For progressives, does not supporting Bernie mean you’ve sold out?
February 28, 2016
I like Bernie. I really do, and I like his populist socioeconomic message. It is hard for me to disagree with how he’s characterized the evolution of wealth distribution and its associated short-term and long-term consequences. It’s a huge problem that must be addressed to stabilize society. But I wouldn’t choose him over Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president. I wonder if that means I’ve lost my youthful idealism and sold out, or if it means that I’ve redefined idealism to mean choosing a more realistic chance of achieving limited goals over achieving none.
Simple, self-centered math
For me, that’s the primary issue. (Sorry, double entendre intended) Where Bernie is an evangelist on a single subject, Hillary is a plodding expert on policies more or less aligned with my beliefs. I believe 100% in Bernie’s socioeconomic message, but I also believe, if elected, he would have 0% chance of implementing any of it. I believe in 80% of Hillary’s policies, but I also believe she might get 50% of then accomplished. That’s my math. I get 0% of what I want with Bernie and 40% of what I want with Hillary. In today’s political environment, I’d take 40% all day long. I don’t think that means I’ve lost my idealism as much as it means that the older I get, the more I appreciate the axiom of not letting perfect be the enemy of the good.
Why would Bernie not be able to deliver on his primary message? With the Obama obstructionism as a prelude, I cannot imagine the Republican controlled House would consider any of Bernie’s plans. With a Socialist, excuse me – a Democratic Socialist – at the top of the Democratic ticket I would think the calculus for the Senate might swing back toward the Republicans. With both houses of Congress in Republican control, I find myself wondering how a Sanders administration could accomplish much of anything. If so, everything Sanders is telling his enthusiastic supporters would become merely an interesting footnote in history.
Hillary – an insider with a progressive core
Then there’s Hillary. Her cheering crowds are smaller and she comes with baggage. If you look at the entirety of her political career, I think you can see that her core beliefs are rooted in progressive goals. My thought is that those core beliefs would be carried into her administration and be expressed in her programs and accomplishments. I’m sure it wouldn’t be pretty because she would be dealing with the Republican-controlled house, but with Hillary at the top of the Democratic ticket, the chances of Democrats regaining the Senate are decidedly better than if Bernie were at the top of the ticket.
Then there’s the baggage that is more of an election issue than it would be in a Clinton administration. With the exception of using an email server in her home, I think the balance of the baggage comes from a long career in politics getting stuff done. No one can be effective in national politics without stepping on toes and creating adversaries. Although that creates fodder for opposition campaign talking points, it also means that once in office, Clinton would use that same experience to her benefit. She would know exactly which toes to step on to get things done.
A revolution is not one person
I hate to sound so practical. I’d like to believe I could vote for Bernie and be part of his revolution, but revolution is not one person. Until there are a significant number of Representatives and Senators in Congress that share his views and could support his programs there is simply no way he can deliver on any of his socioeconomic objectives.
Society always seems to focus on presidential horse races. Maybe because of the media coverage, but more likely it’s because candidates have become adept at creating sound bites that capture single concepts. It’s easy to follow presidential campaigns, in fact it’s hard not to. On the other hand, what do you know about the primary race for your Congressional representative? Can you articulate any of his or her positions? I think that’s less likely, but that’s where the revolution really begins. It begins in the trenches of local politics where those candidates espousing philosophies similar to Bernie’s are elected to Congress.
With effective gerrymandering and unlimited special interest campaign funding, that will be an uphill battle, but without that base of political support in Congress, there is virtually no chance that a president with a Democratic Socialist agenda can accomplish much of anything.
I’m sorry Bernie. I like you, I like your message, but in today’s environment the reality is that with less than absolute enthusiasm- it has to be Hillary.