I am not voting for Hillary Clinton because she is the least bad option, or because I wish I could vote for Bernie but I don’t think he can win. She is the most qualified presidential candidate in history, a stalwart crusader for progressive issues, and a charismatic leader. She would (will) make an outstanding President of the United States.
#ImWithHer, and you should be too.
Hillary is the Far Better Democratic Candidate
At this point, it is pretty obvious that Hillary is, as the New York Times put it, “one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in modern history.” She is also a proven progressive, notwithstanding unsubstantiated claims that she isn’t liberal enough. Her voting record demonstrates that in her second term Hillary was more liberal than 85% of Senators overall, and 70% of Democrats, making her more liberal than President Obama and just a little less liberal than Elizabeth Warren.
Unsurprisingly, Hillary has fought long and hard for policies that help women. Planned Parenthood and NARAL and the Center for Reproductive Rights — groups that know what the women’s body count will be if they don’t have a strong advocate — have endorsed Hillary. They have endorsed her because she has fought harder for women’s reproductive rights than anyone else in this election. Hillary co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act. She has made ending campus sexual assault a priority — with a real plan of action.
Hillary has aggressively advocated for LGBT rights, and has made a number of sweeping campaign promises including equal rights legislation, retroactive correcting of veterans’ military records since the repeal of DADT, capping out of pocket expenses for HIV/AIDS treatment, cutting funding for adoption agencies that discriminate against same-sex couples, supporting the rights of trans people, and making LGBT rights a foreign policy priority. (BTW, Bernie says he’s better than Hillary on this issue because her views have changed while he has always been in support of marriage equality, but as mayor of Burlington he signed a resolution to celebrate marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, and in 2006 his position was that Vermont should not legalize gay marriage— just saying.)
Despite accusations of being a “corporate shill” and being beholden to big banks because of campaign contributions, Hillary’s 2016 presidential campaign has only raised 7% of funding from Wall Street. There is no evidence that she has been “bought” by big banks, or that she has changed her policies to please the financial sector. Her plan to reign in Wall Street has been widely praised — including by super-liberal Elizabeth Warren — as comprehensive, smart, and more progressive than Bernie’s.
Hillary has put forward a serious plan for criminal justice reform, and has made it a priority to combat systemic racism, including the kind of environmental racism we are seeing in Flint. She plans to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, make serious inroads against mass incarceration by retroactively reducing mandatory minimum sentences, and crack down on racial discrimination in policing. She has spoken publicly about the need for white Americans to acknowledge our privilege and treat racial inequality with the urgency it deserves.
And as for Hillary’s role in legislation that contributed to mass incarceration in the 1990’s, the Clintons have publicly apologized and acknowledged those laws need to be changed. When a Black Lives Matter protester interrupted her fundraiser and demanded she apologize for using the “super-predator” rhetoric in the 90’s, she did so within 24 hours.
Which is another reason Hillary is an excellent candidate. She has a long political record and her views on several important issues have evolved over time. Her willingness to change her mind when new information comes to light — or when a flaw in her previous thinking is brought to her attention — is one of her greatest assets. I am not interested in a candidate who is proud of never changing his mind on key issues. I am skeptical — indeed, frightened — of a political campaign premised on the claim that the candidate is a perfect saint who has never been wrong about anything.
Changing your position when you realize you have been wrong is not “flip-flopping” or “pandering” or evidence of bad character — it is the deepest, truest kind of integrity.
And then there are the major problems I have with Bernie.
Bernie loves to sell himself as the anti-Wall Street candidate — that’s pretty much his only issue, which is a big problem I’ll get to in a minute. But even on his main selling point, he’s not that great.
He voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which hamstrung federal agencies attempting to regulate credit default swaps, and seriously contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. And his much-touted plan to “break up the big banks” would actually not achieve its goals, and ignores the role that small hedge funds played in the last financial crisis and the overall risk level of the financial sector. More fundamentally, Bernie is promising things he can never deliver — not because they are politically unfeasible, but because they literally don’t make sense. He cannot pay for them, and an increasing number of liberal economists conclude that he is flat-out making stuff up when it comes to his economic plan. His claims are so out-there that they “exceed even the most grandiose predictions by Republicans” and could “undermine the credibility of the progressive economic agenda.”
Hillary has raised $18 million for use by state Democratic parties, while Bernie has raised zero dollars for state parties. But after all, what can we expect? He’s not actually a Democrat, remember? He has received not a single endorsement from his colleagues in the Senate, and only three House endorsements. How can he claim to represent the Democratic Party?
