Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Danger of Bernie Bros (and Trumpsters)

People often participate in politics not because of personal beliefs, but because it is fun.

For a lot of folks, politics is a game where you root for your team.  Actual policy issues and how they affect you are often secondary.   Such folks are dangerous as they can be persuaded to support very odious candidates on both sides of the political spectrum, often in succession.

Today we see this on the Left and Right with so-called "Bernie Bros" who are young white males who are very agitated about the election and are claiming that Bernie was "robbed" of the nomination.   On the Right, we see a similar group of all-white males campaigning for Trump.   In both cases, it is a fun party, to be sure - with everyone congratulating each other on how great their candidate is, and how the US will be a Socialist Paradise or "Great Again" if their candidate wins.

It is sort of like a cult, actually, with a lot of group-think and professed loyalty to the fearless leader.  Not a lot of critical thinking goes on, nor is it encouraged.

What is scary about these sorts of folks is that their political affiliations are very shallow.  They are there for the fun party (not the political party) - the cult aspect - to see their side "win".   And over time, their allegiances can change, and we have seen this happen before.

The photo above is of Jerry Rubin, who was co-author of DO IT!: Scenarios of the Revolution and a lot of other counter-culture trash of the 1960's.   Not a decade later, he ended up renouncing his former position and embracing capitalism, investing in Apple and becoming a millionaire.  When the system worked out well for him, well, he liked the system a lot better.   He pointed out that activism was hard work and that the abuse of drugs, sex, and private property had made the counterculture "a scary society in itself."

And that was sort of the point of a lot of the 1960's - the drugs and sex made attending a political rally a fun time.   College kids, whose deferments meant they had little chance of being drafted, went out to protest a war that most of them never were in danger of fighting.   But hey, horny hippie chicks and LSD is quite a potent cocktail - better than Molotov!   But speaking of which, ain't it fun to riot once in a while?  Sure is!

The 1960's hippie movement was mostly young white privileged people protesting.  Sounds familiar.  Oh, right, that is what is going on today.   And they are pissed off they are losing, because all their lives they've "won" at life, as this author notes.

And that is what scares me.   These "Bernie Bros" are not really dedicated to a cause, so much as they are dedicated to the idea of being dedicated to a cause.   And the subliminal racism and misogyny they've demonstrated in the past tells me they really aren't progressive in any sense of the word.

These are folks who will switch allegiances, as Rubin did, once someone makes them a better offer.   And indeed, the Trump people are recruiting Bernie Bros, even though they are from opposite sides of the political spectrum!  They don't care about issues or even candidates, they just want to support the winning side.

And therein lies the danger with the Bernie Bros.   They really aren't interested in dramatic social change or revolution, so much as they are interested in free college, their student loans forgiven, and other "free stuff" for themselves.

The Pied Piper of Burlington.

They want, in short, to externalize their personal problems by converting political thought into sloganism and name-calling - much as the Trumpers like do to.   No real analysis or critical thinking, but rather a "what's in it for me?" and "The other guy is a doo-doo head!" mentality.

Externalizing is fun, let's face it.   You get to blame all of your problems on others.  And being part of a "movement" makes your personal problems seem insignificant.  The reason why so many are reluctant to call it quits on the revolution is that they will then have to stop phone-banking and blogging and think about getting a job, paying their student loans, and moving out of their parents' house.   Dull, dreary, day-to-day living is not nearly as much fun as being part of a revolution!

And this is why many of them will switch over to Trump or some other demagogue in a heartbeat.   So long as the demagogue-du-jure promises them something for nothing and tells them that their problems are someone else's fault, then they will flock to that person, regardless of whether the politics are right-wing or left-wing.  And it doesn't hurt if they promise a swell party in the process - another reason to forget their personal issues for a few months longer.  Being a political junkie is like being a real junkie.  You forget your troubles and drown them in addiction.

So, maybe this "Big Banks and Wall Street" message failed.   How about "Mexicans and Blacks are to blame?"  That has always been a hot seller, although the Trumpers use euphemisms like "low-information voter" instead of actual racial epithets.

But the message is the same:  "You would be a millionaire right now and not have to work if [fill in the blank] was called to task!" - where "fill in the blank" can be 1%'ers, big banks, wall street, evil corporations, CEOs, blacks, China, Mexicans, or what not.   You see, it really doesn't matter whether the demagogue is "Left" or "Right" the message is the same - if we can just pounce on this one minority group of people, life would be sublime.

Sadly, we have seen this pattern again and again in history.  Jews were a favorite target, comprising both the 1%'ers, the bankers, and a marginalized minority group rolled into one.   In Communist countries, it is "counter-revolutionaries" which is a neat catch-all for anyone who disagrees with you or just people you want out of the way.  In America, we've gone after everyone from Chinese to the Irish, to Catholics, to Jews, and of course Blacks.   Mexicans seem to be in the hot seat this time around.  Maybe them and the gays.

It is also a great way for leaders to deflect criticism as we are seeing right now in Venezuela (which is Bernie's idea of a perfect government).  The economy isn't tanking because Socialism failed, it is tanking because of Yankee machinations and "counter-revolutionaries" and "profiteers" or whatever.  Most Latin American countries have played the Yankee card this way - blaming all of their problems on the US.   Cuba claims the trade embargo is the reason their economy is in the toilet - neglecting, of course, to mention that they do trade with every other country in the world.   Somehow, our lack of trade is the straw that broke the camel's back.

Of course, the Jerry Rubin example is a ray of hope.  Rubin denounced the revolution when he found out that the system was, well, actually pretty good to him.   And a lot of other people of his generation did the same thing.   By the time you are in your mid-30's, with a job, a mortgage, and a baby on the way, the idea of overthrowing the system seems less appealing.   And solemn pronouncements made in your 20's suddenly seem rather juvenile.

Oh, but right, this generation is different than previous generations.   Different except it is pretty much the same.   The vaunted "punishing student loan debts" averaging $25,000 per student are hardly insurmountable obstacles to success for most.   Yes, there are a few darlings of the media who have hundreds of thousands in debt and no job prospects - those are the outliers, not the norm.   The vast majority of so-called "millenials" will in time end up running things, just as their baby-boomer forebears did.   And once they are in charge, they will find that the status quo is what is worth preserving, as they have literally bought into it.

But between now and then is a real risk that we could throw away the greatest civilization in the history of our planet - all because of some very radical and immature thinking.   Other countries and other governments have succumbed to this kind of thinking - that no one should have to work, that money should be "redistributed", that criminals are all innocent, and that the police and government are the real enemies.   These governments have largely failed to succeed.

Of course, it takes time and maturity to see that.   When you are 25 and broke, taking money from other people seems like a swell idea.   But it is a dangerous idea.  And it saddens me that these Bernie Bros and the Trumpsters both are so eager to embrace externalizing their problems.

But then again, should I be surprised by this?