Did Bernie Sanders turn Hillary Clinton into a Progressive, Socialist Centrist?

–The Clintons’ quest for the Presidency begins in 1971 at Yale Law School

Since their Yale Law School dating began 45 years ago, Hillary and Bill Clinton have had the duel career goals of the presidency.  Step 1 was to get Bill Clinton elected President and then Hillary would follow.

Bill Clinton built his career as a moderate liberal who was a leader in the Democratic Leadership Council.  Hill was viewed, early on, as more liberal than Bill and demonstrated this in her failed attempt to achieve Hillarycare from her perch as First Lady in 1994.

When Bill Clinton was almost ready to throw in the towel, facing a U. S. Senate impeachment trial in 1998, two factors carried the day for him.

–Getting Bill Clinton past impeachment in 1998

No.1, Hillary bucked Bill Clinton up on his darkest days, telling him there was no way he could give up—and she almost single handily promoted the idea that most of the impeachment Bill faced stemmed from a hypocritical, vast Right-wing Conspiracy (See Cong. Henry Hyde, leader of the Republican impeachment effort, characterizing his own extra marital affair at 41 as a “Youthful indiscretion).

And, No. 2, Hillary was at the ready to put down each female accuser who supported or corroborated 22 year old, White House intern Monica’s Lewinsky’s story of her sexual relationship with Bill Clinton in the White House as yet another false “Bimbo eruption.”

In short, Hillary made sure Bill Clinton served out his Presidency—so she could run for the U. S. Senate and then the Presidency.

–Coming to terms with Bernie Sanders

Hillary’s major recent hurdle for her Presidential run  was to make a deal with Bernie Sanders that would prevent disruptive protests from his supporters during the convention and help win them over as worker bees during the campaign.

So, if you want to know what Hillary will run on during the next 100 days, you need to know what Bernie Sanders got for endorsing Hillary Clinton.

–Understanding Bernie’s revolution? Socialism?

Bernie Sanders, the 74 year old Vermont Senator, said, as he ran for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination, that he wanted a political revolution. A revolution that in the words of the 1960’s, “Returns power to the people– the bottom 99%.

Bernie was following Howard Dean, who said in his ill-fated 2004 Presidential run that he represented “The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

But, Bernie, a self-avowed Democratic Socialist, wanted to convert the Democratic Party into more of a Socialist party than it already is [See the commitments, below, Bernie claims he got from Hillary].

–Bernie’s revolution? Not selling out to big corporate or even union donors?

To Bernie the Presidential candidate, Hillary epitomized what was wrong with the Democratic Party, i.e., she took money from all sorts of entities who she could benefit, over the years.

And, by doing that, Hillary was following many other politicians, as well as her husband, who did that as he ran for and served as Arkansas Governor and U. S. President.

So, Hillary was happy to receive funds from all sorts of corporate and union interests, as she ran for and won the U. S. Senate seat from New York.

Then Hillary served as Senator and Secretary of State while Bill Clinton built his Foundation into an entity receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from domestic and foreign interests. And, the Clinton Foundation continued to receive money from many of the same interests, countries and entities Hillary interacted with in her government role.

And sometimes, in terms of power and influence, it is hard to know where the Clinton Foundation stops and the Clintons begin.

As to Bernie, because he wanted a revolution, he avoided Super PACs during his presidential primary campaign and proudly proclaimed, as he collected tens of millions of dollars from donors, that his average contribution was $27.

–Hillary’s Wall St. Connections

Hillary particularly annoyed Bernie by obtaining $675,000 for speaking to Goldman Sachs in the last year or two and then refusing to release the transcript of what she said.

When she was asked why she required that much money to speak to Wall St., Hillary said, “I don’t know, that’s what they offered.” And, that was pocket change relative to contributions given to Hillary’s Super PACs.

But, Hillary and Bill have always been close to the likes of Goldman Sachs

As Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Treasury, former Goldman’s Sachs CEO Bob Rubin was extremely influential in formulating President Bill Clinton’s so called “Balanced increase in taxes, reduction in the federal deficit and ending the era of big government.”

So, if you understand the Clintons, their separation from Wall St. would be about as easy as a six month infant giving up a pacifier.

Thus, how could Hillary be expected to break up the big financial institutions.  That is key, because in Bernie’s world view, they caused the greatest financial crisis for the people—since the great depression of the 30s.

–What Bernie thinks Hillary promised him

Most importantly, what did Bernie get for going quietly into the night this past Tuesday afternoon at the Convention? That’s when he made a motion to make Hillary the first female presidential nominee of a major party.

