It seems as though U.S. politics has turned into a young-adult novel.
A league of evil, yet comically incompetent, villains led by a Nameless Evil (you know, that guy with the funky hair) seeks to dominate the country and destroy all good and true social institutions.
This group of villains is supported by rich and powerful benefactors, who themselves seek to control the fate of the nation.
Against this onslaught of darkness stands only one person, the chosen one: Bernie Sanders.
Betrayed by the purportedly good Democratic Party, Bernie is our last and greatest hope.
Though he lacks the support of the rich and powerful, the populace has risen up in his support, and he is destined to drive back the advancing evil with the power of grassroots activism.
What’s worrying isn’t just how absurd that narrative truly is, but how many people believe it.
If you found yourself thinking that tale was scarily accurate, then this article is targeted at you.
That kind of political naïveté, believing that one candidate is true good, and others are varying degrees of evil, is what I’m going after.
I’m not going to go full-on Voldemort, “there is no good and evil, only power and those too weak to seek it.”
Moral relativism is childish, and doesn’t belong in politics any more than moral absolutism does.
My beef with believers in the young-adult view is how focused on the ideal that view is.
The claims Sanders’ supporters make, holding him up as a paragon of the people, aren’t unfounded.
Certainly, the man wants to make the world a better place, and espouses ideas that are aimed at that goal.
I think most everyone would agree that wealth inequality is a huge problem in this country, and that something needs to be done.
Similarly, college tuition is exorbitantly high, and something needs to be done to make education more available to everyone.
However, I am not going to claim that Bernie’s solutions are necessarily bad; certainly some of his ideas have merit.
What I do want to bring up is that, although he himself aims to do good, his ideas on how to effect positive change in the country might not be the best. Sanders, by his own admission, is a socialist.
Many of his ideas pull from European socialist democracies, which are thoroughly incomparable to the United States.
Others seem to have been pulled from some ideal state, without parallels in the real world. In other words, his ideas on policy change often abandon practicality for idealism.
Idealism has its place in the world, and even in politics.
Without idealism, this country wouldn’t even exist; without idealism, slavery would still exist; and without idealism, minorities would still lack the protection of the law.
Yet realism is also necessary for positive change. Where Bernie has idealism in spades, he seems to lack the requisite amount of realism.
He and his supporters are eager to force change on the country, pushing past the objections of conservatives and even moderates.
Sanders isn’t the only one who wants to improve the country, Hillary does as well, and so do the Republicans.
The portrayal of Sanders as the only one who wants to positively change the country is faulty to the extreme.
Those who oppose Sanders’ ideas don’t do so out of malice, they do so because they believe there are better ways to improve the country.
The mindset of “Sanders good, conservatives bad,” is not just fallacious but damaging, since it precludes dialogue critical of progressivism.
In order to identify the best policies for the country, multiple viewpoints need to be discussed with respect, even those that seem unpalatable.
Sanders and his supporters defend their ideas with the intended outcome, instead of the realistic implementation.
A common claim I’ve heard is that Sanders’ policies are the only ones aimed at narrowing the wealth gap, or making college affordable, or getting money out of politics.
Therefore, as the claim goes, we can only choose Sanders, since he’s the only one with our best interests at heart.
Yet this defense completely dodges the question of feasibility that other camps are concerned with.
It’s wholly possible that Sanders’ ideas could be the best ones, but right now he and his supporters haven’t engaged meaningfully with opposing views.
Rather than discussing the political, economic and social feasibility of his plans, and therefore improving them, Sanders and his supporters have opted to elevate themselves above such concerns, inhabiting the realm of the ideal rather than the real.
If Sanders is to be a good president, he will need to address the practical concerns of his opponents, and until he does so, it is only political naïveté to wholly support the man.