Friday, September 23, 2016

Not Saying Things: Part One

I worried, as this year's presidential primary season was taking shape. The Democratic field was small and crap quality. Clinton was a center Democrat, with policies identical to Obama's in almost every regard; not brilliant, but someone who at least did her homework. She was of the great networkers and coalition builders of our time: but no talent for retail politics. Then there was someone whose name I could never remember, and still can't: Malloy? Never figured out why he was running. And then there was Sanders, the sort of fluffy-left politician I couldn't stand. He had never changed an opinion in fifty years of public life. He had one speech, which he made over and over, and his solution to any problem was to resurrect the 1970s playbook. Got a problem? Create a large new federal program! He was exactly the sort of politico that ran the Democratic party into a ditch, in my youth, and ushered in the Reagan revolution.

I didn't like any of these candidates very much. But any of them would do. I don't look to presidents for "the vision thing": I want them to take orders from their party and do the slogging administrative duties of the state. They were all neoliberals (though Sanders didn't seem to know he was), and none of them represented any significant change. Fine. With the Republicans in control of Congress, nothing was going to change anyway. Deadlock was the best we could hope for. I planned to vote for Sanders, since Clinton was obviously going to win anyway, and one likes to send a message to the Democratic establishment. ("Hey, there's still a vestigial Left in existence! Hey! Hey!")

But Sanders, improbably enough, started making a real play for the nomination. And I thought he'd be an especially ineffective president. Whereas the more I looked at Clinton the more liked her, especially for the scrappy, ugly fight that the next four years were going to be. I watched myself morph into a Clinton supporter, somewhat to my own surprise.

But my worry became more intense. The worry was simply this: that I knew the Republicans would try to make the Clinton and Sanders people hate each other. And I knew they had a shiny new tool for that: social media. So I resolved not to be played. I would just shut up. I would not argue with the Sanders people. Not a word. I would not open my mouth until well after the primaries, when they'd gotten over it. No wrangling from me.

I did it too. I just shut my trap. 

It was a bad decision, for several reasons. The main one: I overestimated what I could do. I thought I could just hold back everything I wanted to say, and still be the same person. That I could just let the lies and insults go by. It wasn't so. I came out the other end embittered, angrier at Sanders people than at Trump people. The Republicans hadn't just succeeded in making the Sanders people hate me. They'd succeeded in making me hate the Sanders people. I work every day to unwind that, to try to think of them still as allies. It's not working very well. I'd have done better to have brawled with them: I'd probably like them better now, if I had. Or maybe not. In any case, it wasn't worth it. Though I do feel that it gave me insight into Clinton's character. Clinton has spent a lifetime not saying things: I got a glimpse of what that's like.


rbarenblat said...

I have been thinking a lot, in recent months, about what I do and don't say. About old feminine habits of self-censorship in order not to say anything that people around me (read: men) didn't want to hear. About how hard it's been to unlearn those habits.

Gives me extra admiration for Clinton, and extra empathy for her, too.

Nimble said...

I hope you can let it go as we move out of the silly season. (I know that used to be the term for the fallow summer when nothing was happening but now it seems to apply better to the election run-up.) I'm queasy when I imagine Trump taking the Oath of Office and determined to do what I can to eliminate that possibility.
Here's to local politics.

Dale said...

Well, after all, my candidate won the primaries, so I'm happy voting for her, insofar as I'm ever happy voting in Federal elections. I'm a lock: I imagine her data people have marked my record with an "in the bag" flag, and that they will never think about me again :-)