February 10th, 2016

Moose With Mug

Questions and Thoughts Regarding Hillary Clinton's Candidacy

I’ve given a lot of thought to what is about to follow. Yet, I still don’t know if I will manage to state it all as clearly and concisely as I’d like. Nonetheless, I feel like it’s now the time to just pound away at the keyboard and let what’s going through my head take some kind of final form—even if it’s as barely formed as an incorporeal Patronus.

So, to my Hillary Clinton-supporting friends, I’d like to ask a few questions and discuss why I’m asking them. This aren’t meant to be snarky or derogatory. I’m really only addressing what I feel are substantial issues and weaknesses with her candidacy (unlike some of the red herrings that have been tossed at Bernie Sanders supporters when asked to defend their candidate.) Although I’m not asking you to change my mind or defend her, per se, I am genuinely interested in your responses so I can better understand how you handle some of the problems I have with her candidacy.

Just to be clear, my questions aren’t intended as attacks on her or you, as a supporter. The fact is that I feel both candidates are flawed for very different reasons. I won’t be spelling them out here, but Sanders faces plenty of potential serious issues in the general election as well. However, either would be a better President than any of the Republican candidates currently running, and in the end, I am going to support the Democratic nominee.

So, without further ado…

How do you feel about Clinton’s attempt to redefine progressivism and claim to be such a candidate?

As far back as October, Clinton stated, “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive that likes to get things done,” and it’s debate/campaign line that she continues to use. She also has defenders—most notably the corporate, mainstream media—who wish to bolster her progressive credentials. However, her attempt to redefine the meaning of “progressive” has little to do with how many others and I have understood and used the term for some time now. Changing the framing of the debate in order to make a candidate more palatable to voters is a common political tactic, but many of us perceive it as a hollow, shameless attempt at mere rebranding.

But it goes beyond that. Given that progressivism means using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules…

Do you believe that Clinton will effectively address the financial and economic issues causing so much anger in the American public?

Right now, one of the common attacks against Sanders to paint him and Donald Trump as two sides of the same coin: angry, populist, anti-establishment outsiders who aren’t interested in giving real details about how to enact their agendas. It’s a superficial argument that glosses over incredibly substantive differences between the candidates, and it comes across as an effort to belittle and dismiss populism. However, that anger amongst the American people is there, is palpable, and should not be treated lightly. The reason is simple: the past 35 years have seen the greatest upward transferal of wealth in American history, and people on both sides of the political spectrum clearly see that. This has resulted in stagnant incomes and greater financial uncertainty for all but the very rich. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, our largest banks have paid over $261 billion in fines (as of August 2014) for the very business practices that brought about the disaster. Yet, not a single banker has served jail time for these crimes.

This mess resulted in large part from various regulatory reforms and changes championed and/or defended by Clinton when she was serving as Senator for New York. In addition, she defended the Obama administration’s handling of Wall Street as recently as the debate preceding the Iowa Caucuses, culminating her defense by saying, “So I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.” Now, I’m generally happy with the job Obama has done as President, but I found his administration lacking in its handling of Wall Street in the years following the crisis. Like many progressives, I have felt that there was more that can and should’ve been done—that Dodd-Frank was merely a good start. Clinton’s stated position on this matter flies in the face of progressivism, and calls into question her actual understanding of the anger emanating from both sides of the political spectrum.

Speaking of that spectrum…

Why do you believe that Clinton is actually a stronger overall candidate in the general election than Sanders?

I feel it is necessary to initially state that I think Clinton possesses a few advantages over Sanders as a candidate in the general election. She has been through the political wringer in manner very few politicians (especially Sanders) have experienced, and at this point there is nothing that a Republican challenger can throw at her that hasn’t already been flung at her like a fresh, steaming turd in a monkey house feces-fight. Furthermore, she’s polished in a way that no amount of Hollywood makeover can achieve for Sanders.

However, you need to extend your appeal outside your party to win the election and there’s considerable question as to whether Clinton can really do that at this point. Because she’s such a known quantity, everyone has already made up her mind about her. In light of the New Hampshire primary, where Sanders won 83% of the under-30 vote and 72% of the self-described independents, Clinton’s difficulty in expanding her support may be a critical issue.

At this point I want to circle back to my first thought on this question and address another “advantage” that I’ve seen cited by many Clinton supporters as an advantage over Sanders…

Do you really believe that Clinton’s plans and agendas are more likely to be enacted than Sanders’s?

I’ve seen the argument that Sanders wouldn’t get any of his proposals through a Republican-controlled Congress. That’s true, but I feel it’s ridiculous to think Hillary is going to have an easier time of it because her ideas are more centrist and/or incremental. The Republican Party harbors a white-hot hatred towards her that only Obama matches or exceeds—it’s the reason why the Benghazi hearings have gone on for longer than the 9/11 hearings. Unless you see the scenario differently, I cannot imagine how either Sanders or Clinton has any kind of realistic chance of getting anything through a Republican-controlled Congress. Either of them will exercise their power predominantly though executive order, veto, and judicial appointments.


Do you believe that the “Socialist” label would present Sanders with insurmountable problems during a general election?

I’ve heard this as another reason why Clinton supposedly would be the better general election candidate. Here’s the thing: Republicans and conservatives pundits alike have been conflating liberalism and the Democratic Party with socialism (as well as fascism and communism) for nearly two decades now. Quite frankly, the label has lost much of its power thanks to overuse. In addition, Sanders has embraced the label in a manner no politician has done since FDR’s New Deal days. It’s worked as a boogey-man in part because Democrats have done everything they could to shy away from it. No one has ever faced a candidate as willing to accept the label as Sanders has.

That more or less encompasses what's been going through my head the last few days. I look forward to the responses I receive.