Hillary prayer candles from Etsy

Supporting Hillary is The Most Radical Thing Progressives Can Do Right Now

Think You’re Radical Cause You Can’t Compromise? That’s Cute.

I came across a meme today calling support for Hillary part of the “white neoliberal feminist who thinks they are radical starter pack” which, of course, was posted by a white privileged feminist who thinks she’s radical — without a smidgen of self awareness or irony.

What with a legit madman and sexual predator threatening to set fire to America every other day, it managed to surprise me that there are still Bernie fans who actually believe they alone are radical.

Few people understand that what they want from their government must be balanced against what everyone else wants from their government; that deciding that balance is what politicians do. Progressives are most effective when voting for people who are slightly less radical than themselves. Perhaps paradoxically, that is how leftist progress is made. Those who voted for Hillary in the primary didn’t disagree with Bernie, they simply didn’t see his achieving his goals in the real world. You cannot elect a hyper-leftist to a nation of passionate centrists, alt rightists, and Paul Ryans, and expect anything but gridlock and pushback.

This is why actual progressive radicals are off doing hard, boring, thankless work. Bernie himself, for instance, is off campaigning for Hillary because he knows that is the best thing he could possibly be doing right now. By contrast, nothing is less radical than white feminists posting about how much they hate White Feminism on the internet — especially while exemplifying its original meaning.

In politics, being the idea guy, visionary, or idealist, is the easy part. Being the Bernie fan is the easy part. Believing, as I do for instance, that student debt shouldn’t exist, that everyone deserves a living wage, or that no one should be in prison for nonviolent offenses — ALL of that? — that’s the easy part. That’s why millennials especially loved Bernie. Because they’re not old enough to understand that in politics, knowing the right thing that obviously needs to be done is the very beginning, not the end, of progress. Worse still are those who will give up here, at this beginning stage, and spend years conflating their newfound political cynicism with having a political education. You will know these types because they are the ones saying “both candidates are the same!” when in fact they could not be more different.

Over a century ago, during the Edwardian equivalent of the Space Race, Scott, Amundsen, and Shackleton competed to be the first to reach the South Pole. Over a hundred years later, we remember Amundsen for being the guy who won, aided by some ingenuitive (for his time) solutions. Scott was the noble, tragic hero who got there a month later only to be greeted by the disappointment of the other guy’s flag, and froze to death on the way back to his ship, defeated. Shackleton had the most recognizable and most inspiring story; the guy who was capable of letting go of the disappointment of failure almost immediately, and able to put in 100% effort for the much less glamorous goal of keeping every single one of his occasionally grumbling hired men alive — for two years in Antarctica, in tents and lifeboats, and without a ship, his men dressed merely in leathers and furs.

Constituents like you and me make great “radical” idealists. Because all we have to do is sit on our couches, look at things from a nice safe distance, and dictate what we’d like the guys pulling the sled, with frostbitten feet, to do next. As a culture, we never should have allowed the peanut gallery to think of itself as lefter than thou; to dub themselves true progressives for demanding, from their couches that future resembling Star Trek, without focusing much on how we get there - except to tell politicians what end they want. Politicians are expected to do the dirty work of compromise, while we are free to look down on them from our pure little perch of comparitive laziness on high.

True radical progressives are the people doing the most work, not the people with the most far-out ideas. And they’re doing that work at the dirtiest, most thankless jobs, like volunteering in swing states. True progressives are the Shackletons of politics because they are capable of both; of keeping their eye on the prize, while being adaptable to situations that require doing a shit-ton of work just for the privilege of not having made any progress. Functional radical progressives know when to sit down, sit still, and get to work just so that things are not made any worse.

I don’t care how out there super radical leftist you think you are. Supporting Hillary right now makes you the leftiest. If you even whisper Stein or Johnson as a possibility on election day — non-options whose own words have shown them to be 1/10th the candidate Clinton is — you’re basically the Taylor Swift of Radicalism. And that’s harsh.

I know all this because I want all the things so-called radicals want. In my heart of hearts, I wait patiently for humanity to form the United Federation of Fucking Planets and do away with money entirely. But as I am an adult, I know that wanting something does not make it so. It is the job of leftists to be more progressive than any sitting president. It’s also a luxury of not working in public service, being able to critique them with your limited experience in their field.

Change, for good or no — is significantly more likely to come from a succession of small steps, small laws, lesser evils, and tiny victories; this is what politics is, and what Clinton is good at. The sexier but less effective sweeping ideological movements are important, but all they can do is influence individuals, most of whom are already in a position to agree with you. That’s why those movements do really well on the internet. They were made for the internet. But when you look at Trump’s Facebook page, be greatful that we have a far more sophisticated and boring system of checks and balances, to address laws and systemic changes. It’s probably a good thing that it moves too slowly for you. Because the other half of the country is just as impatient as you are, for dark and regressive things that would make you and I very sad indeed.

Being an impatient blowhard on the internet doesn’t make you a radical. Knocking on doors in Florida does.




Writer. Maker. Feminist. Spitfire. Trans-Supporting Ravenclaw. Trekkie. Social Justice Apologist.

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Sara Lynn Michener

Sara Lynn Michener

Writer. Maker. Feminist. Spitfire. Trans-Supporting Ravenclaw. Trekkie. Social Justice Apologist.

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