A few weeks ago, I expressed some preliminary musings regarding the field of presidential candidates. Since then, I have been monitoring political news, increasing my focus on the political blogs I monitor (Electoral Vote, Electoral Projection, and FiveThirtyEight), and watching the posts as they come across Facebook. I’m starting to settle down (or just settle) for a particular candidate, and so I thought I would share you my thinking so far. I’ll note this is on the eve of the sample ballots being sent out in California.
Before I do, a comment on decorum. I’ve been writing of late about the importance of diversity. My opinions here have been been shaped by two excellent podcasts — one from Startup, and one from ReplyAll. I extend this importance to political diversity. Having the diversity of political opinions and views is vital to our country; it is the compromises achieved from those positions that tempers the extremes and often finds an approach that can be tolerated by all. Central to this diversity is the notion that reasoned people can, based on their experiences and circumstances, arrive at different views. Just as I do not want an echo chamber, I want the respect for the different views. If you cannot do that — if you can’t respect either the candidates or their supporters — then just don’t bother to comment. This reflects an evolution of my position since the days of Bush 43 where I did resort to such name calling. I now regret that.
Next a stipulation. I’m a Democrat in the mold of Hubert Humphrey (whatever happened to him 🙂 ). This tends to shape my overall position. As such, the current crop of Republican candidates are not under consideration. Donald Trump is, in my opinion, too unpredictable and unmeasured to be President. I would not have confidence in his having appropriate interactions with international leaders, or in his ability to work with Congress. I also do not like his stated positions. He is also, to put it bluntly, a bully (as demonstrated by his interactions with Ted Cruz and his making fun of Kasich). [ETA: He is also sexist and works to inflame differences.] Not presidential. As for Ted Cruz and John Kasich, they are eliminated from consideration, before any other consideration, because of their social positions (i.e., their views regarding equality and the role of Christianity in government). [ETA: Furthermore, I think a Republican President with a Republican Congress and a Republican-leaning Supreme Court will hurt this country. Even if the Presidential candidate is a moderate like Kasich, they won’t be able to veto overly conservative legislation from Congress because they need to support the party position, and the R-leaning Supreme Court will demonstrate, because it did in the past, that politics trumps justice. Nope. Cannot support a R candidate in the present political environment.]
That brings us down to the battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I truly like the characterization of Hillary Clinton as the best candidate for the system we have now, and Bernie Sanders as the best candidate for the system we should have. I also agree with the characterization that whether or not Bernie Sanders becomes the nominee, he has already won. Vox said this best: “Even in defeat in New York and most likely in the overall quest for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders has already won in another, perhaps more important way: His brand of politics is the future of the Democratic Party.” Just as Trump is moving the Republican Party to the right, whether they win or lose; Sanders is moving the Democratic Party to the left. He has energized the young people with this view, and as we older Boomers move to the back of the picture and decrease in number, the Sanders view will become stronger. To the younger, strident, Sanders supporters: I urge you to remember this. Patience — something often not found in the young — will enable you to triumph in the long run.
Translation: This means that I’m leaning towards Hillary Clinton at this point.
But, you say, ….
- Email server… Hillary did something illegal with her email server. No, she didn’t. If she had, there would have been action by now. I’ve worked with classified information, and unless she originated information that was classified at the time it was entered, or received information that was classified at the time it was received, there is not a problem. Classification after the fact is not a violation. End of discussion.
- Large Corporate Donors… At the present time, having large corporate donors or PACs is not illegal. In fact, their support is pretty much required to get elected. Until the laws are changed, I’m not bothered as long as the behavior is within the law. She has already indicated that she will be working to get the laws changed.
- Voting is Rigged. This often comes from the Sanders camp, upset that independents cannot vote in some Democratic primaries. What these folks forget is that these are not general election primaries — they are the tools for parties to select delegates to their conventions. Why should someone who is not associated with a party have the ability to choose delegates — or the candidate — for that party? Democrats should choose delegates to the D convention. Republicans should choose delegates to the R convention. If you don’t have a party preference, that’s what you get. Further, even if they were open primaries, Sanders wouldn’t be in the lead. There are other aspects where there are claims about the party leadership rigging the system (such as superdelegates) or the actual delegate selection process. That can be addressed in the future; right now, that’s there to prevent the unelectable candidate from being the nominee — and we’re seeing that still may not work. [ETA: Further, if the R rules were followed for the D primaries, Clinton would have an even greater lead — and that’s also true if strict proportionality was used.] The primary system we have now is much better than the smoke-filled rooms that selected our candidates in the past. Is there voter rigging? Yup. From the Republican party, with the restrictive rules many states have put in to limit who can vote, under the guise of “preventing voter fraud”.
