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Wednesday
Apr272016

Bernie Shouldn't Quit and "Bernie or Bust" is Wrong

After another “super Tuesday” string of victories for Hillary Clinton among Northeast states, there is a lot of talk about the need for Bernie Sanders to drop out of the presidential race and allow Hillary and her money to become focused on beating the Republican candidate, most likely Donald Trump. At the same time, the “Bernie or Bust” movement is urging Bernie to remain in the race, or perhaps mount a third-party candidacy, and most of this group has vowed not to vote for Hillary if she is the Democratic Nominee.

Both of these positions are dead wrong.

Bernie should not quit

During the primary elections, it is usual for candidates to take positions on issues that are more extreme to the left or to the right in order to gain support from the committed and ideological base of their parties. Once the nominations have become fixed in place, candidates usually move toward the center in an effort to secure votes from independents and those not fully committed members of the opposite party. Famous cases where this has not occurred have been Barry Goldwater, who did not soften his conservative rhetoric after his nomination and George McGovern, who continued to oppose the Vietnam war and aim his message at the left. Both men were beaten soundly in the general election, providing a lesson to future candidates that has not gone unheeded.

Despite the claims of the conservative media, Hillary Clinton is no left-wing ideologue by any stretch of the imagination. Like her husband, she is a center-establishment candidate, falling in the camp now labeled with disdain from the more radical left, “neo-liberal.” During the primary campaign she has moved to the left in order to compete with Bernie Sanders. This move has caused her to reverse herself on issues such as the Keystone pipeline and the Trans Pacific Partnership, both central causes of the left. Her position on the federal minimum wage, although wildly different from that of Republicans, is too meek for Sanders’ supporters and, indeed the base of her party, and it has gotten her considerable flak from Democrats. Similarly, her position on health care, which is to continue expanding Obamacare until everyone is covered, is not favored by many, if not most independents and more liberal Democrats, who much prefer Sanders’ single payer, Medicare for all plan. Her rhetoric on the Middle East conflict has had to be toned down from the aggressive positions she has historically taken in order not to alienate the large anti-war side of her party. The concessions she has made have been in response to Bernie’s candidacy. If Bernie remains in the race and his supporters continue to grow and remain vocal on the issues they support, Hillary may make further concessions. Bernie himself has said that, even if he doesn’t get the nomination, he hopes that he can influence Hillary and the party to accept many of his positions, using the evidence of his support as a tool to influence the candidate and the party. Even after the election, if Bernie’s progressive army of supporters can continue, as a group, to push for more progressive policies, they can continue to influence both Hillary and other elected representatives.

For all of these reasons, Bernie Sanders should remain in the presidential race right up to the nomination.

 

“Bernie or Bust” is wrong.

A sizeable group of Sanders supporters have vowed not to support Clinton if she is the nominee of the Democratic Party. They plan to either not vote, to vote for another third-party candidate, or to push for Sanders himself to become a third-party candidate. Among this group are many who have virtually demonized Hillary as a “right-wing fanatic,” a “tool of wall street,” a “racist” and a “war monger.” They view her as no worse nor even different than the front-running Republican candidates, Trump and Cruz. Such characterizations of Hillary have become fashionable on the left.

Hillary’s positions on foreign policy are known to have been more aggressive than Obama’s and certainly more aggressive than many, if not most, Democrats. Without going into the list of “regime change” positions she has supported, beginning with her famous vote on Iraq, she continues to support the administration goal of deposing Assad in Syria and refuses to admit that the U.S. support of the overthrow of Gadhafi in Libya has resulted in a totally destabilized country. She supports a No-Fly zone in Syria, which will get the U.S. further, involved in that conflict and perhaps provoke more conflicts with Russia and Iran, both of whom have planes in the air over Syria. None of these positions is defensible so far as the left is concerned. They are an extension of a U.S. foreign policy that has emphasized military action as a method of extending U.S. influence and of attempting to control events in the Middle East and elsewhere. They are positions that many of our allies, who share a similar mindset with our leaders, have supported. Nevertheless, they are beyond the pale so far as those who oppose U.S. involvement in wars are concerned.

Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy needs to be modified. There is no question about this. Since she is the most likely person to be elected as our next president, those who oppose her foreign policy need to have some mechanism to affect her views and decisions. Rousing public opposition to military adventurism, to confrontation as a major tool for dealing with Russia and Iran, to arming insurgent groups whose aims we scarcely understand, and to further build-up of our own military at the expense of funding domestic programs, is a necessary activity prior to and during a Clinton presidency. Clinton is much more amenable to pressure from her constituency on these issues than would be either Trump or Cruz, who have made confrontation with Iran, blind defense of Israel’s policies, and build-up of our military, centerpieces of their candidacies.

Foreign policy is perhaps the single issue on which Clinton may differ from not just the radical left wing, but also the majority of her party. This is not true of the Republican Party. The radical left who oppose fracking, who vilify Monsanto and oppose GMOs, who view the collusion between Wall Street and government as not just the way a money-influenced political system works, but as a genuine conspiracy, and who want to dismantle government and start over from scratch, are a minority in this country. When their issue coincides with the majority, or when their voices are able to influence the majority to agree with them, they can cause changes in the system at large. But those changes will only occur when they are on the same page as a majority of Americans and when the government lends a friendly ear to their arguments. A Republican president and a Republican-controlled congress will not listen as readily as will Democrats, whose base is already on board with issues such as increasing friendly relations with Iran, stopping the expansion of NATO, reducing nuclear proliferation, urging reconciliation between Israel and Palestine, and ending U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. Allowing Trump or Cruz to win the next election may satisfy Hillary-haters, but it will not further the likelihood of any of their causes being successful.

On the domestic front, the distance between Hillary and either Trump or Cruz is a chasm and efforts to deny this are blind to reality. Hillary wants to stop arresting and deporting illegal immigrants who have not committed any crime in the U.S., she wants to increase the minimum wage, she supports gay marriage, she is in favor of a woman’s right to choose to have or not to have a child, she wants to assure that Muslim Americans are integrated into our society and are not scapegoated, she wants to continue and expand the food stamp program and Medicaid coverage, she promises to use the power of the attorney general’s office to try to remove racism from our criminal justice system, she wants to reduce our rate of incarceration, she believes in climate change and supports efforts to curb carbon emissions and reduce ours and the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Neither Republican candidate nor the Republican base supports any of these positions.

Hillary’s opponents among Bernie supporters like to point their fingers at Hillary’s support of the 1994 Crime Bill, which continued the pattern of mass incarceration in the U.S., of her former support for the Keystone pipeline and the TPP, at her reluctance to support a federal $15 per hour minimum wage (she favors $12 per hour) and her financial support from Wall Street, fossil fuel lobbyists, and the pharmaceutical industry as evidence that she is not different from the Republican candidates. But these issues, on some of which she has changed her position, are minimal compared to the general mindset that characterizes how she views the role of government in supporting social and economic programs for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the discriminated against elements of our society compared to the Republican candidates.

If those who genuinely are opposed to further reliance on fossil fuels, of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, of discriminatory immigration policies, of the gutting of our government funded social safety net, of privatization of our social security system and of returning our health care system to its pre-Obamacare condition in which large segments of the population had no health insurance at all, and of the diversion of billions of our tax dollars from domestic spending to military spending are serious about these issues and not just interested in spouting leftist slogans to each other and feeling self-satisfied that they hold purist viewpoints while the rest of the misguided country doesn’t, then they will continue to support Bernie Sanders up to the nomination and, if Hillary wins that nomination, they will support her.

 

References (2)

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  • Response
    Seriously, however, the place where people have true power is in constructing the PLATFORM of a party, and that is what will happen at the National Convention this year when Sanders' supporters push for a more Progressive, less Centrist platform and force Hillary to shift her focus in that direction.
  • Response
    Response: Bubble Chandelier

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