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Bernie v. Hillary

I'm not sure why I feel the need to post this. Probably it's because so many of my friends are Bernie-supporters that I feel compelled to say that I'm no longer part of the club. That is, I've been saying since the campaign began nine hundred years ago, or whenever it was, that I would vote for Bernie in the primary and Hillary in the general election, because I didn't think Bernie had a prayer of becoming the Democratic nominee. I still don't, but as push has come to shove and people have started making passionate arguments for and against the two candidates, I find that I have changed my mind and decided to vote for Hillary in the primary too.

The reason for my change of mind has been the realization that many, if not most of, Bernie's supporters, including very much Bernie himself, are the left-liberals who have found Obama weak, disappointing, and basically a closet Republican. I feel, and have always felt, that this is pure horseshit. For me, Obama is the best president in my lifetime, which goes back to JFK. This is what a transformative, progressive presidency looks like in our age, unless, like FDR, you have 69-75 Democratic senators out of a total of 96 and 313-333 Democratic House members out of a total of 435. That's what total control of the government looks like, and that's what allows pretty radical changes to happen. Our system of checks and balances is otherwise rigged against rapid change, and even FDR was slowed down by the Supreme Court, much to his annoyance. If you are impatient with Obama, it's because you are impatient with the American political system, and obviously a lot of Bernie's supporters think the whole thing is hopelessly corrupt and needs to be swept away in a revolutionary tide and replaced with something more perfect.

I believe that's highly unlikely to happen, and that what's more likely is what we've seen under Obama: painfully slow and imperfect change against fierce, grinding opposition. Yet Obama embraces the system, and I think the results under his leadership of the Democratic party have been utterly remarkable. As for the idea that he's basically a moderate Republican, show me the moderate Republican (John McCain? Mitt Romney?) who would have stood up to the frothing reactionaries in his own party to kickstart the Green Energy Revolution by investing stimulus money in solar and wind power, or who would have massively expanded Medicaid (single payer insurance!) as in Obamacare, or passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, or who would have done away with Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, or who have negotiated a nuclear treaty with Iran, or normalized relations with Cuba, or regulated coal plant emissions with the EPA, or, leveraging the reduction of carbon emissions from that and the Green Energy Revolution, would have concluded a carbon emissions deal with China and India and all the major industrial nations, again in the teeth of raging right wing opposition. It's impossible to imagine any Republican doing any of that. Instead they would have cut taxes, further deregulated Wall Street, probably continued to cut back on social spending rather than increase it, and probably started a war with Iran instead of negotiating a treaty.

All of these accomplishments by the Democrats are BFDs, for those of us who believe in progressive change, and if you think it's not enough, you know, you're right! The system really is rigged for the haves and against the have-nots, and it's rigged to make it hard to unrig it. But if you think Bernie is going to completely transform the American political system, which by the way would require completely rewriting the Constitution, you are a dreamer. If you think that what has been accomplished in the past seven years is a disappointing failure by somebody in over his head, then we are not seeing the same world. If nothing else I have a number of good friends who now have health insurance because of the Medicaid expansion. It's not great health insurance, but they are getting treatment for pre-existing conditions, and that will very likely prolong their lives. That's real progress.

My biggest problem with Hillary has always been her association with Bill, whom I hated while he was president. I never voted for him, voting for small third party candidates both times. But you know what, I was a lot more idealistic then, and I really had no clue how constrained presidents are within our system. I didn't really understand that he was signing bills that the Republican Congress wrote, at least during his second term, that's how ignorant I was. That said, I believe he really was an inferior president to Obama, because he didn't get much done while the Democrats had control of Congress in his first term. Partly that was because the Democrats still had a lot of conservative Dixiecrats (hello, Sam Nunn, hello, Don't Ask Don't Tell) in their ranks at the time, but partly it was because Clinton made a lot more rookie mistakes than Obama did, maybe because he was unwilling to use any of Carter's staff in his own, which left him with an inexperienced staff. Certainly Clinton muffed his own attempt at health care reform, and Obama was able to learn from that when his own time came and he staffed his administration with people from Clinton's.

In any event, I have no idea how good a president Hillary will be, if she wins the presidency, but I do know that she's embracing Obama's legacy, while Bernie is saying it ain't good enough. Bernie is right that it isn't good enough, but I believe it's the best the system will allow. Revolution isn't on the agenda, and it certainly isn't going to be fomented from above by a sitting president. So I'm voting for the woman who embraces incrementalism (What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Real Soon Now!), and my 25 year old self is shaking his head in sad disbelief. Sorry, 25 year old self, but I see things differently now. On the bright side, I see that some things are improving and that hope for even better is not lost. It will just come slowly, as it always has.



( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 5th, 2016 12:22 am (UTC)
"As for the idea that he's basically a moderate Republican, show me the moderate Republican (John McCain? Mitt Romney?) ... who would have massively expanded Medicaid (single payer insurance!) as in Obamacare..."

It's nice to see that irony is not dead. What was the model that the ACA was largely modeled on? Would that be the changes in the Massachusetts state health insurance regulations under a certain Mitt Romney? That was in fact commonly called "Romneycare" in joking parallel to "Obamacare"? Dude.
Feb. 5th, 2016 12:35 am (UTC)
Did Romneycare include an increase in Medicaid? I don't think so. The part they imitated was the exchanges, as far as I know.
(no subject) - bovil - Feb. 5th, 2016 12:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - randy_byers - Feb. 5th, 2016 12:53 am (UTC) - Expand
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Feb. 5th, 2016 01:21 am (UTC)
You make a compelling argument and I thank you very much for writing this up.

Thanks to your post, I've also done some further research and learned that in Massachusetts, unenrolled voters can vote in either party's primary. I didn't vote in the two presidential primaries since I moved here since I thought only voters enrolled in the party could cast a primary ballot.

I think Obama has accomplished many remarkable things, especially considering the political climate he's been working in.

I don't think Bernie is going to completely transform the American political system, but his beliefs and politics match mine closely enough that I'll likely vote for him in whatever election(s) I can. I've been following him (albeit casually, like so much of my political awareness/involvement) for several years now, long before he announced his candidacy for the presidency. I was surprised when he did so and my first thought was that he hasn't a chance. He probably still doesn't, but he's doing far better than I ever thought he would, and that's bringing ideas and conversations I support and think we need to be having into the spotlight.

Hillary is remarkable. Her transition from First Lady to Senator and then Secretary of State is unprecedented. The fact that she's endured, that she's persevered through all of the Republican-driven attacks against her speaks well of her strength and determination. I expect I'll be learning more about her current political positions on a broad range of topics as the election campaign continues. At least, I hope I will. It's all to easy for the sound bites to drown out in-depth, nuanced reality.

It's a digression to your post, but to me, the real question is what the hell is it going to take to get a functional, working Congress again? (And am I going to see us moving in that direction in however much remains of my lifetime?)
Feb. 5th, 2016 05:15 am (UTC)
I intended to vote for Bernie in the primary because I do like that he's articulating these demands for income equality, single payer health care, more financial reform, free college, and higher minimum wage. However, the reality is that I'm so angry at the anti-Obama left at this point that I can't stand to associate with them by voting for Bernie. I also don't think Bernie has a prayer of getting nominated or (as you say) transforming the American political system, but whatever. People should feel free to vote for their ideals, not that they need my blessing to do so. I'm just tired of the senseless disappointment with the progress that's been made under Obama. To my mind we should all be fired up by how much has been done and encouraged that more can be done even without revolutionizing the system.

Edited at 2016-02-05 05:27 am (UTC)
Feb. 5th, 2016 01:32 am (UTC)
I hope I can avoid getting into an argument with you here, because I really don't want that, but the bulk of your argument is one I've heard before and which sparks in me thoughts of bovine excrement, though you're much fairer and more reasonable than most people who make it. Which in turn means I hope you won't accuse me of expecting "rainbows and unicorns," which is the response I usually get (weirdly, always using those exact words) to my points, even though nothing I say could be fairly so interpreted.

But I just don't accept the line that "Obama couldn't have done any more, because Congress." What he could have done is he could have TRIED. He promised Hope and Change, but he ran a discount on the Hope, so the Change dribbled out the pocket too. With the health care bill, which even started out, as others have noted, closer to the Gingrich alternative to Hillarycare than anything else, instead of selling it on the bully pulpit, Obama kept stripping out provisions in an attempt to woo the so-called "moderate" Republicans. But they refused to be wooed, so that didn't accomplish anything on what wound up being passed on, IIRC, purely Democratic votes.

With such a damp squib, no wonder the people lost enthusiasm, and that meant low turnout, and that is why the Democrats lost Congress in 2010. No other reason. The 2009-10 Congress was, though not filibuster-proof, movable. The ones since then have not been. But it wasn't cosmic fate that did that, it was disappointment in what happened in 2009-10. So Obama is, in that sense, responsible for the existence of the Republican Congresses.

