Taking the Take-My-Ball-and-Go-Homism Bait

I’m not sure whether it’s more accurate to call it clickbait or troll bait, but there’s a genre of political writing that’s good at getting everyone’s blood pressure up despite being almost completely worthless. Basically, these pieces are debates on take-my-ball-and-go-homism. The latest is by Ben Spielberg and can be read at the Huffington Post.

Mr. Spielberg assures us that he is well aware that any Democratic president would be preferable to any Republican president, but he wants us to know that he will not be voting for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. If you care, you can go check out his reasoning, but I’m not interested in his reasoning.

I’m only interested in the timing.

In every election cycle, there are people who will tell you during the primaries that they won’t vote for anyone but their preferred candidate. It’s almost never true.

It’s probably a sincere belief in many cases. Folks think that they’ll feel the same way in November. They really do. But most of them won’t.

So, let’s say that you’re a Democrat who really wants to see a Democrat win the 2016 presidential election. You get annoyed, upset, and maybe even a little afraid when you see someone arguing that they won’t support the ticket unless their candidate is on the top of it. You don’t like seeing people making rationalizations for apathy or non-participation because you worry that they might be convincing. You think the logic is flawed and the argument is dangerous.

So, out comes your pen and you start furiously writing hostile comments or blog posts that invoke the names of Ralph Nader and Dick Cheney.

You ought to save your energy because these arguments don’t need rebuttal eleven months before the election. Almost everyone who is claiming to support the purity stance is actually going to hold their nose and vote against the Republicans. This is always true, but probably more than usual this time because the likely Republican nominees are really far out there.

I’ll give you just one clue from Spielberg’s piece that explains what’s really motivating him:

Because politicians and Democratic party officials know that many voters think [they have to support the eventual nominee], they have little incentive to listen to our concerns. Instead, they can pay lip service to progressive values while crafting a policy agenda and decision-making process more responsive to wealthy donors than to their constituents…

…those who disagree can continue to accuse people like me of “helping the GOP” in the 2016 election by pointing out that the Democrats have extreme flaws and don’t always deserve our support. But it would be a lot fairer of them to acknowledge that millions upon millions of people have suffered at the hands of lesser-of-two-evils candidates over the years, that an open commitment to support a lesser-of-two-evils candidate robs voters of bargaining power, and that the Democratic Party has brought voter discontent upon itself.

In his mind, at least, Mr. Spielberg’s solitary vote is something candidates will bargain for. If he threatens to withhold his vote, it will increase his influence.

This is absurd, of course. Literally no one gives a crap whether Ben Spielberg votes or doesn’t vote. For his decision to have any meaning at all, he must persuade people of the merits of his case. He must universalize it. If everyone used his logic, then progressives would have more leverage over the Democratic nominees. In this way, he can satisfy himself that his threat of non-participation satisfies the Golden Rule.

But, here’s the key, only if he’s being dishonest about not voting. If everyone threatens to not vote, they increase their power and can get some positive change (maybe), but if people actually follow through, stay home, and enable the Republicans to win, they’ll have done real damage to their cause.

That’s why Spielberg pays lip service to the idea that losing in 2016 is worth it so that the left doesn’t lose in 2020. But that’s a throw-away line. No one intelligent actually believes that you can do better by losing the presidency than by winning it. That may sometimes be the result, but it’s too speculative and low-percentage to ever be a rational strategy.

So, when you read these take-my-ball-and-go-homism pieces, remember, they’re so stupid and dishonest that you don’t need to respond to them.

If this were October 2016, that kind of rhetoric might merit a rebuttal. In December of 2015, it’s not worth worrying about.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.