One of the common responses I’ve seen to the past few days of criticism of Sanders supporters and campaign workers over their behavior at the Nevada state convention, and of Sanders himself over his abysmal response, is “You need to be nicer to us Sanders supporters. You’re going to need us in November!”
Um, yeah, about that? If you’re one of those people, there are a few things you should be thinking about.
There are the purely social aspects of trying to change people’s behavior with threats. When you tell me you’re willing to engage in behavior that will put Donald Trump in charge of the U.S. and hurt me and others as a result, I don’t exactly feel warm and fuzzy about you. Let me quote myself from months ago, because I’ve already told you this.
Those of you out there now saying you’re determined to let a Republican win if your choice for Democrat doesn’t get the nomination? You don’t even get to claim religious fervor. You’re just straight up holding hostages, and you’ve chosen the most vulnerable among us to throw between you and the gun.
As it turns out, hostage-takers aren’t people I want to be nice to. In fact, I get downright defiant when the suggestion is made. It might be a personal failing of some sort, but I’m not alone. If you’re trying to be persuasive, it’s just one of those little facts you’re going to have to deal with. So is the fact that I’m not alone in this. So is the fact that, if you’re willing to threaten me with a Trump presidency, I don’t believe you’re going to act rationally, no matter what I do.
It’s just poor strategy. Oops.
Then there’s the idea that I’m going to be the person to lead you to Clinton. I’m not. You’ve been telling me that for months. For the most part, you’ve also been calling me dishonest and uncaring while you’ve done it. But now you tell me that I need to be careful in how I talk about you if I want your vote? Let me just add that to the list of things I don’t believe. You’re not going to listen to someone you’ve been building up in your own head as a monster and the shill of a dishonest monster, no matter how I cater to you now.
You’ll find a reason to vote against Trump on your own or you won’t at all.
Most importantly, however, I’m aware of what catering to you at this point could cost Clinton. You see, the people loudly insisting that I be nice to them now because their votes matter are nearly uniformly white and overwhelmingly male. Do their votes count the same as anyone else’s? Yes, of course. I expect many of these people are bluffing and posturing at this point because they’ve been encouraged to hold out hopeless hope, but those who aren’t still represent votes. They’re not, however, the demographic that will determine the outcome of this election.
What will determine this presidential election will be the same things that have determined the last several. Who will Hispanic voters choose? Will black voters turn out? And no, we can’t just assume that the Democratic candidate will get those votes. We can’t assume those voters are a captive audience. When Democrats woo them effectively, they win. When they don’t, they lose. The effect only gets more pronounced over time.
As it turns out, a bunch a white guys posturing about how people need to be nicer to them or they’ll take their toys and go home is not an effective strategy for courting these populations. Really, it isn’t. Effective strategies include meeting with community leaders, hiring policy advisers from the communities in question, building policies that target these communities with help, and having a popular black president on your side.
Clinton is doing all of that, some of it more successfully than other parts. That doesn’t mean she’ll get turn out everyone or have everyone on her side, but it does mean she’s doing the right work.
What could screw that up? The same thing that always screws this sort of thing up. The same thing that’s made many people who support Sanders’ positions turn away from Sanders’ campaign.
Entitlement is ugly. Hostile entitlement is worse. It’s one of the things that tells marginalized populations that their work will never be rewarded with full participation. It’s one of the things that tells marginalized populations they’ll only be tolerated as long as they don’t try to claim their share. At best, it’s a distraction from the work at hand. At worst, it keeps people home.
So no, I have no interest in catering to hostile entitlement. I have no interest in drawing more hostile entitlement to the Clinton campaign. I know who Democrats need on their side to win this and any future presidential election, and I know how many people we can lose for every person radiating hostile entitlement. I’m not going to pretend your vote is more important than all of theirs. It isn’t.
You’ll find a way to put yourself on their level and share or you’re worse than useless. And if you persist in being worse than useless, then no, we really don’t need you come November. In fact, if that’s the case, you’d probably get me to be nicer to you by promising you’ll go work for Trump.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to turn my attention to November. You go do your thing, whatever that is.