I used to be a sports fan, specifically of the Vikings, the Twins, and the Timberwolves*, more tangentially, the Wild!** I’d watch the games and be elated if they won and despondent if they lost. Even so, I’d get over it in a few minutes and go on with my day, so I never was as rabid as fans can be. I rarely went to a game, and I never painted my face in team colors. I didn’t do the wave or chant that we’re number one, and I usually did something else as I watched the game, as is my wont. Over the years, my enthusiasm in sports waned for a variety of reasons, a primary one being the damage that professional sports does to a human body. The news about concussions and the NFL is horrifying, and I can’t in good conscience support a sport that leaves men battered and brain-damaged by the time they retire.
Despite the intro, this post is not about sports–at least not the kind that involves throwing balls around a field.*** This post is about politics and how rooting for a party and sometimes a candidate online feels very similar to rabid fans rooting for their teams. One thing that always amused me about sports fans is how every call against them is bogus and every call for them is legit, but also about goddamn time! It’s not as amusing when it happens in politics because the latter actually matter in the real world, unlike the former. But, just as sports fans can get mired in the minutiae of the rules of their game, so can people who follow politics get hung up on inside bullshit that would leave outsiders scratching their heads.
Side note: I find this to be a problem with the internet in general. It’s too easy to cosset yourself in some niche and then become convinced that you are the norm because everyone around you agrees with you. You could firmly believe that the sun is a puppet of the great overlord, Dragoonish, a Martian with three heads, two noses, and green skin, and you’ll find at least one person who agrees with you on the internet. I’ve ranted about this before, but sometimes, the internet feels like one big echo chamber.
I was very involved in politics during the 2008 elections in part because I was excited about our candidates for president, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in particular. I’ll be frank. I was stoked to have a female candidate and a black candidate, more so because I thought they were both very qualified to be president. After the elections, however, I quickly realized that the day-to-day grind of following politics was frustrating, in part because of the highly-partisan response of people to every little thing that happened. I really noticed it after Obama’s reelection–he would say or do something, it didn’t matter what, and Republicans would reflexively decry it while Democrats reflexively supported whatever Obama said/did. Actually, the latter is a bit more complicated. I should say that Obama supporters backed whatever Obama did/said whereas progressives scolded him for not going far enough and for not banging on the bully pulpit. It reached the point where if I knew who was talking (in response to an Obama point), I knew what the reaction would be, and I started to lose interest in politics.
Side note: I get why some black people are protective about Obama to the point where any criticism seems like an attack. The man has been pilloried by the right and the extreme left to the point where he had to show his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the states. I actually cried when he was forced to do that because it showed how much PoC are considered second class in this country. This man was the fucking president of the United States, and he has to show his papers like that? It hit me in the gut, and I haven’t forgotten or forgiven. At the same time, Obama hasn’t been perfect. He’s made missteps in foreign policy and education, and I think it does him a disservice to pretend otherwise. His legacy as one of the best if not the best president is secured, but he’s not perfect.
Side note to the side note: When I was in grad school for my writing MA, I wrote a short story featuring an Asian American woman as a very vicious serial killer. She had her reasons–she was killing purported rapists and murderers who had evaded the law–but in the end, she was a monster. My adviser told me that I shouldn’t make her Asian because people would focus on that fact and miss the forest for the trees, as it were. My response was that I had no interest in writing only positive Asian American characters because that’s not my reality. Plus, it feeds into the myth of the model minority, and it treats Asian people as something less than fully human. I understand his reasoning, and I’m not even saying he’s wrong. Had I published that story, people would have been very focused on the fact that the protagonist as it were was Asian and what did it mean? It didn’t mean anything other than I almost always make my protagonists Asian, but that wouldn’t be enough for some people. I don’t care, though, because it’s more important to me to portray humanity in all its messiness than to present an unrelenting positive view of Asians. All of this is to say I understand the instinct to close ranks, but I don’t think it’s useful in the long run. As I said, Obama’s legacy is secured. I think he can handle being legitimately criticized–he’s not that fragile.
I’ve been really frustrated lately with the Bernie Sanders stans and the Hillary Clinton stans going at it tooth and nails on social media. I have friends who support Clinton, and I have friends who support Sanders, and none of them fall into the rabid category. I, myself, am more in line with Sanders than I am with Clinton, but I have reservations about each of them. With Clinton, it’s that I don’t know where she stands on any given issue. I mean, I know her general stances, but she’s willing to massage her viewpoint as popular opinion on an issue changes to the point where I’m not sure what exactly her core beliefs are. I don’t completely blame her because she’s been hated on by the right (and certain media companies, I’m looking at you, NYT) ever since she had the gall to speak her (female) mind when she was the first lady two decades ago. Anything she said was mercilessly torn apart, and she couldn’t win for trying. So, it’s no wonder that she’s extra-cagey about what she says these days, but it’s not something I want in my president. I want her to lead, not to follow. In addition, she’s more hawkish than I’m comfortable with. I feel like she thinks she has to prove she can hang with the guys–which is ludicrous because she’s been outlapping the guys for most of her life. On the plus side, she knows politics like nobody’s business, and she was a great secretary of the state. The same caginess will serve her well because she can be diplomatic on issues. On the other hand, I have actual concerns how Bill Clinton would be as first gentleman. I don’t see him as the type to knit or bake cookies in the background, and I’m not a big fan of the idea that he’ll be back in the White House.
