Political Education

Political Narcissism

In the 1960s the Chicago Tribune printed a political cartoon of the Democratic donkey with a noose around his neck, holding a pistol to his temple, and walking off a cliff. Typical self-destructive Democratic behavior.

Some of today’s Democratic activists are following in that self-destructive tradition.

That self-destructive tendency is exemplified by the recent attacks on the candidacy of Pete Buttigieg.

On the topic of affordable college education, Buttigieg says, “I believe we should move to make college affordable for everyone… but I only want to make promises that we can keep.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed another candidate, criticized Buttigieg: “This is a GOP talking point used to dismantle public systems, & it’s sad to see a Dem candidate adopt it.”

Later Elizabeth Warren attacked Pete Buttigieg for holding a Silicon Valley fundraising event that was “held in a wine cave, full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine.”

Buttigieg responded to her with: “This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass.” Pointing out that Warren has previously engaged fundraising, Buttigieg added that “these purity tests shrink the stakes of the most important election.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who seems to see Buttigieg as a deceptive opportunist, responded with: “For anyone that accuses us of instituting purity tests, it’s called having values.”

A spokesperson for the Buttigieg campaign came back with: “The stakes are too high for purity tests on fundraising or ideology that turn away resources and risk alienating voters. We need to do everything we can to defeat Donald Trump and elect Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Former President Obama weighed in: “I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that’s going to activate them. People rightly are cautious because they don’t have a lot of margin for error.

Obama continued, “This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement,” … “They like seeing things improved, but the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.”

David Axelrod, a former Obama strategist, has said “I think sometimes the populist left is over-represented in places where reporters sometimes spend a lot of time, like on Twitter.”

Hillary Clinton, referring to Senator Sanders, has said, “… it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women.”

The Democratic candidates for president in 2020 have policies on climate change, wealth disparity, health care, issues of race and gender, firearm violence, and immigration policies that all move in the same general direction. There is, or should be, a general agreement- consensus- on those issues. The differences in their policies are a matter of degree.  All of the Democrat’s policies are starkly different from the president’s policies.

Democracy for America, a self-proclaimed progressive group, takes the position that “… too many progressives are fighting each other instead of staying focused and united against the candidates supported by the corporate wing of the Democratic Party.”

Political analysts at the Five Thirty Eight weblog have noted that “The Warren vs. Sanders progressivism fight seems to be a more stylistic, and unexpectedly tense class war of sorts within the broader progressive class war.”

Whether it is called a litmus test, purity test, or any other kind of ideological test, such tests do not allow any deviation from the ‘party line’.

In a pluralistic society, there is not going to be one single approach way that will please everyone, so compromise and consensus are necessary for progress.

Political narcissism exaggerates the importance of a group an individual belongs to and rejects the possibility of compromise and consensus. It is an exercise in self-righteousness that ignores the concerns of other like-minded voters by imposing rigid values on other campaigns, endangering the chances of helping progressive causes.

It will be difficult enough to defeat the president and his reactionary authoritarian agenda. Like the cartoon Democratic donkey, Democrats will self destruct if they respond with an agenda that excludes, rather than includes, fellow progressives.

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