Voting for Hillary, Part Two – HRC v BS
There is an election coming on Tuesday, people are voting in the State of New Hampshire, and the election matters.
The choices the voters face is not between republican and democrat, that choice is coming. The choice is between former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and sitting Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders.
There is a lot of talk going around about which of these candidates best represents the Democratic Party; its values, and aspirations, even though only one of them, Hillary, is actually a democrat. Nevertheless, there is a lot of momentum behind the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, and that needs to be addressed.
In politics there are many vectors of concern.
On the one hand our politics are about the future, our ideals, and where we want to see the country move to. Politics are aspirational.
On the other hand, politics, and voting are about the practical reality of governing.
Politics are just as much about the public policies we would like to see enacted, as they are about the public policies that can be enacted, practically, in a nation that is ideologically divided between left and right.
As we listen to our candidates propose the policies they would like to implement, it is vital that they articulate more than the goal of their policies (though the end game is important), they must also be able to articulate the path they will take to get there, the specific strategies, strategies that demonstrate an appreciation for the past efforts to move us toward those goals, as well as realistic appraisal of the political world, with its ideological divisions, that we live in at the present time.
Let us not pretend that if Bernie Sanders is elected, like magic, Citizens United will be overturned; wave a wand and will have a new federal minimum wage, blink and there will be a trillion dollar package of new domestic spending, wiggle his nose, and we will have universal health care.
That would be revolutionary, and sober minds know that the likelihood of any of that happening in America today, is very remote. Yes, we must move toward those goals, but any such movement is aspirational, can only be aspirational, as it always has been.
That is because our country is deeply divided, and it will take cooperation from those on the opposing side of the divide to make those political aspirations a reality. It will require consensus, and it will require compromising with people who believe in their heart that corporations are people, who believe in their hearts that there should be no minimum wage, who believe in their hearts that the government should be dissolved and that there should be no public spending on infrastructure; because the private sector can do it better.
Hillary and Bernie Sanders both want those things for America. What differentiates them from one another is that Hillary talks straight about these aspirational goals, and Bernie Sanders is pretending that he can get it all done with a wink and a nod. I value Hillary’s practicality on this matter, and I am offended that the Sander’s campaign will not address these political realities.
The answer that Bernie Sander’s has settle on, in response to this line of questioning, is that he intends to lead a political revolution, a revolution that will sweep aside the old way of doing things, and sweep in a mandate for his agenda.
The language of revolution is unfortunate, it touches on the romantic notion of radicalism while leaving unspoken the violent realities of conflict. For a revolution to be swift and sweeping it must be supported by an overwhelming percentage of the people, people who are united in their ideology and their aspirations. That is not where we are as Americans. We are deeply divided, we are a 50/50 nation, we are left and right. That is not the fermentation bed for a revolution, it is the fermentation bed for deep civil unrest.
Set this aside for a moment, because I do not wish to be gloomy in the face of hope and optimism. I am both hopeful and optimistic that our collected aspirations can be achieved.
Let us discuss the qualifications of our candidates, who is best able to carry on the work of fulfilling our liberal and progressive ideals.
Some think it is a significant qualification that Bernie Sanders was chief executive (Mayor) of Burlington Vermont, a city with a population of 200,000 people. I think Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State, speaks to a wider degree of executive experience.
Some have suggested that because Hillary was merely appointed Secretary of State, not elected to it, this does not count as a political achievement, but are talking about is political experience; individual accomplishments and experience managing government, in that context it does not matter if you are elected, appointed (and confirmed), or if you are a career bureaucrat; experience is experience.
Some have suggested that Bernie Sanders’ 25 years in congress, as a Representative and a Senator means that he has the institutional knowledge and relationships to aid him in accomplishing his agenda. I think they are an indictment of his ineffectiveness. He has been making the same speeches for his entire life, and has failed to advance his agenda, failed to grow a grass roots movement to do anything.
