The Vast Ideological Gap Between Hillary Clinton and Supporters of Bernie Sanders

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

Politico looks at Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent problem:

Mitt Romney had a 47 percent problem. Hillary Clinton’s problem is 43 percent.

That’s the share of Democratic caucus goers in Iowa who identify themselves as “socialists,” according to a recent Des Moines Register poll. It’s a percentage that has turned a once-easy line of attack – painting Bernie Sanders as too far left to be electable — into a trickier endeavor for Clinton in the last days before the Iowa caucuses.

This gives one explanation of why the polls in Iowa are now so close, but it over-simplifies the situation. It is not really about socialists versus capitalists. Sanders’ views are far closer to those of European Social Democrats. He is not a socialist, and I certainly am not.  The ideological divide, and the reasons I support Sanders over Clinton, are more complex.

Using the flawed left/right ideological spectrum also creates more serious misunderstandings and feeds the Clinton camp’s false claims that she is more electable than Sanders. The left/right spectrum misses the fact that independents and voters in battle ground states are often hostile towards Clinton and that Sanders has a much better chance with such voters. Part of this is because of voters looking at character as opposed to ideology. Another factor is that Sanders is closer to the ideological center where voters who would consider voting Democratic fall.

Political Compass is one of many sites which measure political views along two or more axes. While no system is perfect, they do a good job of capturing the approximate relative positions of the primary candidates. This shows, as I have often argued during this primary battle, that Hillary Clinton is far closer to the Republican candidates than she is to Bernie Sanders (or to my position). Their graphing of the primary candidates is above and the following is from their description of the candidates:

Style more than substance separates Trump from Hillary Clinton. After all, Trump was a generous donor to Clinton’s senate campaigns, and also to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary is nevertheless disingenuously promoting herself as the centrist between an extreme right-winger (Trump) and an ‘extreme left-winger’ (Sanders). Abortion and gay marriage place her on a more liberal position on the social scale than all of the Republicans but, when it comes to economics, Clinton’s unswerving attachment to neoliberalism and big money is a mutual love affair.

Quite why Sanders is describing himself to the American electorate — of all electorates — as a ‘socialist’ or ‘democratic socialist’ isn’t clear. His economics are Keynesian or Galbraithian, in common with mainstream parties of the left in the rest of the west — the Labour or Social Democrat parties. Surely ‘Social Democrat’ would be a more accurate and appealing label for the Sanders campaign to adopt.

I don’t totally agree with the placement of the candidates. I think they rank Clinton a little more liberal on social issues than she falls, ignoring her past position on gay marriage until politically expedient to change, and her association with members of the religious right in The Fellowship while in the Senate. I would also put a greater distance between them on foreign policy than described in the full post linked above.

Despite these disagreements, the overall pattern is right. Clinton is a bit more moderate than the Republican candidates, but ideologically in the same authoritarian right area. Sanders falls closer to the libertarian than the authoritarian end where the other candidates fall, but not all that much left of center economically.

Personally I fall much further in the left-libertarian section, falling much more towards the libertarian end than Sanders (although I also question if he shouldn’t fall somewhat further along the libertarian axis than shown here). It is no surprise that left-libertarians have been heavily in support of Sanders this year.

This is the divide the Democrats now face. It isn’t that many Democratic voters are socialists, but we do differ considerably from Hillary Clinton in ideology, and do not see much of a difference between her and the Republicans.  Obviously this will not apply to all Sanders supporters, and some could even manage to vote for Hillary Clinton in a general election without having to hold their noses, but it does apply to many of us.

Many young voters share socially libertarian and secular views which put them closer to the left-libertarian portion of the political spectrum. Many of us older voters got more active in politics in response to the abuses of the Bush years. As I wrote earlier in the week, we are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has also been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

Hillary Clinton is just a slightly more moderate version of George Bush. Yes, the Republicans have moved even further towards the authoritarian right corner of the spectrum, but that still does not leave Clinton as a desirable choice.

Support For Abortion Rights Increases As Republicans Enact More Restrictions

Pro-Choice rally

The Republican Party remains out of sync with the views of the American people on abortion rights. An Associated Press-GfK poll reported:

Support for legal abortion in the U.S. has edged up to its highest level in the past two years, with an Associated Press-GfK poll showing an apparent increase in support among Democrats and Republicans alike over the last year.

Nearly six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — now think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, up from 51 percent who said so at the beginning of the year, according to the AP-GfK survey. It was conducted after three people were killed last month in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

While support for legal abortion edged up to 40 percent among Republicans in this month’s poll, from 35 percent in January, the survey found that the GOP remains deeply divided on the issue: Seven in 10 conservative Republicans said they want abortion to be illegal in most or all cases; six in 10 moderate and liberal Republicans said the opposite.

