Here's a couple of questions for all you Democratic voters: what was the difference between John Kerry's health care platform and John Edward's in 2004? Also, how did President Obama's views on social security differ from Hillary Clinton's in the 2008 presidential election?
If you don't know the answer, don't worry - you're not supposed to. Just as Coca Cola and Pepsi produce virtually the same product, the differences mainly come down to the branding and messaging of their respective marketing departments. Coca Cola fans believe they drink 'authentic' cola, whereas Pepsi drinkers are just ingesting sugar, artificially flavored water. Pepsi fans believe their drink is fresher, newer and more dynamic, whereas Coca Cola is for the older generation. Of course, they are both sugary, artificially flavored water drinks, virtually indistinguishable in blind taste tests.
In modern American politics, there is little policy difference when it comes to the major candidates in their respective parties. This is even true across party lines with proposals on tax codes differing only by a few percentage points. This is of course incredibly important for millions of people whose lives can be made better by small adjustments in policy - but let's be clear, we are not talking about capitalism vs socialism. We're talking about extreme capitalism vs not quite as extreme capitalism.
This brings us to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the two major candidates for the Presidency in 2016. Policy for policy, there is no doubt that Sanders is the far better candidate from a progressive perspective. Just take a look at this (admittedly somewhat selective) chart on their respective voting records:
In an alternate universe where Sanders becomes President and gets to pass every single bit of legislation he wants, there's absolutely no denying his policies benefit women, minorities, the poor and the middle class more than Clinton's would. Sanders is a self described Democratic Socialist, whereas Clinton is a moderate Democrat with a decidedly pro corporate agenda.
The truth is, if elected, neither candidate would be able to get the majority of their policies through given the GOP would most likely retain control over Congress and the Senate. That means the better political operator stands the best chance of enacting real progressive policies when in power. This fact has been made crystal clear under Obama's presidency. During his first term, Obama's hopey-change platform was essentially neutered by rabid Republican opposition. It was then rekindled as Obama learned the art of Presidential politics and began to play Republicans at their own game and pass all sorts of progressive legislation while no one was paying attention.
Who would be better at this game, Clinton or Sanders?
The truth is, we don't really know. While many have written Sanders off as an airy fairy liberal who would get annihilated by any middling Republican talent, that perception couldn't be further from the actual reality. Sanders is highly adept at navigating the machinations of the US government. For proof of this, read the stunning account of Matt Taibbi's time with the Senator in Washington in the summer of 2005, where, as Taibbi wrote, "Sanders introduced and passed, against very long odds, three important amendment[s]". Continued Taibbi:
A fourth very nearly made it and would have passed had it gone to a vote During this time, Sanders took on powerful adversaries, including Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, the Export-Import Bank and the Bush administration. And by using the basic tools of democracy – floor votes on clearly posed questions, with the aid of painstakingly built coalitions of allies from both sides of the aisle – he, a lone Independent, beat them all.
Hillary Clinton is also a legendary political operator - a veteran who not only spent 8 years helping her husband navigate treacherous Republican obstructionism in the 90's, but was elected to the Senate twice as a representative from New York and ran an incredibly competitive presidential campaign against Barack Obama. Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State was also remarkably smooth, with her approval rating skyrocketing to an all time high.
Conventional wisdom says Clinton would be the better operator in office, largely due to the fact that she is not perceived as being radical. But while there is merit in the belief that electing a centrist Democrat is the best thing to do, the GOP's treatment of President Obama - a centrist by any sane definition - lends credibility to the notion that it doesn't really matter any more.
The fact is, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be infinitely better than any of the brain dead lunatics currently running for the Republican nomination. The two most viable GOP candidates are a slightly less stupid version of George W. Bush and an insane hotel owner who believes starring in a reality show qualifies him to run for President.
It's still early days, but the worrying tribalism that tore the Democratic party apart in the 2008 election is beginning to rear it's ugly head. Supporters of Clinton and Sanders have been lobbing bombs at each other over social media as their campaigns ramp up, and the rhetoric is getting nastier and nastier.
For the love of God, if you are doing this, please stop.
Hardcore supporters of both candidates are becoming equally annoying in their unyielding devotion that consists primarily of irritating hashtags on Facebook posts, and photo memes that may or may not be accurately sourced. The truth is, most supporters of Sanders and Clinton haven't got the faintest idea what either candidate actually stands for. They broadly understand that one might be more leftwing than the other, and one is saying things about topics they like more than the other, but that's really about it. So if this is you, please, stop being a dick and voice your support without resorting to childish name calling. If either Sanders or Clinton takes too much damage in the primaries, whichever cretin gets through on the other side will have a far easier time in the general. It is simply not worth it in the long run, even if you are a hard core 'Berner' or a 'Hilldawg' fanatic.
It's time to grow up Democrats, because if you don't, we could get at least 4 years of Donald Trump.