Yet another post about Hillary vs. Bernie
I’ve posted a lot on Facebook about what I feel regarding Hillary vs. Bernie. I’ve posted a lot on Facebook about what I think about politics in general. I feel it’s time to write an actual post, a longer manifesto, a rebuttal to several of the arguments that I’ve seen and participated in. While the final impetus to write this came from http://www.atlredline.com/i-m-with-her-i-guess-1769742021 , you can consider this a response to almost any conversation I’ve had regarding the 2016 Democratic race.
This is not a combative post; to be clear, I have the deepest respect for Secretary Clinton. She is an amazing woman who has accomplished an incredible amount in the time she’s been alive, and she deserves a great deal of recognition for what she has done. This is not a proselytizing post; while I do hope I may change a mind or two with this post, that is not the goal. Rather, this seeks to answer the questions people may have, and then bring them enough out of their own shell to maybe answer a few of my own questions.
First of all, the most prevalent arguments I see for supporting Hillary Clinton rather than Bernie Sanders are variations of a single sentiment, that Clinton will be more effective in office than Sanders. This argument crops up in a few ways. There are those that say “I love Sanders and his ideas, but I don’t think he’d get anything done, especially in a Republican controlled Congress”, or “Sanders has a bunch of really great ideas, but I don’t think that we could implement them”. Similarly, since some of his plans involve matching federal dollars to state funds, people argue that the states would simply opt out and shoot their own citizens in the foot (something that happens quite frequently), and as such, the entire idea is not feasible. Another very popular saying that tends to accompany these articles and think-pieces is “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”.
To me, it’s fun to hear that (apparently) Sanders is the “perfect”, and is the enemy of the “good” Clinton. I can understand the sentiment for smaller decisions: going to Chipotle for the 15th time because you couldn’t decide which pizza joint to go to, or staying in and watching Netflix out of ease instead of going out to the cinema. However, I don’t think most people would apply this argument to larger decisions in their life, if truly presented with a choice between “perfect” and “good”. If you’re offered two cars for the exact same price, and one is a 2016 BMW that Jesus has blessed to get 75 MPG, vs a 1993 Tercel missing a door, then you’re probably going to choose the “perfect”. In a more realistic metaphor, if you’re given the option of two jobs, one of which pays higher and is in your desired field, you’ll probably take that one instead of the “good” job as a bank teller or barista. In other words, when there is no cost difference, the perfect will ALWAYS win over the good.
With that being said, a better argument is that Sanders is not “perfect”. To be “perfect”, he would have to be guaranteed to be elected, and guaranteed to pass all of his policy proposals with no opposition. If this was the case, then we could vote for him with a clean conscience and sleep at night knowing that everything we voted for will happen. Let’s be realistic, though; that’s not going to happen with Clinton either. So each of us must do our own grading rubric on merit of policy, electability, and potential to be effective in office.
However, there are a few important caveats to this. First of all, this is a primary. The point of the primary is not to convince the country to vote for your candidate; it’s to choose the direction for the party to represent. In recent years, as corporate money has saturated both parties to the point where they’re merely different flavors of the same dish, this is easily forgotten. If we were to remove the moneyed influence and instead have to convince the voting population through honest means, then the parties would have to choose what they stand for, and let the cards play out in general elections. In other words, if Republicans decide to put their foot down on prohibiting abortions and the Democrats choose to fight for women’s rights, then when the general election takes place, the country’s stance on abortions will help to steer the fate of the candidates, both at the presidential level and all the way down the ticket. So primaries are as much about choosing the party’s voice and direction as anything else.
To that end, it seems to me that a nomination for Clinton choose a direction of gradual progress, incremental change, and trading progress on social issues (LGBT rights, reproductive rights, socioeconomic and racial equality within the homefront) for staying the course with what our corporations want (continued involvement in overseas conflicts that benefits the military industrial conflict, increased trade deals that can benefit manufacturing and retail at the cost of American manufacturing jobs, and a general aesthetic of individuals paying for their own services vs. a great collective approach). To be clear, I’m not even that opposed to the concept of gradual improvement; any progress is progress, and if you look at the country’s stance on, say, racial or LGBT rights and equalities from fifty or sixty years ago, we’ve made undeniable progress, although we’re still far from the end of the journey.
