Analistas 25/04/2016

Righteousness doesn’t excuse the need for questioning

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The business about discounting support for Hillary Clinton as coming from “conservative states” in the “Deep South” actually exemplifies the problem I saw in the Sanders campaign from the beginning, and it made me distrust both the movement and the man.

What you see on this issue and others is supporters’ casual adoption, with no visible effort to check the premise, of a story that sounds good: It’s all about the big banks; single-payer health care is there for the taking if only we want it; government spending will yield huge payoffs - not the more modest payoffs conventional Keynesian analysis suggests; voter support for Republicans will vanish if we take on corporate media.

In each case the story runs into big trouble if you do a bit of homework. If not completely wrong, each argument needs a lot of qualification. But the all-purpose response to people who raise questions is that they must be members of the establishment, or personally corrupt. Ad hominem attacks aren’t the final line of defense - they’re the top argument.

I know some people think that I’m obsessing over trivial policy details, but they’re missing the point. It’s about an attitude, the sense that righteousness excuses you from the need for hard thinking, and that any questioning of the righteous is treason to the cause. When you see supporters of Mr. Sanders going over the top about “corporate whores” and such, you’re not seeing a mysterious intrusion of bad behavior into an idealistic movement. You’re seeing the intolerance that was always just under the surface of that movement, right from the start.

Does Mrs. Clinton have problems too? Of course - she has been too cozy with established interests in the past, she shouldn’t have given those speeches to Wall Street and of course she shouldn’t have voted for the war in Iraq. But there is no evidence that she’s corrupt, and lots of evidence that she both thinks hard about issues and is willing to revise her views in the light of facts and experience. Those are important virtues - important progressive virtues - that seem woefully absent on the other side of the primary.