The Real Problem With Bernie’s Unqualified Comment

I wasn’t going to comment on this.  When I saw on the news on Thursday that Bernie Sanders had said that Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president, I was going to ignore it.  I was sure about a million other people would talk about it, so why add my voice?  Plus, I’m completely sick of this election.

I was partly right.  About a million other people did talk about it.  The problem was that no one seemed to talk about the actual problem with the statement.  Some people came to Clinton’s defense and spelled out her qualifications.  Others attacked Sanders by saying that he is less qualified than Clinton.  And still others agreed with Sanders saying that Clinton isn’t qualified.  No one that I saw, though, commented on the first thing I noticed in the statement, sexism.

I have no idea what Sanders was thinking when he made the statement, but it is really the perfect example of dog-whistle sexism.  He didn’t mention gender at all, but the only way questioning the qualifications of a former senator and secretary of state could land is by picking up on some kind of bigotry.  That may not have been his intention, and I’m willing to give Sanders the benefit of the doubt, but even unintentional sexism is wrong and Sanders needs to stop it.  And someone much more important than I am should let him know.

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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.

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.

Coalitions

Americans don’t think in terms of coalitions. That’s one of the quirks of our separately elected executive. Parliamentary countries talk about coalitions all the time. I don’t want to say that parliamentary systems are better than the American system, they both have their positives and negatives, but I do think that the US would benefit from embracing coalitions. So many of America’s problems seem intractable even though they don’t have to be. In large part this is because the two party system is naturally polarizing.

If we could look at issues independently, we might have a better shot of forming coalitions and fixing some of our problems. You’d never know it from watching the news, but there really is a lot of agreement in this country about many issues. We should look for those points of agreement and get some things accomplished.

As an example, let’s look at the death penalty. I am against the death penalty.  My reasons for being anti-death penalty have to do with my views on justice and the role of the state.  Basically, I think that justice requires that we try to make things and people better, and killing someone cannot accomplish that.  I also think that the role of the state is to protect its citizens, not satisfy their desire for vengeance.  That’s a very simplified version of my view, but it lands me squarely anti-death penalty.  I know that view is a minority view.  But, there are other people who are against the death penalty for different reasons.  Catholics and Quakers are anti-death penalty because they believe in the sanctity of life.  Deficit hawks are anti-death penalty because it is extremely expensive and wasteful.  Minority rights activists are anti-death penalty because it is applied differently for different groups.  Social workers are anti-death penalty because mistakes are made, and death is one mistake that cannot be corrected.  These are groups of people from all over the political spectrum, but they all have one thing in common, they are against the death penalty.  It doesn’t really matter to me that a deficit hawk and I disagree about Obamacare or that a Catholic and I disagree about abortion.  We should be able to set all of those other issues aside for a little while.  If we would work together on this issue, the death penalty, we could abolish it once and for all.

Our failure to reach out to those whole share our beliefs on only some issues serves to amplify the fringes because only those on the fringe are in complete agreement with each other.  It takes a certain kind of fanaticism to agree with anyone completely.  I understand why the LGBT community would be hesitant to reach out to veterans organizations.  But, homelessness and addiction are issues that hit the LGBT community and veterans disproportionally hard.  Together, they could do a lot.  Animal rights activists and hunters could work together on habitat preservation.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving and environmentalists could work together on public transportation.  The possibilities are endless.

As I said before, there is a lot of agreement in this country.  It’s a real shame that we let wedge issues divide us.  We need to drop them and focus on the issues we can agree on.  Coalitions can help make that happen.