This is not journalism. This is my blog, where I express my opinions, and I explain them.
That said, this is the rant about the Democratic Primary I’ve been holding back for months. So prepare yourself for some feelings.
And now I’m furious that so many of my fellow progressives seem to have forgotten how much this candidate bashing can hurt their own cause, and are delighting in trashing Hillary Clinton. Not Bernie Sanders, never Bernie Sanders. No, the worst thing you hear from Clinton supporters about Sanders is crap about Sanders supporters. Like Gloria Steinem saying all the girls who like Bernie do it because that’s where the boys are. Which is a giant load of crap. But it’s not a personal attack against Bernie Sanders.
The Sanders fans though? They never quit it with the Hillary bashing.
I travel in liberal circles. My friends and family range from Libertarians I manage to tolerate to anarcho-communists I tend to take with a grain of salt. I’ve always been a politically conscious person, and not just in that I pay attention to politics. I mean I’ve studied it. As I recently wrote in Chicago Parent, before M’s illness and then motherhood redirected me, it had been my longstanding plan to become a politician. I studied political science, law, public administration, policy, political history… I wrote half a dissertation on the need for an independently appointed psychiatrist to evaluate the presidents’ ability to perform their job. (If we’d had one of those, Reagan would have had to resign when his Alzheimer’s got bad, Nixon would have had to resign due to his alcoholism, and Coolidge would have had to resign due to PTSD and depression- which could have averted the majority of the Great Depression. Seriously.)
So when I look at the candidates, I take a serious fucking look. I don’t pick somebody willy nilly and support them because “that’s where to boys are” or “I want to see a woman in the White House.” I pick them because history, policy, and experience has taught me that there are good choices and bad choices.
But so much of the far left won’t stop bashing Hillary. I am sick of soundbites like, “Bernie is always talking about ISSUES, and all Hillary talks about is Hillary.” And that’s among the nicer things liberals like to say about Sen. Clinton.
Let me be clear. This is horrible, sexist shit.
NOBODY IS ASKING BERNIE SANDERS ABOUT BERNIE SANDERS. But everyone, one the right and the left, is constantly demanding that Hillary Clinton explain herself. About why she begrudgingly endorsed her husband’s welfare policies, about why she voted in favor of the Patriot Act, about whether or not she’ll pick out the flowers for presidential banquets, about whether she’s likeable, about whether she’s in the pocket of Wall Street, about everything. Hillary Clinton is being subjected to a greater level of personal scrutiny than any presidential candidate in history.
On the one hand, that’s great. I WANT my candidates to be scrutinized this way. But they AREN’T. I WANT every person who reports on Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to ask them about every issue they’ve changed their mind on, about every vote they’ve made, about every questionable campaigning choice, about every donor. But that does not happen. Why is it that Bernie doesn’t have to explain a billion times what he meant when he said in the 80s that “women’s issues” were a distraction from REAL politics? Why doesn’t every interviewer ask Ted Cruz if he understands the REAL meaning of “Green Eggs and Ham?”
I will tell you. The reason is that Hillary is a woman.
You might want to believe it’s because she’s been in politics so long that she’s become divisive, but that’s not true. Not even Ron Paul, who was known to consort with white supremacists, faced this kind of scrutiny, and that man was in politics longer than the failed ERA. Donald Trump raped his ex-wife, and the reporters following him around his campaign stops let it go the moment his lawyer put his foot in his mouth. The only difference, literally, the only single difference between Hillary Clinton and the countless political figures who have run for president with this level of viability is that she has a damn vagina.
As you know, I’m a liberal. A VERY liberal liberal. So you might assume I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
But I like Hillary Clinton more.
Not because I think her policies are more progressive. Not because I think her ideals are more pure. Bernie’s got her beat on both counts, there. But because studying political science and public administration, this is what I learned:
The government, on every single level, is broken.
