Search This Blog

Showing posts with label HRC v BS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HRC v BS. Show all posts

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Voting for Hillary Part III – HRC v BS II - Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

02.20.2016

Voting for Hillary Part III – HRC v BS II

A couple of days ago I made a comment on the Face Book page of a friend of mine. I said something to the effect of this:

“If Senator Sanders wins the Presidency (and I think he could do it if he wins the nomination of the Democratic Party), it will set back the progressive agenda by a generation.”

This may seem counterintuitive to most people who read it, because Senator Sanders (BS) is clearly the most ardent, and idealistic spokesperson for the progressive agenda in our public life at this time (with the possible exception of Senator Elizabeth Warren).

Why is that the case, why would the torch-bearer of the progressive movement, be the biggest threat to the cause of progressivism?  

This is complicated, and I ask you to allow the whole argument play out in order to arrive at its conclusion.

Therefore, let us talk about the candidates, and what they would bring to the table if they were President. What are the expectations attaching to each of them

I think I think Secretary Clinton (HRC) will be a least as effective as President Obama in advancing the progressive agenda. Many idealistic progressives will scoff at this; many of the most active liberals I know think that President Obama has accomplished very little in terms of genuine progressivism, and so this claim is not convincing to them. Those people complain that the Affordable Care Act was a giveaway to the insurance agencies, that our armed forces are still far too involved in conflicts around the world, they complain about the rate at which immigrants are being deported, they complain about the sequester, and so on. While they complain the apologists for 

President Obama, of which I am one, will tell you that he got what he was able to get while negotiating with Congress; Congress which actually controls the legislative agenda.
President Obama barely passed the Affordable Care Act, at a time when his party controlled both chambers of congress, when he had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. At the same time President Obama could not even close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which he ran on as a first order of business for his administration. Why was it so difficult to get the one thing done, and impossible to do the other? It is because every little thing that the president wants to do are reduced to negotiating points to be made with hostile actors; hostile Republicans and intractable Democrats alike. A president cannot even rely on members of their own party to support their agenda; if those members discern even a tiny bit of political peril in it for them.

In the current political climate, while Republicans control both chambers of Congress, making some advances on the progressive agenda would be great, even small ones, but holding the line on what has been achieved over the past eight years is even more important. No backsliding!

When we Democratic voters, we liberal progressives are dreaming about raising the minimum wage, universal health care, strengthening unions, breaking up big banks, overturning Citizens United, subsidizing college tuition, major increases in domestic spending, protecting voting rights; we must bear in mind, that roughly half of the electorate will be voting for the other side. The other side already controls the Senate, already controls the House of Representatives, controls the majority of state legislative assemblies, and the majority of gubernatorial chairs throughout the country. The other side wants no minimum wage, no regulation of banking, health care provided through the free market, no right to organize unions, Citizens United affirmed, and the rights of corporations expanded, no support for higher education, and all domestic infrastructure spending made piecemeal through block grants, given to the sates and along to the private sector, they want all of that and the sharp curtailment of voting rights. Throw into the mix their long standing desire to privatize social security, to keep burning fossil fuels, and to ramp up the war footing of the Nation.  

Holding the line will, if that is all we are able to do, that will be a victory for the next President. I believe HRC can do that, and I believe she can do more. I believe she can build on the legacy of President Obama. HRC will able to hold the line precisely because her rhetoric is not calling for revolution. While some may criticize her for setting the bar too low, I believe she is setting the bar realistically. This is vital, because the most important thing about keeping the agenda moving forward is too not lose the support of the base. If you promise what you cannot deliver, they will become disillusioned and fall away. This happened to President Obama, people have written books about how he has “betrayed” the progressive agenda, and it happened to President Jimmy Carter, whose legacy should be a cautionary note for how we can view a possible BS administration.

Because the agenda that HRC has put forward is as tempered as it is, ordinary people on both sides of the political spectrum, everyone in the much maligned-muddy-middle, all of those supposed moderates, they can understand it, and because they understand it, they won’t feel threatened by it, they can support it, even in the face of opposition. Some people on the left might want more progressivism, some on the right might want more conservativism, but when one side or the other wins an election they get the mandate to expand their cause. The majority of Americans understand this, but they do not want, and they do not expect to gyrate wildly from poll to poll, they expect a moderate expansion of the franchise from the margins at the middle.

