On Democratic Socialism

The Democratic Socialists of America hate when you focus on the word “socialists” in their name. They will remind you they’re not Bolsheviks, not North Korea, and Not Cuba. They would like you to focus on the word “Democratic.” They fashion themselves to be more like what they believe to be an FDR Democrat. They believe in a big, active government. They want the government to not “seize the means of production” as Karl Marx wanted, but to implement more “soft socialism” measures like Social Security and Medicare. There are harder line elements that are actual Communists, but for the most part Democratic Socialists simply want you to know they are progressive Democrats, and not capitalists.

This may seem harmless, and on policy it mostly is. Every Democrat running for Federal office in the country this year is supporting Social Security and Medicare, calling for a more expansive government role in health care, talking about a fix for student loan debt, calling for some kind of increase in the minimum wage, and decrying the GOP tax cuts for the rich. It’s unanimous, basically. On the policy side, the difference between moderate Democrats and Democratic Socialists is a degree or two of detail. No matter how much Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacks a Tammy Duckworth, find me more than a small hand full of issues where their disagreement is more than “how much further” one will go than the other.

The problem, of course, is that AOC and the DSA want you to believe the differences between them and mainstream Democrats is extreme. They are ready to have an ideological war with Democrats to enforce their rigid ideological view of what is and isn’t acceptable. If a Democrat is for a Medicare buy-in plan (also known as the “public option”) instead of “Medicare-for-All,” they’re a neoliberal. If a Democrat is for an immediate increase in the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 or $12, with gradual increases to $15, they’re a corporatist. They ran around calling Sharice Davids, a Native-American lesbian “the establishment” in the KS-03 Primary, without ever considering how ridiculous they sounded. They also never seemed to comprehend that maybe their positions are simply a little bit too much for a white-collar suburban district in Kansas to swallow. Democrats probably can’t elect a majority to Congress that is as ideologically pure as they are. They’ve bought into the untrue myth that most independent voters are actually leftists like them- when they’re generally less engaged, bland moderates that don’t want their taxes to rise or their services to be cut. Instead of being allies to electable candidates in moderate districts, AOC and the DSA have made it their mission to support expensive, pointless, and damaging primaries across the country.

The bigger issue I have with the DSA crowd though is not rhetoric, particularly since I don’t disagree with their ideals, or entirely hate most of their positions. It’s the larger ideals behind re-branding the American left as “socialists.” I don’t support Marxism becoming our organizing ideology economically, and neither really do they. Whether or not they know this, what they are calling for is a mixed-capitalist economy, which is what Democrats have supported and Republicans have opposed since 1930. By branding themselves as “socialists,” they are casting themselves in the same net as Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Mao’s China, or the old Soviet Union, when in reality what they want is some sort of hybrid of FDR and French Socialists. They are casting themselves in with global leftist leaders at a time when most of them are inept clowns. Maduro is overseeing a failed state, Corbyn is celebrating Palestinian terrorists from the Munich Olympics, the French Socialists didn’t even make the Presidential run-off, the German left is invisible, and the Israeli left has ceased to even matter. I’m not sure any of these folks actually represent the American Left in any way, but they’re not the comparisons any functional person should want.

When we get down to it, the chief beef the DSA crowd has with the Democratic Party is the decision under Presidents Clinton and Obama to highlight “identity politics” over class identity. In choosing what to make “non-negotiable,” Democrats have chosen to put their focus on Civil Rights and “social issues,” while choosing to compromise on taxation, the minimum wage, and Wall Street regulation. The DSA folks don’t seem to agree with this approach, not because their social conservatives, but because they have different priorities. This is a healthy debate to have, provided you don’t have Twitter trolls calling their opponents “neoliberals” and Jane Sanders calling for Hillary to be jailed. Their rhetoric has become toxic.

I’m not a fan of AOC, Bernie Sanders, or the DSA, but it’s not so much of a reflection of policy difference as it is a rejection of their rhetoric, degree of extremity, and priorities. I don’t think labeling the left as “socialists,” or even really anti-capitalist is helpful. I don’t think embracing failed leftists abroad is the look the Democrats need. In short, the policy differences may be slight between mainstream Democrats and more ideological leftists, but the gap is big enough for me to want to note “I’m not them.”

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Trollmageddon 2018

Russia infiltrated our electoral process, and that’s just a fact. We can question if they hacked voting machines, we can debate the meaning of collusion, but that’s not changing the things we know they did do. They did purchase Facebook ads designed to hurt Hillary Clinton, in both the primaries and the general election. They did hack the DNC’s emails. Kremlin allies did meet with people around the Trump campaign. They did set up fake news sites, publishing false articles about impending indictments for Hillary and her family. They did set up phony writers in American left-wing outlets to push Democrats against Hillary and the party. All of this is real. All of this is fact. You can interpret it as you wish, but not deny it.

