This is great fun. H.A. Goodman and Benjamin Dixon are stalwarts of YouTube who commentate, in the main, on United States politics. I gather that they’ve got a history of being friends, as fellow journalists, but there’s been some tension since the end of the 2016 Democratic primaries, due to Benjamin reluctantly feeling duty bound to swallow Hillary Clinton’s candidature, as the only means available to stop Donald Trump, while H.A. Goodman was always #NeverHillary: perceiving her not only as a terrible, war-mongering candidate but as a symptom of the DNC’s moral bankruptcy. If one votes for Hillary then that was saying that candidates like her are okay; give me another ‘Hillary Clinton’ in the future and I’ll vote for them as well. Dixon still gets accepted somewhat across the progressive left as a whole while Goodman often gets hammered for his supposed obstinacy.
Benjamin and H.A. go at it pretty hard for 80 minutes or so. It was the best debate I’ve seen since the Chris Hedges/Robert Reich ding-dong over whether the progressive U.S. left should give their vote to Hillary or not, and finally draw a line. These sorts of debates are much more invigorating that the network TV-style ones that are crowbarred into the seven minute chunks between the ads. The participants in this kind of format get to really drill down on what they really want to say.
From what I understand, the “beef” was to do with a writer friend of H.A. Goodman’s, Caitlin Johnstone, re-tweeting or quasi-promoting an egregious right-winger, Mike Cernovich, on one specific issue, and that led to an avalanche of condemnation from publications like Counterpunch and Benjamin Dixon’s Progressive Army. Rather than be constricted by the 140 characters of Twitter (the qualifiers of politeness and etiquette like ‘In my opinion’, ‘For me’, ‘It seems to me’ and the like at the first to be 86’d to crunch down to 140: Twitter is built for confrontation as opposed to discussion) H.A. Goodman asked for an actual debate and here it is (to be followed by an upcoming one between Tim Black and Benjamin Dixon).
As with any great discussion, one almost gets whiplash from agreeing with one side and then immediately seeing that point countered, only to be re-countered again….etc. H.A. Goodman is more prepared, forensic and on the front foot while Benjamin Dixon is nimble, full of counter attack and verbal ju-jitsu, spinning arguments around and using the weight of the attacker against the attacker. Who wins? I don’t know; I haven’t got a dog in this hunt, to some extent, because I’m based in the U.K. but what happens in the U.S. does have ramifications for the rest of the world so I try to keep across the tawdry farce that it U.S. politics. However it seems like there’s a switch in outlook here.
Those who sucked it up and voted against Trump by voting for Hillary were seeking the short-term gain of blocking Trump and Trumpism. The long-term position would have been to not play ball and not acquiesced to the DNC and Hillary; to try to engender a greater demand for better candidates next time. Now, those who’d seek to find common ground with right-wing maniacs on, say, the issue of anti-imperialism (often those who were #NeverHillary) is the short-term game; the long-term game is to not give these scoundrels any oxygen whatsoever, at any time at all.
To ally with those opposite on certain issues isn’t a new thought. Plenty saw an opportunity for Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan to coalesce in previous years or Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. In both cases, there was some crossover potential in terms of anti-war; anti-N.A.F.T.A.; anti-drug war and so forth. Perhaps it just seems that the new strain of hard-right is deemed so off of the scale that it’s all beyond the pale? Who’s right, between H.A. and Benjamin, will depend on one’s own vantage point: looking long-term or short-term?
I suspect that this tension, this battle in the progressive left will only increase, and only get more brutal during the run-up to 2020. The corporatists/centrists/establishment/neoliberals, I think, are on the warpath to crush the progressive left in 2020…..and they’ll be successful too. They’ve just got too much power, too much money and so too big a ‘megaphone’ with which to beat them down. It’s a doubling-down on a losing strategy but their ace in the hole could well be Trump. If things go on as they are, with Trump essentially against the whole world, any Democrat will beat him. Even the inanimate carbon rod from The Simpsons would reach the White House, with a ‘D’ after its name. The neoliberals only want a win: a razor thin win, and it’ll be good enough for them.
They’ve overplayed their hand, though, with their force-feeding of a projected run by Kamala Harris into the discourse. It looks like they’re thinking that Harris’ thin record will not lend itself to good faith progressive examinations but Harris slim résumé works against them in that ‘but why are they so set on Harris if she hasn’t done much?’. Harris met the Clinton donors a couple of weeks ago and that she’s being pushed down the throats of the progressive left by all of the usual suspects is raising many red flags. In addition, Harris – being both female and African-American – is an identity politics jackpot. One already sees how this is going to play out for the next three and a half years.
