Bernie would have been the right man at the right time in 2022. This, however, is Hillary's time.

I was more than amused last week when a verbal fracas broke out among Democrats campaigning in New Hampshire as to which presidential candidate – Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton – had the most “left-of-center” credit.

While Republicans/Conservatives/Tea Partiers/Evangelicals/White Nationalists/Militia Members/Etc. have spent almost every day of the last decade coming up with increasingly derisive labels for anyone in their own movement who occupies a political/social/economic space to the left of Joe McCarthy, John Birch or Genghis Khan, Democrats have by-and-large spared themselves the misery of intra-party squabbling and name-calling.

But, suddenly last week, two candidates, neither of whom actually needs to do anything to establish his/her “left-of-center” bona fides, were competing as to who deserves to be characterized as a “progressive” and who does not. Bernie says that Hillary is a “moderate” and, in Bernie-land, that apparently means she cannot be a “progressive.” Hillary pushes back by reciting a litany of causes, positions and accomplishments that she and “her people” believe justify her claim to being acceptably “progressive.”

I have heard a Hillary supporter or so question Bernie’s credentials as a “Democrat.” While they would have been technically accurate until he signed up for the Democratic primary process in 2015, the fact is that both Representative and Senator Sanders has always caucused with congressional Democrats and, in terms of both general and specific policy issues, is an obvious fit per the party paradigm.

This does, however, seem an appropriate time to issue a word of caution to those who don’t think being designated as the “Democratic” nominee and thus identifying with the party really matters or is overrated. Party affiliation gives one access to a treasure trove of information, research, logistical support, financial support, connections at every level of both the public and private sectors, etc. The idea of running a presidential campaign – or, for that matter, running a government – apart from the lift provided by the “establishment” of a major political party is daunting. The word “quixotic” comes to mind, as does the notion of tilting at windmills.

To have made that statement identifies me, I suppose, as an “establishment Democrat.” A critter that has absorbed a right hefty beating during the “moderate” v. “progressive” skirmish and amidst the hype surrounding Bernie’s “Revolution.” (Establishment types tend to lose both their minds and their heads during revolutionary times!)

Being an “establishment Democrat” herself, Hillary took the same verbal beating as the rest of us, almost all of us on the far side of our mid-40’s, except that hers was delivered in public. Bernie, in a cringe-worthy moment of faux self-righteousness if not real hypocrisy, apparently forgot that he’s been receiving his check from the Man and enjoying the perks provided by The Man for nearly three decades when he declared himself to be the “anti-establishment” candidate.

I offer no apology for being an “establishment Democrat.” The visceral energy that initially animates a “movement” of ideas/ideology is not unlimited. Which is why, as history attests, every “movement” either becomes “established” or slowly withers away on life-support until death mercifully arrives.

There was not, as I recall, any tiff over who had rightful claim to the sobriquet “socialist,” a characterization in dire need of redefinition for an American citizenry that still associates it with a hammer & sickle. In the absence of that redefinition, my guess is that the Clinton camp ceded the “socialist” label to Bernie.

Nor was there any bickering about the designation “liberal,” a word that is either enjoying retirement on a small island in the South Pacific, has found anonymity in a witness protection program or been kidnapped by a savage group of Tea Partiers who dropped it off to meet a lonely and ignominious fate on an arctic ice flow. The latter seems likely, given that it only seems to show up in anguished Tea Partier posts on conservative message boards – you know, “them Obozo libruls.”

At any rate, a long-time Democratic operative here in Columbia called me when the brouhaha first got underway to jokingly let me know that I could no longer reference myself as a “liberal” or admit to being an “establishment Democrat.” Neither, he said, could I any longer be a “moderate progressive” or a “progressive moderate.” “You have to be one or the other,” he said, “You have to be either a ‘moderate’ or a ‘progressive.’ You have to be either a DINO or a True Democrat. You have to make a choice. You cannot straddle the barricades during the Revolution, lest both sides be shooting at you. It’s decision time, Sparky!”

I told him that I had papers to grade.

In the end, however, this moderately progressive, progressively moderate, liberal establishment Democrat who marched for civil rights and marched in opposition to the war in Vietnam and marched for LGBTQ rights and has spoken out publicly per a variety of liberal agenda issues in some right influential and occasionally hostile venues has made his decision, though that decision has nothing to do with the labeling of my policy likes and dislikes. In the upcoming South Carolina primary, I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton. And I hope to cast another vote for her next November.

