One More Try

For some reason, many (not all) people are either unable or unwilling to see the sexism being directed at Hillary Clinton this primary season.  I know I’ve been going on about this, but I thought I’d give it one more try.  But, this time I’m going to go about it differently.  I’m going to provide a list, for those having difficulty avoiding sexism, of legitimate reasons not to vote for Clinton.

  1. If you are against women controlling their own reproductive freedom and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  You probably want a Republican.
  2. If you are anti-immigration, either because of wage depression or xenophobia, and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  All of the other candidates are better for you.
  3. If you believe that the gun industry (or any industry) should be protected by Congress from civil litigation and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  Again, all of the other candidates are better for you.
  4. If you are against universal pre-K, and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  You’re going to want a Republican in this election.
  5. If you are for massive amounts of debt for public colleges and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republicans are better for you on this.
  6. If you want to keep tax rates as low or lower than they are now and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republican candidates are much more likely to keep tax rates down.
  7. If you are against free trade agreements and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  All of the other candidates are against free trade.
  8. If you are against the Affordable Care Act, either because government should stay out of healthcare or because it doesn’t go far enough and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republicans will help if you want government out of healthcare and Sanders is your man if idealism is that important.
  9. If you are a pacifist and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  Bernie Sanders or a third party candidate will be your best bet for pacifism.
  10. If you are against trying to mitigate the effects of global warming and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republicans have this covered.

Obviously, this is not a complete list.  I just want to point out the important features of this list.  First, it sticks to actual issues and positions of the candidates.  Second, at no point does it assume that Clinton is nothing more than an extension of her husband.  Whatever you think of her, she is her own person with her own ideas and agency.  Third, it doesn’t play into any pre-existing stereotypes.  Let’s face it, when people try to make issues out of Clinton’s work, looks, decisiveness, income and shrillness (among other things) they are playing into those stereotypes.  I know this will raise hackles, but there is nothing you can say about Clinton in these areas that doesn’t also apply to all of the other candidates in this, and any other, election cycle.  Even Bernie Sanders is rich (certainly by my standards, and most regular people’s standards), has excepted compensation from institutions most people despise (The House of Representatives and Senate), fails to look presidential, yells a lot and has voted for things in the past (like the Crime Bill) that he now feels differently about.  Finally, I avoided talk of Clinton’s personality altogether.  This isn’t an election to decide who we’d like to hang out with.  And, I’d really like to think that people’s decision to not vote for Trump or Cruz or Sanders has nothing to do with their personalities because it shouldn’t.  The decision should be based solely on the issues.

And, just as a reminder, I know this list isn’t for everyone.  Many people have already made up their minds for non-sexist reasons.  Also, this shouldn’t be taken as advocating a vote for Clinton.  It is just to aid those of you who don’t want to vote for Clinton, but are struggling to find a non-sexist way to do that because I’m really sick of trying to navigate through the truly abhorrent mass of sexism every morning as I try to read the news.  I hope this helps.

What’s Good For His Revolution Won’t Be Good For Bernie’s Presidential Hopes

Bernie Sanders wants to be President of the United States.  He also wants to start a “revolution” against the “billionaire class.”  Unfortunately for him, these are incompatible goals.  In fact, Bernie’s ascent to the Oval Office would be about the worst thing that could happen to his revolution.

This is something I’ve been feeling for a while, but I’ve been having trouble articulating it.  While reading this piece in Bookforum, though, I finally figured it out.  The piece is worth a read, but it is a little long, so let me summarize.  The piece is about two new books, The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson and Democracy In Black by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.  Dyson is, and has been, a fan of Obama.  He praises a lot of things that Obama has done and tends to find excuses, like Republican obstructionism, for Obama’s failings.  Glaude was an “Obamaphile” in 2008, but has since become a vocal critic.  He says that Obama has utterly failed the African American community.

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with Bernie and his revolution.  Basically, Glaude was to Obama in 2008 what people who are “feeling the Bern” are to Sanders now.  Glaude bought the “Hope and Change” rhetoric completely.  He believed Obama was going to be a transformative president.  When Obama failed to live up to those hopes, Glaude became completely disillusioned.  And that’s not uncommon.  Many of Obama’s most ardent supporters from 2008 are now completely incapable of seeing any of the good he has done.  Bernie’s supporters believe in the revolution.  They believe that he will take on Wall Street and the billionaire class.  They believe he will do something about income inequality.  Plus, he’ll get us single payer health care and free education once he has broken up the banks.  The thing is, though, as president, he won’t do any of those things.  Being wildly optimistic, the best we can hope for out of a Sanders presidency is Obama part II.

