The amount of tone-policing and other forms of meta-discourse surrounding the Democratic primary is overwhelming. Everyone feels patronized, insulted, inundated with negative information about their candidate and apologetics for the opponent. Every day brings us a new meditation on “electability” or abstract “qualifications.” Every primary prompts ad hoc moralizing about whether the rules are fair — though neither side has a pre-existing theory of what fairness would look like, other than them winning.
I can see this kind of maneuvering in a race between fundamentally similar candidates, but they are really asking for different things — either a continuation of Clintonian centrist “neoliberalism with a human face” or an attempt to return to something like FDR’s postwar settlement. Even this genuine, substantive disagreement gets shunted into the meta level. The young people love socialism, so that’s the future of the party, or else socialism is “unrealistic” and we should just try for slight tweaks to the status quo. In other words, even a major ideological difference is primarily grist for the electability mill. And my God, I am so sick of hearing about those secret Wall Street speeches — again, a procedural argument where there should be a substantive reckoning with the public record, which provides ample evidence on all the relevant issues.
They say liberals won’t take their own side in an argument, but it’s worse than that: they won’t even directly have an argument. It’s all proceduralism, all the way down.