Hillary Clinton has had a very good month, especially with Joe Biden deciding not to run, which is starting to solidify her support among the Democratic mainstream. Therefore it is puzzling that she would decide to take the low road in the campaign, playing the sex card much like she played the race card against Barack Obama eight years ago. She not only continued her campaign strategy of distorting Sanders’ record on gun control, but twisted a statement to falsely accuse him of sexism. While some of Clinton’s supporters have frequently accused anyone who disagrees with Clinton’s views, or objects to her low ethical standards, of sexism, as far as I am aware this is the first time Hillary Clinton has stooped this low during this campaign.
During the recent Democratic debate, Sanders repeated a line he frequently uses in his stump speech, criticizing the shouting from both sides on the issue. Democrats who are seen as opposing the private ownership of guns under any circumstance do not have the credibility which Sanders has, having supported both sensible gun control and the rights of hunters to own guns, to bridge this issue. When talking about shouting on the issue, Sanders is talking about all parties. Clinton twisted this in her response: “I’m not shouting. It’s just that when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”
Clinton is foolish to play dirty in the campaign when she has the lead as she already faced a challenge, should she go on to win the nomination, to get those independents who support Sanders but do not normally vote Democratic to turn out to vote for her in the general election. This will only make it harder. It is also foolish for Clinton to dwell on a single issue to make a bogus case of being more consistently liberal than Sanders when she has spent much of her career triangulating and undermining liberal principles.
Bernie Sanders responded to Clinton by bringing up just a small number of the many issues where Clinton has not been consistently liberal at the Democratic Jefferson-Jackson dinner. While he has mentioned some of these in the past, he was much more forceful in showing the differences between himself and Clinton, as I suggested he should do after the first debate. Sanders raised Clinton’s inconsistent views on trade, the Keystone XL Pipeline, campaign finance reform, the Iraq war, and gay rights. NBC News reported:
Without mentioning her by name, Sanders fired off a series of back-to-back jabs clearly aimed at the weakest parts of Clinton’s resume as he portrayed himself as the true progressive in the race who “will govern based on principle not poll numbers.”
His section of supporters roared at this key party event, which has a history of dislodging frontrunners — including Clinton in 2008 — in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating contest.
On the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Clinton recently opposed, Sanders said he was there first.
“I did not support it yesterday. I do not support it today. And I will not support it tomorrow,” he said. “It is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements.”
Clinton once called the TPP the “gold standard” of trade deals as she helped negotiate it as President Obama’s secretary of state.
On the Keystone XL pipeline, which Clinton seemed to favor as secretary of state but recently opposed, Sanders said he was there first too.
“If you agree with me about the urgent need to address the issue of climate change, then you would know immediately what to do about the Keystone pipeline. Honestly, it wasn’t that complicated,” he said. “To me, that was a no-brainer and that is why I have opposed the Keystone Pipeline from the beginning.”
On the Iraq War vote, where Clinton now says her “yes” vote was a mistake, Sanders said he was there first as well. “Let me tell you that I listened to what Bush had to say, to what Cheney had to say, to what Rumsfeld had to say. I didn’t believe them and I voted no,” he said.
And on the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law signed by Bill Clinton that banned the federal government from recognizing gay marriages — which Hillary Clinton now opposes — Sanders said he was there first once again.
“Today, some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse. Let us be clear. That’s just not true,” he said. “There was a small minority opposed to discriminating against our gay brothers and sisters. Not everybody held that position in 1996.”
Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Friday that her husband supported DOMA as a “defensive action,” since something worse would have been passed in its stead.
On every issue, Sanders said he faced a “fork in the road.”
“I am proud to tell you when I came to that fork in the road I took the right road even though it was not the popular road at the time,” he said.
And one of his biggest applause lines, ostensibly on campaign finance, was also a veiled shot at Clinton. “I am the only Democratic candidate for president who does not have a Super PAC and we are going to prove them wrong,” he said. Clinton has two super PACs.
Sanders sought to position himself as the rightful heir to Obama, who stunned observers at this very event in 2007 by delivering an inspiring speech that drew clear contrasts with Clinton.
“Eight years ago the experts talked about how another Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama, couldn’t win. How he was unelectable. Well Iowa, I think we’re going to prove the pundits wrong again. I believe we will make history,” he said.
In order to prove the pundits wrong, make history, and to win, Bernie Sanders will need to continue to draw a contrast between himself and Hillary Clinton on the issues, showing Democratic voters that he, and not Clinton, better represents Democratic values. Of course the Democratic Party is a big tent and Clinton’s generally center-right positions will appeal to many of those who vote in Democratic primaries. To win Sanders will also need to turn the independent support he is achieving into primary votes.
Many of his supporters are young voters who do not traditionally turn out in hight numbers. Sanders just might change this with positions which attract the young, including his more left-libertarian views on social/cultural issues, including legalization of marijuana, along with his proposal to make public college education free. His support for expanding Social Security also represents a policy difference with Hillary Clinton which could help Sanders make inroads at the other end of the age range.
Sanders repeated his criticism of Clinton on CNN Sunday Morning, this time mentioning Clinton by name:
“I have consistently been a critic of what is going on on Wall Street, the greed, the recklessness, the illegal behavior. I helped lead the effort to — against the deregulation of Wall Street. I believe that we should bring back Glass-Steagall legislation so that you do not have the absurd situation of commercial banks and investment banks and large insurance companies being together,” Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“You do not have six financial institutions having assets equivalent to 60 percent of the GDP,” he continued. “With all the economic and political power that these banks have, I think you’ve got to break them up. That has always — that has been my view for a very, very long time. That is not Hillary Clinton’s view.”
ABC News began their report of the Jefferson-Jackson dinner which an example which seems to represent the philosophical difference between Clinton and Sanders supporters:
On one half of the space, the Clinton fans looked organized and polished. They wore matching, glow-in-the-dark, blue t-shirts that read, “I’m fighting for her.” They held battery-operated foam lights that shone brightly when the lights dimmed and doubled as noise-makers.
Sanders’ fans had glow sticks, too, the kind that glow after being snapped. While many of his fans wore Bernie 2016 t-shirts, they were mismatched and different colors. His section also included several homemade signs.
I think this says a lot about the types of people who support Sanders as opposed to Clinton. Most importantly, Democratic voters need to keep in mind that, to paraphrase Sanders, when there has been a fork in the road on policy, throughout their careers Sanders has taken the right fork while Clinton has made the wrong decision. We need a president who makes the right choices at the time, not one who will admit her mistakes and change her views years down the road.
Update: Video posted here.