It’s fragmented and disorganized, but at the same time painfully structured. There are strict hierarchies. Everyone answers to somebody else. It’s like one massive, chaotic flowchart of hundreds of departments and organizations and bureaus, all leading up to one person- the president. But that structure does not work. If you go through American history, particularly 20th century history, and you study what happens when a single person attempts to do something, change anything, what you get is chaos.
You get FEMA after Hurricane Katrina.
You get the massacre of MOVE in Philly in ’85.
You get a web of government agencies not only willing but desperate to allow private companies to take over their responsibilities. And then you get even more problems.
This is not to say that our government is unfixable, but the process of fixing our government is going to take decades. At least. It’s going to take a complete shift away from that hierarchical structure. It’s going to take gutting the presidential cabinet and replacing them with elected members of the bureaus they represent. It’s going to take breaking them into smaller and smaller pieces, and making them flexible enough to be removed when they’ve served their purpose. It is not something a single president can change, and none of the current candidates have talked about fixing it. They talk about getting private money out on the left, and they talk about shrinking “big government” on the right, but neither of those is close to being a plan. And neither way of looking at it fixes that problem. That means that whoever we get for president has to find away to work inside of this massive, fucked up, broken thing.
In fact, working well inside this massive, fucked up, broken thing is how you fix it. You get competent people running the disparate parts of the different organizations, you give them the opportunity not only to learn how to run the giant quagmire under their jurisdiction, but you also give them the leeway to consistently communicate across organizations with other people in other bureaucracies doing similar or related work, and you allow them to share resources until they have streamlined a process that can result in merging, dismantling, or disbanding agencies. You delegate, and then you trust smart and educated and dedicated people to do a job they’re actually given resources to do.
Now, Bernie Sanders has great ideas. He has a great platform, on the surface. But there is nothing under the surface that will make it work. “We’re going to tax the millionaires and pay for everyone’s college” is a GREAT idea, but it’s not a plan.
That’s an idea that takes dozens of separate organizations, that takes developing new structures, destroying old ones, reconfiguring the ones that are kind of okay. That’s an idea whose time has come, absolutely, but there is no infrastructure to implement it. To mandate that it simply be done is to disrupt all the current and disjointed functioning of those bureaucracies, and force them to turn around without any opportunity to coordinate their actions horizontally with their sister bureaus.
Clinton’s plan is to expand existing programs and specifically put the burden of financing college education on the public universities. Yes, that will be paid for through taxation on the wealthy, but it’s not as… exciting to hear it. “We’re going to provide additional resources to programs that don’t currently do the job we need them to do” doesn’t pack nearly the punch of, “All of you are going to go to college for free!”
Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s policies are all a bit more sedate than Sanders’ in this way. She wants to address small, specific issues, claiming they’re the driving factor for larger issues.
Bernie Sanders wants to end the wealth gap. Hillary Clinton wants to end gender pay disparity and institute family leave.
One of those sounds grandiose and important. But the other one is achievable and would result in real progress towards the other.
Bernie Sanders wants to create a single payer healthcare system- universal healthcare for all! Hillary Clinton wants to expand Obamacare.
Bernie Sanders’ heart is in the right place, but it’s more complicated that just making a new government healthcare plan. For example, he’d had to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Without repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bans the federal government from putting any money towards providing abortions, Sanders’ healthcare plan would essentially end access to abortions for the majority of women in America.
Bernie Sanders wants to enact a universal childcare and preschool program. Hillary Clinton wants to provide additional tax credits to people who have to pay for childcare and preschool.
Again Bernie Sanders’ heart is in the right place. But what he’s talking about isn’t only paying for poor kids to go somewhere safe and ideally educational during the day. His plan means building infrastructure, training and certifying providers, licensing thousands of new facilities; not to mention hiring, training, and certifying inspectors as well. Bernie Sanders’ plan is great, but it is not in any way an immediate solution. It is a massive long term goal, undoubtedly requiring its own new department or bureau to oversee and not only a massive campaign to train childcare providers but also first enacting a raise on the minimum wage that most childcare workers earn in order to make it worth the while of the millions of people who would be required to make this plan work.