Besides trying to defund Planned Parenthood based on bogus attacks, the Republicans have been restricting access to abortion in many states. Vox has a series of maps showing where the new restrictions are. The article began:

States have enacted an unprecedented number of anti-abortion laws in the past five years, and 2015 continued that trend. According to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights, state lawmakers proposed nearly 400 bills restricting abortion in 2015, and 47 of those bills were enacted. Some of those 47 bills contained more than one restriction, and the Guttmacher Institute estimates that a total of 57 new abortion restrictions became law. Arkansas passed six new anti-abortion laws, the most of any state in 2015.

Vox broke down the new restrictions to include waiting periods and mandatory biased counseling, bans and restrictions on certain abortion procedures, and other types of restrictions. The maps show the new restrictions to be primarily, but not exclusively, in red states. Some of the new restrictions have been overruled in the courts, and if not for this would probably be even more widespread in the more conservative parts of the country.

Outrageous Statements From Donald Trump Distract From Serious Flaws In Other Conservative Candidates (Including Clinton)

Trumps and Clintons

One of the many problems with Donald Trump’s outrageous statements (undoubtedly made more to attract attention and support from a certain segment of the Republican Party than out of conviction) is that it might be making people fail to realize that many other candidates running also have positions which in a normal year might disqualify them from serious consideration. This is most clearly true within the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton also benefits from the non-stop vulgar and sexist attacks on her from Trump. Donald Trump’s views make the flaws in the other candidates look far less significant in comparison, but there remains reasons why other candidates would be unacceptable as president.

Politico looked at The Wild Ideas You Missed While Donald Trump Was Talking, finding that many people are not noticing extreme views from other Republican candidates when Trump gets most of the attention:

The good news for Republicans, arguably, is that their rhetoric has been so consistently over-the-top that it has started to sound routine; academics call this “shifting the Overton window,” the range of what’s considered politically acceptable. I’ve watched all the debates as well as the undercards live, but when I reviewed the transcripts, I was amazed how many radical statements had slipped under my radar. Ted Cruz called for putting the United States back on the gold standard. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of destroying the U.S. military. Huckabee said Bernie Madoff’s rip-offs weren’t as bad as what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare. Lindsey Graham said his administration would monitor all “Islamic websites,” not just jihadist ones. I had even forgotten Trump’s claim that vaccines caused autism in a 2-year-old girl he knew.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Goldbuggery is crackpot economics. The U.S. military is still by far the strongest in the world. And what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare is give them pensions and health care. But none of those statements drew any pushback from the other Republican candidates, or, for that matter, the media moderators. Neither did Ben Carson’s assertion that if the United States had set a goal of oil independence within a decade, moderate Arab states would have “turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” which is wackadoodle on multiple levels.

On the other hand, the Republican debates do present an extremely distorted view of Obama’s record, with nobody present to present the facts:

These are presumably winning messages in a Republican primary. It’s not clear whether they would be in a general election. The reality of the Obama era, for all its warts, is that unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, the deficit has shrunk by two thirds, illegal immigration has plateaued, far fewer U.S. soldiers are dying abroad and Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning than by terrorists at home. The question is whether the run-for-your-lives talking points will crash into statistical reality, or whether they will gradually help create a new political reality.

The Republicans do deserve some credit for being willing to display their views in public. The article does chastise the Democrats here in concluding that the Republicans are “acting like a confident party—perhaps an overconfident party—while the Democrats are acting like they’ve lost their feck.”

In reality, it is the Clinton campaign (which only wanted four debates) and the DNC, which expanded the number to six but hid most of them on nights when few would be watching, which are acting cowardly. Both Sanders and O’Malley have been pushing for more debates. I also think that Clinton has benefited from the exaggerated coverage paid to Trump. If not for his unexpected success in the Republican race, the big story of the year might be Sanders’ challenge to Clinton. After all, Sanders does beat Trump in head to head contests–and often by a larger margin than Clinton does.

Clinton benefits in other ways from Trump being in the race. The large number of lies from Trump dominated the year-end report from Factcheck.org. This led to a fairly long list of lies from Clinton being less obvious, posted further down in the story after Trump’s lies.

The concentration by the media on outrageous comments from Trump distracts from talk about the unethical conduct from Clinton, as well has the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career. Most importantly, it distracts from a more thorough look at Clinton’s views, including her neoconservative views on foreign policy, her conservative views on social/cultural issues, and her turn to the right on economic issues and health care. It also might be kept in mind that, with all his unacceptable statements and views, Donald Trump did oppose the Iraq war which Clinton pushed so hard for, and which turned out to be a disaster.

Salon Article Advocates Writing In Bernie Sanders If Clinton Wins Democratic Nomination

No Clinton

An article at Salon (More like Reagan than FDR: I’m a millennial and I’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton) is receiving some attention for providing reasons why the author would not vote for Hillary Clinton. Walker Bragman began by suggesting that the usual course would be to utilize primaries to try to select the candidate most aligned with the change he wants, and then vote for the lesser of two evils in the general election if it came to this. He argues that this strategy doesn’t apply this year due to the manner in which the DNC is resisting the possibility of selecting a change candidate in rigging the rules for Clinton.