Though it has approached meme-like status, it is a truth that no individual active in American polity is more prepared for the presidency than Hillary Clinton. And few have the combination of intellect, temperament, compassion, mental toughness, flexibility, grasp of the issues, relationships and experience required to successfully navigate the United States through the incredibly complex and ever-shifting shoals and bars that are part and parcel of both our national and global zeitgeist.

In other words, a resume like that of Hillary Clinton matters. It also matters that I don’t believe Bernie to be electable. I am reminded on a daily basis about general election polls that indicate Bernie would be more competitive against a Republican candidate than Hillary.

But political scientists in general put almost no stock in general election polls taken this far out. As I have written elsewhere, the factors that condition a person’s choice of candidates are, nine months out from a general election, almost unlimited. Those factors tend to diminish in number and change in relative importance as election day nears, often shifting a voter’s perspective. Seth McKee, a political science professor at Texas Tech University, says that an early lead in the polls is “a nice thing to point to, but what does a head-to-head poll mean in early February?…It’s worthless. It’s absolutely worthless.”

Vox asked six well-known and respected political scientists about Bernie’s chances of winning a general election and the most optimistic thing they could say was that he might have a chance “under some unlikely circumstances.” Beyond those “unlikely circumstances,” they agreed that nominating Bernie would create “the risk of a penalty at the ballot box.” And the ballot boxes subject to that penalty could well extend far from the presidential ones, decreasing Democratic chances at regaining a majority in the Senate and increasing Democratic chances of losing even more House seats.

Bernie, in a way, is a luxury I fear we can’t afford. Who would best be able to get any piece of solid, progressive legislation through Congress? Quite frankly, neither of the two.

No matter the Big Policies/Big Wish Lists of either Bernie or Hillary, no matter the intentions/promises of a Democratic president, there will be no revolutionary, transformative left-of-center legislation passed prior to at least 2022, the earliest point in time at which Democrats could conceivably hold majorities in both congressional chambers.

In their fervor for revolution, the new revolutionaries forget that GOP House members don’t give a damn about any revolution that isn’t supported within their own safe, gerrymandered, right-wing districts. Given that President Obama is “the Black, Kenya-born Muslim in the White House,” given that Hillary is “Benghazi!!!!!”, and given that Bernie is a self-proclaimed “Socialist” – the hammer and sickle are already showing up on anti-Democratic campaign buttons in South Carolina – does anyone seriously think that members of the Clown Caucus are feeling pressure from the clowns at home to support legislation proposed by a Democratic president?

The Democratic president we elect later this year will, to some degree, at least in domestic matters, have to engage in what amounts to a “holding action.”  He/She will perhaps be able to pass bits and pieces of progressive legislation – circumstances, quite frankly, might demand that Republicans vote for it (Student Loan Adjustments, for example, or Vital Infrastructure Repair; i.e., Flint’s water system). But these will be few and far between. Hence, a new president may be focused more on preventing a Republican-dominated Congress and federal judiciary from wiping out the gains – in policies both foreign and domestic – made during the Obama years and, for that matter, made since the late 1920’s.

I am convinced that, six years from now, the ears of white working and middle-class voters will be available to give a fair hearing to the Big Policies of progressives like Bernie Sanders. I believe that because, by then, they will clearly see the effect of right-wing policies on their futures and the futures of their children.  By then, they will, I believe, realize that they have been voting against their own interests every time they pulled a Republican lever. That, combined with the opportunity for less partisan redistricting, may mean that 2022 will be the year when we can take to the barricades and begin Bernie’s “revolution.”

That would have been Bernie’s time. Now is not.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Rusty, your reply to the comments was more entertaining and informative than the article you wrote. I have a suggestion for a product perfectly suited for America’s political climate. Imagine a thick, soft towelette infused with an aqueous witch hazel solution bearing Donald Trumps smiling orange painted face. The slogan is….. Traditional soothing relief for Americans “Feeling the Bern”.
    The G.O.P. has splintered into the Gathering Of Pathologies. Generic Ordinary People have left the party. Greedy Oligarchic Plutocrats lost control over the God Obedient Pinheads and the Gun Obsessed Perverts. Rick Snyder is hoping to re-brand Republicans as Governance Of Poisoners.
    America is like a bowl of granola. A bunch of fruits, nuts and flakes (Trump,Cruz,Sanders) that needs drowning in soothing,familiar, pragmatic, incremental White milk (Clinton).