The majority knows who to hold at fault when the government gets shut down, if one side is being moderate, and the other side is acting from the demands of their ideals. If a BS administration threatens to veto a budget because it lacks some provision he has demanded from the furthest reaches of his idealism, BS will get the blame, and not congress.

Listen to me; progress is progress, even if it is gradual, and incremental.

This is not exciting. I realize that, but it is the truth, and I hope you can realize this too.

This is exactly how we would view it if the conservative side gets a victory. If the republicans win and decide to try and implement a legislative agenda that looks like the most ideal version of their conservative torch-bearers; deport eleven million people, build a giant wall on the border with Mexico, go to war again in Iraq, and in Syria, ban Muslims from entering the country, undermine the separation of church and state etc, etc, etc…we would expect our democrats to muster whatever power they had to block everything. That is what will happen if progressives try to do the same, they will block everything (only the conservatives hold more cards right now).

Here is what will happen in a BS administration. He will either compromise severely, thereby disillusioning his voters (I don't think this is likely), causing them to fall away. Or he will stick to his idealism, and he won't even get democrats to work with him. A BS administration will be a laughing stock either way, and it will ruin the cause of progressivism for at least a couple of decades; ala Jimmy Carter.

I have not heard BS say this himself, but I have heard Tad Devine, his campaign manager say it. He has admitted that the endeavor the BS campaign is engaged in is going to take a generation to develop. He is an experienced operator, and it is obviously true. They know that they have not only to win the presidency, and hold it, but that they also have to win a majority in congress, and keep it for at least one or two cycles. If liberal progressives are going to have a lasting chance, and the BS revolution succeed, they need to control congress in 2020 when the entire legislative map is up for redistricting. Unless they can do that; liberal progressives will continue to be at a significant disadvantage, and the BS revolution, even if he wins the presidency, will never materialize.

BS does not talk this way on the stump, but his more candid spokespeople do. They are talking behind the scenes about the realities of gradualism, the necessity of incrementalism, in this way they are indistinguishable from HRC. There is a difference however; HRC is leveling with people, and BS is trying to get people caught up in his romantic revolution.

HRC’s approach asks people up-front to sign on for the long haul, wherein progress (no matter how small) will be hailed for what it is progress. BS is asking people to “Feel the Bern,” to light the match, but as we all know the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

What will happen to all of that passion when the cold water gets thrown on it. Will people be writing books about how BS betrayed the progressive movement? I don’t think so, BS is not the type to compromise, at least not on the big things. He will stand his ground, and the ground will fall out from under him, progressives may not blame him for standing his ground while giving voice to their ideals, but as the ground falls out from under him; because he is unable to compromise, it will fall out from under the progressive movement as well; creating the opportunity for a nearly completely discredited conservative movement to come roaring back

Remember Jimmy Carter; arguably one of the smartest, most rationale, most authentic, and most sincere of our modern presidents. He did not lack for good ideas, he behaved like a leader and put those ideas forward, but his inability to accomplish those goals turned his legacy into a subject of ridicule. I am not saying that his administration deserves the ridicule, but they suffered under it anyway, and continue to suffer from that ridicule thirty-six years later. The failures of the Carter administration set the stage for the so-called Reagan Revolution. A BS administration threatens to set that stage again.  

It was under President Reagan that the nation began to move to the rightwing in a way that has been; anti-intellectual, anti-science, religiously fundamental, ahistorical and absolutely irrational. We risk that happening again, unless we are able to demonstrate in an irrefutable way that the leadership of Democratic presidents, championing liberal ideal, while implementing progressive policies is the key stability for the nation; and that will set the stage for economic growth, economic justice, and prosperity for all.

I believe that HRC can do this, and I have no faith that BS can. I believe this because Hillary speaks directly, and honestly to these points, while Bernie continues to dream the revolutionary dream.


More to follow…

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Voting for Hillary, Part Two – HRC v BS - Editorial, The Week in Review – Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

02.06.2016

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.