Why I’m With Her This Time Around

Why this 2008 Obama Girl is voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton in tomorrow’s New York primary. I don’t agree with everything she’s done or everything she will do. But the combination of her experience, her breadth of knowledge, her stances, and her priorities have convinced me that she would make a wonderful president.

I’m not only voting for her; I’m excited about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

In Praise of “Flip-Flopping”

During the 2000 presidential campaign, the conversation included issues like social security “lockboxes,” whether you wanted to drink a beer with the candidate, and secondary school education. 9/11 changed the conversation. The issues we voted on weren’t the issues our president will be remembered for. We never know what obstacles a president will face during their tenure.

I worked for the Obama campaign in 2008 (in a county in Western PA as an office manager). A war veteran who advised then-Senator Obama on foreign policy came to our county to campaign. He told us a story about briefing the Senator on a specific foreign affairs situation. Obama wanted to know everything — even if it contradicted his personal views on the situation. Obama had no interest in being surrounded by Yes Men (or Yes Women, for that matter).

I see this very same characteristic in Secretary Hillary Clinton. She wants to know all in the ins and outs of an issue. She is willing to change her mind based on new facts. And she doesn’t shy away from contradictory opinions. People accuse her of “flip-flopping” (an accusation often lobbed at John Kerry back in 2004). But what, exactly, is wrong with “flip-flopping”? At best, it means we change our views in response to new data that has come in that contradicts our current views. At worst, it’s a strategic reaction to a change in public opinion in order to get votes. Most likely, it’s somewhere in between — changes in public opinion lead politicians to reconsider their current beliefs. But the absolute worst thing to come out of a “flip-flopper” is that they’ll do what the majority of people want them to — not exactly mustache-twirling evil.

Between 2001–2006, progressives decried those who wished to “stay the course.” But lately I’ve seen fellow progressives trumpeting consistency as if it is, in and of itself, a virtue. It’s not. The ability to change one’s mind is a rare and beautiful thing. And to apologize for mistakes made? That shows strength of character.

I want leaders who will listen to those who disagree with them and will change their opinions when need be. I want leaders who don’t view stubbornness as a virtue.

Methodologies and Nuances Matter

There’s a video of Elizabeth Warren going around on social media talking about an encounter she had with Hillary Clinton. Senator Warren walked then-Senator Clinton through the bankruptcy bill and why it would be so damaging. That encounter is being used to prove that Hillary Clinton is corrupt because while Hillary she agreed with Senator Warren on the bankruptcy bill, she then voted for it when she was in the Senate.

If that were the whole of the story, it would be quite damning. But it’s not. Senator Clinton tried to stop the bankruptcy bill. But in a Republican congress, it was likely going to pass. Yes, she voted for the bill. But in return she got the Republicans to include amendments that would protect some of the most vulnerable people from the worst of it. This isn’t corruption — it’s how the government of people with varied viewpoints works.

We have multiple branches of government with tons of people with differing opinions weighing in. This way, no matter who’s commander in chief, they can only mess things up (or make things better) to a certain degree. We’ve seen this with Obama’s latest executive orders. I loved what he tried to do for the environment. It was struck down by the Supreme Court.

Our government is large. If we were electing a Dictator of the United States of America, this would be a very different conversation. But we aren’t, nor should we want to. There are special interests who hold too much sway over our government. But there are also many honest, non-corrupt, people who simply disagree on key issues — such as the role of government in everyday life, or the role of religion in government.

With checks and balances in place and with multiple branches of government to contend with, the system isn’t made for simple yes or no answers. It isn’t made for abrupt change. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature.

Prioritizing Women’s Rights and Social Justice

Hillary Clinton, while not the best campaigner, has proven to be skilled at reaching compromises in order to get things done. Of course, that means we have to pay attention not only to her stances, but to what she prioritizes — what’s likely to be on the table and what’s likely to be sacred.

While Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders share many similar stances, I’m confident that Hillary Clinton will not compromise on social justice issues — like women’s rights. And while I agree with Bernie Sanders’ platform, I worry that his actual view on women isn’t as progressive as he claims. He’s made it clear that financial policy is his priority — and it is, indeed, very important — but it isn’t the only important issue.

Breadth of Knowledge Matters

While Senator Bernie Sanders faced a lot of flack for his interview with The Daily News, there was little chatter about Secretary Clinton’s impressive interview with them. Her breadth of knowledge is astounding. More importantly, this understanding of nuances is on display in her platform.

Hillary Clinton was going after the shadow banking industry long before the Panama Papers made headlines. Bernie Sanders seems to file this under the umbrella of “financial systems are corrupt and I want to fight corruption.” That’s all well and good. But the details matter. How you’re going to accomplish something matters.