Bragman then went through the arguments as to why he does not want to vote for Clinton. He started with Hillary’s personality repels me (and many others). The section would be better labeled with her character as opposed to personality, as it deals with her dishonesty and double talk.

The next section is more accurately labeled with On foreign policy, Clinton is a neoconservative. This section primarily deals with her approach to handling ISIS, and I would add more regarding her neoconservative views on Iraq and Libya.

The next section is On domestic policy, Clinton is basically a moderate Republican. Many examples are listed to back this up, concentrating on economic policy. I would have included her conservative views on civil liberties and social/cultural issues. Of course an article would have to be quite long to include all the reasons why liberals should not vote for Clinton–and I have pointed out other posts elsewhere along these lines in the past.

The final section is Choosing Hillary threatens the future of the Democratic Party. The section notes the conservative background of New Democrats such as Bill Clinton. I would also take this a step further. Hillary Clinton supports many ideas which Democrats would never accept from a Republican, but many Democrats defend when it comes from Clinton. Similarly, Democrats would be very skeptical of a Republican who received such large contributions from Wall Street, or who benefited financially from parties they were making decisions about. Yet many Democrats ignore unethical conduct from Clinton they would never accept from a Republican. Maybe this wouldn’t hurt the future of the Democratic Party, but it would leave us with a Democratic Party which stands for even less than the party now stands for. That threaten the future of the nation.

The article gives many excellent reasons to vote for Sanders over Clinton in the primaries, along with reasons to be upset if the system gives the nomination to Clinton without a fair fight. However, should Clinton win the nomination, it does not address the fact that the Republican candidate will be even more conservative than Clinton on some issues. While Clinton is more like Reagan than FDR, and is in many ways a combination of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, the Republican Party has moved much further to the right in recent years.

This leaves the question as to whether it will matter if Clinton or a Republican wins–which is more difficult to say without knowing which Republican will be the GOP nominee. It is definitely possible that there will be no meaningful difference with regards to foreign policy and civil liberties issues if Clinton or a Republican wins. There is the danger that the next president will be hostile to government transparency, and nobody has reached the level of the Clinton corruption in using the office of the presidency to enhance their personal worth. We will probably see a continuation of the surveillance state and of the drug war regardless of whether Clinton or a Republican wins.

The biggest danger in a Clinton presidency would be that many Democrats will support conservative policies, leaving a weak liberal opposition to her policies, while there would be greater unity in opposing what might even be the exact same policies coming from Republicans.

The biggest upside to Clinton winning over the Republicans might be that after campaigning as a progressive for the nomination, she will continue to govern as one. At very least Clinton would support a handful of liberal positions such as reproductive rights if elected. While this would be favorable, it is hardly enough to be happy with the prospect of her election considering her many conservative views. Unfortunately we have already seen her swing to the right on some issues and she has shown throughout her career that she cannot be trusted to stand up for liberal ideas. Much of the differences we now see between Clinton and the GOP candidates are far less differences on the issues and more a matter of which party’s voters they are currently trying to attract.

The biggest differences could be the veto pen and the Supreme Court. There is now the possibility of a bill reaching Obama’s desk to repeal Obamacare from the Republican Congress–and we can be certain it will not be replaced with a single payer system. If this happens, Obama will veto it. Clinton would also veto it, along with other conceivable damaging legislation the Republicans might get through Congress. Clinton would also choose Supreme Court justices from a far different pool than any Republican president would, and it is possible they would be more conventional Democrats as opposed to ones as conservative as she is.

I don’t mean this to argue either way as to whether Sanders supporters should vote for Clinton or write in Sanders should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. It is far too early to argue over this, especially considering that we don’t know who will win either party’s nomination at this point. It is also way too early, and far too annoying, for Clinton supporters to constantly interrupt discussion among Sanders or O’Malley supporters on Facebook, and elsewhere in social media, to ask if they will vote for Clinton in the general election. It certainly shows a degree of insecurity about their candidate that they are so fearful that many Democrats will not turn out to vote for their candidate in the general election.

Not living in a battle ground state also makes it far easier for me to consider what would amount to a protest vote should Clinton win the nomination, while I might vote differently if I anticipated a situation like Florida in 2000. Rather than writing in Sanders, as many now say they will do, I would first take a closer look at the Green Party, feeling that this might help build a more long term opposition force from the left than writing in Sanders would. This is about policy positions, not personalities. And as for the comparison to Gore in 2000, there is a major difference. It was unfortunate that Bush and not Gore won due to their different views on foreign policy, leading to the Iraq war. In this case, Clinton shares the neoconservative views which we would have been better off keeping out of office in 2000.

An updated version of this post which elaborates more on some of the issues raised has been posted at The Moderate Voice

Press & Bloggers Show Sanders Was Right In Accusing Clinton Of Practicing Revisionist History On DOMA

The Clintons have never been very supportive of social liberalism, and now that the liberal views they often showed little regard for during Bill’s presidency have become mainstream in the Democratic Party (and much of the country), Hillary is trying to rewrite history. Bernie Sanders pointed this out at the Jefferson Jackson dinner last weekend. His statement is being backed up by the press, bloggers, and people on Twitter who remember the truth.

