One thing I’ve always maintained is that as subjective as each of us is by definition, people who are committed to ideologies are even more-so. They literally see the world as they believe it to be. If you’re John Calhoun and it’s the 1840s, for example, you see slavery as a benign institution, or as one that is so natural and intrinsic to human economies that it falls outside the realm of moral judgment altogether, except insofar as it reflects on property rights. When a true believer’s view is not the default view (let’s say you’re a neo-Seccessionist in 2016), when it requires a strenuous conscious effort reinforced by propaganda, peer pressure, and other kinds of formal and informal suasion to hold onto it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, cognitive dissonance kicks in. Being the person you are, with the views and values that you hold, is psychically painful. Not surprisingly, you are likely to be intemperate in your rhetoric and even your actions; you also become susceptible to some kinds of cognitive Kool Aids.
I’m used to seeing this on the right–it was a major premise of The New Hate–but I have to admit that it’s more than a bit discomfiting to see so much of it on my side, for example in this brilliant piece by Corey Robin. Yes, Bernie is a far better candidate than Hillary, but that doesn’t mean–as Robin seems to or needs to think it does–that he’s a strong candidate. What it means is that Clinton is as weak a candidate as Jeb Bush is, and for many of the same reasons.
No, I’m not analogizing Bernie’s politics to Trump’s or Cruz’s–they’re my politics too and I support him. I’m just pointing out that the “viability” issue involves a ton of wishful thinking on both sides, and that if Hillary’s pragmatic appeal is a mirage, so is the notion that Bernie’s Democratic Socialism gives him some kind of an advantage (extremism may be a winning formula for Republicans, but that’s because the country has moved so far to the right. Not one member of the not-so-silent populist “majority” that is trending towards Trump or Cruz will cast a vote for Sanders).
Not that I think Sanders is any kind of an extremist. And not that I think the Tea Partiers are any kind of a majority. But I do believe we’re doomed.
It’s been a slow motion train-wreck, going all the way back to 2008, when the Democratic powers began to hallucinate that HRC hadn’t lost to Barack Obama but become the next Democratic president-in-waiting.
We have fallen into a Sartrean cul de sac, all of us, and the stakes are so high. Right now it seems to me that whether we nominate Sanders or Clinton, Trump or Cruz will be our next president. It’s just unthinkable and I wish I could stop thinking it. If someone offered me a glass of Kool Aid, I might be tempted to drink it.