However, a nomination of Sanders would indicate to the country that the Democratic party is in favor of more drastic change, and a shift in the fundamental mindset of American politics. Sanders proposes a pivot towards the federal government providing more services, a basic standard of living for all citizens; this stretches from subsidized college, to Medicare for all, to lower foreign involvement so less of our troops die or come back dismembered and shaking with PTSD. This pivot changes the way we regard our corporations, from being our beneficial gods to whom we are grateful to be employed, to our coworkers who understand that to do business within the US is a privilege that is earned by participation.
There are echoes of this conflict between the two candidates when you look at the superdelegate debacle. People latched onto the fact that the overwhelming majority of the DNC establishment endorsed Clinton, really before either candidate was able to start making cogent arguments over who would be better for the country. While these superdelegates likely won’t even matter at the convention (even if Sanders manages to sway some to vote for him, they don’t usually vote and probably won’t make a difference), it’s undeniable that the optics of the matter is just shit. That’s like a game between the Clippers and the Lakers beginning with the scoreboard shooting to 75–79, and the referee’s explanation being “oh I know they haven’t played yet, but I have a feeling that’s what the final score will be so I’m just setting it up now to save effort later”; even if the score DOES wind up 75–79, it’s almost irrelevant in the presence of such bald-faced fuckery.
So for right now, in the context of the primary, it does not make sense to say “I like Sanders’ policies more than Clinton’s, but I will not be voting for him to represent me”. The primary is precisely when you make these stupid requests and shoot for the stars. The primary is when you’re planning your wedding, and you’re going down the aisles of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, shooting every single bar code you can find with the registry gun. The primary is when you’re drafting your birthday wishlist and hoping that Jay-Z and Beyonce will come perform at your “Big Bad Backyard BBQ Birthday Bash”. The primary is when you declare to the world: “In a perfect world, this is what I want”. Look at the Republican side of things: it’s unrealistic as shit that we’re going to build a gigantic concrete barrier between the US and Mexico, but that doesn’t stop people from swarming to Trump in support of the idea, and while a fairly large portion of Trump supporters seem to know that this will never happen, they vote for the candidate based on the concept that he will bring that overall aesthetic to the Oval Office.
As for electability, that is a concern for the general election, and rightly so. Some have made the argument that Sanders has failed to gather the minority coalition required to defeat Clinton, and that is his downfall. To be fair, though, isn’t that kinda Clinton’s fault? She’s actively campaigning for those blocs, and targeting them with advertisements. Not to say she shouldn’t; this is her job right now as much as it is Sanders’, and you can clearly make the argument that she’s doing it better than him. However, to argue that this impacts the general election’s electability of the candidate is disingenuous; I don’t see Trump, or Cruz, or Kasich (lol) winning the Latino or Black vote any time soon. Let’s be clear: when it comes to the general election, about 30–35% of the voting population will vote Democrat, and another 30–35% of the population will swing towards Republicans, candidates be damned. These people will usually fill out the downballot ticket along party lines as well. The remaining 30–40% of the population is unaffiliated, either due to no political interest/education (and therefore will vote based on advertisements), or due to strongly held moral beliefs that are not satisfied by either party, but will tend to swing one way or the next based on specific policies. That’s where the general election battle happens, and that’s where electability is a concern. As for the advertised-to population, they’ll swing to whoever shouts the loudest, so you can discount them for the Sanders vs. Clinton argument. For the remaining center slice of the population, you must ask yourself: do you realistically think that the disaffected voting population, who is so against our current two-party system and polarizing politics would rather vote for Clinton’s agenda of gradual promised change or for Sanders’ agenda of a fundamental reshaping of our political system Then ask yourself if those same people would vote for the other stance over whatever the Republicans have to offer. To be honest, I personally feel that more people would swing towards Trump’s free-wheeling insanity in the face of Clinton’s establishment status and approach, whereas Sanders would have a leg to stand on by agreeing with Trump’s perceived disdain for the current status quo, but then would be a much more viable candidate by having actual proposals instead of concrete nightmares.
