(This article was originally published on Banter M, our Members Only digital magazine)
I want to be clear about this -- I love Bernie Sanders. I mean this in the most fanlike way possible and am not ashamed to say it. I think he is the best candidate the US has seen in decades -- and that includes President Obama, Clinton and Carter.
Bernie Sanders is more progressive than virtually every active politician today and has a record of being on the right side of every issue important to liberals. From war to welfare, Sanders has consistently put the interests of the vulnerable ahead of those with the most, and his lengthly legislative record is definitive proof of this. As Matt Taibbi, a journalist who has spent a significant amount of time with him, wrote when laying out the case for his presidency:
Sanders is a clear outlier in a generation that has forgotten what it means to be a public servant. The Times remarks upon his "grumpy demeanor." But Bernie is grumpy because he's thinking about vets who need surgeries, guest workers who've had their wages ripped off, kids without access to dentists or some other godforsaken problem that most of us normal people can care about for maybe a few minutes on a good day, but Bernie worries about more or less all the time.
Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, it is impossible not to respect this. His compassion for the most needy and his unwillingness to sell out to gargantuan corporate interests that have corrupted the US political system are a real rarity in the current political climate. To declare oneself a socialist in America should spell the death knell for any politician's career, yet here Sanders is, running for president against the well oiled Clinton machine -- and doing pretty well.
To me, it is blindingly obvious that Bernie Sanders is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton. As corporate centrist Democrats go, Clinton is fine. She is effective, driven, and a highly skilled political operator. She has a reasonably solid, liberal record in the Senate, and she is running on a platform decidedly more leftwing than in 2008. But she has political baggage, and a lot of it.
It is true that the majority of her baggage comes from the breathtakingly cynical Republican led war against her and her husband -- a war entering its third decade that promises to get even more rabid and insane should she be the Democratic nominee for president. But Clinton's negative image amongst many liberals is exclusively of her own doing -- a fact made clear during her campaign against Obama in 2008. Clinton's ruthlessness and dishonesty as the election began to slip away from her seemingly knew no bounds. She flailed desperately against a surging Obama, and resorted to a number of underhanded strategies to regain control of the election, including a smear campaign involving his former pastor Rev. Wright, an unsubtle attempt to link him to Louis Farrakhan (and even Hamas), then letting her husband loose to astonishingly use the race card in South Carolina.
It should not be forgotten that the Clintons ushered in an era of corporate centrism that betrayed many of the Democrat's core deals, arguably setting the course for mass incarceration, widening inequality and the financial collapse in 2008. Hillary opposed some of her husband's policies in private, but has remained throughout her career a 'safe' Democrat who has pledged not to rock the boat or disrupt business as usual. Clinton has taken millions in donations from Wall St precisely because of this -- she is a good investment for the industry and she knows it.
Clinton is also a foreign policy hawk who voted for the Iraq war, and consistently refused to take responsibility for it. She is a hardliner on Israel, wanted to intervene in Iran during their revolution and urged US military action in Libya. There is no doubt she will likely continue Obama's drone wars in the Middle East if she wins in November, and we can be fairly certain she will be more aggressive than Obama when dealing with foreign policy issues. This was the major reason I regularly denounced Clinton in 2008 and strongly preferred Obama, who ran on a far more cautious, realist platform. It is also a major reason why I support Bernie Sanders in 2016.
However, my dislike for Hillary Clinton as a politician and her dubious record in office does not mean I believe she would be bad for the country. And it does not mean I am going to partake in the incessant Hillary bashing we are seeing from ardent Sanders supporters who are genuinely convinced Donald Trump would be a preferable candidate.
While I have always wanted Bernie Sanders to win, I have witnessed enough of American politics over the years to understand that his candidacy is a long shot. To my British ears, Sanders sounds like the Labour politicians of old -- the die hard socialist heroes my mother supported, who fought for what they believed in and didn't bow down to corporate stooges in slick suits who always claimed they "knew what was best" for the party while stiffing the people who elected them. The New Labour movement decimated the old left in the late 90's, just as the Clintons did to the Democrats only a few years earlier. Perhaps it was necessary given the drastic changes to the economy brought about by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, but I never forgave Tony Blair for his acquiescence to corporate capitalism and his saddling up to George Bush, and I have never been a fan of Bill Clinton, who willingly absorbed Republican economics and helped destroy the lives of millions through his gutting of social welfare and radical incarceration policies.
