The Rise of the Tea Party Liberal

When good progressives go bad

I knew things had gotten bad but I didn’t know they were “internet stranger calling my sixty-five-year-old mother a cunt on a Facebook post because she supports Hillary Clinton” bad. This morning a friend said a friend on her feed helpfully suggested “All you Hillary Clinton supporters can suck my dick.” There are memes with an American flag on a field of blue with the words “I’m Ready for Hillary to Fuck Off” emblazoned with PaintShop’s most patriotic font and political cartoons depicting her as a “whore” (or what the artist thinks might be a “whore”) with accompanying gleeful commentary discussing her “cankles.” (I’m not linking to it because fuck that guy, I don’t want him getting hits.) Welcome to the 2016 Presidential Election! If it were a movie its tag line could go something like this: If you liked racism hold onto your hats because you’re going to love MISOGYNY! But here’s the thing, kids, this isn’t the Presidential Election, this is the primary, and none of this shit is being said by Republicans, it’s being said by Bernie Sanders’ supporters, folks who are supposed to be on our team, the good people team, the smart people team. What the fuck is going on? Evolution I’d say but more precisely it’s devolution which is why I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce to the world a brand new creature: The Tea Party Liberal.

It’s funny how women internalize certain social realities, even super loud women like me. I mostly sat on the sidelines during the fall and winter of the primary season. I’d proclaimed my love for Hillary as soon as she announced her candidacy but didn’t feel like posting much because I didn’t have the energy to swat away her detractors. My Facebook wall is not a democracy, it’s my living room. I do my thing and you are welcome to pop in and politely say your piece and if it’s good and smart even if we disagree there’s plenty of room for intelligent conversation that might take us somewhere mutually beneficial. I like these moments. My gut told me I would not get many of these moments where Hillary was concerned so I kept quiet until I just couldn’t keep quiet anymore. It had been months since Robinson Meyer’s Atlantic piece had coined the term Bernie Bro, a piece that resonated deeply within me, but I couldn’t bring myself to post. Me, a bomb thrower by trade, didn’t feel like the blowback I knew I’d get from sharing it. Just posting that I hadn’t been posting because I didn’t feel like dealing with the gendered attacks and mansplaining got me gendered attacks and mansplaining. Because of course it did.

So here we are. Months into it and we have not only have gendered attacks against the candidate herself but directly gendered attacks against women who are vocal about their support of her. Don’t believe me? Go to any pro-Bernie page and read the comment sections. I suggest US Uncut and The Other 98%. Two sites that I used to follow closely because I thought we were fighting for the same things. And what’s more we have now jumped the divide completely into the dank netherworld of baseless and unintelligible memes that look like they were made in whatever Mountain Dew and Doritos soiled basement the knuckle draggers at The Blaze have built their clubhouse in. Is there a meme generator that suggests shitty and unclever mashups of words? Is that how we got $hillary? I have my own conspiracy theory and it’s that WordPress is underwriting Bernie’s campaign because of all the traffic they’re getting from brand new blogs run by frustrated white dudes posing as journalists. How else can we explain the endless variations of the word “progressive” in all these URLs?

But okay, whatever, participation is important, I love participation! I have spent most of my adult life begging people to participate in political processes that would directly benefit them and their families and have been mostly ignored because doing the very least we can do is kind of an American tradition when it comes to politics. So why now with all this new participation does it have to be basely ignorant and reductive? People throw out the words “criminal,” “liar,” “Republican,” “whore,” “thief,” like they are facts. Like we are speaking factually about, I don’t know, actual Republican criminals, liars, and thieves. You know, the ones who are happily plotting the overthrow of modern American democracy while we are busy ripping each other’s limbs off?

There are legitimate policy points that separate the candidates but at some point the majority of Bernie people I see stopped talking about that. Instead now it’s guilt by insinuation and repetition. Like posting random bad(?) words like “corporate,” “rich,” and “Wall Street” next to a picture of Hillary Clinton’s face and sharing it thousands of times somehow makes it true that she is a demon. In fact, there’s solid data that suggest the exact opposite. How are we, the smart people party, duped into thinking that Hillary Clinton is actually stealing the election? There are people as sure of this as they are their own names despite all evidence that she is more a victim of bad voting processes than Bernie. There are people who genuinely believe that Hillary ran a long con in Arizona to take advantage of the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act which disenfranchised voters in poor and minority neighborhoods even though those are the people who overwhelmingly support her. That she had a crystal ball in New York that would pinpoint which liberal voters would go Bernie and somehow had them purged from the rolls, even voters in the financial district (which is super confusing if she’s a Wall Street whore?). I regularly read people who think she has less popular votes and I’m worried about these people because how do they put their shoes on in the morning and find the front door to their house if they are so easily confused and misled by simple-to-Google, actual real life facts?

This is not how progressives behave. This is not how Democrats behave. This is how Tea Party mouth-breathers behave. They lock themselves in an echo chamber of voices that only reinforce the ones inside their own heads and they refuse to deal directly with reality. Reasonable people can disagree but reasonable people cannot make up facts that support their own biased wishes and pretend that they are facts. I mean, I guess they can, but that doesn’t make you better or more moral. It makes you a hero of the Republican party who wants to own all our asses come November.

And own our asses they will if we don’t get our shit together as a party and stop tearing each other apart based on nonsense. Bernie is a good dude, Hillary is a good woman. They have both spent more of their time trying to make this country better and helping poor people and women and people of color and LGBTQ folks and the environment and and and and, etc. than most of us writing think pieces or sharing memes about either of them. Neither of them is perfect, but the world is not perfect and they are who we’ve got. It’s time we acknowledge the disease among our own ranks as quickly as we acknowledge it among the right because this is the one that will tear us apart. Most of us don’t have the luxury of weathering a burn-it-to-the-ground protest vote that would gift us a Trump presidency in November. If we’re the good progressives we say we are we’ll think of everyone and not just ourselves and get in line to keep that from happening. Because as we learned from our Ralph Nader protest votes in 2000, moral outrage doesn’t keep you very warm when the world is burning.