The President of the United States just isn’t a revolutionary position.  It is the most elite position in the establishment, but it is fully entrenched in the establishment.  Revolutions, at least the type of populist revolution that Bernie is talking about, work from the bottom up, not the top down.  There is simply no mechanism in place for the president to break up the banks or raise the minimum wage or forgive student debt.  All of the things that Sanders wants require cooperation with Congress or the courts or both.  Since the Senate has consistently refused to fill court vacancies with Obama’s picks, the judiciary won’t have enough sympathetic judges to help the revolution.  And since Bernie seems completely disinterested in the Democratic under-ticket, the Republicans are going to retain control of Congress which means that there will be no support for the revolution in Congress.  In other words, none of the things that Bernie talks about will come to pass.

When all of Sanders’ rhetoric comes to naught, his most ardent followers will become disillusioned, just like Glaude did with Obama.  When that happens, the revolution will die.  Disillusionment cannot sustain a revolution.  A revolution needs either anger or success.  A Bernie presidency cannot provide either.

 

HRC Is Better Than BS

When the Democratic results on Super Tuesday came in, I felt relieved.  I wasn’t expecting that reaction.  I thought I was undecided, but I guess I’m undecided no longer.  I was a little nervous that Bernie Sanders would upset Clinton and I felt better about things when it became clear that Clinton would take the day.

The funny thing is, going from undecided to pulling for Clinton had absolutely nothing to do with Clinton.  As Sanders’ campaign gets more and more serious and I learn more and more about him, the less I like him as a presidential candidate.  This has been coming for a little bit, but I was resisting.  I find the Sanders’ supporters to be generally pretty off-putting.  I was afraid that I was holding Sanders’ supporters against Sanders himself.  Now, though, I’m pretty sure it is Sanders himself that I object to.

One thing that has bothered me from the beginning about Sanders’ campaign is his blatant populism.  In life, it is usually best to avoid making decisions out of anger and resentment.  But, the main source of Sanders’ appeal is anger and resentment.  It is just tapping into the anger people feel towards the establishment, towards banks, towards the military and towards debt.  This isn’t to say that I like any of these things, but I don’t want to choose a president based on negative feelings.  I want to choose someone based on reason and what I think they will do while in office.

The more important thing, though, that tipped me from undecided is that Sanders is running a backwards looking campaign.  For all the talk about progressive politics and revolution, I just don’t see anything forward looking.  Sanders is simply an old school Democrat.  He believes in the New Deal and the Great Society.  Two of the biggest issues that he campaigns on are restoring Glass-Steagall and the Voters’ Rights Act, at least that’s what it sounds like to me when he talks about breaking up the banks and marching with Dr. King.  I disagree with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, but I don’t think re-instituting a law from the 1930s is the right way to deal with it.  What we need is new legislation that regulates modern financial markets and securities.  Likewise, I strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to void a good chunk of the Voters’ Rights Act.  But, simply restoring the Act won’t do much.  I want us to address all of the ways of denying people the vote that have popped up since 1965.

I guess what it comes down to is he is campaigning on idealism, but his ideals don’t do much for me.  They seem like the same old thing that Democrats have been saying for 80 years.  If I were going to back a revolution, it would have to have some proposals that are actually revolutionary.  I don’t think we peaked in the 1960’s and I don’t want to go back to that time.  So, Sanders isn’t my guy.  At least Clinton is up front about being evolutionary rather than revolutionary.  And, if nothing else, electing a woman would be ground breaking.

Bernie and Donald

I’ve been seeing something baffling lately.  I don’t know if it’s widespread or if it’s just a quirk of my social media feeds, but I’ve been seeing a bunch of people saying that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the same.  I don’t mean to say that they have similarities (I’ll talk about those later).  They seem to be implying that they are virtually interchangeable candidates.  I wish I knew if these people are purposely trolling or if they really don’t understand.

Their case takes a couple of different, but related forms.  Sometimes it starts with the obvious Trump/Hitler comparisons.  Just take a Hitler speech and swap Jews for Muslims and Communists for Mexicans and you pretty much have a Trump speech.  Then, they say that the Nazis were the National Socialist Party and Sanders is a Democratic Socialist.  They point out that both Sanders and Hitler wanted universal healthcare and strong public transportation and think they’ve made their point.  Trump has something in common with Hitler and so does Sanders, so they must be the same.  The other form is to start with Sanders’ supposed socialism.  Then, they point out all of the socialist/leftist things that Trump has mentioned like single payer health care and avoiding military entanglements.  So, either Trump is an obvious fascist and Sanders is a fascist in disguise or Sanders is an obvious socialist and Trump is a socialist in disguise.  Either way, they are the same.

