Guilt By Support


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They’re at it again.

Last time around it was the “Bernie Bros”, the notion that there was an aggressive cadre of Bernie Sanders supporters (all white males of course, which makes it intolerable by some progressive standards) who would attack anyone who spoke ill of their candidate.

This time around it’s “alt-right support” for Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, and one has to wonder exactly what the phrase “alt-right” has come to mean if there are people labeled as such who are pushing for candidates advocating things like “Medicare For All” and “Universal Basic Income”.


What does that phrase even mean anymore?

I get that most likely what’s really going on here is a calculated attempt to smear candidates unpopular with the Democratic Party establishment, since that’s pretty much par for the course, but it’s the choice of “guilt by support” that’s just leaving me somewhat befuddled this time around. The “Alt-Right” have been the boogeymen for over a decade now, though the use of the term was coopted fairly early on by white nationalists. It’s not surprising that people would use any ties between a candidate and the alt-right as a means of attacking them, but when the “right”, that is to say “conservative” parts of the platform are largely abandoned, are the people left in that group just… “alt”?

The problem is that the use of the term was applied to basically anyone that the person using it disagreed with. So it lumped together a weird combination of paleoconservatives, white nationalists, free-speech absolutists, and other groups who might have one or more positions currently associated with “the right” (though the fact that free speech has become a “right wing” position should be incredibly disheartening to anyone on “the left”), and stuck a common label on them.

Which is more or less what humans have done with political opposition groups since forever, I’m sure, but given the increasingly factional nature of American politics, there does seem to be an element of risk in just throwing a whole bunch of people into a common basket, no matter how deplorable you might think they are, because if any significant faction of that group decides to break out of that basket and manages erase the stain of guilt-by-association you’ve slapped on them, then what you wind up with a situation where a candidate can be seen gathering support from both sides of the aisle, which (shockingly) appeals to people on the fence.

And while we talk a lot about swing states, we don’t talk much about swing voters. And we should, given that in many cases swing voters are what actually swing states.

Part of Bernie Sanders’ appeal in the last cycle was not just that he was a progressive candidate, but that, quite frankly, he had an isolationist and protectionist view of the United States’ position in the world. There were a great many people willing to gloss over the whole “socialist” aspect to embrace the “protect American industry” and “no more foreign entanglements” aspects of Bernie’s projected persona.

Interestingly, and worryingly depending on your political alignment, Bernie has been playing somewhat coy on the topic of what he’ll do if he doesn’t win the nomination this time around, and when he does talk about it, he occasionally brings up the notion that he was cheated last time around.

Somewhere in the bowels of the DNC there are people positively sweating bullets over the possibility that Bernie won’t bow out quietly if not necessarily gracefully this time around. Because if there’s anyone in the field that can absolutely ruin the Democrat’s chances, it would be an insurgent Bernie Sanders.

In the long run I don’t expect it to matter: no matter how qualified Tulsi Gabbard might be, or how revolutionary Andrew Yang’s ideas are, their chances of becoming the Democratic nominee are minimal. We’ll see how the debates tonight turn out, but if I had to place a wager, what the DNC wants to see is a primary between Biden and Warren, what it’s probably going to get is a primary between Biden and Sanders, and assuming they pull the same sorts of moves that they did in 2016, we’re most likely going to wind up with Biden running in 2020, barring some sudden revelation that makes him completely untenable as a candidate.

It just irritates me when people try to throw members of their own party under the bus.