Clinton, Sanders, and the last 21 years.
I’ve seen a lot of people posting recently about whether they’re voting for Clinton or Sanders. This post isn’t meant to convince anyone, but simply to give my two cents.
I did donate $25 to the Senator Sanders campaign, and am planning on voting for him in June.
That being said, I’m really dismayed at the acrimony directed at Senator Clinton from fellow Sanders supporters. Here is how I see the Democratic Primary and the two main candidates so far. Here is why I’m voting the way that I am.
I think the primary divide between Clinton and Sanders supporters is strategic, not necessarily ideological.
Clinton supporters want someone who is politically adept. As Secretary of State, she has eminently qualified for a position that, let’s be honest, is primarily responsible for foreign affairs. As a Clinton, she has been thoroughly vetted by the media; every stone has been overturned, and she has survived it all. Finally, many of the changes in her political positions over the years can be accounted to the political sausage making endemic in any government. Nevertheless, she remains a part of the political establishment.
Sanders supporters are driven by someone who matches their ideology. After all, doing the politically prudent thing has been very, very problematic for Democrats in the last several decades.
With his ascendence to the position of House Speaker in 1995, Newt Gingrich brought a style of political brinksmanship combined with ideological fervor to American politics that had not been seen for generations. This led to President Bill Clinton, hewing to political pragmatism, passing essentially Republican Policies, such as the deregulation of the Banking sector, in order to forestall future government shutdowns and simply keep basic legislation through Congress.
While President George W. Bush campaigned under the slogan “Compassionate Conservatism,” the September 11 terror attacks gave him the kind of political clout needed to pass every piece of legislation he could think of. Indeed, no President had passed so comprehensive a slate of legislation since Ronald Reagan. Once again, the Democrats in Congress opted to take a Moderate, pragmatic approach to American politics, remaining essentially silent until the debacles of Bush’s governance made themselves shrilly evident in his second term.
Like Bush before him, President Barack Obama was very critical of the legacy of his predecessor, but adopted conciliatory rhetoric towards the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. Watch any Obama stump speech from 2008: the Change he talks about goes hand in hand with “an unprecedented era of bipartisanship.”
This was borne out at the beginning of his first term. In a concession to fiscal conservatives, investigations into insider trading and fraudulent credit default swaps were quickly quashed. In the interests of political expediency, the human rights abuses of the CIA were not investigated. But most prominently, the most significant piece of legislation passed under Obama was the Affordable Care Act. This plan for health care reform had been conceived of by a Conservative think tank and implemented by a Republican government. So what was the Republican response?
To call Obama a Socialist. In spite of the controversy over the rhetoric of his former pastor, to call him a Muslim. And in the words of Senator Mitch McConnell, the President of the Senate, “Our top priority is to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”
This has been the pattern for the remainder of the Obama Presidency. While he leaned increasing towards the right, the rhetoric against him and the Democratic Party became increasingly acrimonious.
If the last 21 years can teach us anything about this moment in American Politics, it’s that pragmatism and concession on the Left has not yielded any demonstrable political gains.
That’s why I’m voting for Sanders. Because I think that simply having an actual Progressive instead of a Moderate in the Executive Branch can do a great deal simply with their power to declassify a great deal about the CIA. A Liberal acting as the head of the Justice Department can prosecute the demonstrable crimes that took place on Wall Street in 2007, and actively pursue companies like Goldman Sachs that continue to prey on the American people.
Legislation may not be passed through Congress? Can Congress possibly become more recalcitrant than they’ve been under Obama? I don’t think so.
That being said, I don’t have any particularly strong feelings against Clinton. Ultimately the Clinton legacy is one of competent governance. And ultimately I think that despite her previous ideological malleability, I think that there is a very reasonable hope that Hillary Clinton has learned from the past 21 years.
I don’t believe that Pragmatism and Progressivism are mutually exclusive. But I think that conflating Pragmatism with political moderation has damaged the American political spectrum, dragging it to the Right at the expense of any actual political reform. I think that Hillary Clinton and many Democrats at large realize this.
So I plan on being both Pragmatic and Ideological. With my vote for Sanders, I will be telling the Democratic Party the direction that I want it to go. Not repudiating Clinton.