You’ll be labelled as racist and sexist if you’re not on the Harris train and when progressives respond by asking how, then, do you explain progressives’ swooning over African-American, Nina Turner and Hindu-American, Tulsi Gabbard, the neoliberal response will be along the lines of them being used as props; that the ‘one black friend doesn’t mean you’re not racist’ (thus being racist themselves towards both Gabbard and Turner, denying them of any agency.). Around and around it’ll go. The same people who now profess themselves to be anti-the Iraq invasion will be asking the progressive left to impossibly prove another negative. Whereas then the proposition was ‘prove you don’t have weapons of mass destruction’, here, it’ll be ‘prove you’re not racist and/or sexist’.
It’ll work too. And then those who like to smear the progressive U.S. left as “alt.-left” will whine during a Trump versus Centrist General Election about “false equivalencies”, oblivious to any irony. If it is Trump. If he hasn’t resigned or been thrown in the hoosegow by 2020, I’d suggest that he’ll lose but then another centrist Democrat, another empty suit with no vision, could stoke up another right-wing backlash four or eight years down the line. A backlash like Zodiac killer, Ted Cruz and Cruz would make Trump look like a picnic on a summer’s day since Cruz is utterly vicious; smart enough to inflict some major damage and get things (horrible things) done.
An actual progressive, someone like Gabbard or Turner or Sanders could actually shift the Overton window, even though they’re only left-wing by U.S. standards. By the rest of the world, they’d be pretty mainstream. They would romp to victory: Sanders’ name recognition and wide popularity; Gabbard’s strength of character to stand for issues, even though it costs her some standing among those who are supposed to be in her corner; Turner’s preacher-style rhetoric and fiery, inspiring speeches. The DNC won’t allow it, though. They’d rather lose to Trump than turn things over to progressives, it seems. Trump is good for their business models and fund-raising. The longer that Trump (or Pence) is in, the more likely it is that the U.S. political pendulum will swing back their way next time. Either a company man or women, who knows who gives them their money, will win or another four years waiting patiently in opposition will occur: either will be preferable for the Democratic party than being led by an actual progressive, I suspect.
Also, if Trump is 86’d, Pence gives the Republicans the chance to re-brand and run as incumbents, with Pence getting a huge bump just for not being Trump. As long as Pence isn’t boxed in to having to hand out pardons like candy, he could offer the Democrats a much stiffer test. If Pence becomes 46 after two years in, he could run as an incumbent in both 2020 and 2024, being able to finish Trump’s term and run for two more. If he took over in the first two years, he could only finish the term and run for four years on his own, not a total of eight. A Democratic centrist would beat Trump, I think, but an insulated, undamaged Pence would beat a Democratic centrist and then you’d probably finally get a People’s Party or a re-constituted Green Party to run the Democrats out of town on a rail.
By then it might be too late. Nick Brana explains that the “two-party” U.S. political system hasn’t always been the same two parties: the already famous Abraham Lincoln helped form the Republicans; the already famous Andrew Jackson helped constitute the Democratic party. If Bernie jumped to a People’s Party or re-vamped Green Party for 2020, he’d take most of the Democratic Party, all of the Greens, he’d kill with independents (a bigger constituency in the U.S. than both ‘Democrat’ or ‘Republican’) and he’d take many Trump voters, looking for real populism over Trump’s phony-baloney populism. By 2024, Bernie would be 83 and probably out of serious contention.
The norm is that a candidate doesn’t nominate their vice-president until they’ve got the nomination but Trump has shredded all of the norms. If Bernie Sanders ran for 2020 as a ‘two-fer’ (with Tulsi Gabbard or Nina Turner) and pledged to hand over power after two years and a day then Tulsi or Nina could promote the other to her vice-president and they could run for another two terms themselves. Alternatively, by forming an outside party, they could be putting a figurative gun to the Democrats’ collective dome. If the Democrats, with their easy ballot access and infrastructure, then pledged to be a party of single-payer healthcare; breaking up the big banks; free college; a Green New Deal and the rest, the People’s Party could declare victory and endorse this newly relevant Democratic Party. But I don’t think it’ll play out like this.
This time, they’ll be no head-patting condescension towards the progressive U.S. left, finding Bernie Sanders and his supporters endearing before Hillary would crush him on her way to her inevitable landslide victory….er, oh. This time, it’ll be total war from the off and, for the money-rich Democratic establishment, it’ll surely work this time. It’s all shaping up to be brutal beyond belief.