It’s over now though. There is no way to re-litigate 2016 and make Hillary the winner. Donald Trump is now in the White House, and I have great faith that Bob Mueller’s investigation will figure out who committed what crimes. Will we ever know if the Russians literally hacked our election? Maybe not. I trust Mueller’s investigation will answer the possible.

This leaves us to ponder what lies ahead. The 2018 mid-terms are coming, and they promise to be insane. The primaries in both parties could be bloody. Democrats will see a fight between people committed to Civil Rights, worker protections, the environment, and moving the country forward, and people who literally want to have a Socialist revolution that they haven’t thought through the details of yet. Republicans will see a war between people who want to cut taxes for the rich and slash the social safety-net of working Americans, literally taking the food from mouths, health insurance from those who need, and roofs from over heads, and actual Nazi/White Nationalist types being lead by Steve Bannon. We get to have these fights before we have the general election argument over the insanity of Trump America. Excited yet?

Does anybody think this will be any cleaner or nicer than 2016 was? Does anybody think those accounts with cartoons and dogs as their avatars that followed Nomiki Konst into attack on Hillary supporting Democrats aren’t coming back for more during these primaries? Does anyone think that openly racist Russian troll accounts, like the “Tennessee GOP” one that Twitter took down, aren’t coming back? Does anyone think Russia won’t attack Democrats in the Fall, knowing that a Democratic Congress will insure a completed investigation of their acts of war against our country? Let’s be honest, even real people like Katie Halper (who I wish wasn’t real) will be spewing leftist hatred towards any Democrat who dares to not bow at the altar of Bernie moving forward. If anything, 2016 will look nice, next to 2018. We are heading towards an absolute internet doomsday, as these freakish alt-right and alt-left voices attempt to destroy anyone who dares stand in the way of their goals. Outside interference, doxxing, and general nasty behavior will be the norm.

Some of these characters are obviously automated, and not real people. Some of these people are paid trolls, grifters that are here to waste your time and sap your enthusiasm. All of this is an attack on our democracy. It’s only going to get worse as we go. I have a few tips for dealing with these people, and trying to keep your sanity in the process:

  1. Block liberally- If someone is trying to waste your time with repetitive debate, or trying to tell you how you’re evil for supporting a $12 minimum wage instead of $15, or just sending you screenshots of yourself, block them. I usually make a snarky remark back at them first, just so the person on the other end feels like a loser, but the main point is to block them and not waste very much time on people who are losers.
  2. Report liberally- If someone who fits the profile mentioned above, and they say something abusive or curse at you, report them. If they send graphic sexual images at you, report them. Obviously block them too, but report them in hopes of knocking them off of Twitter, real or fake.
  3. Know a troll or dead-ender when you see one- If you get into a debate/fight with some famous leftist- like say Matt Bruenig or his wife- and a bunch of people swarm you, they are either bots or paid trolls. If a bunch of people with roses in their bio swarm you, they are either loser trolls or paid trolls, if not outright bots. If they have a small follower count and are part of the swarm, they’re either a troll or bot. If someone starts spewing racist or sexist content, they could be a paid troll from the other side, or even the “dirtbag left.” Most of the people attacking Neera Tanden are just trolls and wackos, ignore them. Anyone with poor grammar who jumps in just to attack Democrats (on the behalf of Trump or Bernie) is a Russian troll. They often use the same lines of attack (“so-and-so won’t f**k you” for instance), and try to use bios and profile pictures as lines of attack quite often. They’re not hard to figure out. If you see them, report them and block them. It’ll save you time.
  4. There are real hardliners- I’ve had my fair share of Twitter battles, even some with people whom I “agree” with on the issues. There is a fairly prominent resistance tweeter from Brooklyn for instance, who attempted to “dox” me (and failed miserably because she’s an imbecile) because she didn’t like my arguments against a full litmus test on abortion rights in the Democratic Party. This young lady isn’t worth my time any more than Katie Halper and Matt Bruenig were from Socialist land. There are some serious psychos out there in our political world, and not all of them are paid Russian bots. I suggest not wasting too much time arguing with overly impassioned real people either. You’re never going to make any progress with them.

This is my best advice for surviving what is likely to be a crazy year. It is my hope that Twitter will clean this up and start enforcing their terms of service in a reasonable way, but I’m not holding my breath. The best way to handle the lunatic fringers and their virulent attacks is largely to ignore them, to report them as much as possible, and to realize they represent a small fringe of society. Most Bernie Sanders supporters are nothing like Winnie Wong, and even many Trump supporters aren’t like Cassandra Fairbanks (though this point pushes the limits of truth sometimes). Almost nobody in real life is like a Russian bot or a DSA troll. Limit your interactions with them, and you deny them the lifeblood of their existence- your time and attention.