The Pac-Man maze of politics

Photo: Namco

Our political spectrum is more of a Pac-Man maze than a straight line. The 2016 Democratic primary has given us an incredible example of this phenomenon, with far-right and far-left attacks on Hillary Clinton oddly indistinguishable from each other. In this article, what it all means as the contest wraps up.

Off the deep end

When you play Pac-Man, there’s a part of the maze where you can maneuver all the way to the extreme left or the extreme right of the board—and when you do, you wrap around and pop out the other side. Those two extremes, appearing at first to be polar opposites, take you to the same place.

In our politics, we see this all the time. An example: The extreme right is overrun with people who deny science for whatever reason, whether it be their religious fanaticism or business interests. But go too far to the left and you’ll run into anti-vaxxers who deny science in a frighteningly similar fashion.

What connects these two extremes? Conspiracy theories. The notion that there’s only one source of information you can trust, and that literally everyone else is lying to you. The eagerness to throw caution to the wind and believe whatever it takes to support your narrative—without thinking any of it through.

Unfortunately, some supporters of Bernie Sanders went off the deep end in this way. Like I said in my last article, the GOP has been smearing Hillary Clinton for 25 years—and this year, those far-right attacks wrapped around the maze to the far left, where they were picked up by Bernie supporters. They fell for it—hook, line, and sinker. And they managed to turn it into the prevailing notion about our likely nominee. It’ll take a lot of work to undo that damage.

It didn’t stop there. Take any apple you can find from the tree of GOP-invented nonsense: That the mainstream media (or “corporate media”) is in the pocket of the DNC and can’t be trusted. That voter fraud is real and the primary election results were rigged. That if people of color don’t support you, it’s because they don’t know any better. That surely no one really voted for Hillary Clinton—that there must be something nefarious going on.

Things can get desperate when you realize you’ve lost but don’t want to admit it. I get that. But people on the left only embarrass themselves when they become susceptible to the same tinfoil-hat insanity as the far right.

Feel the math

Here’s a scenario that might sound familiar to anyone following the news today: The corporate media has now declared one Democratic candidate to be the likely nominee even though the convention is still more than a month away and several states have yet to vote. They say that candidate has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates, is winning the popular vote, and has gained enough support from superdelegates to secure a majority of overall delegates.

You would be correct if you said that happened June 6, 2016, and that candidate was Hillary Clinton. You would also be correct if you said that happened May 6, 2008, and that candidate was Barack Obama. That’s the way it worked then, the way it works now, and the way it will probably continue to work. Watch the late, great Tim Russert and his trusty dry-erase board:

If Hillary Clinton seriously had enough power within the DNC to rig the system so that she would win no matter the outcome, she would’ve done it in 2008, when she trailed Barack Obama by only 125 pledged delegates and even maintained a lead over him in the popular vote. She would’ve convinced the superdelegates to overturn the pledged delegate count and give her the Democratic nomination anyway—something they have never done, by the way.

This cycle, Bernie Sanders ran a campaign for months against the very idea of superdelegates. To his credit, he argued they shouldn’t exist at all if they’re able to subvert the will of the people. But ironically, he began trying to do just that as his campaign got increasingly desperate for a lifeline to cling to. The guy who fought for a more democratic process threw it all away when he discovered the people he bashed relentlessly were the only ones who could help him.

Having lost the popular vote and the pledged delegate count, Bernie’s hail-mary pitch to superdelegates was that he polled better than Hillary vs. Trump—true on the surface, but misleading at best when you consider he has never been the target of widespread negative campaigning (i.e. his numbers would drop in a general election match-up with the GOP throwing the book at him) while Hillary has withstood the fiercest of attacks for a quarter-century.

The math is in: Bernie Sanders ran a remarkable campaign that inspired over 10 million people to get out and vote, but Hillary Clinton inspired many more than he did, and that’s why she will be the Democratic nominee.

AdiĆ³s, eggshells

It’s a little crazy that we—collectively, speaking on behalf of Hillary supporters, practically the entire news media, and anyone who can add numbers—have had to be so careful in reporting facts. We’ve been walking on eggshells this entire time, trying not to send Bernie diehards flying into a fit of rage about the election being fixed, the system being rigged, or Hillary being a corrupt criminal.

My article from February, “Why it’s smarter to stick together”, is Exhibit A. Just about every argument in support of Hillary for the past year has been cushioned with respect for the political revolution that Bernie was trying to bring. With support for his grand ideas, even if he had no plans to back them up and had no means of achieving them. With, frankly, undue deference.

Whether it’s his superdelegate about-face or the soft stance on guns he takes to ensure his election in Vermont, we’ve seen that Bernie Sanders is not a singular figure that transcends politics for the greater good. He is simply a politician who has a lot of good ideas, and who got Hillary to take more progressive stances on several key economic issues, but who did not win his campaign.

Bernie’s insurgency on the Democratic Party was energizing, but it’s over now. It doesn’t make any sense to walk on eggshells anymore. There’s no time left to defer to, placate, or otherwise pacify those on the left who can’t face reality. It’s time to stand up proudly for the nominee we elected.

As the nomination comes to a close, the convention is held in July, and we move toward the general election in November, most of the people who supported Bernie in the primary will re-center and find their way. We will fight together to elect our first woman president in history and defeat that conceited, imbecilic, bigoted, self-destructing clown.

Those who don’t will find themselves circling around the fringes of the Pac-Man maze, as irrelevant as those who got there from the other side.

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