Friday, September 02, 2016
commondreams | Last month, adding to the archive of left-punching, conservative writer and ardent Clinton supporter James Kirchick enthusiastically denounced those he called "the Hillary Clinton-loathing, Donald Trump-loving useful idiots of the left."
"In this weirdest year," Kirchick wrote, "there may be no weirder phenomenon than the rise of the progressive Donald Trump supporter."
Among those apparently deserving of the label "progressive Trump fan" are Glenn Greenwald, Rania Khalek, Zaid Jilani, Julian Assange, Jill Stein, and Katrina vanden Heuvel, all of whom, according to Kirchick, are "captive to a crude and one-dimensional anti-Americanism."
The one sin that unites these progressive commentators, journalists, and political figures with Trump is, in other words, that they all dare to question the morality of America's use of force abroad.
By linking left-wing criticism of American foreign policy with Trumpism, Kirchick is attempting, as Eric Levitz has noted, to delegitimize ideas without having to put forward anything resembling a coherent argument. Instead, Kirchick dubiously portrays Trump as an anti-imperialist (which he's not) to smear actual anti-imperialists.
"For champions of the bipartisan consensus on issues of national security and globalization," Levitz writes, "Trump is an awfully convenient figurehead for challenges to the status quo."
Far from innovative, Kirchick's tactic of using Trump to dismiss legitimate critiques of Hillary Clinton has become commonplace within American political discourse. And shamefully, the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic Party has silently capitulated to this framework.
Such a state of affairs is immensely revealing, in several ways.
First, it demonstrates clearly the striking ideological bankruptcy of the Democratic establishment. As Neera Tanden, a long-time Clinton confidante, made clear in a recent interview with Politico's Glenn Thrush, loyal partisans are not at all concerned with addressing—or even acknowledging—the critiques of Hillary Clinton offered by independent progressives. Instead, they are concerned primarily with optics and deflection.
Tanden, while acknowledging that Sanders "brought a lot of really important issues to the floor," lamented that "Sanders was prosecuting a much tougher character attack" than the one Clinton faced in 2008. She also observed—contradicting the facts—that Sanders's attacks did "significant damage to Hillary's negatives," implying that Sanders is responsible for the perception that Clinton is dishonest and untrustworthy.
Of course, as Ben Spielberg has observed, "If legitimate critiques damage a candidate's approval rating, the problem isn't the person making the critiques."
But Tanden's narrative is consistent with the message put forward by the Clinton campaign throughout the primary: The very act of pointing to Clinton's record, the story goes, is tantamount to, as Clinton herself put it, "an artful smear."