Endorsements and the Inexorable

The Revolution Will Be Intersectional outside City Hall Philadelphia during a Freddie Gray rally, April 30, 2015.  Available via Flickr.

This isn’t about Rex Ryan (though I do wonder how Tom Brady feels).

It’s more about my own endorsement, which you wouldn’t think would be that difficult since my car has a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker*, among approximately 34 others**.

* A 60something black hippie walking up to me outside my car in Camden a few months ago, apparently not noticing this: “Lemme guess, I bet you’re votin’ for Bernie Sanders.”

Me: “Most likely.”

Him: “I can always tell.  If you got bumper stickers: you’re votin’ for Bernie Sanders.  If you got a gun rack: you’re votin’ for Ted Cruz.”

** This also removes me from any jury pool where I will be asked the question, “Does your car have any bumper stickers?  If so, what are they?”  Specifically, the prosecution removes me, although I recently spoke with a judge ex-camera after this occurred and he told me it was the National Lawyers Guild bumper sticker in particular, not the fact of bumper stickers in general, that prompted this.

But it’s not that simple.

Writer Friend Tom in Arizona recently told me he’s become a single-issue voter on gun control:

I really do feel that way about gun control now. The only way it’s ever going to happen is if people become as single-minded as NRA voters. As disinclined as I am to be single-issue about anything.

To which I responded:

I don’t know that there really are single-issue voters, though, since everything is connected, although “pro-lifers” who support the death penalty might require some extra work.  That said, mine would probably be labor (organized or disorganized, with lots of overlap between the two).  But that also involves immigration (the Trumpinistas would agree with this, though from the other end, i.e. “removal” rather than organizing/amnesty) and everything down to gun control, conceivably (Morrison knew, right: it’s THEY who have the guns but WE who have the numbers, and an injury to one is an injury, etc.).

Which is true, but disingenuously true (or maybe INgenuously true).  I do care more about some things than others.  I can’t rank them, though I could try to, but that would be wrong, because I can’t separate them; that’s what intersectionality is if intersectionality is anything.

Income inequality is huge, which is really Sanders’s platform, though I don’t think it’s his only platform (some may think it is, though, and sometimes it may appear to be).  Workers’ rights and unions too (this is related to but not analogous to income inequality).  Poverty and class-based discrimination.  Civil rights, meaning in the contemporary context race (#BlackLivesMatter and its progeny), sex and gender.  Immigration (our contemporary demonized version of Amnesty, replacing the Vietnam version).

I’m not a DSA member, but my bumper stickers are, so it would be natural for me to support Sanders and not a Republican and not his Democratic opponent who is less labor-friendly (see also Wal-Mart) and more “welfare reform”-friendly.

Sanders may be criticized for talking about race by talking about income (in other words: not talking about race), but as Corey Robin, who rounds down to my age, noted in Salon, the Clinton record on race beyond the crime bill and “super-predators” is poor at best, exploitive at worst:

It may be a generational thing—I was born in 1967—but this is what Hillary and Bill Clinton will always mean to me: Sister Souljah,Ricky Ray Rector, welfare reform, and the crime bill. And beyond—really, behind—all that, the desperate desire to win over white voters by declaring to the American electorate: We are not the Party of Jesse Jackson, we are not the Rainbow Coalition.

But when it is about race and also about poverty, it wasn’t just Bill (whom I voted for twice, more reluctantly each time, despite Robert Reich, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the nominations, though not the retreats from and exiles of, Lani Guinier and Joycelyn Elders) and it wasn’t just 20 years ago; Ben Norton recalls:

Hillary, as First Lady, advocated strongly for the restructuring of welfare. Her former co-workers at CDF, on the other hand, were infuriated. CDF founder and President Marian Wright Edelman declared that President Clinton’s “signature on this pernicious bill makes a mockery of his pledge not to hurt children.”


As recently as 2008, Hillary characterized the “welfare reform” she fervently campaigned for as First Lady as a success. She still maintains that welfare “should not be considered an anti-poverty program. It simply did not work.”

