Where Nuance Goes to Die

Yesterday on Twitter, I used my 140-character limit to send a tweet that read, "I like both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It's their most-partisan supporters I have a problem with..."

That's the polite version of what I wanted to say.

Later in the evening, after reading some of the response on Twitter to the New York Democratic debate, I posted another tweet. It went, "It is not a difficult observation to make that 140 characters does not bring substance to political discourse."

That too is the very polite version.

What I am tempted to add, but have thus far held off because I haven't yet figured out how to get the full point across in 140 characters (and yes, I know that letting that limitation keep you from commenting is almost a sacrilege), is that after reading the unrelenting close-minded vituperation between the most-partisan of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters, I can almost see how the Republican Party ended up with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Not that the candidates of the two parties are even anywhere remotely in the known-universe of same. Oh, good Lord, hardly. I was very impressed by the New York debate between Clinton and Sanders. It was tough, thoughtful and smart. And compared to the infantile sniping and emptiness of the GOP debates, it was Shakespeare. What I mean by my observation is how an anger that people are able to work themselves up to can stop the thinking process and create a deep, ugly divide that spins out of control.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have very real differences. Some large, but most are differences of degrees. And for the most part, they agree with one another. Even on many issues, if not most, where they even have disagreements, like what the minimum wage should be, or how to deal with climate change, they agree on the larger issues, that the minimum wage should be raised significantly and that climate change is very real and needs to be addressed in profound ways.

And yet on Twitter, you see people writing their outraged moral justifications compressed into 140-characters about how much they detest the other candidate, sometimes working themselves into such indignation that they add bizarrely how they will never ever not ever vote for that person. You want to say to each one of them, "Are you seriously out of your mind? And no, I don't mean that figuratively. You do realize that the alternative is singing "Hail to the Chief" to President Donald Trump, or President Ted Cruz, right??" But even if you could say that to each one, it is almost pointless because occasionally someone writes that they would indeed rather vote for Donald Trump to be president than the other Democrat. Which I guess answers my first question, that, yes, they are in fact seriously out of their mind.

I don't even want to imagine what the Twitter Fury is on the Republican side of the aisle. I fear that just thinking about it would make one's head explode.

As the the two Democratic campaigns grow, the Clinton-Sanders mania in the Twitterverse has seemed to feed on itself and gotten more frantic. Rather than being the convincing, impassioned arguments that those tweeting their brief expressions believe, however, the ugly nastiness and bullying is its own worst enemy. It's gotten to the point where there are times I've felt that if this is what a candidate stands for and how a candidate is inspiring their most partisan supporters, I have considered voting for the other candidate.

To be sure, these Most-Partisan who have worked themselves up into such a fever sit on both sides of the Democratic divide, supporting both Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton. My completely unscientific observation is that the most angry and bullying and divisive are supporters of Sen. Sanders. If that's true -- which it may not be, but to me, it appears so -- I suspect the reason is because the Sanders campaign is more one of missionary zeal, and that is more likely to attract the True Believers. And with True Believers, undying faith takes over and reflective consideration takes a backseat. It's part of the True Believe Code. In addition, there's likely another factor that drives this imbalance: as the convention draws near with the window of opportunity closing, and Ms. Clinton's delegate count remains ahead, that makes the most partisan of those who are currently behind more pressed for time and more frantic in their actions. That said, there are most definitely True Believers on the Clinton side, as well, it's just that that doesn't appear to be as much the foundation of the campaign. And besides, at present they have the comforting luxury of being ahead in both popular votes and delegates. If that lead changes, so too I'm sure will the level of the tone.

It's critically important to note that I really am only referring to the "most partisan." When you get on the fringes of anything, you enter the world of the ardently-righteous, where devout certainty is the necessary anchor that keeps one from falling off the edge into the abyss. Most supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are, I'm sure, far more even-keeled and quietly thoughtful, even if still passionate. I feel comfortable in presuming that because otherwise, if they weren't, they'd be out there on that fringe, with their eyes unable to point in the same direction.

God love the passionate, by the way. You just hope that when they run around pontificating that they aren't holding scissors.

There are other factors at play, of course. When you're dealing with a box in which to express yourself that only permits the equivalence of one long sentence, your words can't help be ultimately more empty than if you were allowed to actually express your thoughts fully. Brevity might be the soul of wit, but not everything is meant to be witty. And also, there's the critical factor of Having a Platform, where there is the sense that You are Talking to The World and You Therefore are Very, Very Important. So, if you are a most-passionate devotee to begin with, adding a holier-than-thou grandiosity to the mix can only end dervishly.

This sense of self-importance manifests itself most blatantly in the User Names that fly by on one's monitor. "Californians for Hillary." "Americans United for Bernie." The reality, of course, is that they are not that at all, but rather just the one person expressing that series of 140-character thoughts.

And the larger reality is that on Twitter you're not talking to The World. With the speed that tweets zip by, there's a good chance that most people are talking to about eight people. No matter how many "followers" you think you may have.

This is not to say that Twitter is without value. That's not even close to the truth. It may be soul crushing at times, but hey, it's Twitter, that'll pass in a couple seconds.

It is also not to say that the Democratic Party is divided. The most partisan are divided, as the most partisan of anything always are.

It's just to say to some people -- get a grip.

There! And I was able to say that all in less than 140 characters...


To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.