And then there is the downright conservative stance Bernie has taken on guns — giving as much deference to the Vermont-based gun manufacturers that make up his constituency as he accuses Hillary of giving to hers. Bernie’s all for revolution on every other issue, but on guns all of a sudden he wants “middle ground” and “believes in a solution which promotes gun rights for those who wish to possess them while also ensuring their safe and secure use so that they cannot be used to harm fellow human beings.” Gun rights for those who wish to possess them? That’s not a progressive attitude at all. And on mass shootings, Bernie is spewing the same “mental health” line that Republicans use to pretend that guns are not the problem. He voted for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prevents victims of gun violence from suing manufacturers and dealers — and he argued for it with a “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” type of justification, while simultaneously opposing the exact same immunity for fast food companies. He voted five times against Brady Bill, which imposes a waiting period on gun purchases. Not good enough, Bernie. Not even close.
Nor is Bernie a shining example of liberalism on immigration. He voted for a Republican-sponsored bill that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to be detained indefinitely pending deportation. He voted against Ted Kennedy’s immigration reform bill, and for a bill protecting the vigilante “minutemen” operating along the Mexican border.
Bernie has demonstrated his willingness to throw women under the bus if it helps him maintain his image of being anti-establishment. How am I supposed to believe that Bernie would make reproductive rights a priority as President, when in this campaign he has already demonstrated that he doesn’t?
Worse, he has allowed his supporters to heap Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, and others with massive backlash for supporting Hillary, up to and including pulling their funding from these organizations that desperately need Democratic support. When you’ve got liberal Democrats pulling their support for reproductive and LGBT rights because of a primary election, something has gone really wrong.
It’s not that Bernie doesn’t care about women. I’m sure he’s a better feminist than Donald Trump or Marco Rubio. But he is a single-issue candidate, and women’s rights are not his issue. Bernie has made clear that he thinks economic inequality and the rule of Wall Street are the root of all evil, and if we just fix those things the good will trickle down to other issues. But trickle down economics doesn’t work, and the rights being championed by Planned Parenthood and Human Rights Campaign are too important to be put on the back burner while Bernie pursues his crusade against Wall Street.
Nor is Bernie particularly a feminist icon in his personal life. When his wife took a job as head of Goddard College, Bernie complained that he would miss her work on his campaign, but reassured his constituents that she would still be part of the team: “Obviously Jane has played an important role in the congressional office. Yes, she is a soulmate, a sounding board. What will be lost is that day-to-day input. Of course there will be a hole when she leaves, but she hasn’t gone off the face of the planet.” Did he celebrate her achievement? Talk about how proud he was to be married to a successful woman? No, he complained about the loss of her unpaid labor and said, don’t worry, she’ll still be wifey even though she’s got an important job of her own now.
You’re not filling me with confidence here, Bernie.
He also wrote an essay in which he claimed that women fantasize about being gang-raped. Do I think that means he is now and always has been a raging sexist? No. I think he was writing in another time, and he has had his consciousness raised since then. But it’s a red flag, and I don’t like that it is being swept under the rug by Bernie supporters who put him forward as some kind of feminist hero.
Then there is the matter of Bernie’s so-called revolution. His attempt to be seen as the least “establishment” candidate in the history of ever, even if it means abandoning key progressive causes, is dishonest and counterproductive. Certainly, Hillary represents incremental change — but it’s not like Bernie doesn’t. He’s a Senator, a career politician. Electing him President would not fundamentally change the American political system, as he well knows.
We are not headed to the barricades here — we are headed to the polls.
Voting for a candidate based on the hope that he will usher in “revolution” reveals an ignorance not so much about the sacrifices necessary to govern (though that too) but about what the problem really is.
Bernie is not making the American political landscape better by lumping his fellow Democrats in with Republicans and calling the whole system (of which he is a part and which he seeks to lead) corrupt and irredeemable. On the contrary, he is obscuring the real problem with a general anger at “the system” — as if the system is a unified thing and all politicians are the same. The American system of democracy is not “broken” or “morally bankrupt” or beyond repair. That lets Republicans off the hook too easily. The system is not the problem — they are. Bernie and his supporters are confused about who the real enemy is.
At heart, the rhetoric of Bernie supporters and Trump supporters is the same — he speaks his mind, he doesn’t pander to interest groups, he can’t be bought. He will usher in a new age of politics where everything will be different. Trump and Sanders are both so authentic. Only they’re not. They’re politicians, just like everybody else.
We are not choosing a best friend here — we’re hiring an experienced politician for the job of President. And the idea that we, from behind our computers and TV screens, can ever truly know a candidate’s character is laughable at best. We can vote for a persona, or we can vote for a set of policies, but we are not, nor will we ever be, voting for a person we know.
