Joe Rogan has some views on trans issues that anyone on the Left should oppose. Unfortunately, at least half the country holds similar views. The issue isn’t whether Bernie Sanders should compromise with such positions. As a matter of principle, he can’t and shouldn’t do that. The question is whether the best way to build a movement that appeals to rather than alienating the tens of millions of Americans who have reactionary views on at least some issues is to moralistically condemn them for those views or whether it’s to welcome them in an open and compassionate way while continuing to educate them, and while sticking to our own principles.
As a matter of real-world power, it’s also worth noting that the person Rogan said he is probably going to vote for is the most pro-trans candidate in the race. Sanders was a pioneer in the support of trans rights and he hasn’t changed course. Despite the ideological flaws Rogan has on these questions, the material meaning of his announced intention to vote for Sanders is that he plans to help empower a candidate who wants medical transitions to be paid for by the only insurance program that will continue to exist after the enactment of Medicare for All.
Anyone who’s serious about changing the world has to think hard about what compromises they might be willing to make in order to achieve power. This issue has preoccupied organizers for as long as struggles for justice have existed. It’s one thing for people operating in good faith to disagree with each other about those questions. It’s quite another to denounce Sanders for “touting” an endorsement which required no such compromises.
I don’t give a fuck about Joe Rogan or, to be honest, Bernie all that much. Of course I will vote and campaign and cape for Bernie every single day if he is the nominee, post memes and declare my undying love, etc etc. You all know this by now. WRT Rogan of course I start from the assumption that any popular white male podcaster/YouTuber is a douchemook and ask them to prove me wrong and so far Rogan … has not. But this isn’t about Bernie, or Rogan, or the necessity of endorsements.
It’s about the calculation that you can win over people who don’t want to vote for you by shitting on the people who do. And more poisonous than that, that you can win over people who don’t want to vote for you by shitting on people who need you to get elected to save their goddamn lives.
Saying we should throw trans people under the bus so that we can prove ourselves to be Real Serious People is utter horseshit and I’d rather lose every election from now until the end of time than engage in this kind of pointless pandering to miserable bigots who are lying about their bigotry.
I mean they are lying. “I wouldn’t have to be a Nazi if you didn’t want to recognize trans people’s existence” is not a thing said by people who want to support you and are persuadable. There are no legions of suburban mommies out there who want to vote Democrat except for how you all support trans people. For literally no one is that their number one issue, not that that matters, your degree of bigotry has fuckall to do with anyone else’s right to exist anyway.
You know what is somebody’s number one issue? Being alive, being able to go to work and go home and go out and yes, go to the bathroom, without fear of firing or harassment or goddamn being murdered. THOSE are some real-ass stakes. Kids getting medical care, that’s skin in the game. The right to privacy, to a life free from fear, that’s a real thing, not like Gated Community Gretchen’s comfort level at book club.
Gated Community Gretchen is going to hold her nose and vote for Trump because “those people” are “taking over,” anyway. This is the thing. We act like there’s some magic denunciation of our own that will make people who dislike Democrats stop disliking Democrats and aside from it being morally monstrous it won’t even WORK.
Like in addition to that, Mrs. Lincoln, the play fucking SUCKED.
Maybe once upon a time this worked, this triangulating “I love everything about being a Democrat except all my fellow Democrats” bullshit, this “I will denounce my own party and all its works in order to win the primary to represent my own party and all my icky morally deficient supporters who need to pull up their pants and stop buying designer handbags with their food stamps.” Did it?
I feel like maybe there was a time before everybody saw through the con, but it’s 2020 and we know things now, and one of the things we know is that if a cheese-faced fascist mobster-wannabe appeals to you after he’s put immigrant kids in cages you probably have more going on than thinking trans people are icky.
Every successful presidential campaign is by definition a coalition of voters who don’t agree with each other about everything but are willing to get behind a given candidate and their platform. The question is whether we’re so allergic to having people in our coalition who haven’t yet reached progressive positions on every issue that we’re willing to risk losing what is arguably the most important election of our lifetimes.
Which is more important — stigmatizing Rogan for his bad views by refusing to make any welcoming gestures when he expresses interest in joining our coalition, or shutting down Donald Trump’s concentration camps?
We heard this shit in 2004, that Gavin Newsom First of His Name, King of the Andals, etc etc was going to ruin everything on earth for Democrats forever by marrying same-sex couples. How’d THAT work out? Last I checked Gavin was presiding over the country’s largest economy and the Democrats who did lose elections on the back of marriage equality were the milquetoast half-a-loaf ones who couldn’t commit to the idea that people are people and displayed all the moral courage of wilted flan.
Take a lesson, assholes. Our fate is your fate. We are all of us safe or none of us and that is not something you can negotiate. The way this works now is people get on board with who they want to support, not the other way around. If the Rogan coalition is impossible to win without, then they’re the ones facing pressure, not the rest of us, and that’s the way this needs to be talked about. If Rogan’s audience is expected now to vote for Bernie then they’re the ones who have to get to where Bernie or WHOEVER is going. Bernie, to his credit, seems to get this.
People horny for the first Clinton administration, not so much.
We should be long past disposing of people’s fundamental humanity to appeal to some mythical as-yet-unseen voters who could show up anytime they wanted without us needing to yell slurs to get them here.