In recent years I’ve found myself increasingly alienated from ‘progressives.’ It is not that I disagree with their ultimate aims, but I take issue with their absolutism, their intolerance of those who step out of line on any issue, their list of perceived enemies and the fact that in many cases they are pursuing outdated policies that will no longer achieve their stated goals. I believe in progress, want to end poverty and strengthen the middle class but I am having a harder time calling myself "progressive".
It is also a movement that tends to be dominated by entitled, white people who talk about "the one percent" without acknowledging that most of them are part of the global two percent (or better). They lament conditions in the developing world without acknowledging that globally, the world has never been in better shape. Much of the improvement, globally, has been a result of global trade, large corporations and the charitable and philanthropic work of establishment politicians and wealthy individuals, who are the boogey men of the far left.
The wealthy and powerful are certainly not all innocent snowflakes, but neither do they all sit around trying to think of ways to be more evil.
The progressive movement has, in other words, become less progressive. By reducing debates to absolutes and failing to take in and process new information, it has become less progressive.
Maybe it is a matter of me being older. When I was younger I both more idealistic and more ‘militant’. Maybe it's that, being older, I've seen the rise and fall of more governments and presidents. In any case, I’m more pragmatic now and take a longer, wider and more strategic view of these things.
There are many things I hope that the next US president will accomplish but the first goal needs to be to hold the insane, incrasingly facist, Republicans at bay. I believe that the GOP is headed for a cliff and that they will self-destruct if given the chance.
Neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz is part of the GOP establishment and with so many feuding factions, I don’t see the party surviving as it is for more than another election or two. A divided or broken Republican party could allow for strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and a takeover of the Supreme Court. When and if that happens the ground will be ready for a wide variety of progressive reforms.
However, for the Democrats, being overly ambitious and trying to grab too much, too quickly, risks a Republican White House. It could also alienate moderate voters. Either of these things could lead to disaster for the United States and the world.
So, with that in mind, here are a few reasons I think Hillary Clinton is a better candidate to keep the lunatics from taking power.
This one is actually a wash, there are too many factors that could change. Would Americans choose Sanders over Trump? Would Sanders win in a 3 way race that included Trump and Bloomberg? I don’t know and what I do know is subject to change. It’s also possible that the GOP nominates Cruz or that the establishment gets its way and forces someone like Rubio to the top. It’s hard to predict the electability of a candidate without knowing who they are running against.
I can’t say that Sanders isn’t electable, but regardless of who the opponent is, I like Hillary’s chances better. Her nomination would also keep Bloomberg out of the race.
2) Getting stuff done
This is an important one and the biggest advantage for Clinton over Sanders. We saw what happened when Obama came to power, the GOP spent 8 years doing their best to obstruct at every turn. Sanders would be in an even weaker position, he doesn’t even have much support within the Democratic caucus and would have to work hard to get his own party on side with many of his proposals. He wouldn’t get single payer health care passed, or break up the big banks, he wouldn’t be able to significantly increase taxes on the wealthy or corporations, he probably wouldn’t even be able to get the cabinet he wanted or get any of his top 10 picks for the Supreme Court past the Senate.
Hillary would, at least, have the support of her own party from the word go and would be more likely to get reforms passed by taking smaller more incremental steps.
3) Foreign Policy
Whether they like it or not, the next US President is going to have to devote at least as much time to foreign policy as they do to domestic policy. In addition to escalating conflicts in the Middle East, and the accompanying refugee crisis, Russia has become aggressive in recent years as has China. The potential is there for a widespread, violent conflict and it will not be prevented by isolationism, appeasement or aggressive confrontation.
By all accounts, foreign policy is not one of Bernie Sanders strong suits. Very little in his platform has anything to do with foreign policy and much of what is there is vague and idealistic.
Clinton, has been Secretary of State and First Lady (among other things). She knows the major players personally and, if she needs to, she can also bring Bill Clinton in as backup. During his years as president, Bill Clinton brokered a peace deal for Northern Ireland, came close to a peace deal between Israel and Palestine and had positive relationships with China and Russia.