Well, he got a variety of informal agreements or “Understandings,” that persuaded him to give a full-throated endorsement of Hillary to his followers:

  1. Bernie said “Hillary Clinton understands that we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.” During their primary contest, Hillary argued we shouldn’t go higher that $12/hour for our minimum wage—arguing expert economists were concerned about a higher minimum wage causing unemployment. Bernie wanted $15/hour.  He settled for Hillary’s understanding that we should have “A living wage,” without Hillary specifying what that was.
  2. Bernie said his campaign was about a political revolution to reject taking big money from big Wall St. contributors.  Bernie couldn’t get Hillary to back off from taking money from the likes of Goldman Sachs, so he settled for Hillary’s promise to appoint justices who would overturn “Citizens United,” a Supreme Court opinion that Bernie thinks improperly constrains government from keeping big money out of politics.
  3. Bernie said “Hillary wants all Americans to have a right to choose a public option in the healthcare exchange.”
  4. Bernie also said “Hillary wants anyone 55 and over to be able to enroll in Medicare.”
  5. More generally, Bernie said “Hillary wants to see millions more gain access to primary healthcare, dental care, mental health counseling and low cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers.”
  6. Bernie said Hillary and he have come together on a proposal that will “Revolutionize higher education by guaranteeing all families earning less than 125K can have their kids go to a college or university tuition free.”  Bernie also said that his agreed proposal with Hillary  “Substantially reduces student college debt.”
  7. Further, Bernie said Hillary has signed onto a Democratic Party platform that calls for “Breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall St. and passage of a 21st Century Glass Steagall Act [Re-separation of investment and commercial banking].
  8. Finally, Bernie would argue that Hillary signed onto a party platform that calls for strong opposition to “Job- killing free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (‘TPP’).” [But, just a few days ago, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a long time close confidant of the Clintons, said Hillary would support TPP after she negotiated changes in the Agreement. The Clinton campaign indicated that Hillary had no plans to support TPP.  Also, Hillary and Bill supported, vigorously, NAFTA in 1994 and neither has ever made an effort to renegotiate its terms. These are facts that make Bernie’s supporters uneasy with any agreements with Hillary]

Of course, who really believes that Hillary is committed to trying to legislate all of the above in one or two terms as President?

Probably not too many.

–Hillary’s primary challenge

So, the challenge for Hillary is to persuade Bernie’s supporters that she will work hard enough on the above to justify their getting out the vote for her.

Meanwhile, Hillary will also have to downplay the above enough to attract Republicans and Independents scared away from supporting Donald Trump.

Politics is always a delicate balancing act.

In June, 2008, in Chicago, Tom Bevan, co-founder of Real Clear Politics, at a press conference asked Harold Ford, heading up the moribound Democratic Leadership Council, whether Obama was a centrist disguised as a leftist or a leftist disguised as a centrist.

Ford, of course, dodged the question.  Eight years later, it is fair to say that most would characterize Barack Obama as someone who ran for President as a centrist but who governed as a leftist.

–Hillary, a Progressive/Socialist/Centrist?

Hillary will have to run for President as a Democratic Socialist for Bernie’s supporters, a Progressive for her base of traditional Democratic Party supporters and a Centrist for those Republicans/Independents who might normally go with the Republican nominee, but who are uncomfortable with Trump’s crude articulation of public policy positions and brash, uneven temperament.

Sound hard for Hillary to do? Not really.

Good politicians know how to emphasize different objectives to different people, in a subtle yet convincing way.

Welcome to the worlds of Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, both known as transformative Presidents with strong communication skills.

However, winning two Senate elections and one Democratic Presidential Primary, while losing an earlier Presidential Primary is one thing. Winning the Presidential General Election on November 8, 2016 is quite another.

We’re about to find out just how good a politician the teenage Goldwater Girl from Park Ridge, IL has become.


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  • Probably the biggest question is the health care one. It would be progress in the Bernie direction if Hillary moved off letting the private insurers call the shots to something closer to single payer, like a government option or expanded Medicare. Clearly, as shown by Land of Lincoln Health, insurance cooperatives don't work.

    Of course, you have her opponent who yelled into our radios "I will repeal Obamacare and replace it with something much much better." He never said, though, what was much much better, with speculation ranging from single payer to just repealing and not replacing. Not even the wonkiness of Paul Ryan, who tried to propose some alternative way of covering preexisting conditions without an individual mandate.

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