On Sanders’ side, I think his idealism will be a problem. It is fine in the Senate where he can be the conscience of the Senate with little to no negative side effects. As president, however, he’s going to have to compromise, and I’m not sure how capable he is of doing that. I also wonder if he’ll be able to dissimulate while dealing with some very powerful and rich heads of states. A good friend of his said that if Sanders doesn’t like you, you’ll know it. That kind of bluntness is not going to go over well in many parts of the world, including some pockets of the states. I do like his passion for the proletariat, however, as I’m a socialist at heart. I think he is a man of integrity, and I trust what he says is what he means. I have reservations about him as a president, but I’m really glad he’s in the race because he’s moving the meter to the left, which Clinton sorely needs.
My disdain for politics reached critical mass with the recent data breach debacle. I stayed away from it because I knew it was going to be a lightning rod for the stans on both sides to let their team flags fly. I made sure I knew the basics, but the reactions I saw were enough to tell me that I didn’t want any part of that. For those who don’t know, basically, there was a glitch in the DNC data base that allowed people from the Sanders’ campaign to access information about Clinton’s voters. Instead of reporting the glitch to the DNC, the Sanders campaign sat on it. They were found out, and all hell broke loose. The DNC suspended Sanders’ access to the data base, and Sanders responded by submitting a lawsuit to retain access to their own voters’ information. The DNC gave back access to the Sanders’ campaign after the Sanders’ campaign agreed to be audited. Sanders apologized, Clinton accepted, and that should be that.
Instead, I saw stans on both sides waging war on the other. Bernie stans were acting as if the DNC and Clinton were out to get Sanders, despite the fact that it was Sanders’ campaign that fucked up, and Clinton stans were acting as if this was another Watergate. I partially blame the media for hyping up the controversy (which is all they seem to do these days), but the stans on both sides were already primed to fight, so the media was only greasing this particular wheel. “DNC caves!” I saw one Bernie stan crow after the DNC agreed to give back access to Sanders’ campaign to his voters. “This is the end of Bernie!” tweeted one Hillary stan, carrying on as if Bernie Sanders stole his wife. Both sides were making mountains out of a molehill, and it was sickening to watch. It’s like the Vikings versus the Packers ratcheted up to the nth degree, and over what? Much ado about nothing is what I say.
I know these are the primaries,**** but people are out of control. This is something that frustrates the hell out of me about Democrats–we’ll tear the shit out of each other and not vote to ‘prove’ a point. Meanwhile, the Republicans close ranks and vote for whomever is the forerunner (though I’m not so sure that will happen with Trump), but not us Dems. We’ll cut off our nose to spite our own damn faces, and the last time that happened in a presidential campaign, we ended up with W. (with a healthy assist from his brother, Jeb!, the Florida Supreme Court, and Ralph Nader). I’ve seen Bernie stans say that Hillary is as bad as the Republicans, which, no, she is fucking not!, and that they won’t vote at all rather than vote for her. I’ve seen Hillary stans say that Bernie is just another Nader, which, again, no, he is fucking not!, and that he’s ruining Hillary’s coronation. I heard that from Hillary stans back in 2008 as well, that it was Hillary’s turn. No! We don’t have heirs apparent in America, or at least, we shouldn’t. I’m frustrated with the polarization in the Democratic party, the Buzzification, if you will. The difference between Hillary and Bernie is a matter of degrees, and while I think we should have a healthy discussion about their differences, I’m really put off by the extremity of the arguments. I hate to be reductive about it, but either of them would be so much better than any of the Republican candidates. That’s the thing that keeps running through my mind–do we really want President Trump, President Carson, or President Rubio? I hate that we have a two-party system and it’s often a matter of choosing the lesser evil, but that’s the reality of the situation. And, in this case, it’s not even a lesser evil. I honestly think either Bernie or Hillary would be a much better president than anyone the Republicans can produce. This should be a year in which the Republicans take the presidency due to natural ebbs and flows in political will, but because of the slate the Republicans are forced to present, it should be a slam dunk for the Democrats to retain the presidency. At least, it would be if we weren’t so intent on tearing each other apart. The Republicans are handing the presidency to us on a platter–for the love of all that is good, please fucking take the win, Dems. Just fucking take it.
*Yes, I’m a homer.
**Exclamation point provided by me because I think the Wild is the dumbest name ever and needs some jazzing up.
***Or a puck. Which you don’t throw. And it’s not played on a field, but you know what I mean.
****Which are way too fucking long. The whole election season is too long. It should be a month, two months tops.