Monday, January 25, 2016

Bernie or Hillary

"Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her." — Charles M. Blow

I'M THRILLED that I'm not in charge of my precinct's caucus this coming Monday night. Nevertheless Paul and I have volunteered to help Vern and Joyce Naffler, who are. They're going to need it; it will be a madhouse.

(For those of you who want a rundown on what this strange beast, the Iowa caucuses is all about, here's a link.)

Vern is a retired minister with the gentlest of countenances, Joyce is feisty and spirited. Both of them radiate goodness and are indefatigable workers for peace and justice. Whenever I'm around them, I want to follow them home like a puppy and beg them to adopt me. Seriously!

When I called Joyce to offer our help, I asked her what her thoughts are on the Hillary vs. Bernie dilemma. She said she felt the Des Moines Register summed it up pretty well when it opined that Hillary appeals to the head, and Bernie the heart.

Below is a column from by New York Times writer Charles M. Blow that expands on the point the Register made and raises valid concerns both ways.

Hillary Clinton Stumbles

By Charles M. Blow
January 25, 2016  

In October, when Hillary Clinton made a spectacle of the congressional Benghazi committee during a marathon interrogation that seemed designed to make a spectacle of her, she emerged stronger than ever. Her polls numbers surged.

That performance had come on the heels of a strong debate performance the week before in the first Democratic presidential debate.

She had bolstered the image she wanted to project: strong, smart, capable and battle-tested.

But now, on the verge of Monday night’s Democratic town hall in Iowa — the last time the candidates will face off before the caucuses in that state — and with Bernie Sanders’s poll numbers climbing not only in Iowa, but also in New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign seems increasingly desperate and reckless.

I noticed the turn in the last debate as Clinton seemed to me to go too far in her attacks on Sanders, while simultaneously painting herself into a box that will be very hard to escape.

She wrapped herself in President Obama’s legacy so tightly that she could hardly breathe, and then built an image of herself as a practical politician who could build on Obama’s accomplishments by taking small steps and negotiating tough deals.

But practicality and incrementalism, as reasonable as that strategy and persona may be, are simply no match for what animates the Sanders campaign — a kind of kinetic, even if sometimes overblown, idealism. His is a passionate exposition of liberalism — and yes, democratic socialism — in its most positive light.






But, let me be clear and unequivocal: I find his earnest philosophic positions to be clear and often laudable, but also somewhat quixotic. I think that he is promising far more than even he knows he can deliver, and the electability question is still a real one, even though polls now show him matching up well against possible Republican opponents.

For instance, Sanders’s plan for universal health care is an admirable ambition of any true liberal, but as presented seems to me unworkable, and the prospect of getting it passed through this Congress or any Congress that vaguely resembles it is nil. Congress has voted to repeal Obamacare, which is far shy of Sanders’s proposal, more than 60 times. Suggesting that it would pass something even more expansive is mere fantasy.

When Sanders is pressed on how he will accomplish his ambitious goals, he often responds with the nebulous answer that it will require a “political revolution,” which seems to mean energizing and engaging an unprecedented number of new voters who would not only ensure his election but flip control of the Senate and possibly the House.

Interesting, but also unlikely. Go talk to all the Blue Dog Democrats who lost their seats in the wake of Obamacare passage. Go talk to all the voters who are being disenfranchised by new voter suppression laws. Go talk to all the poor people who live in states where conservative voters ensure Republican leadership, and therefore prevent Medicaid from being expanded in their states.

There are political realities that exist in America that can be changed sometimes, and often are, but that are not often subject to sea changes.

Furthermore, Sanders likes to tout that he doesn’t have a “super PAC” and doesn’t want one. That is a principled position. But the Republican candidate will have the support of many super PACs, awash in hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money, and the Republican nominee himself might even be a billionaire. They are going to beat Sanders like he is a nail with the “socialist” label and his proposal on new taxation. Middle of the spectrum Middle America is likely to be very susceptible to this negative messaging.

But instead of Clinton finding a way to express that her plans are more tangible than Sanders’s, and her chances in the general election are stronger than his, she and her campaign have made some incredulous inferences about Sanders’s honor.

The swipes at him as being soft on the gun industry as some way of cozying up to it, or of being anti-Obama because he wanted Obama to be stronger in pursuing a liberal agenda, or that he wants to scrap Obamacare, simply do not connect.

Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her.

There are a tremendous number of echoes starting to be heard between the way Clinton ran against Obama, and the way she is running against Sanders.

Clinton has what political insiders call the “firewall”: Overwhelming support among black and Hispanic voters in Southern and some Western states. But a win by Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire could supply a boost of momentum that could greatly erode the Clinton firewall.

If Clinton can’t find a positive, energetic message to project, and soon, she is going to be swept away by Sanders.

Some part of Sanders’s proposals and even his vision for this country may indeed be a fairy tale. But in the 2008 race, Bill Clinton criticized Obama and his position on the Iraq war as a “fairy tale.” Well fairy tales sometimes come true, particularly when Hillary Clinton stumbles.



1 comment:

  1. She has proved more disappointing than I would have expected. I'm firmly in Bernie's camp and most of that is based on his honesty and the fact that he can't be sold. Plus that he has not allowed himself to be bullied into pretending to be an evangelical.

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