I recently read an article from the New York Times by Charles M. Blow titled “Bernie or Bust is Bonkers” which, as the title would lead you to believe, has some harsh words for members of the movement that now makes up 33 percent of Sanders supporters. As one who is in this movement, I decided to respond. Mr. Blow, if you read this, I respect your opinion, but you’re wrong to call us “bonkers.”
Let’s unpack Mr. Blow’s piece. His words in bold.
Blow: While there are meaningful differences between Clinton and Sanders, either would be a far better choice for president than any of the remaining Republican contenders, especially the demagogic real estate developer. Assisting or allowing his ascendance by electoral abstinence in order to force a “revolution” is heretical. This position is dangerous, shortsighted and self-immolating.
Diving in: What is shortsighted or self-immolating about losing four years to Trump? The media and the DNC anointed Hillary Clinton before the race even began, and have been displaying obvious bias ever since — from the NYT ‘stealth editing’ a pro-Sanders piece to make it negative, to Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduling the debates to minimize viewership, and by extension, Bernie’s exposure. For her part, Clinton has been triangulating, mirroring Republican lines of attack on Sanders, accusing his supporters of naivete, believing ‘lies’, and wanting free stuff. Media outlets like the New York Times, have parroted her shaming of the left in their endorsements and editorial choices — like the article I am responding to now.
Bernie’s progressives have to consider a very problematic question: What would the narrative be if Clinton were to win the nomination and the presidency? The media and the political establishment get to pick president? Progressives are unrealistic for ever thinking the we could move away from the third way, transactional, insider politics the left has been playing since the ’90s? Wall Street and big money wins? ‘Wisdom’ beats ‘idealism’?
As far as a Clinton victory is concerned, the fledgling progressive movement would be better served by displaying strength in the event of a primary defeat by preventing a Clinton victory, than weakness by acquiescing, and helping a candidate who is antithetical to their ideals.
If progressives want a future in politics, they must make the Democratic Party and the media understand that they are not simply votes to be taken for granted.
And I want to add two last points about shortsightedness:
First, 2020 is a Census year — the party that wins the state legislatures will redraw the districts for the House of Representatives. More likely than not, seats will open on the Supreme Court. In order for the Democrats to win these contests — and especially at the state level — they will need massive voter turnout.
History is already stacked against us if we win 2016. The last two consecutive two-term presidents from the same party were Madison and Monroe.
Note: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman did not break this trend even though the Democrats were in charge of the presidency for two decades because the former was elected four times due to the New Deal and the war effort. Truman was elected just once.
If the Democrats elect Hillary, 2020 will almost certainly be a loss. Her favorability ratings heading into the 2016 general are abysmal, she doesn’t excite progressives, and she’s unlikely to achieve anything major in four years due to obstruction and a half-measure agenda.
Second, an economic crash is a serious possibility. Subprime lending has continued, largely unchecked by the Dodd-Frank legislation — just look at auto loans. Delinquency rates are at a six-year high, and the big banks are larger than ever. Beyond that, because of their size and the pay-per-rating model, the megabanks still exert undue influence on the rating agencies, and insurance companies. One major failure, and the entire economy could collapse.
If that scenario were to happen after eight years of Obama, during the presidency of a Democrat who ran on continuing his legacy, you can bet the country will go Republican.
So, are we really shortsighted in not wanting Hillary? Let’s move on.
Blow: When Al Gore ran against George W. Bush in 2000, some claimed that a vote for Gore was almost the same as a vote for Bush and encouraged people to cast protest votes for Ralph Nader. Sarandon supported Nader during that election. Bush became president, and what did we get? Two incredibly young, incredibly conservative justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who will be on the court for decades, and two wars — in Afghanistan and Iraq — that, together, lasted over a decade.
I’m tired of hearing this argument. Having addressed the court issue, let’s talk about Al Gore. Mr. Gore was not elected president. We do not know what he would have done after September 11, 2001. Would he have gone to war? Almost certainly. Afghanistan would have likely been a prime target. Would he have taken us to Iraq? Perhaps not, but that’s not to say he would not have targeted Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. The fact is, Gore was and is a neoliberal New Democrat (like Hillary Clinton) who supports nation building.
Let’s stop pretending the New Democrats were any better than Republicans. While the economy did grow due to the Dotcom Bubble, Bill Clinton did more to deregulate Wall Street than any of his Republican predecessors. The laws he passed were direct causes of the 2008 Subprime Mortgage Crisis. He did more to legislate a bigoted anti-gay agenda than his predecessor. He did more to damage to black America than the Republicans could have dreamed of doing on their own when he signed welfare reform and his “tough on crime” policies into law. He also gave us NAFTA.