You can go to each candidates’ website and look at their platforms, and you should. Really LOOK at the Sanders platform. Then really LOOK at the Clinton platform. What you’ll find is that they agree on just about everything, but Clinton tends to look watered down. Until you actually read the details.
Consider their language around the Paycheck fairness act:
Clinton: “Hillary will promote pay transparency across the economy and work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act—a bill she introduced as senator—to give women the tools they need to fight workplace discrimination.”
What Hillary Clinton’s platform details show is that she’s a person who knows how executive politics work. This is somebody who knows how to break big problems into digestible pieces, and delegate them.
But we’re not talking about how Hillary Clinton is proving just in her platform description that she knows how the executive branch works. We’re not talking about how she was one of the most effective Secretaries of State ever, or that she had an insider view of the executive branch as first lady. Instead, she’s being forced to constantly apologize for every thing she’s done for the last forty years.
We can talk about how much Hillary Clinton has fucked up, because she has. But put into context, 99% of her fuckups are not as bad as people in the Sanders or Republican camps want them to be.
We assume that at the time of the Clinton welfare programs, people knew they would create a school-to-prison pipeline.
Bernie Sanders had the high ground from the beginning, because he could. Nobody was forcing him to justify his existence in politics. He could stand up in front of the senate and scream that the wealth gap was widening and we needed to do something, because his presence in that space was already accepted. No woman could have done what he did and maintained credibility. Not in the 80’s, not in the 90’s, not in the early 2000’s, and probably not now.
Hillary Clinton had to fight to turn the position of First Lady into something of substance, and she (and every woman in politics) has to act like the most reasonable person in the room all the time because the moment they say something with passion or anger, people roll their eyes and ask if it’s that time of the month. Bernie Sanders can stand up and say, “We’re sick of hearing about your damn emails!” Hillary Clinton has to calculate how wide she can smile before somebody accuses her of being not serious enough, how furrowed her brow can be before she’s too emotional, how committed she can be to her family before she’s too committed, how committed she can be to her work before she’s a terrible wife and mother.
Nobody gives a shit about Bernie Sanders’ kid. Nobody gives a shit that he had a personal life and a divorce while he was already a public figure. Because Bernie Sanders is a man, and a man’s private life is considered private, for the most part. Hillary Clinton has never been given that respect.
So yes, everything she says sounds prepared and calculated. That’s because it has to be. Yes, Hillary Clinton is forever talking about Hillary Clinton. That’s because it’s all anybody seems to ask her about.
Yes, she is flawed and hawkish and not the best candidate we’ve ever had. But she is the most qualified, and she knows how to do something and make it work.
Bernie’s biggest draw is that he’s spent thirty years yelling at Congress to do something to save and strengthen the middle class, and been consistently ignored.
I like Bernie Sanders. In a perfect world, he’d have my vote without hesitation. But this is not a perfect world. And if there’s a human being alive who knows how to get shit down in a deeply imperfect world, I’ll put my money on the woman who’s spent her life shattering glass ceilings and having to apologize for making a mess.
And it’s not just that Hillary Clinton seems like a more practical candidate. When you go and read her platform, you find an attention to detail that matters. She has an entire segment of her platform dedicated to eradicating the plague of college campus sexual violence. It’s not part of her college education agenda, it’s a totally separate thing, because Clinton knows that it’s a totally separate problem. And even better, her language is gender inclusive. She’s not just trying to end the epidemic of college aged women being sexually abused, she’s trying to make it better for everyone.
As much baggage as Hillary Clinton brings to the campaign, her heart is in the right place, too.
So shut the fuck up already. Read their platforms, and think about them. And whoever wins the primary, vote for them in the general. Because either of them are better than the clowns from the GOP.
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