I don't expect that a better Obama would have been able to do much more, but I think he could have made incremental improvements, in two or three ways. 1) A president savvier in the ways of Congress could make more and better deals. (This is still the Democratic Congress I'm talking about.) No, he can't steamroll over them - even FDR couldn't do that - but there are ways to grease their intransigence. 2) The bully pulpit: whip up the enthusiasm of the people. This has the beneficial effects of a) putting pressure on Congress, b) encouraging progressive voter participation, c) moving the Overton window.

And yes, Obama's policies and procedures are effectively those of a moderate Republican. So, for that matter, in practice were Bill Clinton's. You question this, asking what Republican of recent times could they possibly be like. Answer, none! There are no moderate Republicans any more! We (I say "we" because I was originally that even longer-gone species, a liberal Republican) have all become Democrats! Which is why the Democratic Party today is full of moderate Republican policies. Please remember that McCain, one of your suggestions, is on many issues further right that Reagan (who at least had the sense not to chant things like "Bomb-bomb-Iraq"), and that Reagan came on to the presidential stage as the clearly-different right-wing alternative to Gerald Ford, and that Gerald Ford was, in his day, a conservative Republican. Not a moderate. Things have shifted that far.

As for Hillary, I expect her to become President, and I expect she'll be no worse than Bill or Obama. And any Democrat, even one far worse, would be infinitely better than any of the troglodytes who call themselves Republicans these days. So, unlike many Bernie supporters, I'd be content with her. What bothers me about Hillary is not the specter of Bill. Bill is Bill, and Hillary is not responsible for that, and over the years she's clearly separated herself from that. What I worry about is her neocon instincts, and what digs at me is the history of Hillarycare. Not the proposal itself, which was good, but the way she failed to sell it to Congress (again, a Democratic Congress, and - again - the only Democratic Congress that administration ever had). That failure denied us a health care program for FIFTEEN FRICKIN' YEARS. I'd like to see her acknowledge that she screwed that one up, and to show that she's learned better how to work with Congress - exactly the thing that Obama didn't know either.

In the end, I'm supporting Bernie because he's proposing the things I really want, and Hillary isn't. That's really the whole story.
Feb. 5th, 2016 02:22 am (UTC)
Well, we really do disagree about all of this. I guess what I would observe is that you didn't respond at all to the list of Obama's accomplishments I made, nor did you suggest how he could have improved on those accomplishments. Do you think he could have achieved Medicare for All, for example? Which 60 Senators do you think would have voted for that? Joe Lieberman of the State of the Insurance Industry, who wouldn't even vote for the public option? Down to 59 already, and that's before you consider Ben Nelson, not that it matters, because 59 votes wouldn't have been enough without filibuster reform (which would have had to be done by the Senate, not Obama). Do you think the deal with Iran is worth nothing? Do you think the reduction in carbon emissions is worth nothing, or could have been increased somehow? Do you think the investment in solar energy technology is worth nothing? Is the Medicaid expansion worth nothing? Is the fact that I have friends who are benefiting from it worth nothing? I understand that it's not good enough, and that there's way, way more to be done, and that the system is thoroughly corrupt. But I do not understand the refusal to acknowledge that progress has been made, as ugly as some of it has been. I think the list of accomplishments is pretty amazing, honestly, even though it's not enough.

