Tired of Democrats vs. Republicans? Here’s how to fix it

Published: Salon (August 23, 2016)

I’ve been second to none among progressive pundits urging the sane world to unify behind Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. I’m not going to repeat those arguments here. (If you’re reading this article, the chances are you know them anyway.) But it’s time to acknowledge the major logical flaw in any lesser-of-two-evils position:

If we progressives want meaningful change in our society and the larger world, how can we achieve it when both major parties are so flawed?

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The Wrong Kind of Liberal

Published: The Good Men Project (August 6, 2016)

I’d like to talk about a specific type of liberal – namely, the liberal who believes that his or her liberalism can be brandished as a “get out of jail free” pass for bad behavior.

Based on my personal observations, this manifests itself in three ways:

  1. There is the MacFarlane type of liberal – i.e., someone who believes that because of their left-wing political views, they can make any number of offensive jokes without being accused of bigotry. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane is a particularly egregious offender here, most notably when he released an episode of his show in which all of the characters insulted and dehumanized a transgendered individual while MacFarlane proclaimed innocence because of his well-known sympathy for LGBTQ rights. I’m also reminded of close friends from Bard College (which, at least when I attended, had a reputation as the most left-wing school in America) who regularly cracked jokes about morbidly obese African American women, the mentally disabled, lower-income whites, and other marginalized groups… and, when confronted, would invariably mention their liberal politics as an excuse.
  2. Then there is the Bernie Bro type, someone who believes that because they are steadfastly adhering to left-wing political values, it excuses political behavior that enables regressive results. Throughout this presidential election, many commentators have noted that the Bernie Sanders supporters who refuse to back Hillary Clinton are operating from a place of privilege. Even though they may emotionally sympathize with marginalized groups, they are willing to sacrifice their well-being in the name of abstract ideological goals because they personally wouldn’t feel the effects of a Donald Trump presidency. When I bring this up to Sanders supporters, I naturally hear about how “progressive” they are in their views toward marginalized groups… as if having a sympathetic ideology means anything when you’re willing to sacrifice others in its name.
  3. Finally there is the Wesley type, named after an abusive and narcissistic hippie from the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump.” In general, this is the type of person who treats others around them in a terrible way, then talks about how left-wing they are as a way to vilify the other person when called out on it. To use another personal example: When I discovered that one of my friends had been gossiping about me to my ex-girlfriend and I told him I was hurt by it, he claimed that “as a feminist, I have to take a woman’s side in situations like this.” Instead of apologizing for betraying my trust or admitting that he allowed himself to be manipulated, he tried to cover it up as a progressive political stance.

If you think any of these descriptions apply to yourself, do the world a favor: Don’t react by writing me an angry email or posting a nasty comment. Perform a little introspection. The world will benefit from it… and you might become a better, more genuine liberal as a result.

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It’s time for Democrats to unify: Why even the most idealistic Sanders voter should support Clinton

Published: Salon (June 16, 2016)

We don’t know what Bernie Sanders discussed with Hillary Clinton when the two of them met Tuesday night, but it’s fair to assume that the conversation revolved around Clinton’s new status as the presumptive Democratic nominee. As the burgeoning Bernie or Bust movement clearly demonstrates, a lot of Sanders supporters are unhappy with the prospect of backing Clinton. Of course, because Green Party candidate Jill Stein has offered to run on a joint ticket with Sanders, they may not actually have to do so.

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Sanders supporters pushed Clinton to the left—now they have to keep her there

Published: Quartz (June 7, 2016)

Heading into California primary today, Donald Trump is catching up toHillary Clinton in the general election polls. According to political analysis from statisticians like Nate Silver, the reluctance of some Bernie Sanders supporters to back an alternate Democratic candidate is part of the reason for Trump’s boost. Sanders’ backers tend to identify as progressive, according to Silver, but not necessarily as Democrats. “If Clinton wins over those voters, she’ll gain a few percentage points on Trump in national and swing state polls,” Silver explains. “If not, the general election could come down to the wire.”

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Bernie Sanders has a big decision ahead

Published: Quartz (May 3, 2016)

Staring down the DC press corps on Sunday (May 1), Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders vowed to make Hillary Clinton’s path to the party’s presidential nomination as challenging as possible. “It is virtually impossible for secretary Clinton to reach a majority of convention delegates by June 14 with pledged delegates alone,” Sandersexplained to reporters at a National Press Club conference. “In other words, the convention will be a contested contest.”

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Bernie Sanders is a compassionate, intelligent man who has no clue how to run a country

Published: Quartz (April 6, 2016)

If Bernie Sanders wants to be president, he’ll need to do better than this.

The Democratic senator is doubtless feeling pretty optimistic today, fresh off a primary victory in Wisconsin. And yet a much more telling measure of the candidate’s presidential chances happened earlier this week, during an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News.

Reading the interview is a thoroughly disheartening affair. As editors plied Sanders with questions about how he would implement his radical agenda, it became abundantly clear that Hillary Clinton’s chief rival doesn’t have many answers.

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Donald Trump’s secret weapon against Hillary Clinton

Published: Salon (April 5, 2016)

There is one issue in which Donald Trump is much more progressive than Hillary Clinton – and, unless she learns from history and decisively changes the way Americans perceive her positions here, it may wind up costing her the presidency.

I’m referring, of course, to American trade policy. Although the last president to oppose free trade was Hebert Hoover (and his administration was more than 80 years ago, for those of you keeping track), Trump has been sounding the horn of unapologetic protectionism throughout his presidential campaign. Indeed, opposition to free trade may be the one consistent view Trump has held throughout his public life; when he first mulled a presidential bid in 1988, his main issue was America losing in trade wars with Japan and Kuwait. Twenty-eight years later, Trump’s economic platform focuses on prohibiting American companies from building plants in Mexico, penalizing China for manipulating its currency, and striving to “modify or cancel any business, or trade agreement that hinders American business development, or is shown to create an unfair trading relationship with a foreign entity.” Most notably, he denounced the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which, if signed, would be the largest trade deal in history – calling it a “disaster.”

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