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Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Yes, her.

After the recent squeaker in Iowa it appears we may have another extended primary on our hands... today I logged into Facebook for the first time in a while and noticed a lot of passionate support for Bernie. I figure if ever there's a time to go on record as to where my sympathies lay it is the present. So, for the record, I'm for Hillary this year.

Why? Well, I'll tell you:

First off, she knows every aspect of policy backwards and forwards. She's ready.

Second, she can win. I am highly skeptical that Sanders can. Granted the Republicans may be about to nominate their own 'unelectable' candidate, and presumably somebody has to win... so, I suppose it is within the realm of possibility, but a Sanders candidacy is a far dicier bet than HRC.

But even if somehow Sanders could be magically waved into the White House I'm not convinced he would necessarily be a better President. His most appealing ideas are simply not going to happen. The single-payer thing is a pipe-dream... I mean, were people paying attention at all during the health care battles of Obama's first term? The reason Hillary's goals sometime seem small-bore is she's looking for things that can actually be accomplished that will bring tangible improvement to people's lives.

It seems to me the argument for Sanders rests on the assumption that the problem with our current government is Obama isn't liberal enough. I think the problem more likely lies in having a Republican Congress hell-bent on obstructing Obama's every move. Although it gets overlooked the first two years of Obama's tenure were actually incredibly productive. If we had had six more years like that we would be comparing Obama to FDR today. Likewise, give Hillary a Democratic majorities in Congress and you will see real change, but as long Republicans control Congress you could put Noam Chomsky in the White House and domestic change would still be slow and on the margins (at best).

The issues Sanders is best on (inequality, reigning in Wall Street) are those the President has the least power to influence without Congress. The President has far more latitude when it comes to foreign policy, which doesn't seem to hold much interest for Sanders. It made quite an impression on me, watching the Democratic debate the night after the Paris attacks, when Sanders began his opening remarks with a cursory nod to the attacks and then immediately pivoted to his stump speech about inequality. Inequality is a very important issue, but it is not the only issue.

But even if we put all that aside and assume that Sanders would be a better President, how much risk is it worth? Because I would argue that replacing Obama with another Democrat, any Democrat, is far more important than which particular Democrat it happens to be. Most significantly, the future of the Supreme Court is on the line. We've heard this the last couple elections, but it only becomes more true. The Supreme Court is a full third of our Federal government, and the next few years will likely shape it for decades to come. Furthermore, a Republican president with a Republican Congress (not even Bernie's most optimistic supporters are predicting Dems will take back Congress) could do major damage. The reality is we have a lot more to lose than to gain in this election.

None of that makes for a very inspiring case for Hillary I will grant you. The closest thing I can point you to is an anecdote provided by Ezra Klein in his write up about the philosophies behind each campaign (which is worth reading in full):
Clinton is a political pragmatist — maybe even a political pessimist. In October, she met backstage with representatives from the Black Lives Matter movement. The discussion was recorded — though it's not clear if Clinton knew that at the time — and the result is a revealing look into her politics
For the first 10 minutes, Clinton is polite, conciliatory, and careful. She both justifies and apologizes for her tough-on-crime past, and she argues that caution is required by the political present. She tries to make the activists feel heard without promising anything she can't deliver. She says she needs them to develop solutions that she can sell and pass. 
But the activists give no ground. "What you just said was a form of victim blaming," one of them replies. "You were saying what the Black Lives Matter movement needs to do to change white hearts is to talk about policy change." 
At this, Clinton's demeanor changes. Real emotion breaks through. She interrupts her interlocutor and raises her voice. 
"I don’t believe you change hearts," she says. "I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not." 
This is Hillary Clinton's political philosophy in a nutshell. It is the hard-won lessons of a politician who had a front-row seat to both Bill Clinton's impeachment and Barack Obama's release of his longform birth certificate. It's the conclusion of someone who has tried to win change amidst Democratic and Republican Congresses, who has worked out of the White House and out of the Capitol, who has watched disagreement and polarization prove intractable, who has seen grand plans die amidst gridlock. 