That comes to the last portion of the argument, the candidate’s efficacy in office. For instance, in the initially linked piece, the author argues that Sanders’ proposed “revolution” won’t happen; we’re a divided country, the Republicans will retain control of the House and the Senate, and that nothing the President does will get passed unless it’s what the Republicans want to happen. Well, there’s a few issues with that. First of all, do you really think that the Republicans would give Clinton any quarter on her legislative initiatives? Or do you think that they would peck away at any changes she proposes until they’re just as crappy as what the Republicans would have proposed in the first place? Look at the shitfest that was the Affordable Care Act: it went from sweeping reform to expansion of an existing service to simply being a boost for private insurers. To be fair, it accomplished many good things with pre-existing conditions and the like, but the potential of the bill was squandered on an unimaginative and complacent Congress. As for Sanders’ “revolution”, he is more likely to energize a base of people who don’t frequently vote, or have never voted before: these voters, when coming into the booth, are much more likely to vote downparty and therefore help regain the Senate, the House, and state legislative positions, as well as judiciary positions. That makes a massive difference for the direction of the country; while we may not see the effects in the news every day, each of these tiny cogs within the massive machinations of the US add up to make an impact to the country that’s simply impossible to understate. Education boards decide on curricula that’s either progressive or regressive, and they decide on whether the next generation of voters will be more or less adept at critical thinking than the current batch. Local environmental boards decide whether or not to allow businesses to drill, dump, and otherwise exploit the only Earth that we have. Local judges either advance or defeat cases that can eventually make it up to the Supreme Court, helping to establish case precedent and constitutionality for issues regarding human rights and discriminatory policies and ordinances. In short, this shit is really, really, REALLY fuckin’ important. So to have a candidate that energizes a previously untapped wealth of voters is incredibly impactful to daily life, almost more so than who sits in the White House. Personally, I feel that Sanders is a more exciting candidate than Clinton, and would be more adept and getting these young and disillusioned voters out of their house on November 8th.
The final argument I’ll make before wrapping up this beast of a blog post is to rebuke the argument that while Clinton is a flawed candidate in regards to foreign policy, LGBT rights, and just generally being on the wrong side of issues before being on the right side, it’s not a big deal considering her current stances. I’d like to quote a post I made about Romney four years ago (https://firstname.lastname@example.org/old-i-don-t-see-how-republicans-can-vote-for-romney-fa6fe8ef78a2#.u51tsq7ie).
To be clear, I have nothing against changing your mind. Rational adults are constantly changing their minds. If you give me new facts and make a good solid argument, then I will consider your viewpoint, and if I find it superior to mine then I will adjust accordingly. If we all stuck to our original opinions without deviation, then the only shows in syndication nowadays would be “Power Rangers” and “My Little Pony”. Viewpoints are supposed to evolve over time, and it is not something to be ashamed of.
However, when a viewpoint is changing simply to pander to voters, then there is a real issue. The issue is this: if you are a voter, and you vote for Romney because he has recently changed back to support what you value as important, then what makes you so certain that he will continue to support that particular issue once he’s in office? I’m not even suggesting he’s lying or duplicitous: it’s far worse than that. The Republican Party is somewhat united on most issues, but vastly divided between the social conservatives, economic conservatives, and libertarian factions. If you fall on any side of that spectrum, then you should be aware that Romney might not truly represent you while in office.
This, I think, is why people resent Clinton’s changed stances as much as they do. While I don’t necessarily think she’s a “flip-flopper” in the traditional sense of the accusation, there is a clear pattern that she tends to choose the politically safe action first and foremost, leading to her “evolutions” on stances once popular opinion has made “progressive” stances tenable. This matters for the presidency: if there is a politically unpopular choice that is clearly the right thing to do (such as, I dunno, helping Syrian refugees, or standing up to trans-discriminatory bills), do we know for a fact that Clinton will come down on the proper side? Or will we have another DOMA and ensuing apology twenty years from now?
So for those of you who favor Clinton over Sanders, let me ask you these few questions. 1) What do you like about Clinton? 2) What don’t you like about Sanders? 3) Is it a situation of dealbreakers (e.g. Clinton voted for Iraq so you can’t vote for her, Sanders voted against gun legislation so you can’t vote for him), or is it a numbers game (e.g. you like more about Clinton/Sanders than the other)?
As for me, I like that Sanders has consistently been on the right side of the majority of the issues that he has weighed in on. I feel like if I vote for Sanders and he becomes president, I’ll get what I paid for. While he may not accomplish everything he wants, that’s fine: that the nature of politics. However, I at least know he won’t sell me out for a politically convenient action after he’s gotten what he wants. In other words, he’s not going to use my v-card to get into office, then ditch me for Stacy Kiebler from the cheerleading squad and her sexy corporate lobbying and leave me brokenheartedly eating Choco Tacos on the couch while watching Steel Magnolias and Titanic on loop.