The Washington Blade wrote:

Sen. Bernard Sanders isn’t the only one taking Hillary Clinton to task over her recent assertion that the Defense of Marriage Act was a “defensive” measure to prevent worse discrimination against LGBT people.

A number of gay rights activists took to Twitter to say Clinton engaged in historic revisionism during her appearance Friday on “The Rachel Maddow Show” when she said DOMA was a means to stop the enactment of a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage entirely. Many of those activists also tempered their objections by saying Clinton is generally doing right on LGBT rights during her campaign…

The notion DOMA was passed to stop passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment has been disputed by Hillary Clinton supporter and former Human Rights Campaign chief Elizabeth Birch, who wrote an op-ed saying “there was no real threat” of a constitutional measure in 1996.

Bloomberg Politics also sees this as revisionist history:

Bill Clinton’s aides and confidants admitted to the New York Times in 2013 that he knew DOMA was wrong and discriminatory toward gays and lesbians. His former press secretary Mike McCurry said: “His posture was quite frankly driven by the political realities of an election year in 1996.” Democratic consultant and Clinton ally Hilary Rosen added: “In my conversations with him, he was personally embarrassed and remorseful.”

Neither said it was a strategic move to prevent something worse. And indeed, that might have been difficult. The Federal Marriage Amendment wasn’t introduced until 2002. It didn’t become part of the Republican Party platform until 2004…

Prominent figures in the LGBT community, meanwhile, rejected Clinton’s recollection of history.

“Hillary’s version of DADT and DOMA is so wrong. The only ‘defensive posture’ was for their personal politics not LGBT,” activist David Mixner said on Twitter. He added: “The LGBT community should NEVER allow any politician to revise our noble and courageous history for political purposes.”

Radio host and HuffPost Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile called Hillary Clinton’s version “revisionism” and said on Twitter that it was “simply not true that DOMA was signed to stop something worse.” He continued, “Hillary doesn’t need to re-write Bill history to make her better. She’s fine, has promised a lot.”

Bill Clinton even resorted to using ads opposing gay marriage when running for reelection. While Hillary’s positions do sound much better today, we cannot count on positions she has taken for political expediency to persist if the next poll or focus group suggests she should take a different position.

AmericaBlog also showed that this is not the first time the Clintons have resorted to this type of historical revisionism, along with noting that, “Sanders is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, and has opposed anti-gay discrimination laws going back to his campaigns for mayor in the 1970s.” Last month PolitiFact ruled that a statement from Chuck Todd was true that Bernie Sanders was “there” on same sex marriage twenty years ago.

Hillary Clinton’s conservative social views, seen in her membership in religious right organization, The Fellowship (also known as The Family) while in the Senate, makes many liberals wary of trusting her on social issues (along with economic issues, civil liberties, and foreign policy). The American Humanist Association has noted how much she is like the Republicans in pandering to religion:

American Humanist Organization Religious Pandering

They also noted that Bernie Sanders has expressed views in line with theirs:

American Humanist Organization Sanders Humanism

It comes down to a difference in their philosophies which as led Sanders to take the correct fork in the road, while Clinton has so often been wrong, whenever there have been big decisions during their careers. 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.

Bernie Sanders’ Views On Secularism & The Drug War Present An Important Alternative To Hillary Clinton’s Conservative Views

The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming the Democratic nominee represents a nightmare to those on the left who desire to see action on the concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, those who prefer peace over perpetual war, those who support civil liberties, and those who are liberal on social/cultural issues. If Bernie Sanders had his way, he would only be speaking about the first issue during this campaign. He is learning that he cannot be a single-issue candidate and must broaden his appeal (as I discussed after his performance in the first Democratic debate). Bernie Sanders has frequently championed economic issues, has often spoken out on Clinton’s pro-war stance, and has now become a more reluctant culture warrior and hero to secularists in this campaign.

Sanders appeared much more comfortable in this position when appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week. To the shock of conservatives, and delight of secularists, Sanders downplayed the role of religion. Kimmel asked, “You say you’re culturally Jewish — you don’t feel religious. Do you believe in God, and do you think that’s important to the people of the United States?” Sanders answered:

I am who I am and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. That I think it is not a good thing to believe that as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people. This is not Judaism — this is what Pope Francis is talking about — that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money. Life is more than that.

While discussing social/cultural issues, Sanders also said he is “not unfavorably disposed to moving towards the legalization of marijuana” when asked by Kimmel. He came out strongly against the drug war in  pointing out, “We have more people in jail today than any other country on Earth.” He also said, “We have large numbers of lives that have been destroyed because of this war on drugs and because people were caught smoking marijuana and so forth. I think we have to end the war on drugs.”