Blow: In addition to setting the tone and direction of the country, the president has some constitutional duties that are profound and consequential. They include being commander in chief, making treaties and appointing judges, including, most importantly, justices to the Supreme Court. Bush demonstrated the consequences of that.
We’ve already discussed that as many or more seats are likely to open in 2020, but it is worth noting that President Obama’s recent appointee for the Supreme Court was one of the judges who gave us super PACs.
Blow: And beyond war and courts, there is the issue of inclusion. Take Obama’s legacy on gay rights. He signed the bill repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ And in 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Last year, Obama became the first president to say “lesbian,” “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union speech.
There is no doubt that our current president is miles ahead of his predecessors, but that includes Bill Clinton. Seeing as how we’re talking about voting for Hillary, let’s talk about the Clinton legacy on LGBTQ equality. It was Bill who gave us “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”(DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), with the support of his wife, Hillary.
Blow: There is no reason to believe that this level of acceptance would continue under the real estate developer’s administration.
Donald Trump once said he felt that Hillary Clinton would make “an excellent president or vice president.” We all know what a narcissist the real estate developer is, so maybe we can glean some insight from his long support and friendship with the Clintons. Trump and Hillary are a lot alike: they will both say anything to get elected.
Trump took a stance on same-sex marriage in 2011 while he was flirting with a presidential run on the Republican ticket. Hillary Clinton is famously cautious about taking positions. She’s only once been ahead of the times, and that was in the ’90s on health care. However, her defeat on that issue seemed to leave its impression. Clinton was lockstep with the majority of Americans on same-sex marriage for years, supporting DOMA and DADT, and eventually civil unions in 2008. In typical cautious fashion, she only came out in favor of marriage equality in 2013, after she was absolutely sure it would not be a political liability.
My point with all of this is simple: Clinton isn’t really a crusader for LGBTQ equality, and Trump isn’t really an anti-gay ideologue. They’re both pandering. It is amazing to me that people who defend Hillary are so willing to take Donald Trump at his word, but refuse to take Hillary at hers when she says the ‘wrong’ thing, like “hard-working Americans, white Americans.”
Blow: It is unfortunate for Sanders, who seems infinitely sober and sensible, that some of his surrogates and supporters present themselves as absolutist and doctrinaire.
It is abundantly clear that the ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who’ crowd has no idea what Bernie or Bust is really about. That’s because they’re stuck in the narrative of insider politics — of small gains for major sacrifices. Theirs is a losing game.
Bernie-Or-Busters are neither absolutist nor doctrinaire — we’re honestly fed up. We recognize that so long as the narrative of incremental progress at the cost of unequal compromises continues, America will remain broken. There will never truly be a liberal party in this country if we keep practicing the same kind of transactional politics we have relied on since the ’90s.
We need a narrative shift, and we need the Democratic Party to find its strength. We can no longer stand by while it cannibalizes itself, and meanders down the center line of a road that continually veers right.
Blow: The New York Times Upshot even pointed out last May that Sanders and Clinton “voted the same way 93 percent of the time in the two years they shared in the Senate” and in many of the cases in which Clinton voted differently from Sanders, “she voted with an overwhelming majority of her colleagues, including Republicans.”
Is that supposed to exempt her from making wrong decisions like her support for war or the bank bailouts? It was popular at the time, so she did it? Leadership means doing what is right even when it is difficult or unpopular.
Blow: Elections are about choices, not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one, but sometimes between common sense and catastrophe. Progressives had better remember this come November, no matter who the Democratic nominee is.
I agree with the first sentence. However, candidates are not always what they seem. Hillary Clinton is, in every sense of the word, the oligarchy candidate. She summers in the Hamptons in a beachfront mansion that costs $50,000-per-week, and gets $600 haircuts from Bergdorf. She and her husband have made $153 million in speaking fees from some of the worst people in Washington like Wall Street, big pharma, the health industry, and she won’t release the transcripts of those speeches. Additionally, Clinton has taken money from every terrible special interest in Washington including those I just mentioned as well as the Koch Brothers, private prison lobbyists, and fossil fuels industry lobbyists.
As I wrote in a previous piece, instead of fear mongering about Trump’s newfound fascism, Democrats should focus on why he’s gaining traction. Americans do not feel their government works for them. And you know what? They’re 100 percent right. A recent study from professors at Princeton and Northwestern found that the United States is an oligarchy, and that our government really only responds to the wants of the wealthy.
If you don’t want fascism and intolerance in this country, don’t mar the Democratic Party with a candidate who will enable their rise. Better that we lose four years to Trump the pretender than risk them on Hillary Clinton.