The left in both Britain and America have struggled to embrace their roots, despite the overwhelming evidence that the neoliberal experiment has failed spectacularly. The mere mention of a tax increase is enough to instigate the threat of a mass corporate exodus, and leftwing policies of redistribution are panned in the media who are obsessed with rampaging immigrants and poor people abusing the welfare state. In the UK we have seen Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn subjected to an astonishing onslaught of personal ridicule and abuse, and in America, we have seen the moderate centrist Obama lampooned as a socialist/marxist dictator for the better part of a decade.
This makes electing true progressives incredibly difficult to do, as Sanders is finding out as the nomination slowly but surely slips away from him. There are too many bottom feeders who survive off of the status quo, and presidential politics is now so corrupt that being a millionaire is the minimum requirement for even thinking about running. Bernie Sanders has centered his campaign around these issues and has spoken out about them forcefully. That he has gotten this far is a miracle, yet it is still a crying shame that he will likely fall short. His campaign represents an urgent warning that the electoral system needs overhauling from the bottom up. While he may fail, he has proven that the system is not yet beyond repair.
The United States is now at breaking point as Donald Trump continues to rack up primary wins, and the world faces the genuine threat of a megalomaniac fascist getting into the White House. This is no laughing matter, and anyone with a conscience should be rallying behind whichever Democrat wins the nomination. As someone of Jewish heritage, Trump's rhetoric and fan base scare me. It scares me so much that I would almost certainly leave the country should he get elected. Jews have seen this before, and it never ends well for anyone not white and christian.
As the general election draws closer, my reservations about Hillary Clinton are taking a back seat to the long war that must be fought to against Donald Trump. There is no doubt whatsoever that a Clinton presidency would be infinitely better than a Trump one. As Chez Pazienza said this week:
We know that Clinton won’t attempt to round up and deport 11 million people. She won’t roll back civil rights advances, gay marriage, abortion rights, or health insurance coverage for millions. She won’t appoint Supreme Court justices that will undo myriad progressive achievements. She won’t build a giant, unnecessary wall along our southern border and get into an international dick-swinging contest about who’s going to pay for it. She won’t ban Muslims and encourage anyone to “rough them up.” We can be reasonably sure she won’t utterly ruin the United States’ standing in the eyes of the world.
We know this because her rhetoric and record reflect it. While Clinton is no saint, she is a safe pair of hand for the country as it enters one of the most important times in human history. While Donald Trump believes climate change "goes up and it goes down", Clinton has pledged to protect President Obama's carbon emissions rules, invest billions in renewable energy, and implement a broad array of policies to drastically curb America's environmental footprint. "You don't have to be a scientist to take on this urgent challenge that threatens us all," said Clinton. "you just have to be willing to act." While Hillary Clinton may advocate more militarism abroad, Donald Trump has openly advocated committing war crimes by killing suspected terrorist's families, and called anyone against torture a pussy. Clinton's policies may well be counterproductive in the long term, but Trump's would be catastrophic almost immediately -- so catastrophic that former CIA director Michael Hayden warned that the military may not follow his orders should he get into office.
However disappointed you may be with a Hillary Clinton victory over Bernie Sanders, it is not the end of the world. As someone who was vehemently opposed to her candidacy in 2008, I understand your frustration. I too dream of living in a country with universal health care, a political system that thrives without corporate influence, and free education for all. There is nothing more I would like to see than a genuine political revolution with someone as decent as Bernie Sanders leading it -- but in the US political system this is likely a fantasy -- a fact that even Noam Chomsky concedes:
Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much.
Clinton on the other hand, may have more luck given her status within the Democratic party and her ability to outmaneuver Republicans at every turn. Of course this isn't something to get particularly excited about as no one wants to relive the vicious politicking of the 90's -- but at this point in the game, it is the very best we can hope for.
So while I love Bernie Sanders, I'm going to start liking Hillary Clinton, because the future of the free world depends on it.
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