  2. We need Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Senate to support Hillary Clinton’s administration as president. The debate last week felt like the iconoclastic firebrand emeritus chair of the Political Science Department at (fill-in the blank mainstream) University going up against the ever ambitious assistant provost and vice chair of the self-same institution’s Department of Public Administration. When Clinton identified Nelson Mandela as a political leader she admired, I lost it — and dissolved into giggles. Really?

    Seriously, especially after Justice Scalia’s death, this election is not one for the faint hearted or for fumbling on philosophical grounds. Presently, the US is being beset by foreign opponents who do not share our values; we are still negotiating our role in a new international economy and while we may be hated as a national power, we are looked to as leaders in times of crisis. Hence we need as our party’s standard bearer, an eminently qualified internationalist. Hence, Hillary Clinton.

    On 2/13/2016, the goal clearly went from The White House, to The White House, The Supreme Court and The Congress of the United States. The energy of our idealism has to fuel these goals.

    • I think you’re obviously right, which is why I wrote at the end of the piece that 2022 might/perhaps/maybe would be the year that “we” can “take to the barricades” and begin Bernie’s “revolution.” The details of his transformative policy proposals—at least the ones that I think are on-target and transformative; I don’t agree with anyone all the time—are still sometimes vague and sometimes a bridge too far, but they would absolutely constitute a social/cultural/economic revolution. They deserve serious conversation and, even in modified form, would, I think, still be recognized as belonging to him—just as some pieces of the ACA are recognizably rooted in Hillarycare.

      There isn’t anything about Bernie that bothers me. Nothing. And you will note that I mentioned no disagreement with him in the piece; indeed, his economic take on infrastructure spending is a policy that I have talked about so much for the past seven years that friends walk away if I say the word “infrastructure.” I simply think that, given the political context in which we find ourselves, taking the long view is a best option.

      Again, the degree to which a Democratic president can get anything past conservative obstructionists is, at the moment, nil. We will see it even more clearly if President Obama decides to nominate and try to get confirmed a new Supreme Court Justice. The future documentary on it could be titled “There Will Be Blood.”

  3. My goodness! While I expected a bit of pushback from those who, I guess, consider themselves the True Progressives, I didn’t expect the title itself to draw a sentence of twenty lashes. If that sounds like mockery, it is. I don’t make a habit of mockery but I am not above it when it is deserved. The title, of course, doesn’t assume any kind of “coercion” or “inevitability,” though your putting the two together does make for a phrase worthy of recreational exegesis.

    “Reeks?” Please.

    In terms of the Democratic nomination, the column has virtually nothing to say per “inevitability.” I, along with many others, consider that to be an open issue. I do speak to the issue of whom I am supporting and I offer my reasoning—which is far more pragmatically political than issue-oriented (and I explain why it is that way). I certainly hope I didn’t cross the line between attempting to be persuasive and becoming, uh, coercive.

    Stating an opinion that Bernie is “unelectable” in a general election isn’t an exercise in “coercive inevitability.” It is simply an opinion that is based on well-considered history, facts and the research being done by political scientists. I supported Eugene McCarthy’s quixotic effort. I supported George McGovern. Neither was considered “electable” and, sure enough, McCarthy didn’t get the nomination and McGovern wasn’t elected. Too many researchers see too many parallels between Bernie’s efforts and those of McCarthy and McGovern for me to have any confidence that Bernie could win a general election. Indeed, I think it safe to say that the headwinds Bernie would face are stronger than those McCarthy would have faced or those McGovern did face.

    Your hyperbole and false/misleading statements make you a caricature of Right-Wingers who fill message boards with little other than hyperbole and false/misleading statements.