- Benghazi yada yada. If this had been a problem, there would have been prosecutions by now. We can see risks in hindsight that are not visible in the fog of war.
- Hillary is corrupt. In what way? She’s a politician, and a lawyer, so she carries those double taints — but so do most folks who run for President. I have yet to see neutral facts that point to crimes of corruption, or anything other than unproven innuendo.
- Hillary is dishonest. Although that is sometimes a popular narrative, the fact is that it is not true, a myth perpetuated by the media. Quoting from that article: “One basic test of a politician’s honesty is whether that person tells the truth when on the campaign trail, and by that standard Clinton does well. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, calculates that of the Clinton statements it has examined, 50 percent are either true or mostly true. That compares with 49 percent for Bernie Sanders, 9 percent for Trump, 22 percent for Ted Cruz and 52 percent for John Kasich. Here we have a rare metric of integrity among candidates, and it suggests that contrary to popular impressions, Clinton is relatively honest — by politician standards. It’s true, of course, that Clinton is calculating; all politicians are, but she more than some. She has adjusted her positions on trade and the minimum wage to scrounge for votes, just as Sanders adjusted his position on guns.” Further, if Sanders’ supporters have their way, there will be more adjustment of her positions to an increasingly progressive stance. But dishonest. Jill Abramson, who spent decades as a journalist either investigating Hillary Clinton or overseeing investigations of her, and who certainly isn’t soft on the Clintons, put it best when she concluded in The Guardian: “Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.”
But why then I’m I leaning towards Hillary? What are her positives that draw me to her (as opposed to the negatives)?
- Foreign Policy Experience. No other candidate has the depth of foreign policy experience. None. Her positions and actions reflected the administration she was representing, but she has built relationships with foreign leaders and has knowledge in this area that is unmatched. If there is anything that ensures that safety of America in the long run, it is foreign policy.
- Executive / Political Process Experience. One weakness of Obama was in the care and feeding of the Congressional animal, the ability to work with Congress and get things through. Clinton has a unique perspective in this area: she saw how the process worked during the administration of her husband, she has been on the congressional side of the equation, and she has executive experience from running the Department of State. Trump has no political experience. Kasich’s experience is at the state executive level. Cruz and Sanders only have Senate experience, and Cruz is actively disliked by his colleagues.
You’ll notice I didn’t say her positions. I think, position-wise, that Clinton and Sanders are almost completely congruent anyways (although not everyone sees this). Here’s a statement from someone who endorsed Sanders that captures it best: “I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton’s brand of pragmatic centrist. As I said in my endorsement, while I think Clinton would be a great president on the 90 percent of issues on which we agree: The problem is, I also think she’d also be a great president on the 10 percent of issues on which we don’t agree.” [ETA: Further, the contest with Sanders has resulted in Hillary changing her positions to move Sanders’ direction.]
There are those who think Hillary is in favor of war. I don’t think you’ll find anyone that wants to go to war, just like those who are pro-choice don’t want every woman to go out and get an abortion. I think — out of all the candidates — Hillary is the best situated to understand when force is appropriate and when force is not, given the complex geo-political situations. She has been in those situations; none of the other candidates has. Oh, and if you are going to complain about defense spending, realize this: only a small portion of that budget goes to equipment of war. The bulk is a massive white-collar jobs program, employing military enlisted men and women, officers, engineers, managers, and people at defense contractors, who often create the technological innovations (such as the Internet) that drive society forward.
What are her negatives in my eyes? Primarily… her name. I think there is distinct Clinton and Bush fatigue, and I’m hesitant about continuing the dynasty. In many ways, Hillary is disliked and hated for two primary reasons: (a) because she is a woman, and (b) because she is a Clinton (and there are those that hate, Hate, HATE anything to do with Clinton). If she was a man and only a Rodham, she would be seen as the moderate candidate that takes a centrist position.
