Golf writer, Bernie Sanders supporter, and self-identified privileged white guy Shane Ryan would “like to address the idea that Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election are over-privileged assholes.”
I feel like “You said it, not me” would be a petty interjection at this early stage.
“Bernie or Bust” is made up of Sanders supporters who under no circumstances will vote for Clinton in the general election. They predict an en-masse desertion of the progressive movement as a result of a Clinton presidency, and in their mind nothing that could possibly happen under a Trump or Cruz administration could possibly be worse than that. They also predict that the impact of said desertion on women and minorities would be worse than anything that could happen to them under a Trump or Cruz administration, so even though it might seem like “Bernie or Bust”ers are willing to throw underprivileged people under the bus to protect their progressive politics, Ryan says, they’re actually looking out for poor people’s best interests.
Ryan kindly outlines the key arguments against “Bernie or Bust,” and while this would normally be a place in an article where a writer might be tempted to get a little hyperbolic and/or throw out a few strawmen, I give Ryan credit for providing a pretty accurate assessment.
1. There are large numbers of progressive Bernie Sanders supporters who claim that they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election, provided she wins the nomination.
2. In the event of a close race in November, those missing votes could turn the outcome.
3. A Republican presidency would be bad for the country, and only someone with a blinding sort of privilege would even consider that option, because they won’t have to suffer the consequences of the policies wrought by these men and their party.
… Yeah, basically.
Obviously, Ryan disagrees — he goes on to make his argument in a cogent format, even acknowledging his own privilege before insisting that that privilege is not why he feels comfortable telling women and minorities to suck it up through (what he predicts to be only) four years of a Republican presidency, and that in the end, we’ll all be better off.
It feels kind of odd to write this at all, because instead of disassembling Ryan’s argument piece by piece, it’s like all there really is to say is That’s wrong, and that’s also wrong, and this other piece is wrong, and your whole thing here is more or less wrong, but your syntax is pleasant, so that’s cool. Like… sorry, dude. Including the words “I recognize my privilege” doesn’t mean that the other 2,439 words of your article don’t add up to a heap of bullshit. Telling women and minorities to suck it up through something you won’t personally have to endure in support of your political goals is basically the definition of privilege. “I recognize my privilege” doesn’t fix it. Oh, he recognizes that he has no place to make this demand, but he’s doing it anyway. That definitely makes it better.
And lest Ryan lump me in with all of Clinton’s country-club foot soldiers who look down on progressives, or whatever, let’s be clear: I support Bernie Sanders. I’ve been quite open about it. I’m hardly accusing (other) Sanders supporters of ignoring the underprivileged. If Clinton makes it to the general election, I’ll be voting for her not because I’m all about stepping on the poor and oppressed or even because I think she’ll be a great president but because a Republican presidency would be a complete fucking nightmare for anyone who isn’t a well-off white guy.
Am I saying that Shane Ryan is a well-off white guy? I have no way of knowing. I’ve never met the man. All I know about him is that he’s a Sanders supporter, he says he’s a white male, and he personally wrote these words into his article: “What about all the women […] who may even die from back-alley abortions gone wrong?” And then he followed almost immediately with this:
I believe that the consequences of a failed Clinton presidency, which entails total Republican control, will be far, far worse for everyone — but especially the poor — than four years of Trump or Cruz right now.
(He says it twice, actually. Once in italics.)
So right there, by his reckoning, the consequences of a Clinton White House are worse than women dying from coat-hanger abortions. (Estimates are that about 5,000 women died every year from unsafe abortions in the pre-Roe v. Wade U.S., but whatevs, they were lucky they never had to experience a Clinton presidency.) What might happen when progressives abandon the cause in 2020 would be “far, far worse for everyone” than the things that people who aren’t him would have to endure between now and then.
And his argument that we’d only have to endure a Trump or Cruz presidency for one term before he’d be oustered by a progressive — backed by some kind of reasoning involving Trump’s favorability rating? — is naive at best. Trump may be despised throughout the U.S., but he’s still at the head of the Republican pack, and if he makes it to the White House, that means that enough people wanted him running the country to get him elected. And not in a they-don’t-know-what-they’re-getting-into kind of way — Trump and Cruz have told us exactly who they are throughout the entire campaign, and their supporters continue to grow in rank.
It’s not like Trump and Cruz are running on a platform of free puppies, and then once they start instituting their racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic policies, people are going to be all, “Oh no! This is completely unexpected! I will definitely be swinging Democratic in the next election!” The Republican frontrunners are actively campaigning on border walls, oppressing Muslims, and rolling back LGBT rights. Trump is a crude, dishonest, belligerent, fluorescent orange reality-TV star who has talked about his penis during a presidential debate, and he has not been long since dismissed as a potential president of the United States. The people who would put Trump or Cruz in the White House see his horribleness as a feature, not a bug, and they’re only going to vote him out of it if he doesn’t follow through on his promises from 2016.
And yes, that might mobilize enough progressives to vote him out — or it might not, giving us a second term of an openly, proudly caustic president with policies that belong in a dystopian young adult novel. That might be a bet you’re willing to take if your life and livelihood aren’t legitimately threatened by the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic rhetoric that the prospective Republican administration wants to turn into law. But you’ll have to pardon people who are thusly threatened if they feel like you’re willing to throw them under the bus in defense of progressive politics. And again, I’m not unaware of your suffering, I just think my agenda is more important doesn’t make things better.
And then there’s this:
If you tell me that privilege equals a kind of cosmic good luck, a roll of the dice that brought me onto this planet with built-in economic and structural advantages, then I’m with you 100 percent. If you tell me that privilege automatically makes me an ignorant greedy pig who is constitutionally incapable of empathy, then I’m with you zero percent.
But you realize I’m going to dismiss your entire argument with something like, “oh look, another white male tells us he’s not privileged!”, right?
Yes, I realize that. After all, this is the Internet.
Oh, boo fucking hoo. You haven’t even clicked “Publish” on your article and already you’re moaning about names you haven’t been called and judgment you haven’t received. If people dismiss your argument, it’s not because you’re a white man denying your privilege — it’s because your argument is patently bullshit, and that just happens to derive in large part from your denial of privilege. Cry me a goddamned river.
You know what’s privilege? It’s 2,500 words insisting that even though you’re willing to tell women and minorities to fuck themselves through four years of a Trump presidency, it’s not because you’re privileged! Oh, no! Being accused of acting out of privilege is way worse than actually screwing people over because you don’t have to worry about their problems. But in the interest of polite political debate, I’ll concede: You’re not an over-privileged asshole. Just the regular kind.