The big problem with this line of thought is that having things in common is not enough to make people the same.  Trump and Sanders are not even similar, except superficially.  They are both old, white men.  They agree on a couple of issues (maybe.  It’s almost impossible to know what Trump actually believes.).  But, Sanders has been a public servant for his entire adult life while Trump is a celebrity/businessman.  Sanders is consistent while Trump is mercurial.  Sanders is concerned for others while Trump is completely selfish.

Given that they are not even similar, let alone the same, why all of this talk about them both being fascist (or socialist)?  I think it has to do with the most important similarity that they have, they are both populists.  Populism is a funny thing.  It comes in many varieties.  Saying all populists are alike is like saying all pop music is alike (Hey, did you hear the new Kanye?  It sounds just like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.).  Just knowing that any two people are populist politicians  doesn’t mean you know anything specific about their ideas or policies.  It just means that they are tapping into the people for their support as opposed to the establishment.

The really funny (or sad) thing is that populism is enough for a huge number of Americans.  They are angry and supporting a populist candidate, whichever populist candidate, seems to be their way of expressing that anger.  While I don’t think that Sanders and Trump have anything substantive in common, I do find it fascinating how much many of their supporters seem to have in common.

 

Something Is Bothering Me

There’s something that’s been bothering me about this primary season on the Democrat’s side.  Whenever I read something written by a Hillary Clinton supporter, they always seem to say that they like Bernie Sanders and then go on to say why they like Clinton better.  But, whenever I read something written by a Bernie Sanders supporter, they always seem to detest Hillary Clinton.  I find that odd on its own.  This is a primary after all.  These two agree on far more than they disagree on.  I read somewhere that when Clinton and Sanders were in the Senate together, they voted the same way 93% of the time.  Politically speaking, that makes them almost the same person.  However, the thing that I find bothersome is that the hatred seems real.

Elections are always full of overheated rhetoric.  That’s the nature of the beast.  But, in the primaries, people are supposed to leave themselves an out.  When Clinton lost to Obama in the 2008 primaries, all of her supporters were easily able to support Obama.  When Howard Dean lost to John Kerry in 2004, it was easy for all of his supporters to support Kerry.  This feels different.

The reaction of Sanders’ supporters to Paul Krugman’s recent piece in the New York Times illustrates why.  They have been loudly accusing Krugman of being a sellout, a shill for the Clinton campaign and far worse.  They have even been suggesting that he doesn’t understand basic economics or that he is being willfully blind.  I don’t read Krugman very much, but I do know that he has been a vocal supporter of Obama for many years, even going so far as to call him a legitimately great president.  So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he supports Clinton’s proposals, which are much closer to Obama than Sanders.  But, it’s beyond me how a simple criticism of their candidate leads to such anger.  Krugman was literally just doing his job.  It’s fine to disagree, but there is no excuse for the vitriol being spewed.

A big part of what’s bothering me comes from the polls that show Sanders doing better in the general election than Clinton.  There are only a couple of ways that works.  It is possible that Clinton would get the entirety of the Democrats, but not get any Republicans or Independents while Sanders would do reasonably well with all three, but that doesn’t seem likely (I should say, I haven’t looked at a detailed breakdown of the polls).  Sanders has to be anathema to any small government types and all of the evangelicals.  They make up a decent chunk of the Republicans and Independents.  The other possibility is that if Sanders wins the primaries, all of Clinton’s supporters will back him, but Sanders’ supporters won’t support Clinton if she wins the primaries.

If the second possibility is the case, that makes Sanders’ supporters (and by default, Sanders) into Ralph Nader if Clinton wins the primaries.  That very idea terrifies me.   All those Democrats and left leaning Independents who hated Gore because they saw him as an extension of Bill Clinton gave us eight years of George Bush.  Is it possible that we have learned so little in the last 16 years that Sanders’ supporters could give us a Trump presidency?  It’s starting to look that way.

Pros and Cons

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am an undecided voter.  In my continuing effort to decide, I had the thought that I could steal an idea from a bunch of sitcoms and make pro and con lists for both candidates.  I know full well that this won’t do much good.  It’s not like all pros and cons are created equal.  But, I thought it would be a fun exercise.  I will start with Hillary Clinton, not for any good reason.  I’m just going to start with her.

