A number of people who are supposed to be friends have crossed a line and I don’t know if there’s a way back.
In recent months I have been called an idiot.
I’ve been called silly.
I’ve been called a child.
I’ve been called privileged.
I have also been called a sexist and a misogynist.
Not by Republicans, or trolls or anonymous blog commenters, though. No, I have been called these things by people whom I considered to be friends. Plural. As in, several people, some of whom might be reading this.
This isn’t all of it, either. In more Facebook shares and comments and stray tweets than I can readily recall I have had my intelligence, my character, my good faith, my commitment to my country and my family and my community questioned, often in pointed and patently insulting terms.
I’ve held my tongue for the most part, but the time has come to make something clear to those among you who have chosen the path of condescension: you have damaged our friendship badly, perhaps irreparably.
The issue, of course, is the question of Hillary Clinton’s fitness for the presidency. I have, repeatedly and loudly, attempted to call everyone’s attention to some inconvenient facts pertaining to her record. I’ve pointed to the weakness of her agenda. I’ve noted her foreign policy history and her frighteningly hawkish positions, to say nothing of her crush on war criminal Henry Kissinger. I’ve wondered what we ought to make of her waffling on the TPP and the Keystone Pipeline. I’ve reminded everyone that she sees no reason to reconsider Glass-Steagall and of her support for the Patriot Act. And I acknowledged freely that who the hell knows what she might wind up doing on any issue up until the polls make clear what’s popular at the moment. Like how she was really, really opposed to marriage equality right up until the polls convinced her she needed to be for it.
The response from my friends? I get told that I’m being played by the media. Because I swallow GOP talking points hook line and sinker like a willfully ignorant, uncritical, uninformed doofus who refuses to think for himself, right?
Here’s an alternate theory to why I think the things I do: I pay attention.
It’s one thing when the person sneering at me is smart and plugged in him/herself, but it’s another entirely when the person doing the name-calling isn’t someone who pays close attention. I won’t lie to you. The inability to let people condescend from below is a fault I have always labored with and I don’t know that I’ll ever beat it.
No, I’m not talking about all my friends. Not even close. Almost all of you are voting for Clinton. Some of you see more hope in her than I do. I disagree, but I respect you and know that you’re doing what you legitimately believe is right. Others aren’t happy about her, but see a Clinton win as the only thing standing between America society and a political apocalypse. I understand and respect that position, too.
And most of those close to me have listened, and even where they take issue with me, they acknowledge that I think long and hard about things and that I am the soul of good faith.
In case it isn’t clear yet, let me say it straight out: yes, people, I know that Donald Trump would easily be the worst president since probably Andrew Jackson. I’m not stupid. Next to Trump, Dubya is positively Rushmorian. I understand that, in the short term, anyway, Clinton would be far less of a danger to the status quo.
No, I do not think you or anyone else should vote for Trump. That is not, and never has been the point. And you’d realize this if you had treated me with the respect I thought our friendship had earned me. You’d get what I’m saying if, instead of mocking my lack-wittedness, you had shut up and listened for a minute.
So let me articulate my point one more time.
I am not optimistic about Clinton and you shouldn’t be, either. History teaches us there’s nothing about getting elected that changes politicians. Instead, it validates them. They see it as a vote of confidence in what they have always been. They think it’s a mandate. In short, if you want to know what a pol will do tomorrow, look at what they did yesterday.
Clinton is what she is, and I will not argue black-letter fact as though we’re merely having a difference of opinion.
That said, I also think she can be counted on to get some things right. I imagine a respect for reproductive rights will be a litmus test for any Supreme Court appointee. I think she’ll also ask prospective nominees some pointed questions about Citizens United. She might return to an issue that was once her calling card, looking to improve on Obamacare. And since she’s very responsive to the whims of public opinion, if we can get the polls up on a variety of other important issues, we might find her a willing ally there, as well.
But there’s a lot of if in those equations.
The reason I supported Bernie Sanders and the reason I threatened to vote for Jill Stein is that we must hold candidate Clinton’s feet to the fire, and if she’s elected we need to turn the heat up as high as it will go. If she is going to be a useful advocate for critical reforms, it will be because we the people have her (like any other elected public servant) cornered like a rat with no hope of escape. She needs to spend her first four years terrified that she’ll be a one-term failure, or worse, that she’ll piss us off so badly she’ll get primaried from the left.
Here’s a secret that isn’t a secret at all for people who have been really listening: my distaste for Clinton has never been about Clinton, just as my fervor for Sanders was never about Sanders (and my threat to protest vote for Stein isn’t about Stein). Clinton is an establishment politician, and I do not regard her as being meaningfully better or worse than any other establishment politician. She’s an apparatchik, a cog in a big, sociopathic machine. She one of thousands, male and female, black, white, Latino and Asian, straight and gay, “liberal” and “conservative.”
The reason I have continued to rail at her is because if I don’t, if we don’t, then we’re in danger of waking up on November 9th thinking we won. We will not have won. We will have dodged a very large, very destructive bullet, yes, but losing by 10 instead of 30 isn’t the same as winning. Make no mistake: winning isn’t on the ballot.
The battle doesn’t end on November 9th, it’s just beginning, and the more passionately we gulp the Hil-Ade the worse we lose. And in 2020, once the right has had a few years to figure out how to harness the energy of Trump’s unwashed, racist, sexist hatefest and hitch it to a better-groomed brand of fascist, then we’re in deep, deep trouble. Understand, Trump is probably the only one of the top seven or eight GOP contenders this year Clinton can beat.
I care about my life, such as it is. I care deeply about my friends. I have a brother and two sisters and some nieces and nephews, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I care about them. This is why I have refused to hop the Hillary Train.
Yes, I’m going to vote for Clinton and, sadly, the oligarchic machine she serves. But if you think I’ve been hard on her so far, just wait.
I need everyone to be lucid and clear-eyed. I need you to understand and acknowledge the reality of a Clinton presidency. And I seriously don’t want to hear what an idiot I am from anybody who’s so out of touch that they’re celebrating on election night. Breathing a sigh of relief, sure. I think we all get that part. But keep the champagne in the bottle.
Back to my friends. Yes, I’m mad at you. Really mad. I don’t like being subjected to this level of disrespect at the hands of those who know me best and who should, in theory, respect me the most. I don’t know that our friendship will ever recover. Frankly, I’m not sure I care. We’re in this uncomfortable spot because of you, and if there is a way forward it’s on you to convince me it’s worth it.