We seem to be entering the final stage of this season of discontents.
The noise of news and candidate debates grows apace, often furiously.
I just got my mail-in ballot for the Denver Dem. presidential primary, due back soon.
Several days ago, I had a surprising discussion with two old friends about the Democratic race. Surprising because all of us were at least willing to consider the possibility of Bloomberg’s candidacy. It was a good discussion that I hope here to share with more friends.
And I really hope that some of you will join this conversation by posting comments below.
Most of my friends and family support Sanders or Warren. Indeed, just before sitting to write this post I received a very strong anti-Bloomberg posting from Rob Prince, a good lefty friend here in Denver.
The over-riding concern among my friends is that we must beat Trump. Find the candidate who can beat Trump, one whose policies we like or at least can live with.
I agree, that’s a crucial goal, but only one of two. The second crucial goal must be to work against the polarizations which grow increasingly worse and stymie efforts for much needed change.
Here’s my take on that second goal:
- If Bernie is the candidate there will be a huge (and for many a frightening) up-swell of often very angry groups on the left. If he then loses to Trump, that up-swell from will be confronted by an again empowered angry and fear-filled up-swell on the right. And much the same if Bernie beats Trump. In either case, our very dangerous polarizations will be exacerbated, deepened, worsened. Or so I fear.
- Now play the same guessing game with other candidates, asking the same set of questions about how they might either worsen or begin to heal deep divisions. Might Bloomberg, for instance, actually satisfy the hope many of us have for pragmatic solutions and social stability? Or will he so enrage Trumpers and radicals of all kinds, right as much as left, that “this rich Jew from New York” will only foment deeper hatreds among us.
- And so on with Buttigieg, Warren, Biden, Klobuchar… Which can beat Trump with the least polarizing uproar from angry and fear filled groups, with some hope of beginning to heal deep divisions and thus some hope of actually bringing important policies to fruition?
My point is pretty simple. Not only must we defeat Trump and his congressional minions, but we have to think hard about who can then better address all of our people in at least some movement against polarized fear.
David Brooks recently posted an opinion piece much related to my point. He argues that both Trump and Sanders have been successful because they sell simplistic myths about the way forward – simplistic and deeply polarizing. He then contrasts such polarizing myths with a serious alternative – what he calls “the gathering myth.” His remarks on that alternative are worth quoting at length:
Everywhere I go I see systems that are struggling — school systems, housing systems, family structures, neighborhoods trying to bridge diversity. These problems aren’t caused by some group of intentionally evil people. They exist because living through a time of economic, technological, demographic and cultural transition is hard. Creating social trust across diversity is hard.
Everywhere I go I see a process that is the opposite of group vs. group war. It is gathering. It is people becoming extra active on the local level to repair the systems in their lives. I see a great yearning for solidarity, an eagerness to come together and make practical change.
These gathering efforts are hampered by rippers at the national level who stoke rage and fear and tell friend/enemy stories. These efforts are hampered by men like Sanders and Trump who have never worked within a party or subordinated themselves to a team — men who are one trick ponies. All they do is stand on a podium and bellow.
In the gathering myth, the heroes have traits Trump and Sanders lack: open-mindedness, flexibility, listening skills, team-building skills and basic human warmth. In this saga, leaders are measured by their ability to expand relationships, not wall them off.
The gathering myth is an alternative myth — one that has the advantage of being true.
I don’t agree with his simplistic description of Sanders whom I will in the end probably support. But there is an important truth in that description.
Far more important is his call for attention to “the gathering myth,” though I fear he exaggerates its pervasiveness. What he has to say about that myth is very much in line with what I wrote in my preceding post about “our better angels.”
AND MOST IMPORTANT HERE IS THE QUESTION TO YOU: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BEATING TRUMP AND HEALING POLARIZATIONS? PLEASE JOIN THE DISCUSSION BY COMMENTING BELOW