I’m also swayed, to some extent, by this position piece in The Forward by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt. I was Dr. Lipstadt’s student back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and I respect what she has to say here. I’m also swayed by this argument as to why someone moved from pro-Sanders to anti-Sanders. It generally makes the argument that, whatever the strength of Sander’s ideas, he is not the person who has the ability to bring them to reality. This leads to the very realistic assessment: which is better for the overall Democratic position — to have a candidate with centrist policies who has the ability to get them implemented and move the country incrementally in the direction I think it needs to go, or to have a candidate who might have better, more liberal positions, but does not have the ability to implement them at all. I’ll take some movement over no movement any day.
There is also the most important fact: what is vital in this election is to defeat the GOP. Numerous Supreme Court nominations will be addressed by the next President. Do we want to leave that in the hands of the GOP? That will sent the country back much more than any centrist will. This is a position that even Sanders supports: “Yes, we do agree on a number of issues, and by the way, on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”
Another problem I’ve got with Sanders are with his supporters. They have reverted to name calling and other attacks on Hillary supporters. Here’s a quote from that linked article:
Some of you believe that the only way to show your support for Senator Sanders is to go on social networking sites and shit all over Hillary Clinton. You have decided that she is an “evil corporate shill” who isn’t progressive enough for you. You don’t think she’s a “real” liberal because she is a moderate. You have demonized her because she made money speaking to Wall Street. You have called her names because she stayed with her husband after he cheated on her. Apparently sticking with her marriage “in good times and bad” and taking her commitment seriously, even when Bill didn’t, means she isn’t a “real” feminist. All of this nonsense is embarrassing.
For some reason, some of you have decided to act like a bunch of children. Seriously, my three-year-old godson acts just like you when I tell him that he can’t have another juice box.
What really, really pisses me off though is the whole “Clinton is a closet Republican who doesn’t care about the little guy” bullshit. You’ve erased decades of progressive accomplishments because she’s not YOUR candidate.
Now, Sanders has strong support. So strong, in fact, that Trump has encouraged Sanders to run as an independent. Clearly understand why he suggests that: it splits the Democratic vote, and guarantees him the win. As an independent, Sanders cannot get on sufficient ballots to win with a majority of electoral votes. It will be Ralph Nader siphoning votes from Al Gore all over again. Sanders said it best: we can’t let the Republicans win.
[ETA…] This brings us to the next question: Is Sanders the stronger candidate? After all, some polls in late April show him beating Trump by a larger margin. I don’t think those polls would hold once the battle with Trump was head on head (and neither does Time Magazine or other sources). With Hillary, we know what the Trump camp will bring up, and how dirty they will be about it… and how likely the electorate is to be swayed. With Sanders, however, I believe there are weaknesses Trump could play up, and play up enough that any moderate Republican support would either vote for Trump or abstain and not vote at all. What weaknesses? There is Sanders age. There’s Sander’s connection to Socialism. There’s Sander’s legislative record. There’s the fact that many of Sanders’ ideas are anathema to R support. Hillary, for all her baggage, is the Devil you know to Republicans — and that may be preferable to the Devil that Trumps.
Here’s another good characterization of Sanders vs. Clinton: “He’s all about the vision. She wants to know the details.” This is a good way of expressing that distinction I noted above: Clinton knows how the system works and the compromises that are required. Sanders has broad well-intentioned visions and goals, but is not prepared for the horse-trading and nuances required. The quoted article uses health care as an example: “But the status quo is a result of real-world compromises and sacrifices. If Sanders became president and had a chance to push his plan through Congress, he’d quickly discover all kinds of other complications — like the fact that many people with employer-sponsored insurance don’t want to give it up, or that severely ratcheting down payments for doctors and hospitals would reduce access and threaten real economic disruption.”.
Sanders is pushing the Social Democrat ideas that were popular in Europe in the past. The problem is that the Europe of today has largely refuted such ideas, except perhaps in smaller homogeneous societies. Clinton is expressing realistic centrism: progressive goals that are achievable given the current political situation.
A long time ago, someone taught me the adage: “Progress, not perfection.” My current leaning is that with Hillary, we’ll get the progress we need, not a currently un-achievable perfection. We’ll keep working towards that “more perfect union” after we’ve made the necessary progress.