Which could end the argument.  But it doesn’t, and not only because I voted for Bill Clinton twice.***

*** I voted for Bob Kerrey in the 1992 California primary and was tempted to vote for Nader in 1996, but decided there were some real differences between Clinton and Dole, and those differences did matter.  (And then he bombed Sudan.)  

Either Bill or Hillary Clinton’s record in 1996 or 1998 or 2008 only means so much in a post-Occupy, post-Obergefell, post-#BlackLivesMatter, post-Kenyan-Socialist-Named-Hussein America.  We’re not the same country, for better and for Trump.  But as Tom Hayden asks in his recent unendorsement of Sanders:

With the coming of the 2008 Wall Street crash and Bernie’s campaign, our political culture has changed profoundly in its tolerance of socialist ideas. But is it enough after this truly divisive primary season?

If he opposed this with a false consensus that otherizes some forms of dissent and dissenters—some version of what no less problematic a fellow traveler than Žižek recently called “the hegemonic white universality, which secretly privileges white people”—I would reject this, but Hayden’s concerns are deeper than this:

My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial…When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary—for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento’s Latino caucus—that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie’s increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie’s campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.

Which could end the argument, although I don’t think it does—I think it’s a beginning rather than an end—but I also don’t think it’s wrong.

On one hand, I can only blame Sanders so much for lacking Clinton’s (or the Clintons’) organizational resources, and experience, and celebrity monopoly money (not to be confused with “all the money in the world”).

But I can blame him for effort, and focus, and for writing off the South and other red states which contain too many blue (and other-colored) people.

True, Citizens United was a bad decision, but Shelby County was worse.  Any EPA case with a Republican majority would have been worse, as would (more in Sanders’ realm, but less on his or Clinton’s radar) Friedrichs.

Obsessive Royals fan Rany Jazayerli once wrote (I’m paraphrasing) that he rooted for the Royals during 30 years of (mostly) misery not because he always loved the team but because he loved the fans (he was one himself); that’s not (just) fandom, it’s solidarity and that’s what Hayden means, I think.  A (Democratic) Socialist should understand this—though some, like the decent, well-intentioned white male retiree selling $1 copies of Socialist Worker at a mixed-race (but more black), mixed-age (but more young), mixed-gender MOVE Day rally in West Philadelphia may not have, being in the moment somehow but not necessarily of it.  But who am I to judge?  I was there taking photos.  (And I bought a copy.)

But it’s more than this, too.  Solidarity, and intersectionality, know no borders.  But we—Americans as Americans, and politicians as politicians—do.  And more often than not, we shouldn’t.

I didn’t mention foreign policy as something that matters not because it doesn’t matter but because it’s generally bad from everyone.  If it matters, it matters the way Gene Ubriaco allegedly said goaltending matters****, i.e. when it’s bad, it matters 100% (see Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc.).  Obama was arguably better than most, but see drones.

**** “In hockey, goaltending is 75 percent of the game. Unless it’s bad goaltending. Then it’s 100 percent of the game.”

I was recently in Europe for work.  (I can’t afford Europe not for work, because two years of unemployment plus 2008 mortgage plus law school debt.  Welcome to the occupation.)  The rare occasions I talked politics to any extent with my (under 30, so take that for what it’s worth) European coworkers, I was aware that they tended to be sympathetic towards Sanders but found him a lost cause and thought Trump was a total joke.  Clinton?  Her foreign policy was “terrible” or “a disaster” (I may be paraphrasing, but not much).

Small sample size, but the world is small too.  Rania Khalek suggests that Clinton may in fact be more dangerous than Donald Trump:

While serving as secretary of state, she greenlighted enormous weapons deals to US-backed tyrants, dramatically strengthening the military prowess of despots who happened to be some of the Clinton Foundation’s most generous donors.

In a stunning demonstration of her failure to absorb even the most basic lessons of the Iraq war, Clinton spearheaded the Obama administration’s overthrow of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi based on faulty intelligence.