Edited at 2016-02-05 02:23 am (UTC)
(no subject) - kalimac - Feb. 5th, 2016 02:54 am (UTC) - Expand
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Feb. 5th, 2016 05:20 am (UTC)
As I said over on Facebook, if Bernie can win in South Carolina and Nevada, I'll have to rethink his chances. Right now he's only appealing to white liberals, and as you say, unless he can inspire a huge wave of young voters to come out, there's no way he can win the Democratic nomination with just the white vote. That seems like the 800 pound gorilla in the room that his supporters really aren't talking about much. Right now Hillary has the support of the majority of Black and Hispanic Democratic voters, and that's game over until Bernie can do something about it.
Feb. 5th, 2016 03:30 am (UTC)
First, I think you have to remember the state our country and economy were in when Obama took office. Too many people expected Obama to cure all the ills overnight, whereas I think it's amazing he's managed to get as much done as he has. Be that as it may, while my own political views are in line with Bernie, I'm voting for Hillary for the simple reason that I don't think Bernie will be able to accomplish anything if he's elected: he's an independent, with no reason for either the Democrats or Republicans to work with him, and the last thing we can afford is another four years of stagnation. YMMV.
Feb. 5th, 2016 05:22 am (UTC)
Sounds like you and I are of a like mind, whoever you are. We need to keep pushing on all the huge problems that remain to be solved.
(no subject) - kalimac - Feb. 5th, 2016 05:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - randy_byers - Feb. 5th, 2016 05:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 5th, 2016 06:20 am (UTC)
The Republicans of the 1950s to 1970s would likely have done most of what's on your list. Republican lunacy is a relatively recent change. Nixon founded the EPA. He opened up US relations with China. Eisenhower expanded Social Security. And so on.
Feb. 5th, 2016 06:36 am (UTC)
Eisenhower (except for two years) and Nixon had to deal with a Democratic Congress. It's true that Republicans of that era were generally more moderate than they are now, aside from the Goldwater wing, but the legislation was being written by liberal Democrats who were quite happy to found the EPA, expand Social Security, and invest in the freeway system. Compare and contrast with the rabidly reactionary Republican Congress that Bill Clinton and Obama hhad to deal with, although I think Obama has done a far better job of it than Bill did. I'll grant you that Nixon did something out of the ordinary with China, but then you remember the carpet-bombing of Southeast Asia too. You have to fast forward to the invasion of Iraq to find a piece of American foreign policy more evil and counterproductive than that.
Feb. 5th, 2016 06:22 am (UTC)
Today when the Golden State Warriors visited the White House:
“Luke Walton stepped up and led the team to a ridiculous 39-4 record,” Obama said. “You defied the cynics, you accomplished big things, you racked up a great record, and you don’t get enough credit. I can’t imagine how that feels.”
Feb. 5th, 2016 06:37 am (UTC)
(no subject) - voidampersand - Feb. 5th, 2016 04:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - randy_byers - Feb. 5th, 2016 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 5th, 2016 03:02 pm (UTC)
I'm going to keep this simple: I agree with you completely. Hillary's getting my vote.
Feb. 5th, 2016 03:04 pm (UTC)
High five!
Feb. 7th, 2016 02:20 am (UTC)
I feel an additional issue is at play; not just disappointment in Obama, but also genuine sexism. I still see so many coded phrases about Hillary. And sure, I've seen people point at Elizabeth Warren as evidence that there's no sexism factoring in here as so many progressives claim they would vote for Warren over anyone. But it's easy to love Warren when she's not actually running.

I'm kind of hopped up on goofballs right now (Tramadol) so I'm not thinking as clearly as I'd like to be. But honestly it's this sexism that's turning me Hillary's way. My personal politics certainly are far more to the left of Hillary and I had been saying that I'd vote for Bernie in the primary and whoever was next to the (D) in the election, but now I think I am going to make a stand and switch. And honestly on her own basis, I need a tough-minded and ready-to-rumble multi-issued President, not one that's entirely focused on one issue.

I also worry that America is still antisemitic enough to not vote for a Jew, and if he is the candidate the middle of the country might vote (R) just to not vote (J). Ugly, but possible.

My thoughts are disjointed, but still evolving. Sorry!
Feb. 7th, 2016 03:41 am (UTC)
You're right about the sexism, and unfortunately you're probably also right about the anti-Semitism, although if this country, of all countries, can elect a black man as President, I'm not sure it couldn't elect a Jew.

Good luck with the goofballs!
Feb. 8th, 2016 10:54 am (UTC)
I'm with you
In 2008, I had a real problem. I liked Obama and Clinton equally. What finally made vote for Obama was a stupidly negative ad the Clinton campaign ran in Pennsylvania just before the primary. I'm sick to death of negative advertising, and Obama's campaign generally avoided them until the general election against McCain/Palin.

Should stress that I have always liked Clinton and felt she did a good job both in the Senate and as Secretary of State.

I agreed with most of what Obama has done as president. Most of what he could not do, he could not do because of Congress. To claim he was a Republican was ludicrous - he was measured and cautious and made decisions based on facts and the Constitution.

I will vote for Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary this year. I would like to see her be elected president this year. Despite 25 years of Republican inquiries and negative advertising, she's generally stayed focused on her job (which, right now, is running for president). I don't like the strain of negativism among some of the loudest Bernie bros - I really think a chunk of them are Republicans in disguise. I found at least one guy on Twitter who was Bernie-broing away yesterday...and reading some of his other tweets made it clear he was really a conservative even if he said he was supporting Bernie.

So I'm voting for Clinton. She's got the strongest experience of any other presidential candidate, a fact that horrifies some people.

Feb. 8th, 2016 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm with you
Fortunately I've been spared the Bernie-bro phenomenon, but I have to admit that even I have probably been influenced by the Republican witch hunt against Hillary over the years. The constant accusations of corruption and sleaze have probably made an impression on me, but I do think her Benghazi testimony was one of her finest moments. It will be fun to watch her deal with these yokels as President.
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )

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