Kshama Sawant, the Socialist city council member from Seattle, was on Dmocracy Now this morning. She made the above point in a fine debate with Rebecca Traister of New York magazine, and I think it will be a useful riposte, not only to Democratic loyalists who cling to Clinton as "all that stands between us and Il Douche," but to self-styled "pragmaticists." I've said before that many Democrats would rather lose to a Republican than break with their corporate cronies, and if nothing else, the past year has confirmed that abundantly.
I want to give Rebecca Traister credit; though I disagree with much of what she said, she was careful to stay on the issues instead of descending into panicky hyperbole and abuse as most Democratic loyalists and Clinton supporters do when they must confront Clinton's critics. Kshama Sawant impressed me especially because she didn't let Traister set the terms of the debate, didn't let herself be diverted from her points. The whole segment is worth reading (or listening to, if you prefer), just as an example of responsible debate.
Here are the remarks by Kshama Sawant that I referred to above:
But here’s the question I would like to ask: If the Democratic Party establishment, the Democratic National Committee, was—had as its first priority to defeat Trump—I have no doubt that they want to defeat Trump, but if that was their topmost priority, then why did they not do everything in their power to promote the one candidate who, through many, many polls, was indicated to have been a really prominent, a very powerful voice against Trump and having the real possibility of winning against Trump?I think this is an eminently fair question, and I intend to put it to every Clinton supporter I talk to. Polls have their limitations, of course, but as I've also pointed out before, the Democratic bosses know what the polls show, and must be aware how unpopular most of their policies are. Perhaps the polls were wrong, but then so were the bosses: they were taken completely by surprise when Clinton's road to the nomination turned out not to be a cakewalk as everyone had expected to be. Bernie Sanders not only didn't fall out of the race early on, as all the Sensible People knew he would, he defeated Clinton repeatedly, often resoundingly, in numerous states. I think it's also reasonable to believe that if not for DNC malfeasance and corporate media irresponsibility, he could have won the nomination in the primaries.
But the key point is that polls showed consistently that Sanders could have beaten Trump more certainly and securely than Clinton could. That might not be true now, since Sanders went over to the Dark Side, and of course it's entirely possible that what the polls showed earlier this summer would not have stayed true after the convention. As Sawant asks, if defeating Trump was the vital thing, then why did the party bosses support a candidate who very likely couldn't do it?
This counters most, maybe all of the arguments made by Clinton's supporters. Yes, it would be nice to have a woman president; but we have to be realists, and in this campaign we have to put such considerations aside for the greater and indeed necessary good of defeating Trump. That's the argument made against Sanders breaking with the Democrats and (say) joining Jill Stein and the Greens, isn't it? It's a nice pipe dream, but all that matters is defeating Trump. (My only reservation about Sawant's performance this morning is that she was a bit evasive about the consequences of supporting Jill Stein, whose positions are good but doesn't have any realistic chance of defeating Trump in a three-way race, not even if Sanders joined her.)
Which indicates that for the party bosses, defeating Trump is not all that essential. They will suffer less than most Americans, or most people in the world, if Trump is elected -- aside from the First World Problem of having lost the election, to be sure, which is traumatic but they'll get over it. If Clinton is defeated, the Democrats will blame everyone but themselves. But they must be held responsible for ignoring hard political realities and pushing a candidate who's almost as unpopular as Trump himself, in order to maintain their control over the party. If Clinton does win, it won't be because she's the best, most qualified candidate, but because the alternative was so much worse.