    I have quarrels aplenty with Henry Kissinger, but he is scarce “the most despicable war criminal in our modern history.” Historians might ask if you considered Adolph Hitler as less “despicable” than Henry Kissinger. Or, Chairman Mao. Or, Pol Pot. Or, Jozef Stalin. Or, Kim Il Sung. Or, Yakubu Gowon. Or, Jean Gambanda. Or, Sadaam Hussein. Furthermore, you will need to provide cites for your statement that “Kissinger is responsible for the genocide of millions.” There is no defense for his Vietnam policies, but hyperbolic overstatements make it easy to dismiss one’s argument as a whole. And make it more probable that a professor with raised eyebrows will lower your grade.

    You also need to brush up on your history. Henry Kissinger had, as I recall, nothing to do with installing the Shah of Iran in 1953. I think most historians would agree that Allen Dulles (CIA) and John Foster Dulles (State Dept.), with the assent of Eisenhower, Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill, made sure the coup that “installed the Shah” succeeded. Kissinger was not available for that particular piece of covert action. Be happy you’re not in a class of mine—that misstatement would have hurt you.

    Madeline Albright is “just like” Henry Kissinger? Huh?

    You accuse me of considering “health care for the 20 million that have none” and judicial/prison reform to be luxuries “we can’t afford.”

    First, I said that Bernie was perhaps a “luxury…we can’t afford.” Bernie.

    Second, I would be more than happy to set my efforts per supporting/enhancing the ACA and Medicaid expansion here in South Carolina side-by-side with your efforts any day, any time. Mine started with going door-to-door in my neighborhood asking people if they understood the ACA, hooking them up with a volunteer task force that was helping people maneuver through the federal exchange, etc. Ask my housekeeper, who still hates Obama but loves Obamacare, about her experience with the ACA—it literally saved her life—and how hard I pushed her to get on board quickly when sign-ups began so that she could have the surgery/treatment she needed. A “stone-cold heart?” Have you laced up your words lately and walked the walk?

    Third, had you read closely, you would have noted my cynicism per congressional Republicans being willing to agree to any part of a Democratic president’s agenda. Do you seriously think the GOP House will be willing to expand government-related healthcare under the next president? Do you? Do you seriously think the GOP would be listening to Bernie’s sentencing/prison reform plan were he elected? Do you? As they have done under Obama, they will do to the next Democratic president. And their constituents are more than willing to cut their own throats to make sure no Democrat gets any initiative passed—or even debated. Which is why Bernie’s “revolution”—and I pretty much agree with most of its policies—can’t and won’t begin anytime before 2022 and why we’re almost in a “holding action” until then. I’m just keepin’ it real, bro.

    Authentic Progressive Values? Authentic as opposed to what? It doesn’t sound like there’s any room for debate in your ideologically pure, progressive bubble. Which simply makes it the other side of a Tea Party coin.

  4. James is right, this article is elitist trash.

    There are thousands of people, disproportionatly black/latino, rotting in jail for non violent crimes of simple drug possession. Bernie acknowledges this and vows to end the failed war on drugs – possession of a drug substance should not be criminalized.

    Hillary Clinton pretends to rip off his platform when she says she also wants criminal justice reform, however her policies of NOT decriminalizing drugs like cannabis go against that completely.

  5. The title of your article reeks of the coercive “inevitability” that is at the core of the growing rejection of Hillary. Experience matters, but judgment matters more.

    Hillary bear hugs the most despicable war criminal in our modern history to show her “connections”, as you put it. Kissinger is responsible for the genocide of millions, installed the Shah, and too much more to list. Albright is just like him and Hillary just loves how she defended the starvation of half a million innocent children to “punish” Saddam. Just your kind of candidate?

    You have the callousness to say that health care for the 20 million that have none, or releasing the millions of mostly Black Men and Women enduring neo-slavery in the Prison Industrial Complex Hillary and Bill considered their “crowning achievement”, are a “luxury we can’t afford”? What an elitist and stone cold heart thing to write.

    The time for Bernie is now, and all your empty defenses of war criminals and banker criminals that pay her to tell them to “Cut it out” shall be flushed like turds in November given the rising tide of Authentic Progressive Values you and Hillary want to capitulate on to keep your gravy train going a few more years. Not gonna happen.