If you strip out the likeability question and the trustworthiness question and the “corporate shill” slander, Sanders and Clinton have very similar platforms. Only Hillary’s is better.
And then there is the issue of Hillary being a woman. Because Bernie and his supporters have a serious problem with sexism in their attacks on Hillary, and a lot of it is in this mushy, adjective-heavy, “I just don’t trust her” silliness. Accusations like that are nothing more than the success/likeability double bind in action, and if Bernie wants to prove his feminist credentials, he should ruthlessly cut it out at the root.
Now let me be clear. I’m not saying, nor will you ever hear me say, that every criticism of Hillary is sexist, or that women must vote for Hillary only because she is a woman. Those positions are crazy, and I do not support them (so let’s not have any jousting with that particular straw man in the comments section, mmkay?)
But while not every attack on Hillary is rooted in sexism, a lot of them are. There is a lot of sexist dog-whistle politics going on, from descriptions of Hillary as cold and unlikable to comments on her appearance to fuzzy accusations that she is too high-strung and emotional to respond to personal attacks in a calm and professional manner. (One that particularly bothers me is continually referring to her as “Mrs. Clinton,” instead of the more appropriate “Ms. Clinton.” The constant refrain of “Mrs.” is there to remind us, subtly of course, that Hillary may be a candidate for President, but we should remember that she’s somebody’s wife first.)
Where is the outrage from Bernie’s base when Chris Christie and Ted Cruz say they want to spank her? Their silence is deafening.
Even more disturbing is the vigor with which Bernie supporters are tying themselves in knots trying to deny that anyone could possibly dislike Hillary because she is a woman. Seriously guys, she is a powerful woman. Of course people hate her, and you know this. Any other day of the week, with any other powerful woman, you would be flaying the skin off the face of anyone who denies there is such a thing as institutional sexism. This sudden embrace of the “playing the gender card” rhetoric straight out of the bigoted Republican playbook is really not a good look for you.
And I cannot believe there are liberals saying with straight faces that because Hillary is rich and connected there is no such thing as sexism against her. What happened to intersectionality, people? Having one kind of privilege does not mean you have all the privileges. So unless you are willing to say no one hates Obama because he is Black, and wealthy people of color are not in danger of police brutality, stop this nonsense about Hillary’s wealth privilege.
I Want a Woman President, and I’m Not Sorry
By this point it should be obvious that I have many, many reasons for preferring Hillary to Bernie. But also, let’s not underestimate how big a deal it would be — how revolutionary — to finally put a woman in the White House.
The fact is that women are dramatically underrepresented in politics — as they are in most other positions of power. Calls for more representation of women and people of color in the upper echelons of business are being taken seriously, and rightly so. That logic applies with equal if not greater force to the country’s leadership as well.
I am willing to bet that most Bernie supporters wholeheartedly support affirmative action, and don’t buy into arguments that boardrooms continue to be so relentlessly white and male because leaders are and should be “just picking the best person for the job.” So why are they suddenly making that argument about choosing a President?
Obama, the first Black President, has changed the national conversation on race. Has his presidency solved racial discrimination once and for all? Obviously not, nor will putting a woman in the White House magically solve sexism. But it will make a difference. There is nothing wrong with putting our fingers on the scale for women, because we’re tired of seeing a bunch of white male faces in positions that are supposed to represent America.
Suppose we take seriously — really seriously — the idea frequently put forth by Bernie supporters that the mere act of voting a particular candidate into office can constitute revolution.
How’s this for revolution:
What if little girls could aspire to be President, instead of just First Lady? I like Michelle Obama a lot, but she is still a powerful woman who gave up her law career to be First Lady to a male President. The First Family still looks like the traditional patriarchal household. But what if the First Family were a power couple, with the woman as the more powerful half? How would the world look then?
To start with, it would mean that when people ask me (as they often do) if my husband is ok with me making more money than he does, or how I can possibly hope to maintain a high-powered career once we have children, I will be able to say, “If the President can do it, so can I.”
If Bernie delivers nothing of what he’s promised, he’s just another old white man. But if Hillary delivers nothing of what she’s promised, radical change will already have happened. We should not underestimate the revolutionary implications of having the most powerful person in the world be a woman — and a wife and a mother and a grandmother — and still the most powerful person in the world.
Now that would be a real blow against the establishment.
Oh, and for the record, I will absolutely 100% vote for Bernie in the general election if he wins the nomination. But I really want Hillary to win instead.