4) Domestic Policy
Most of Bernie Sanders proposals are things that have been on the progressive wish list for decades but the ground is about to shift under our feet. Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are close to being able to take over human jobs on a grand scale. According to one report, automation could replace 47 percent of current jobs within two decades.
Progressives need to pull back and rethink what a “progressive” policy should look like in a world where high unemployment is the norm, rather than the exception. There are large corporations and wealthy individuals who are willing to step up and help find solutions, even if it means higher taxes, (including things like a guaranteed minimum income). However, that is not going to happen if they feel like they are under assault and treated like enemies.
Being isolationist, making it more expensive to do business in the US and more difficult to do business abroad is not necessarily going to create more good jobs. It could just speed up the process of automation.
5) the Functioning of Government
If Sanders were to become the next president, he would more than likely be working with a Republican controlled House of Representatives and possibly a Senate as well. He would be have to give up being an ideologue almost immediately. He would have to compromise heavily to get anything done and would have to sign bills he was completely opposed to.
Doing this would risk the disillusionment and wrath of his true believers. Failure to do so would effectively turn control of the US Government over to Congress. Democrats and Republicans would have to find compromises and pass bills over Bernie’s veto. The result would be long term damage to the power and perceived power of the White House.
Hillary Clinton would have to hold her nose and sign bills she didn’t like too, but at least she knows that going in and so is more likely to find compromises that do not sacrifice too much.
6) the Democratic Party
Many of Bernie’s supporters may be too young to remember the early years of Bill Clinton’s White House. Bill ran as a progressive and, after taking office, with Democrats in control of the House and Senate, health care reform was one of his top priorities. What he proposed was very similar to “Obamacare” but the insurance and health care lobbies were not impressed. The barrage of negative advertising, lobbying and television and radio punditry was constant. Clinton and the Democrats steadily sank in the polls until Clinton finally backed down.
The damage, however, had been done and Clinton pronounced the era of big government over. He abandoned most of his election platform and the Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate. “Liberal” became an insult and Republicans dominated the agenda, slowly dismantling both the social safety net and the middle class, until the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
Bernie Sanders wants to take on the health care and insurance industries again. While he's at it he also wants to challenge the big banks, Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry and wealthy people and large corporations in general. When these groups answer, and they will answer, it could take another generation for the Democratic party to regain any sort of power.
It is not clear that Sanders, who only recently joined the Democrats, cares about this. But anyone who opposes Republican extremism should care a great deal.
Clinton may not be as aggressive, she may not attempt as much but I’m confident that she will get more done than Sanders could hope to. She will also, at the least, hold onto the hard fought gains of the Obama administration. What’s more, she will do it without poisoning the well and pushing a Republican party on the brink of internal collapse back into power.
In general, I’m a more a fan of evolution than revolution. Revolutions tend to be messy, always have unintended consequences and rarely live up to their promise. Evolution is slow, steady progress and better at self-correcting. It also doesn’t inspire a need for a counter-revolution.
Hillary Clinton may not be the most exciting candidate in American history. She may not inspire people to “feel the Bern” and her proposed policies may be less ambitious but I feel that she would actually accomplish more than Sanders, without doing long term damage. She would be in a position to defend the gains of the Obama administration and keep the Democratic agenda moving forward.
She could also help lay the groundwork for Democratic gains in congress, tilt the Supreme Court farther to the left and pave the way for progressives like Elizabeth Warren and a generation of young public servants inspired by Barack Obama.
The American Political ground is shifting and the power of the right is destabilizing but I’m not convinced that the US is ready for a socialist revolution of any kind. In other words, it is not that a Sanders presidency would be a bad thing, but it is a risky point in history to attempt it. There is a time to be bold and move aggressively and there is a time to hold your ground, survey the landscape and protect what you’ve won. 2016, it seems to me, is a time to play it safe.
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