This is quite a contrast to the views of Hillary Clinton, who has been as much a war-monger on the drug war as on foreign policy.

bernie-sanders-jimmy-kimmel

Sanders’ views on religion are in tune with the times in an age when those unaffiliated with organized religion is the fastest growing group. This comes as a welcome alternative in the Democratic race for secularists to the views of Hillary Clinton, used the phrase “God-given potential” three times during the last Democratic debate, and who answered this question from The New York Times Sunday Book Review:

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.

This led Gawker to write, “However you feel about Hillary Clinton, it is difficult to deny that she is one of the most cold and calculating political figures in all the land.” The Daily Banter also called this “a political calculation” and at the time I thought the same. However, a deeper look into Clinton’s religious views suggests an even scarier interpretation than crass political calculation–this might actually be what she believes. As I previously discussed in April, Clinton’s cultural conservatism and promotion of conservative causes has often been seen in her membership in The Fellowship while in the Senate. From Mother Jones in 2007:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection…

That’s how it works: The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward…These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gop on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right…

The libertarian Cato Institute recently observed that Clinton is “adding the paternalistic agenda of the religious right to her old-fashioned liberal paternalism.” Clinton suggests as much herself in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, where she writes approvingly of religious groups’ access to schools, lessons in Scripture, and “virtue” making a return to the classroom.

As noted in the above excerpt, Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her opposition to needle exchange programs was a significant difference between Clinton and Obama in the 2008 race.  Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on gay rights and on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare” as opposed to uncompromisingly defending the rights of women to control their own bodies.

Bernie Sanders is raising important economic issues in his campaign against Hillary Clinton and her Wall Street ties, but there are many other differences between them which are important in this race.

Updates:

Marijuana And The Death Penalty: Sanders and Clinton Engage In More Significant Off Stage Debate Than The Republicans In Colorado
Press & Bloggers Show Sanders Was Right In Accusing Clinton Of Practicing Revisionist History On DOMA  Plus see two related graphics from the American Humanist Association on panderng to religion by Clinton and Republicans, and Bernie Sanders’ Humanist views.

What Bernie Sanders Needs To Learn From The First Democratic Debate

democratic-debate-sanders-clinton

The media continues to declare Clinton was the winner of the Democratic debate, ignoring all those in the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. This underestimates the benefits Sanders received from the debate in gaining greater exposure, increased fund raising, and probably new supporters. However this is how the debates work and Sanders has to play the game. Essentially we have the same pundits who downplayed Sanders campaign from the start declaring Clinton to be the winner.

Unfortunately we cannot just write this off as media bias. Many people base their views of a debate on post-debate media coverage, and Sanders needs to keep this in mind when formulating debate strategy. The debate might have exacerbated Sanders’ long-standing problem. He is far better on the issues than Clinton,and would make a far stronger general election candidate based upon independents and the battle ground states. However Hillary is stronger among partisan Democrats–and unless Sanders brings in far more new voters than expected, they will determine the nomination. We run a great risk of Clinton winning the nomination, and winding up with a Republican president.

I was concerned about Sanders’ unconventional debate strategy prior to the debate. Unfortunately we knew going into the debate that the mainstream media would call it for Clinton based upon matters of being a more polished debater and having the more establishment ideas, and the media would continue to downplay Sanders as they have from the start. They don’t seem to care about how evasive or dishonest Clinton was ,even if some reporters and the fact checkers have pointed this out.

Debate winners have always been based upon how the media represents the debate. Bernie won the focus groups among those actually watching, but unfortunately that is now how it works. A candidate has to win the press coverage, and this does influence the polls. This was only one event, and not too much attention should be placed upon it, but the polls are showing that Clinton did get a bounce from the debate, at least among the Democratic base. NBC News, for example, reports Clinton Wins Debate, Re-energizes Core Backers.

It was not all bad news for Sanders:

Bernie Sanders has picked up considerable steam among young voters, capturing the support of 54% of those under the age of 30 compared to Clinton’s 26%. Among Hispanics, Sanders has more than doubled his level of support, to 33%. He also continues to gain traction among those with a high school degree or less, although Clinton is still outperforming him by 18 points. Fortunately for Clinton, these groups do not tend to turn out in primary elections as strongly as the groups from where she draws her strength.

I think that whether Sanders can win the nomination will come down to whether the big crowds he is attracting turn into actual voters who come out to vote for him. This also makes interpretation of polls more difficult as there is no way to predict how turnout will be among his supporters. Sanders can win if he brings in enough people who are fed up with the system to vote.

Regardless of whether the first debate helped Clinton more, fortunately there are more debates (even if far too few). Sanders is a smart man. I bet he has figured out how the game is played with debates. Hopefully he goes into the next debate prepared with sound bites, prepared to more directly take on Clinton, and better prepared to talk about other issues (where he is right and Clinton is wrong) beyond economics.

Democrats are making a big mistake if they think that a polished performance by Clinton in the debate has done anything to turn around her problems in a general election campaign. While many Democrats mistakingly think the party has a lock on the electoral college, winning the presidency for a third consecutive term will not be easy. I don’t think anyone can really predict what will happen, but in the past week an analysis from Ipsos/Reuters predicts a Republican victory.

