The next few weeks promise a surge in political stories both over the top and disconnected from reality, if only because the lull in primaries (only Wyoming and Wisconsin float by) until New York on April 19th means little in the way of real news or the kind of polling that actual matters... which would be actual voting.
We're already on a tear of apocalyptic tales of doom regarding the upcoming Republican National Convention (can this thing really live up to this build up? We'll debate that tonight on Crossfire)... which kind of sets the stage for a new debate brewing on the left - the "it's getting hard to say Bernie Sanders can win the nomination" conversation, followed by the howls of "I can't support her! Anyone but Hillary!"
Example A of how this debate spins wild today is Susan Sarandon, a passionate Sanders supporter, who offered in passing the radical approach to voting this fall: rather than Sanders, why not vote Trump since a Trump win can only hasten the revolution.
The Sanders people would do well to step in and put some rationality back into this discussion, as it is damaging for them (and for Sarandon... but let's get back to that), never mind for Democrats, or even the progressive movement they seem so passionately to push. In her cavalier way, Sarandon was expressing the kind of disregard for real world impacts of bad developments that often come from those who want the revolution more than reality. And I mean revolution in the most general sense: it's similar to conservatives wishing that liberal policies would lead to their worst fears of economic disaster... just so everyone would realize the rightness of their approaches to lax taxation and limited government. Sure, there will be lots of people unemployed and hungry... but how bad could that be?
Sarandon's case is similarly myopic - she didn't suggest, as some have, that we can safely consider Trump for President since his wildest proposals - the wall, the trade wars, the bans on Muslim immigration and entry - can't possibly come to pass. No, hers was the case of, let it come, let it happen... and then see what develops from there.
I welcome the thought exercise of what this Trump world would look like... but I have no intention of wandering into it here. I don't think any of it needs spelling out, or extra detail. I'm not sure anyone does. I'm comfortable enough thinking that yes, Sarandon has a point: elect Trump and chaos will ensue.
There are, of course, a cohort of voters for whom their Presidential decision comes down to Trump or Sanders. Some find it hard to believe; I do not, partly because I've seen interviews on the news of them, partly because I get it - if you see the current approach to governing in DC as the problem, and you can't have one option to blow up the situation, why not pick the other? If I were as angry and fed up, I might well draw the same conclusion. What's the worst that could happen, really?
We are in an election of extremes for many reasons, not least of which is that what once seemed outrageous, out of bounds, looks a lot less so. People say things indiscriminately. Fights seem to break out for little or no reason. We are inured to violence, both physical and verbal. Our culture, certainly our reality TV, seems to have moved towards accepting the most outrageous behavior as merely another minor amusement. Look, one of those housewives punched the other one! A presidential campaign manager arrested for battery on a reporter! A governor signs a bill to take away people rights! We don't have to wonder how bad it looks - we can actually see it, right before us. The question is, do bad acts matter? Is anything outrageous if we never really get outraged?
Over the next few days we'll see if the Sanders people care enough to keep the primary process focused on what matters, if their role is really making a great case for the progressive cause, or merely throwing rhetorical bombs to see what blows up. Sarandon, after all, isn't just an actress with a cause, she's an actual surrogate speaker for the Sanders campaign, with the weight of official views that carries. And the campaign, after all, is to be the nominee of the Democratic party. It's generally not a good role for advocating the election of the other party's nominee... just, you know, to hasten the fall of civilization.
What's the worst that could happen? I'm not so blase (flazeda?) as to one word it with "Trump." I'm not sure his election would be this fall's worst possible outcome, honestly - there's always worse. But the point of this exercise, I remain convinced, isn't to play these head games of worst outcomes. What was charming about Sarandon's ever youthful approach to activism - the risky, fearlessness of it all - doesn't particularly suit the times we have now. Not when the risks are more apparent, and fear turns out to motivate not our best impulses, but our worst ones. This "once they see how bad it can get, then they'll understand" approach is shortsighted, and frankly cruel. It doesn't get bad in hypotheticals; it gets bad in real ways, to real people.
Some have called these "invite the chaos" proposals a sign of privilege - that is, it's easy to call down the bad times when you probably won't face them, whether wealth, or class or smarts will save you. I don't think privilege is really the point. It's easiest to to throw out these thought exercises, I think, when you simply pretend that the real suffering of real people is a hypothetical game. That's how conservatives, really, turn aside the negative impacts of bad policy. It would be a shame for liberal activists to follow suit, to see the impacts of war, poverty, mistreatment of others as simply chess moves in the big game of Forcing Change. What's the worst that could happen? As if we don't already know.