is cede the terms of the debate to the people who are out there saying that people are too lazy and shiftless to earn their own ponies, and those people don't deserve to have their lives improved. By not arguing in favor of ponies, even if you know you won't get ponies, eventually nobody will believe that ponies even exist, much less free government ponies.

And here's where we get to the true believers. A true believer hears an idealist say "everyone should have a pony" and turns that, in their mind, to "everyone must have a pony". And treats anyone they feel is getting in the way of everyone getting a pony into The Enemy. And once they've identified The Enemy, they treat The Enemy like an enemy. They throw chairs, they send threatening or nasty voice mails and generally act like dicks.

And I get it. I've been there. As I've mentioned before, I voted Nader in 2000. Now, it wasn't a vote that swung the state or the election. And I don't actually buy into the myth that Nader threw Florida to Bush. But still, I voted for Nader because, ultimately, I thought neither Bush nor Gore were willing to fight for my pony. And that wasn't accurate then, and it's even less accurate now.

You can still be an idealist and recognize that in politics, there are friends, allies, acquaintances, frenemies, enemies, and arch-enemies. That there's a difference between partial support for The Cause, or even no support for The Cause, and active opposition to The Cause. And that some people are worse than others. And that some people deserve being shit on more than others.

But true believers will never be satisfied with anything except complete satisfaction. And if they don't get their pony, they think thy can burn everything down and rebuild it into a new Ponytopia.

But here's the dirty little secret about living in modern day comfortable America. The revolution? It's not coming. It didn't come for the teabaggers, and it won't come for the BernieBros. Is Hillary Clinton the lesser of two evils? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No. There are better things, but the lesser of two evils is still a lot less fucking evil.

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