Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nancy McClernan vs. the Radical Chic Part 4

Continued from Part 3

The Radical Chic is more interested in making a statement, in posturing, than in actually making progress through the political system. Or as Gail Collins said:
That’s the bottom line of the whole contest. Vote for Bernie: Send a message. Vote for Hillary: She knows how to make things work.
As the NYTimes said in its endorsement of Clinton:
In the end, though, Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers. His boldest proposals — to break up the banks and to start all over on health care reform with a Medicare-for-all system — have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren’t realistic, while Mrs. Clinton has very good, and achievable, proposals in both areas.
The Radical Chic is not interested in actually making things work in the real world because making things work takes work. And compromise. Superkewl revolutionaries don't compromise, superkewl revolutionaries laugh at compromise, or rant at it, in Bernie Sanders' case as Gail Collins said in a different piece:
This is one of the problems with being Bernie Sanders. His whole point is to be outside the political norm. He’s the principled maverick whose most famous moment in the Senate was his eight-and-a-half-hour speech against the compromises President Obama made in 2010 to get a tax deal. We expect him to stick to his standards, even if they’re somewhat irrational.
The Radical Chic has no problem with irrationality. That's why someone like Doug Henwood, contributing editor at The Nation can say of positive change  "...would require a wholesale overhaul of the political economy ... and the Clintons weren't about to take that on."

The wholesale overhaul of the political economy is not achievable for two politicians, even the Clintons. So as far a Radical Chic guy like Henwood is concerned, political achievements mean nothing without a complete overhaul. That explains the Radical Chic view of ACA.

In order to believe that Sanders has the ability to make all their dreams come true, the Radical Chic have to dismiss the accomplishment of ACA - as if getting it into law past a scorched-earth obstructionist Republican Congress was utterly insignificant.  And so they must believe the only reason Obama couldn't accomplish more was because he just didn't want it badly enough, and Sanders wants it bad enough and so, they apparently imagine, he will simply waltz into Congress, demand that Medicaid cover all citizens and throw out all the insurance companies.

And because dismissing anything good coming out of the existing system while making bold statements about how things should be is what being Radical Chic is all about, the ultimate hero of the Radical Chic is not Doug Henwood, although he certainly hasn't accomplished anything of value as far as I can see which might qualify him. No, the ultimate hero of the Radical Chic is Kathy Chang.

As I've mentioned on my blog in the past couple of months, Chang hung out with my ex-husband and other lefties in Philadelphia, including future Nation copy editor Sandy McCroskey. I met her myself but barely exchanged more than a few sentences with her and I don't remember what was said.

When she died the NYTimes said:
In 1978, she had a vision that she could redeem her many perceived failures with an act of utmost ambition: saving the world.

But after nearly two decades of pamphlets and protests and stripping naked in public, if that was what it took, there came the realization that no one was listening and nothing had changed. 
She also ranted in public. And her friend Anita King created a web site which displays one of her rants, which begins:
I am running on a platform of complete social transformation. The problems we are faced with today: crime, unemployment, poverty, battered women, abused children, pollution, environmental degradation, national insolvency, and budget deficits, and so on, cannot be solved within the present economic and political framework, because that framework is in itself the fundamental problem and the cause of all the other problems. The present government is so corrupt and tied up with anti-democratic procedures that it cannot reform itself. The only way to reform the system is to simply dissolve the system and start all over with a great national conference to create a new society.
A "platform of complete social transformation" is what many Bernie Sanders partisans want. And the phrase reminds me of Doug Henwood's "wholesale overhaul of the political economy" which he was angry with the Clintons for failing to provide. 

Now Chang was mentally ill and so you can't expect worthwhile analysis of the world's problems from her, and what she mostly provided was a wish list of stuff like an end to crime, unemployment, poverty, etc. etc. - in other words, she wanted an end to the many torments that have comprised the human condition since the beginning of human civilization. And Chang reckoned this could be accomplished through "a great national conference to create a new society."

As Gene Lyons said in response to Henwood's expectation of the wholesale overhaul of the political economy:
Ah, yes. Wholesale overhaul. If only Hillary had been willing to wave her magic wand, wiping away 200 years of history, abolishing the legislature and converting Arkansas into Connecticut.
This belief in virtual magic unites both Henwood and Kathy Chang.

Until very recently I had assumed that my ex and his gang were extreme in their irrational beliefs, and surely people writing for Left establishment media outlets like The Nation, people with college degrees and reputations, if not fame, could be expected to have a more earth-based and nuanced understanding of the world of politics. Especially when, like Henwood, they make a living writing about politics. But now I realize I gave them too much credit. 

Chang's final, pre-pyrotechnic statement could easily be written by any member of the Radical Chic - as quoted in Joseph Shahadi's paper:
Shahadi then quotes Ray Cairnes, identified as Chang's companion for the last 13 years (possibly the same boyfriend that King said to me was too cheap to pay for Chang's dental care): "I do not view it as a suicide, I view it as a sacrifice to save the world."

Chang did nothing to make the world a better place by her self-immolation, let alone save it, but she did make A STATEMENT which is everything to the Radical Chic.

I suppose we should be glad that most members of the Radical Chic are content to make a statement by merely rooting for Bernie Sanders.

However, Chang's death hurt nobody else. But if Bernie Sanders gets the nomination he would be trounced by a Republican once it was clear to voters exactly how much they would be paying in taxes to support his program proposals, among other things.

And then a Republican clown would be in the position to roll back women's rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, Wall Street regulations, ACA and so many other advances which are the result of the unglamorous, non-revolutionary, statement-free slow trudge of democratic politics. 

And we must not allow the Radical Chic's desire to make a statement about the wholesale overhaul of the political economy endanger hard-won liberties for rest of us.