Proposing plans without an exit strategy — whether the plan is a war in Iraq or breaking up the banks — is worrisome. What are the legal ramifications? Who has the power to break up the banks? What will happen to the employees? What will happen to that sector of the industry? You don’t need to know the answers in absolute terms. But I would hope that our leaders would at least ponder these questions.

On the Iraq War: Context, Thoughtfulness, and Hawkishness

I’m far to the left of Hillary Clinton on many issues. One being that she’s a bit more hawkish than I am. But the idea that she’d indiscriminately wage war is hyperbolic ridiculousness.

Yes, she voted for the Iraq War. But do you remember what was happening back then? Any dissent was attacked as “unpatriotic.” The congress was already Republican-controlled. This was happening with or without her. She was a junior Senator from New York during 9/11. It’s an understandable mistake. It’s something she’s admitted was a mistake. And she’s learned from such mistakes.

I may not agree with her on every issue, but I am confident that she has thoroughly considered any issue she addresses. There’s a wonderful New York Times series on the events leading up to and surrounding the situation in Libya. It shows that she approached the situation with thoughtfulness — wanting to get a full picture of the situation before making any recommendations to the president.

Hindsight is 20/20. One of my favorite quotes is from Secretary William Cleary — that’s Christopher Walken’s character in Wedding Crashers —

“We have no way of knowing what lays ahead for us in the future. All we can do is use the information at hand to make the best decision possible.”

What Changed For Me Between 2008 and 2016

Oddly enough, it was the BernieBros (a term I use not for all Sanders supporters but for the small, but very vocal, subset of Sanders supporters who view Secretary Clinton through a misogynistic lens and won’t allow for any criticism of their leader) who led me to reexamine the impression I had of Hillary Clinton that had been in place since 2008. I never disliked her. But I bought into the idea that with so many attempts to catch her in wrongdoing, some of it must be right. When BernieBros started using GamerGate strategies to intimidate and harass anyone who disagreed with them, it indicated that something else was going on. I decided to reexamine Hillary Clinton — to see what would happen if I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Could a person with good intentions make the same missteps that she did? Do her decisions, her suspicion of the press, her closely guarded privacy, make sense in the context of everything she’s experienced? I decided that they do.

We also see very different candidates running against her. I liked Obama’s optimism and the fact that he wasn’t embroiled in the establishment. I liked his grassroots campaign and the fact that he was able to raise money a little bit at a time precisely because he didn’t listen to the conventional idea that that was impossible. But his optimism was rooted in the pragmatism of a community organizer. He is experienced in getting people with differing beliefs to the table. I would vote for President Obama again if it were possible (though I’m pro-term limits and don’t think it should be possible) and fervently hope that he stays in the public eye (after a much-deserved break)

It’s “cool” to like Obama again. But for a time in the middle of his presidency, it wasn’t. But I’ve liked him. I’ve liked him even when I’ve disagreed with him. Because I realize that, as President, he’s privy to a whole lot of information that I am not. He’s also dealing with complex political realities, the likes of which the public is only ever partially aware. I see his compromises and I don’t see a man who sold out or fell short. I see a man who accomplished so much in the face of highly obstructionist political forces. And I’m excited by the prospect of a progressive democrat following President Obama who is already profoundly aware of many of those political forces and has learned, often through trial and error, how to push to make change happen.

I was also impressed by Hillary Clinton’s response to losing the 2008 primary. The primary got nasty at times. But once the convention came around, she was wonderful. In a show of unity, she suspended the roll call vote. She gave a rousing speech in support of her one-time rival, Barack Obama. This showed a woman willing to act in the best interests of her progressive ideals, her political party, and her country.

The Dark Side of Absolutist Rhetoric

As a Hillary supporter, I often find myself starting sentences with, “Of course I like Bernie Sanders, but…” or “I agree with many of Bernie’s stances, but…” and then I talk about priorities or methodologies or the like. But as the campaign wages on, I still say the words — wouldn’t want to alienate anyone (I may hold somewhat controversial opinions — like that Hillary Clinton would make a good president — but I don’t actually enjoy controversy or arguments) — but I believe them less and less.

Bernie Sanders started out very honorable. But as the campaign wages on, I like him less and less. I realize that some of that is unavoidably because I already picked a “side.” (I hate that that’s how it gets framed) But it’s also because of his rhetoric. It’s tricky, and it’s absolutist. He implies that Hillary Clinton is corrupt without ever saying it. He goes right up to the edge and then lets his supporters take it from there. Is it any wonder that we have people calling her a “Democratic whore” or throwing singles on her motorcade?

Hillary Clinton agrees with Bernie Sanders on many issues — from financial sector regulation to raising the minimum wage. They just differ on degrees and methods. But lately I’ve seen claims of “she’s really a Republican” because she’s not progressive enough. Suddenly advocating for women’s rights and civil liberties isn’t enough. Having a well-researched, extensive platform to regulate the financial sector is somehow equal to wanting to implement a flat tax (thanks, Republicans) because…she spoke at a bank?