Clinton’s weakness among independents and in the battle ground states will make it very difficult for her to win the general election. Sanders received some momentary praise for defending her, but he was wrong. As Philip Bump pointed out after the debate, only Democrats are sick and tired about hearing about Clinton’s email. Independents do care, and this will hurt her in a general election. As The Washington Post also noted, this is not a problem which is going to go away.

While it received applause before a partisan Democratic crowd invited by the DNC, Sanders would have been much smarter to have both denounced the Republicans for playing politics with their Benghazi witch hunt, and criticizing Hillary Clinton for her violation of the rules and unethical behavior as Secretary of State. It shouldn’t have been necessary to wait for the fact check articles to point out how Clinton was repeating the same lies she has been telling for months about the email.

If Sanders had his way, he would talk only about income inequality and economic policy. It is possible he might not even be aware of the facts related to the Clinton scandals. This is not  how to win a campaign. Sanders needs to be prepared to defend transparency in government and criticize Clinton for her abuses. He also needed to be even better prepared to criticize her for her support for greater military intervention in Libya and Syria. He needs to oppose her more strongly on civil liberties and social issues. He must defend his position on guns, both supporting rational gun control and respecting the rights of hunters, as part of an overall difference between Sanders and Clinton on civil liberties issues.  He must make more out of his support, and Clinton’s opposition, to expanding Social Security. He needs to continue to discuss climate change, along with pointing out the weakness of Clinton’s environmental record. 

While the economy is important, Sanders cannot look like a single-issue candidate. Even when talking about the economy, he needs to be better prepared to explain during a debate just how much can be done by increasing taxes on the top one percent. He needs to discuss the socialist ideas which many Americans take for granted, while stressing reforming but not eliminating what is good about our capitalist system.

An updated version of this post appears at The Moderate Voice

How Negative Will Clinton Go Against Sanders and Biden?

Sanders Raise Money Clinton Super Pac

Considering how dirty her 2008 campaign was against Obama, there has been speculation as to how negative Hillary Clinton will get against Bernie Sanders, and against Joe Biden if he decides to run. The New York Times notes that Clinton must be cautious in debating Sanders:

Over the next week, Mrs. Clinton and her aides will look for the best way to explain to viewers why she is a better choice than her nearest rival without sounding condescending to Mr. Sanders, or dismissive of his views, so she does not risk alienating his growing army of supporters.

“I’ve seen every attack people have thrown at him, and none of them have worked,” cautioned Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who supports Mrs. Clinton.

Not all of them have been exactly subtle. In 2004, the Republican challenging him for his House seat sought to deride him as a political oddball. “Crazy Bernie,” an advertisement called him, “a holdover from the Woodstock days of reefer and flowers.” But Vermont voters did not seem to mind…

For Mrs. Clinton, debating Mr. Sanders poses a challenge reminiscent of the more troublesome one she faced in 2008, when Senator Barack Obama’s criticisms of her were widely characterized as fair, but Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to counter them and defend herself often were not.

Already, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton showed the risks that can come if an unsuccessful attack on Mr. Sanders blows back. As The Huffington Post reported, the super PAC, Correct the Record, in a document that was intended to be off the record, drew a connection between Mr. Sanders and Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela who died in 2013, because Mr. Sanders supported a deal to bring low-cost Venezuelan oil to New England. Mr. Sanders, calling it “the same-old, same-old negative politics,” seized on the report and raised more than $1 million in two days.

More on how Sanders set fund raising records in response to this attack here. Clinton’s dirty campaign in 2008 led many Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy  to ultimately endorse Obama instead of her, and any dirty tricks from Clinton this campaign might have the same effect.

Clinton might try to attack Sanders’ views but this will be difficult because of how often he has been right on the issues and Clinton has been wrong. Clinton has often avoided discussing the issues in this campaign, and she did not do a good job on education. Alternet reports Hillary Clinton Delivers a Lame Attack on Bernie Sanders’ Free College Tuition Plan. Just wait until they talk about Iraq during the upcoming debate.

Clinton’s attacks on Sanders have generally come through surrogates. Politico reports on how Morning Joe is responding to the use of surrogates:

There’s a mandate on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: No candidate surrogates or spokespeople can appear on the show until the candidate agrees to be interviewed. And it all started with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“The rule was put in place for Hillary’s campaign because while just about every other candidate came on, the Clinton team kept trying to put out surrogates and staffers,” host Joe Scarborough told POLITICO. “We finally said ‘not until the candidate comes on herself.’ And then some suggested we have Jeb [Bush’s] people on a month or so ago, but we held to the same policy.”

Bush himself went on the show last week, meaning his surrogates and spokespeople can now appear as well. But Clinton, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, none of whom has appeared on the show since they announced their campaigns, will have to wait.

“It applies to everybody. It just started with Hillary because her people were aggressive with getting pollsters and spokespeople on, but it applies to everyone,” Scarborough said. “That’s the fairest way to do it.”

While I often disagree with Joe Scarborough, this policy does sound like a good idea.