To be clear, I don’t think that Hillary has a stunning record of legislative accomplishment either, but I value her experience as First Lady, as Senator, and as Secretary of State more than Bernie Sanders’ time as an “outsider” in congress.
They are both smart people, but you need more than smarts to succeed as President. You need relationships. Hillary has those relationships, and Bernie Sanders is still an outsider, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of endorsements Hillary has from: sitting and former members of congress, as well as private organizations, unions and newspapers, not to mention the count of super delegates who have committed to her.
As we are talking about their respective legislative records and success rates, let us appreciate a few salient facts. During the time that Hillary and Bernie Sanders both served in the Senate, they voted the same 93% of the time.
This article from the New York Times tells the tale. On the very few things where they differed from one another; I would suggest the outcome is mixed, with each of them demonstrating wisdom in some things and a lack of wisdom in others. Some votes had tragic consequences, like the war in Iraq, but Bernie Sanders would have let the entire economy sink in 2008 – 2009, because the TARP bill and other economic stimulus bills, that were put in place to stem the economic disaster that was taking, were not “perfect.” That also would have been tragic.
Let us dwell for a moment longer on their general records of success in congress, remembering that they voted the same 93% of the time.
In all of Bernie Sanders’ time in congress he has only sponsored 5 bills that became law, while Hillary, in her much shorter tenure sponsored three bills that became law. Hillary co-sponsored 74 bills which became law (100% success rate). Bernie has co-sponsored over 5,000 bills, only about 200 became law (5% success rate). Please be mindful, I am not talking about the merits of these bills, I am just speaking to their success rate as legislators.
In my judgement, Bernie Sanders, if elected, would be a disaster as president, and a disaster for the progressive causes you and I care about. Ineffectuality will quickly turn into a referendum against him, and the party he represents. I point to the Carter administration, as evidence for this claim. Jimmy was a smart and capable leader, if we had followed his plans for domestic energy consumption (among other things) the world would be a different place. But Jimmy Carter was an outsider, he had zero ability to execute his agenda because he had no relationships with anyone in congress, no relationships among the career people in the federal government.
We know how history has treated him (even though he doesn’t deserve it). We do not want to set up a right wing reaction against that kind of failure, as happened with Ronald Reagan.
Hillary has those relationships. The Clinton team will come to the job with those relationships in place, they have already managed the government, have been managing the government, and they are good at it.
I must reiterate; the excitement for Bernie Sanders fails to acknowledge the political reality that the right-wing controls congress, controls the Supreme Court, controls the majority of gubernatorial seats, and the majority of statehouses across the country. The people who elected them do not even want the things Bernie and Hillary are talking about. They think the liberal agenda is un-godly. They don’t want a minimum wage (at all), they don’t want the federal government…they are not going to help. They will actively obstruct. We on the left will do a disservice to our cause if we put people in power who will meet their obstruction with obstruction.
If we desire the liberal and progressive agenda to move forward we will work toward fostering political and economic stability in our country. We are only ever able to expand the franchise of citizenship and social empowerment when the people at large, feel secure; when they are frightened (for real or imagined reasons), when there is chaos, they will move the other way.
In my work as a manger of systems and people I have come to understand the following things:
It is always easier to point out problems than it is to find solutions.
It is always easier to imagine solutions than to form the plans to put them in place.
It is always easier to make plans, than to actually implement them.
It is always easier to begin an endeavor than it is to keep it moving forward.
I believe that Hillary, not Bernie Sanders has what it takes to carry us all the way through these steps.
That belief is based in part on the fact that Hillary is being honest about these challenges, while Bernie Sanders is pretending otherwise.
If you believe that Bernie Sanders is in reality an aspirational candidate, just like Hillary, and not a revolutionary; if you believe he is not made of magic and his agenda will take a generation (or more) to take effect, then you should get behind the person who shares the same aspirations, but is willing and able to negotiate the political resolutions, to cut the deals that will take us there.