2015-07-09 – I was not a supporter of Bill Clinton in the 1992 primary in Illinois. He was too conservative for me. My memory is a little hazy. I think I may have voted for Jerry Brown but it might have been Paul Tsongas. If it was Jerry Brown, then I’m happy. He seems to be a good governor for California these days—able to champion liberal causes and still keep control on spending. But I’m not talking about California today. I’m talking about Clinton.
Hillary Clinton . . . and Bernie Sanders.
I mention the 1992 election because the race in the Democratic party had some similarities to what we have today. We have a Clinton, who is seen as the conservative establishment Democrat and we have candidates who are running to the left of her—notably Bernie Sanders.
Like 1992 my favorite candidate is the one who is running to the left of a Clinton. This time it’s Bernie Sanders. But what does this left-right business really mean? It means that Bernie is shortstop and Hillary is second base. All the Republican candidates are in the bleachers past the right-field foul line. I would be thrilled to see either one of them elected President.
You may not recall but, although Bill Clinton was the conservative Democrat in the 1992 election, by the time he finished his second term, he was the darling of liberals. The pendulum swung the other way when Hillary was running against Obama in 2008. We’re seeing the same thing as we approach the 2016 campaign.
And the Republicans love it. Their best shot at victory is dissension within the ranks of Democrats that could suppress voter turnout in November 2016. Republicans are all about suppressing voter turnout and Democrats frequently oblige—voluntarily.
Aside from manufactured scandals (Benghazi and email) that the Republicans love to rile their own troops, there are two issues between Hillary and Bernie that are making the rounds to rile the Democratic faithful.
One has to do with the fact that Hillary has a lot of Wall Street donors while Bernie’s big donors are labor unions. This is supposed to weaken Hillary with Democratic voters who would take it as a sign that she would support big corporations over workers and the nation’s middle class. I have two things to say about that.
First is: compared to what? Republican candidates have taken a blood oath to destroy labor, undermine entitlements, and relieve millionaires of having to pay their fair share in taxes. Hillary isn’t remotely close to their positions.
The second point is a little more subtle. Wall Street donors put their money on a lot of candidates. They want access regardless of who wins. Hillary has been around for a long time. Hillary can count on their money. But Republicans can count on their money too. And if Bernie starts making headway against Hillary, he’ll start getting some of that money too. It’s just too early for him. On the labor side, Bernie is the insurgent. Labor is trying to push him forward—either to get him the nomination or (and this is likely) in order to influence Hillary. If Hillary becomes the nominee, labor money is going to Hillary. It’s not going to Scott Walker.
Regardless of the reasons, Republicans want Democrats to believe Hillary is in the pocket of Wall Street—because they are too. They don’t want the Hillary to become the populist candidate.
The other issue dividing Hillary and Bernie cuts against Bernie and that is the polling that shows Hillary and not Bernie to be getting strong support from African-Americans and Hispanics. Bernie is seen as the white liberal candidate. This, of course, is largely due to the fact that Bernie has, until recently, been unknown in much of the country. As he continues to make headway in the campaign, this difference ought to diminish.
Of course, these are horse-race issues. Who’s getting money from whom? Who has better poll numbers? That’s not how I select a candidate to support. I want to know what they propose to do for the country and how they propose to accomplish it.
On “what they propose to do,” my favorite is clearly Bernie Sanders. Making government work for the people rather than for the corporations is the platform I want to see. Hillary would probably work for many of the same things but more as a technocrat that an inspiring leader.
On the other hand, as a resident of Chicago, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Hillary has more of a machine than Bernie—more clout. That has advantages and disadvantages, but it certainly affects their ability to accomplish their goals.
In April, I wrote a post entitled “Not the Perfect Candidate” in which I gave a lukewarm endorsement of Hillary. At the time, it appeared to be between her and Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. We have a little more clarity about Bernie and Elizabeth now than we did then.
Today, I’m leaning more toward Bernie, while still wary of his ability to carry the day. Let’s face it. The guy’s got good ideas and he speaks his mind.
And if he doesn’t get the nomination, I’ll be completely happy to support Hillary.
Liberals need to be careful not to do the Republican’s work for them. Let’s not tear down our own candidates.