New York Magazine reports that Clinton’s usual hit-man, former Republican hit-man David Brock, will be leading the attacks on Joe Biden:

If Joe Biden jumps into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will be ready to go on the offensive. According to a source close to the Clinton campaign, a team of opposition researchers working on behalf of Clinton is currently digging through Biden’s long record in office to develop attack lines in case the vice-president runs. The research effort started about a month ago and is being conducted by operatives at Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary superpac founded by David Brock, which is coordinating with the Clinton campaign. According to the source, the research has turned up material on Biden’s ties to Wall Street; his reluctance to support the raid that killed Osma bin Laden; and his role in the Anita Hill saga as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The oppo-research project reveals how seriously Clintonworld is taking the prospect of a Biden candidacy. So far, Clinton hasn’t taken any direct shots at Biden herself. But behind the scenes, her loyalists are making moves to blunt Biden’s campaign should he run. “Even implicitly his campaign’s argument would be ‘I have integrity and you don’t,'” a Clinton ally said. “If that’s the message, this could be messier than Obama-Clinton ’08. At least Obama had the Iraq War vote and could make a case about generational change. This guy” — Biden — “is older than she is and just as conventional.”

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign declined to comment.

Joe Biden might respond that while they voted the same on the initial Iraq vote, their views otherwise were quite different. Biden spent the next several months looking for alternatives to war while Clinton was one of the strongest advocates of going to war, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s more hawkish views as Secretary of State. Biden was pushing for Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage while Clinton was still opposed to it. Biden did not join up with the religious right while in the Senate as Clinton did. Biden didn’t spend his time in the Senate proposing to make flag burning a felony, or waging a war against video games as Clinton did. While Biden is not my first choice, he is certainly not as conservative as Clinton on social issues and foreign policy. Both Clinton and Biden have problems with regards to their ties to Wall Street and their hard line views on the drug war.

Why Liberals Should Support Bernie Sanders And Not Hillary Clinton

Sanders Clinton

Conor Friedersdorf is a little late with this article at The Atlantic in calling for more Democratic candidates to enter the race, but his arguments against nominating Clinton are solid:

Most Democrats regard the Iraq War as a historic disaster. Clinton voted for that conflict. That hawkishness wasn’t a fluke. She pushed for U.S. intervention in Libya without Congressional approval and without anticipating all that has gone wrong in that country. She favored U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war as well. Why haven’t Democrats concluded that she has dangerously bad judgment on foreign policy? She certainly hasn’t done anything to distinguish herself in that realm.

Along with the Iraq War, Democrats disdained George W. Bush for the Patriot Act, his expansive views on executive power, and his awful record on transparency. Clinton voted for the Patriot Act. She shows every sign of embracing a similarly expansive view of executive power. And she took extraordinary steps to shield her emails from federal public-records and freedom of information laws.

Then there are her financial backers.

Many Democrats are sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street and to the notion that wealthy special interests on Wall Street are rigging the system by buying off politicians. Who is more bought off than Clinton? It isn’t just her campaign coffers and her family’s foundation that benefit from Wall Street money. Her family’s private accounts are flush with funds from big banks, including at least one that benefitted from her tenure at State and paid her husband seven figures for a speaking gig. It is naive to think that she won’t look out for the interests of Big Finance in Washington.

And on social issues like gay marriage and police misconduct her approach has been to lag public opinion rather than to lead it toward an embrace of progressive reforms.

These are significant flaws.

Nothing costs more in blood and treasure than dubious wars of choice. In an era of terrorism, it is more important than ever to elevate reliable guardians of civil liberties. Wall Street malfeasance contributed to a painful financial crisis in recent memory…

Bernie Sanders has exposed Clinton’s electoral weakness. Her response to the email scandal has reminded voters how willing she is to dissemble. At the very least, Clinton’s weaknesses suggest that a coronation would be a folly––and one without any apparent upside.

Friedersdorf’s argument elsewhere in the article for more Democrats to challenge Clinton would have made sense months ago, when most Democrats were afraid to enter the race because of the fallacious belief that Clinton’s victory was inevitable. At this point it would be very hard for other candidates to launch a campaign unless they have considerable name recognition and connections, such as Joe Biden or Al Gore. Gore’s name comes up occasionally, but there is no sign he has any real interest, and Biden has not yet decided. Democrats who were afraid of the challenge of taking on Clinton six months ago when they thought her victory was inevitable are unlikely to take up the challenge of entering the nomination battle at this late date.

While this might change if Biden gets in the race or O’Malley’s campaign should come back from the dead, at this time Sanders is the only viable alternative to Clinton. Friedersdorf arguments against Clinton are the reasons why liberals should vote for Bernie Sanders.

This article also reminded me of another article I’d recommend at TruthoutFive Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton. The article summarizes Clinton’s conservative record on Foreign Policy, the Economy, the Environment, Civil Liberties, and Culture War issues. I would add a sixth–government transparency and ethics, but note that this was written in February, before the email and Foundation scandals.