The implications are there and people are running with them. But Bernie Sanders knows better. He’s played his own politics. (Why else would a lifelong Independent run as a Democrat?) He’s worked the system — taking money from DNC PACs when it helped him.

And here’s where priorities come into play. I may agree with Bernie Sanders’ stances on women’s issues and broader social justice issues. But he doesn’t prioritize them. And he has statements in his past that call into question his view on women in general. I want to continue to like Bernie Sanders. But he’s increasingly making it difficult.

I’ve long held the theory that the extremist rhetoric that has become part and parcel of a political campaign has contributed to the lack of compromises in government. If Republicans characterize President Obama as a modern-day Hitler, of course they have to dig their heels in and refuse to compromise. What does it say about you if you compromise with Hitler? I was thrilled to see the democrats refusing to stoop this low early in the campaign. I worry about the implications of the more extreme rhetoric that’s been popping up lately. Can’t we debate ideas and issues without comparing everyone to the Nazi’s (except in Trump’s case, where that comparison has, at least in some cases, seemed eerily apropos)

Vaginas

Yes, I’m a feminist. No, I’m not voting with my vagina. They would probably throw me out of the polling place if I tried.

“Is it a girls-have-to-stick-together thing?” A friend asked me when I shocked him by saying I, a progressive 30-something, was supporting Hillary Clinton. No, it’s not. Yes, I’m excited by the prospect of the first female president. Luckily, I voted for Obama in the 2008 primary, so I can point, definitively, to evidence that I don’t only vote for X-chromosomes. But I shouldn’t have to.

There are many reasons to like Bernie Sanders that have absolutely nothing to do with misogyny. I’m very much of the belief that women should support the autonomy and decision-making capabilities of other women — meaning people can vote however they damn well please. A vote is not a statement on or a measurement of one’s feminist credentials.

That being said, the role of misogyny in Hillary Clinton’s candidacy goes beyond people who overtly say they would never vote for a woman as president. Women who seek positions of power — in any field, not just politics — are looked upon unfavorably.

“And that those sexist attitudes, at least among liberals, no longer manifest themselves as “Hey, bitch, iron my shirt.” But they do manifest themselves when they see her as “calculating” and a man as just “strategic.” Or she is “manipulative” and a man is “persuasive.” Or she is “cold and distant” when a man is simply firm.
Or she is “secretive” when, for example, Barack Obama was “discreet” and kept stuff “close to the vest.”

They Say You Want a Revolution…

I’ve seen enthusiastic voters, boisterous rallies, and talked with excited volunteers. But a revolution takes more than that. Real change takes the election of downticket candidates who are likely to agree with your presidential platform. I would be exponentially more likely to believe in the effectiveness of this “political revolution” if Sanders had a working plan for electing downticket candidates. Plenty of democrats agree with many of his stances. Yet he hasn’t offered any support to any of them unless they endorse him. And he isn’t finding and putting forth alternative candidates to those who don’t endorse him. This is the nitty-gritty of how to make change happen in politics. And Sanders isn’t doing it. Clinton is. She’s diverted funds and resources towards electing downticket democratic candidates in order to increase the likelihood of progressive legislation getting passed in congress. (I’m not a fan of the title of the following article, but it addresses the importance of supporting downticket candidates.)

On Hope and Change

There was a moment in 2008 where economic factors and 8 years of “stay the course no matter what new information comes to light” hawkishness brought about enough general desire for change that in a very racist country we were still able to elect the first black President. If there were a moment when negative circumstances allowed people to “wake up” it was in 2008. And Obama was still only able to achieve what he did not because of lack of wanting to go further or because he “sold out” but because there are other forces at work besides the President. Some of them are not conspiracies, not corruption, just people who happen to have fundamentally different ideas about the role of government or the role of religion. In fact, lots of people have fundamentally different ideas about the role of government and religion. These are political realities. Even a President Sanders would go up against similar political realities.

When it comes to getting things done, Hillary Clinton has a whole lot of experience in what works and what doesn’t. And she’s willing to learn from that experience.

She is, in fact, looking to regulate the financial sector. I wish she were against fracking, but there are liberal, non-corrupt reasons why one would be for it (reasons I don’t agree with but can understand).

Blue in November

These are just a few of the reasons why #ImWithHer. I share so many ideas and ideals with Bernie Sanders and have many friends that I greatly respect who have or will be voting for him in the primary. And if he wins the primary, he will have my vote in the general election. But personally, I believe that Hillary Clinton is the best choice for a knowledgable, diplomatic, earnest, progressive president in 2016.

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