tl;dr - Looking at how Sanders/Clinton fight relates to how we fight GOP. We have a lot to learn, and do, to get any of the desirable upgrades to our political system. Examples of work so far, some other possibilities. And mixed metaphors.
Let’s be honest, there’s a bunch we consider disallowing here at DKos in primary conversations that is considered great fun, or at least acceptable, against the Republicans no matter what political season we're in. So we’re learning how to be dicks to the "other” — the Republicans — all the time, and then when we get into an internal fight those same patterns come out against each other. No one should be too surprised to see that.
I’m all for empowering the grassroots toward action on racial, voting, criminal, climate justice, climate but you know there are Americans who aren’t on board with some/all of that, and I refuse to believe that they are — to a person — some horrible combination of stupid, evil, lazy, etc. At some point we need to find ways of making decisions that is not so ludicrously adversarial.
In our adversarial legal system, there is a judge to at least try to keep things relevant and honest, and tons of required paperwork that make facts much easier to verify (and the disagreements about the facts at least clearly articulated). In jury cases there is even a final reality check from regular citizens. Even with all of these supports toward making the adversarial system work as well it can, although in many cases it works credibly well, it fails so often and so badly after the tough-on-crime era of recent decades that even in the face of the prison-industrial complex’s continued efforts, the pendulum is ready to swing back and we may now actually rein in the criminal justice system a bit (and we know we need to keep the pressure on to get meaningful change). There has also been a steadily growing movement for more restorative and equitable forms of justice, without lsing accountability. The roots of this movement include native and other cultural/legal forms which are not fundamentally adversarial.
I think it’s great that some want to at least reform the adversarial political system to be more fair & just, and I wish I saw more people working toward a political system that wrings the creative juices from our differences, rather than playing them up and caricaturizing them into more circuses to distract us from the fact that we have barely enough bread.
“The media” — meaning the big corporate media — is the institution that is most supposed to play the analogous support roles of judge, jury, etc. in our adversarial democracy, but it does more harm than good. A little fact-checking, occasional good lines of questioning, but the driving backbeat is all about playing up, and dragging out, dramatic (usually meaning adversarial) narratives. “Our” media (blogs, social media, email, etc.) is an opportunity for us to play those roles much better ourselves. Cheap publishing and the online tech we’ve developed so far has been helpful, but it has not been and is not going to be enough, without an attitude shift (which also affects the design of any software profoundly).
For a while my .sig was, “Taking sides without making anybody wrong.” Something like that.
Let’s forget computers for a minute. What does respectful conversation between people with differences look like? We’re so proud of our attempts to do this in regard to race, gender, country, language, religion, ability, age, etc. What would it look like for us to practice those skills to political differences within the left (whatever that means to you), or the whole country, or the world?
All of this applies to Dems vs. GOP, and fights among “us,” or “them,” or any bunch of people. The human beings supporting the other primary candidate can’t all have become ignorant and/or corrupted, brainwashed, etc. at the same time.
I'm not saying that anyone should “moderate their tone.” I’m asking, how do we get to hear. No, really hear, each of the many perspectives in their full-throated glory? And then go about making harmony — or at least a good blues tune — from the apparent discord? Oregon does a jury-like thing evaluating ballot measures for the voters’ pamphlet. Just one example — here’s the debrief from a pilot with Healthy Democracy Oregon a group of randomly chosen voters who were well-facilitated for a number of days, including time when they had direct access to question experts on the issue, and to do their own research. (The facts bit is critical — why aren’t there are a ton of FAQs here on the race, edited by both Sanders and Clinton supporters together?)
The big jiu-jitsu question, What does respect look like toward people who aren’t being respectful? Because that’s one huge place this stuff often falls down, and you don’t always have a skilled facilitator or mediator handy to help heal wounded relationships.
Tit-for-tat in game theory is supposed to mean the “opponent” who sucker-punched you doesn’t do it again after you get a solid return punch in, but too often it turns into an endless back-and-forth and then everybody’s blind. There is a lot of offline thinking and practice on these things, not only in game theory and facilitation and mediation, but everyone else who studies / gets paid to work with groups, communities, networks, conflict & peace, and well, people generally. Again, other/older cultures have offered a lot already and have more untapped potential. (“Shaming” in at least some cultures works to moderate well because it is mostly done in a sense of fun, in a context of community and probably even compassion — there is no threat of loss of relationship, or taking it to the point of scapegoating.)
Then add tech back into the mix. Being able to control our own media, plus the other capabilities that computers & the Internet offer, means we face an infinitely-extendable menu of still-untapped possibilities, but people and other living things (ecosystems also offer some good metaphors) come first.