Hillary Clinton Avoids Taking A Stand On Keystone XL Pipeline & Once Again Undermines Fight For Reproductive Rights

Sanders on Clinton Keystone XL

“If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” –Hillary Clinton

One reason why Hillary Clinton is dropping in the polls and Bernie Sanders is climbing is that voters prefer a more open and honest candidate such as Sanders. Hillary Clinton has practiced triangulation to avoid taking a stand on controversial issues throughout her career, and we saw it again this week on the Keystone XL  Pipeline and Planned Parenthood.

While at times Clinton appeared to support the pipeline in the past, since this has become a risky position in Democratic primaries she has avoided answering questions on the subject. We got a classic Hillaryism with her latest response to the question: “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

Chris Cillizza tore Clinton apart for this line:

When you are running for president — whether or not you served in the current administration — you are going to be asked to take positions on issues that the current president is dealing with. As long as we hold elections that begin two years (or more) before the current president is set to leave office, that’s going to be a thing candidates need to contend with. If Clinton’s position is that she can’t take a public stance on any issue that has some sort of pending business before this White House, then she’s not going to be able to take a position on, well, anything.

And she’s already shown that on some issues, she is willing to take a position. Clinton came out in favor of the Iran deal, for example, despite the fact that its fate remains up in the air in Congress.

Second, the whole point of a campaign is for voters to get to know the candidates and understand what their respective presidencies might look like. People and reporters and the candidates you are running against ask you questions. You answer them — most of the time. It’s what we do. It’s how voters can feel as though they are making an informed decision come Election Day.

Imagine if Jeb Bush, when asked about the immigration problem in the country, said only: “Look, it’s a complex issue. I am not going to say anything about it until I am in the White House.” There would be massive outrage — and rightly so. Bush would be accused of obfuscating for purely political reasons. Which, of course, would be what he was doing.

Beyond the question of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Clinton has received criticism from environmentalists for her support for off-shore drilling and fracking. It is also doubtful that she would take effective action on climate change considering the amount of money she receives from the petroleum industry.

Clinton also tried to triangulate on the Planned Parenthood videos, leading to headlines such as Hillary Clinton Calls Planned Parenthood Videos ‘Disturbing’

Hillary Clinton has staunchly defended Planned Parenthood in the wake of recently released videos that an anti-abortion group claims to show employees with the organization discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

But, in a new interview, she calls the graphic videos “disturbing” and says there should be a national investigation into that practice.

“I have seen pictures from them and obviously find them disturbing,” the Democratic presidential candidate told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday in regards to the videos, which were released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. “Planned Parenthood is answering questions and will continue to answer questions.”

She did also defend Planned Parenthood in general, but undermined them in fighting off the right wing attacks with statements such as this. As I discussed previously, right wing organizations with a history of distorting the facts are used the tapes to present a false claim that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. In reality, the tapes show that they were negotiating over fees for collection, preservation, and transport of fetal tissue which was donated for biomedical research.  This is both legal and conventional. It is no different than when I do a pap smear and Medicare or private insurance companies pay me for collecting and arranging transport of the specimen to a lab. This does not mean that I am “selling” cervical cells and  Planned Parenthood is not “selling” fetal tissue. With Republicans using this false attack to threaten to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, Clinton should be defending them on this point, not calling it “disturbing” and calling for a national investigation into a practice which is fully legal.

Clinton continued to undermine abortion rights in saying, “I have said for more than 22 years that abortion should be legal, safe and rare.” Reproductive rights advocates such as Katha Pollitt in her book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, have criticized this statement for reducing the status of abortion rights and  stigmatizing women who do have abortions. Jessica Valenti has written, “Agreeing with anti-choice activists on even that single word hurts women and the cause of reproductive rights.” Clinton has also upset defenders of womens’ rights in the past with her support for parental notification laws.  This is just a small part of Clinton’s tendency to compromise liberal principles, often siding with the religious right on social/cultural issues.

Update: The Hill reports, Clinton’s habit of dodging key issues draws Democrats’ fire:

Even Democrats who are not Sanders partisans are concerned about Clinton’s sometimes-opaque comments on the campaign trail.

“What people are looking for is to know what’s in her heart,” said strategist Jamal Simmons.

Further fueling concern are a number of recent polls that have shown Clinton performing very poorly when voters are asked about her honesty and trustworthiness. Last week, a Quinnipiac poll showed Coloradans asserting by an almost 2-1 margin that Clinton was not honest or trustworthy: 62 percent said she was not, whereas only 34 percent she was. Respondents in Iowa distrusted Clinton 59 percent to 33 percent, and those in Virginia distrusted her 55 percent to 39 percent.

Keystone is far from the only issue on which Clinton has bobbed and weaved.

On the minimum wage, a key issue for many liberals, she has backed a minimum of $15 an hour for fast food workers in New York but has not stipulated a nationally mandated figure.

She avoided taking an unequivocal position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) even as the related debate over fast-track trade authority roiled Congress last month — and her position remains unclear.

Additional examples of Clinton’s habit of trying to avoid taking positions on the issues were also noted in the article.