After Gaddafi’s especially gruesome public lynching by US-backed Libyan rebels in 2011, Clinton could barely contain her excitement, gleefully telling CBS News, “We came, we saw, he died.”


Following in the footsteps of her mentor, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Clinton supported and legitimized the right-wing Honduran military coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, plunging Honduras into record-setting violence that sent thousands of children fleeing for their lives.

Clinton later advocated for the deportation of tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American refugee children who sought asylum in the US in 2014 to “send a message” to their parents that “just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”


Clinton’s newfound enthusiasm for “tearing down barriers,” a direct reference to Trump’s anti-immigrant proposal to build a wall at the US-Mexico border, completely contradicts her own support for the border wall that already exists, much of it constructed on Obama’s watch.


Clinton is a huge fan of Israel’s separation wall that effectively annexes Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and has suggested using it as a model for the US border with Mexico.

And she continues to cite her support for Israel’s wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, as a selling point on her campaign website.

Obviously one can accept all of the above as true (because it is true) and reject the idea that “as bad as” Trump or George W. Bush (or Cruz or Obama at times or …) means “worse than” Trump, W, etc. or that other differences (the rest of this post) don’t matter or can’t matter more.  And obviously Sanders can be terrible too.

But it underscores that whoever wins this November—whether it’s a Democrat or an Unmentionable—solidarity will lose.  E pluribus unum, but our resulting unum will be missing some plus—and that plus could be us.

But not voting isn’t an option, because no one winning (Suppose They Gave An Election And) isn’t an option, and too much is at stake.  We (the royal we) have to endorse someone, so I endorse a Democrat, and if it were a race (it’s not really at this point), I endorse more of Bernie Sanders, more reluctantly than I originally would have, but less reluctantly than I can endorse Hillary Clinton, whom I will vote for in November without reluctance.

Maybe the perfect can never be the enemy of the good where it would mean never demonstrate, never protest, never oppose injustice.  But voting once it’s November is different.  Voting once it’s an election year is different too.  Too many people not only don’t but can’t.

Baseball guru Bill James may be more contrarian than iconoclast these days (or is it me?) but sometimes he’s dead on.  I’m quoting this Hey Bill from his website the other day verbatim because it’s not just about Jose Altuve, it’s about Bernie Sanders, and it’s about Hillary Clinton, and anyone else who’s running and flawed who’s arguably worse than anyone who’s inarguably not running and who may not even exist.

Hey Bill – I was not arguing that Altuve was not good last season, I  am simply saying that his aggressive approach hurt him a lot. While his OBP was .353 which is great. He also got out trying to steal or advance extra bases 32 times. If you were to adjust his on base percentage to account for this as I believe you should his OBP would be only .304 of course for this to be meaningful you also have to adjust all other players by their outs on base. The league average for outs on base was 7 per 600 plate appearances. When you adjust the league OBP you get .302 which is nearly the same as Altuve. On top of this Altuve has so few pitches per plate appearance if everyone were like him the average pitcher would have reached 100 pitches just into the 8th inning. The guy is still good and the Astros are lucky to have him but  I would argue that he was not the 10th most valuable player in the American League as he was voted last season. Would you agree, or am I missing something?

Asked by: WorkingTheCount

Answered: 4/19/2016

Yes, you are.   You can’t make up a dream player and put him on the field.   You have to win games with actual players who actually exist, and actual players who actually exist have actual limitations.    All of them.   Jose Abreu can’t run.   Jon Lester can’t throw to first.    Henry Owens can’t throw 95; it would be nice if he could, but he can’t.   Jonathon Papelbon has difficulty getting along with some teammates.  Trevor Bauer doesn’t throw strikes.  Samadzija doesn’t throw a curve ball.   The Panda has weight issues. Dee Gordon doesn’t hit for power.  Brandon Crawford has never hit .260.  Ryan Zimmerman can’t play third base anymore because he can’t throw.  These are facts are life; you have to take real players and win with them, not wish that players were different.  You don’t get anything except heartache out of wishing that people were different than they are.

I endorse this too, maybe more.