 

Hillary Clinton – Pros:

  1. By all accounts, she is extremely smart.
  2. By all accounts, she works harder than anyone.
  3. She has a unique perspective as a former first lady, former senator and former secretary of state.
  4. She would appoint progressive Supreme Court Justices.
  5. Her record shows that she gets things done.
  6. She’s a woman.
  7. She has shown a willingness to be open minded and even change her mind.
  8. She has been a consistent advocate of gun control.
  9. She has been a consistent advocate for children.
  10. She has been a consistent advocate for women.
  11. She is pragmatic.
  12. She would fight climate change.
  13. She would protect Obama’s legacy.

Hillary Clinton – Cons:

  1. She has, at times, shown bad judgement – see email servers.
  2. She is polarizing.
  3. Through little fault of her own, she has a lot of baggage.
  4. She is too old.
  5. She is too comfortable with the economic status quo.

Bernie Sanders – Pros:

  1. He understands how evil the banks are.
  2. Single payer health care would be nice.
  3. Free education (whatever that means, probably single payer education) would be nice.
  4. He is Jewish.
  5. He would appoint progressive Supreme Court justices.
  6. He has been a dedicated public servant for many years.
  7. He is more pragmatic than people think.
  8. He has a Keynesian outlook.
  9. He would fight climate change.
  10. He would probably protect Obama’s legacy.
Bernie Sanders – Cons:
  1. He doesn’t seem to understand what the word revolution means.
  2. He is too old.
  3. His supporters are polarizing.
  4. He has never been a good advocate for gun control.
  5. He seems to see everything through a class lens.
  6. He doesn’t make it clear that he understands how the world has changed since the 60s.

I know this is nowhere near a complete list for either candidate.  It is just where my thoughts tend to go when I think about them.  I still don’t see any big difference between them.  And I still think O’Malley was our best choice.  I guess it may be a coin flip when I vote in April.  I guess I can take solace in the fact that neither are likely to be disastrous and both have the potential to be excellent.

 

One Issue Candidates

In 1996, I took a class on political communication.  Since it was a presidential election year, our big project was to follow a candidate from January through May and write a report about them, specifically focusing on their communication style.  It was a good project and I learned a lot.  I was assigned Steve Forbes.  The professor warned us that we would either grow to love or to hate our candidates and she was right.  I detest Steve Forbes.  And, what’s more, I now have an almost visceral hatred of any one issue candidate.

For those who don’t remember, Steve Forbes is the son and heir of Malcolm Forbes.  He inherited a fortune and control of Forbes magazine.  For some reason, Steve decided that inheriting a lot of money and not bankrupting a successful business qualified him to be President.  His entire candidacy can be summed up in two words, “Flat tax.”  He seemed to think that every problem in America is a direct result of the graduated income tax.  He believed that if the tax code were changed so that everyone paid a 17% flat tax, every other issue would go away.  It wasn’t the sheer lunacy of his idea that irked me.  It was the way he answered every question that was put to him.

“Mr. Forbes, what is your stance on abortion?”

“If we had a flat tax, unwanted pregnancies would no longer be a problem and abortion would be a non-issue.”

“Mr. Forbes, Do you think the police were justified in beating Rodney King?”

“If we had a flat tax, Rodney King would not have turned to drugs and the police would have had no reason to bother him.”

“Mr. Forbes, do you prefer baseball or basketball?

“Flax tax.”

This was 20 years ago, and I’m quoting from memory, so the exact wording may not be right, but it also might be.  That’s how ridiculous he was.

In the years since 1996, I can’t help but notice that there is a Steve Forbes in every election.  It might be Ron Paul insisting that liberty is the only thing that matters or it might be Michael Peroutka who believes that we need to bring America back to its Christian heritage, but there’s always at least one.

This election is different because the one issue candidate has gained traction and is now among the frontrunners, Bernie Sanders.  Bernie seems to think that every issue is reducible to class.  It’s all about inequality.  This has created a quandary for me.  As this election’s Steve Forbes, I feel like I should hate Bernie on principal.  The thing is, I don’t hate him.  I think he’s wrong about the power of economic equality to fix non-economic issues, but I’m somewhat sympathetic to his old fashioned Keynesian approach to the economy.

In some ways, he has tried to talk about other issues since people started treating him as a viable candidate, but it seems pretty obvious, to me at least, that his heart isn’t in any of those other issues.  He just doesn’t seem to care about guns or crime or the environment or race or feminism except so far as the 1% (or the establishment) is causing harm in those areas.  That’s too bad.  As an undecided voter, I really want one of the candidates to give me a reason to support them.  As this year’s Steve Forbes, all Bernie would need to do is embrace another issue.  Sadly, I don’t think that’s likely to happen.