    SMH

    • My goodness! While I expected a bit of pushback from those who, I guess, consider themselves the True Progressives, I didn’t expect the title itself to draw a sentence of twenty lashes. If that sounds like mockery, it is. I don’t make a habit of mockery but I am not above it when it is deserved. The title, of course, doesn’t assume any kind of “coercion” or “inevitability,” though your putting the two together does make for a phrase worthy of recreational exegesis.
      “Reeks?” Please.
      In terms of the Democratic nomination, the column has virtually nothing to say per “inevitability.” I, along with many others, consider that to be an open issue. I do speak to the issue of whom I am supporting and I offer my reasoning—which is far more pragmatically political than issue-oriented (and I explain why it is that way). I certainly hope I didn’t cross the line between attempting to be persuasive and becoming, uh, coercive.
      Stating an opinion that Bernie is “unelectable” in a general election isn’t an exercise in “coercive inevitability.” It is simply an opinion that is based on well-considered history, facts and the research being done by political scientists. I supported Eugene McCarthy’s quixotic effort. I supported George McGovern. Neither was considered “electable” and, sure enough, McCarthy didn’t get the nomination and McGovern wasn’t elected. Too many researchers see too many parallels between Bernie’s efforts and those of McCarthy and McGovern for me to have any confidence that Bernie could win a general election. Indeed, I think it safe to say that the headwinds Bernie would face are stronger than those McCarthy would have faced or those McGovern did face.
      Your hyperbole and false/misleading statements make you a caricature of Right-Wingers who fill message boards with little other than hyperbole and false/misleading statements.
      I have quarrels aplenty with Henry Kissinger, but he is scarce “the most despicable war criminal in our modern history.” Historians might ask if you considered Adolph Hitler as less “despicable” than Henry Kissinger. Or, Chairman Mao. Or, Pol Pot. Or, Jozef Stalin. Or, Kim Il Sung. Or, Yakubu Gowon. Or, Jean Gambanda. Or, Sadaam Hussein. Furthermore, you will need to provide cites for your statement that “Kissinger is responsible for the genocide of millions.” There is no defense for his Vietnam policies, but hyperbolic overstatements make it easy to dismiss one’s argument as a whole. And make it more probable that a professor with raised eyebrows will lower your grade.
      You also need to brush up on your history. Henry Kissinger had, as I recall, nothing to do with installing the Shah of Iran in 1953. I think most historians would agree that Allen Dulles (CIA) and John Foster Dulles (State Dept.), with the assent of Eisenhower, Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill, made sure the coup that “installed the Shah” succeeded. Kissinger was not available for that particular piece of covert action. Be happy you’re not in a class of mine—that misstatement would have hurt you.
      Madeline Albright is “just like” Henry Kissinger? Huh?
      You accuse me of considering “health care for the 20 million that have none” and judicial/prison reform to be luxuries “we can’t afford.”
      First, I said that Bernie was perhaps a “luxury…we can’t afford.” Bernie.
      Second, I would be more than happy to set my efforts per supporting/enhancing the ACA and Medicaid expansion here in South Carolina side-by-side with your efforts any day, any time. Mine started with going door-to-door in my neighborhood asking people if they understood the ACA, hooking them up with a volunteer task force that was helping people maneuver through the federal exchange, etc. Ask my housekeeper, who still hates Obama but loves Obamacare, about her experience with the ACA—it literally saved her life—and how hard I pushed her to get on board quickly when sign-ups began so that she could have the surgery/treatment she needed. A “stone-cold heart?” Have you laced up your words lately and walked the walk?
      Third, had you read closely, you would have noted my cynicism per congressional Republicans being willing to agree to any part of a Democratic president’s agenda. Do you seriously think the GOP House will be willing to expand government-related healthcare under the next president? Do you? Do you seriously think the GOP would be listening to Bernie’s sentencing/prison reform plan were he elected? Do you? As they have done under Obama, they will do to the next Democratic president. And their constituents are more than willing to cut their own throats to make sure no Democrat gets any initiative passed—or even debated. Which is why Bernie’s “revolution”—and I pretty much agree with most of its policies—can’t and won’t begin anytime before 2022 and why we’re almost in a “holding action” until then. I’m just keepin’ it real, bro.
      Authentic Progressive Values? Authentic as opposed to what? It doesn’t sound like there’s any room for debate in your ideologically pure, progressive bubble. Which simply makes it the other side of a Tea Party coin.

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