Ok, so still not very inspiring. Let's try again... This Krugman Op-Ed is a noble attempt at turning Clinton's jaded realism into something worth celebrating. He begins by slightly re-framing the 'theories of change' argument:  
Like many people, I’ve described the competition between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as an argument between competing theories of change, which it is. But underlying that argument is a deeper dispute about what’s wrong with America, what brought us to the state we’re in. 
To oversimplify a bit — but only, I think, a bit — the Sanders view is that money is the root of all evil. Or more specifically, the corrupting influence of big money, of the 1 percent and the corporate elite, is the overarching source of the political ugliness we see all around us. 
The Clinton view, on the other hand, seems to be that money is the root of some evil, maybe a lot of evil, but it isn’t the whole story. Instead, racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice are powerful forces in their own right. This may not seem like a very big difference — both candidates oppose prejudice, both want to reduce economic inequality. But it matters for political strategy.
If the ugliness in American politics is all, or almost all, about the influence of big money, then working-class voters who support the right are victims of false consciousness. And it might — might — be possible for a candidate preaching economic populism to break through this false consciousness, thereby achieving a revolutionary restructuring of the political landscape, by making a sufficiently strong case that he’s on their side. Some activists go further and call on Democrats to stop talking about social issues other than income inequality, although Mr. Sanders hasn’t gone there. 
On the other hand, if the divisions in American politics aren’t just about money, if they reflect deep-seated prejudices that progressives simply can’t appease, such visions of radical change are na├»ve. And I believe that they are. 
That doesn’t say that movement toward progressive goals is impossible — America is becoming both more diverse and more tolerant over time. Look, for example, at how quickly opposition to gay marriage has gone from a reliable vote-getter for the right to a Republican liability. 
But there’s still a lot of real prejudice out there, and probably enough so that political revolution from the left is off the table. Instead, it’s going to be a hard slog at best. Is this an unacceptably downbeat vision? Not to my eyes. After all, one reason the right has gone so berserk is that the Obama years have in fact been marked by significant if incomplete progressive victories, on health policy, taxes, financial reform and the environment. And isn’t there something noble, even inspiring, about fighting the good fight, year after year, and gradually making things better?

So that's about as close as we're going to get to a rousing call to action. The next day Krugman offered more thoughts on his blog that I think are important:
The appeal of the Sanders campaign, at least to people I know, is that it brings a sense of possibility. For those who were joyful and uplifted on inauguration day 2009, the years that followed have been a vast let down: American politics got even uglier, policy progress always fell short of dreams. Now comes Sanders — very different in personal style from Obama 2008, but again someone who seems different and offers the hope of transformation. And some people really want to hear that message, and don’t want to hear that they’re being unrealistic. 
But there’s something else, which I keep encountering, and which I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice: even among progressives, the two-decade-plus smear campaign against the Clintons has had its effect. I keep being told about terrible things the Clintons did that never actually happened, but were carefully fomented right-wing legends — except I’m hearing them from people on the left. The sense that where there’s smoke there must be fire — when the reality was nothing but Richard Mellon Scaife with a smoke machine — is very much out there, still. 
(snip: bold mine)
Even among those who don’t believe in the phony scandals, there is, as there was in 2008, a desire for someone new, who they imagine won’t bring out all that ugliness. But of course they’re wrong: if Sanders is the nominee, it will take around 30 seconds before Fox News is nonstop coverage of the terrible things he supposedly did when younger. Don’t say there’s nothing there: a propaganda machine that could turn John Kerry into a coward can turn a nice guy from Brooklyn into a monstrously flawed specimen of humanity in no time at all. 
On the other hand, that history is, I think, one factor behind a phenomenon we saw in 2008 and will see again this year: there’s a lot more passionate support for Clinton than either Sanders supporters or the news media imagine. There are a lot of Democrats who see her as someone who has been subjected to character assassination, to vicious attacks, on a scale few women and no men in politics have ever encountered — yet she’s still standing, still capable of remarkable grace under fire. If you didn’t see something heroic about her performance in the Benghazi hearing, you’re missing something essential.

One of the reasons I supported Obama over Clinton last time around is I thought going with Clinton ensured we would continue the partisan warfare that marked the previous 16 years, while Obama might be able to move our politics in a more functional direction. How well did that work out? Partisan warfare is just the current reality. I think Obama's Presidency has proven that it doesn't matter who we put forward, they will be demonized by the right. The least we can do is not internalize their b.s. about our own candidates.

On the plus side, while Sanders is a blank canvas waiting to be filled in by Fox News et al., Hillary is a known commodity. Her favorability isn't going to go up much, but it's not going to go down much either. People know her by now, so there's only so much the right wing noise machine can do.

If you are a person who can't bring themselves to vote for someone who doesn't inspire you or that you don't personally identify with, and you want to vote for Bernie, or whoever else, fine. At least you voted. But personally I don't think voting should necessarily be like choosing a band or sports team to identify with. Maybe your vote isn't a personal expression of who you are so much as a risk/benefits assessment. If we elect Hillary we can let her fight it out with Republicans the next 4 or 8 years, knowing that she will never stop fighting because that's just who she is, and we can find joy and happiness elsewhere in our lives. Knowing that the Supreme Court will be safe from reactionary ideologues, knowing that the gains we've made in health care and the environment will not be dismantled... knowing that the Republicans will be more or less held in check at the Federal level.

I wish I could make a more inspirational pitch for you, but I've just come to the conclusion we don't live in very inspiring times. It's why I stopped writing this blog. It stopped being fun. But it's still important. And although I have not been commenting on it, over the last 3+ years Obama has been slowly, steadily moving the ball forward on a number of issues. We need to protect those gains and keep the momentum going, as frustratingly slow as progress may be. Hillary is the one ready and able to do that. 

So, for all these reasons:  Hillary '16

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