Yes… yes, I’ve heard it all before. Apparently I’m some sort of “paid shill” for Hillary (still waiting on that check, by the way), I’m a “fake progressive,” and I’m just “afraid” of the Sanders revolution.
Now that we got that out of the way, hopefully now we can focus on what I mean when I say Hillary Clinton has been more honest with voters than Bernie Sanders.
I certainly don’t mean that Bernie Sanders is a liar or a dishonest person. In fact, despite what most people may think about either candidate, according to non-partisan fact-checking site Politifact, Clinton and Sanders both tell the truth at about the same rate. Clinton’s “True/Mostly True” score is 50 percent while Sanders comes in at 52 percent.
What I mean when I say Clinton is being more honest with voters than Sanders is that, for maybe the first time, we’re seeing a leading candidate of a major political party essentially telling voters: Look, I know what my opponent is telling you sounds great, but based on the realities of how government works, what he’s promising he’s going to do isn’t remotely feasible or realistic.
For as much flack as Clinton gets from many Sanders supporters for supposedly saying whatever she feels will benefit her most politically, the truth is, she could have simply gone all-in on single-payer health care, free public college and a $15 an hour minimum wage to leave very little gap between her and Sanders. Politically speaking, especially as it relates to the primaries, that would have probably been the easier thing to do.
However, the political realities of an election are as such that you can either run on ideological purity or you can run on realistic ideas.
Sure, many of the policies on which Sanders has largely built his campaign are more liberal than several of Clinton’s policies. He wants single-payer, she wants to improve and expand the Affordable Care Act. He wants free public college, she wants debt-free public college. He wants a $15 minimum wage, she wants $12. The problem with what Sanders wants to do is that his big plans stand absolutely zero chance at ever getting through Congress.
Now I know what some of you are going to say: The wave of support he’ll bring to the polls in November would hand Congress back over to Democrats so he could get this passed.
No, it won’t.
First, there’s almost zero chance Democrats reclaim a majority in the House of Representatives this November, though there is a distinct possibility that they can retake the majority in the Senate. But even if, by some miracle, Democrats took back the House and gained a majority in the Senate – they would still need 60 seats in the Senate to prevent Republicans from being able to filibuster legislation. That’s even more unlikely than Democrats winning back a majority in the House.
But even beyond all of that, there’s another reality many Sanders supporters seem to ignore. That is, there are quite a few congressional Democrats from somewhat conservative areas of this country supported by left of center voters who would oppose some of the policies on which Sanders is running. So it’s not just that Sanders would need Democrats to take back both the House and Senate, he would need overwhelming majorities in both houses to stand any chance of his proposals getting through the legislative process.
Now if you want to tell yourself that’s all possible this November, go right ahead if that makes you feel better. But that’s not going to change what the political realities are.
In fact, even Sanders knows an overwhelming Democratic majority in Congress is unlikely based on his answer to a question during CNN’s town hall when he was asked how he plans to get any of this passed. His answer wasn’t that he thinks Democrats are going to shock the world by winning overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. It was his claim that he has a record working with the other side to get things done. Though the key phrase he used during his answer was “when there was common ground.”
I can promise you this much: when it comes to socializing health care, free public college, more than doubling the minimum wage, raising taxes on the middle class and passing trillions in tax hikes for the wealthy – there’s absolutely zero “common ground” to be found within the GOP on any of that.
I’m not saying Clinton has been perfect. I think when she says that Sanders wants to “rip up Obamacare and Medicare” she’s being a bit disingenuous. While technically true (being that Medicare has copays, and Sanders’ single-payer plan doesn’t, it’s not really “Medicare-for-all”) in that he’s wanting to get rid of the systems we have now, he wants to replace it with his plan. So it’s misleading to claim that he’s trying to “get rid” of something. The context of what she’s saying is that we’ve spent years trying to get where we are now with health care reform so we should build on that instead of trying to start completely over from scratch – especially with plans she knows aren’t politically realistic.
At least not now. In the future? Probably. But I see the path to single-payer health care through expanding the Affordable Care Act to such an extent that it eventually transitions us toward true universal health care. While that might take longer than most people want, I think that’s a much more plausible strategy than going straight for a complete overhaul of our entire health care system.
Again, I’m not calling Bernie Sanders a liar. As I’ve said for months, if he ultimately wins the nomination I’ll fight relentlessly for him to be our next president just as I would for Hillary Clinton. What I’m saying is that, based on the realities of government, he’s building his campaign based upon ideas that just aren’t realistic. He’s not lying as much as he’s misrepresenting what he could actually get accomplished if he were president. While all politicians do this, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, his entire campaign is mainly built upon ideas that are so far left that he would have trouble getting some Democrats to support them.
Another response I’m sure I’ll get is the typical “ideological purist” response of: We need a revolution to come in and change everything to put an end to the status quo. “Settling” is what we’ve done for too long, which is why nothing ever gets done.
Look, you won’t get any argument from me that our government generally sucks and needs to change. That being said, politics is often about knowing how to pick your battles. In fact, sometimes it’s about taking one step back to get two steps ahead. And that’s never going to change no matter how many times you say we “need a political revolution.” Politics, since its inception centuries ago, has always been a slow process toward progress. Ultimately, pushing too hard for something when the environment isn’t conducive to accomplishing those goals can actually make progress even more difficult to achieve in the future.
We have two candidates running very similar, yet still very different campaigns. On one side we have Bernie Sanders, who’s giving many on the far left exactly what they’ve wanted to hear for years. He’s making a lot of huge promises that play right into the hopes and dreams of far-left liberals. And on the other side we have Hillary Clinton, who’s still very liberal on a lot of these issues, telling voters the truth about the realities of government and what sort of progressive goals are realistically achievable based upon those realities. Even though by doing so she’s alienated some of the liberal base.
Ultimately, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for president, I’m going to bust my butt to make damn sure Republicans don’t retake the White House in 2016. Because no matter what your feelings might be about either the “dishonest Wall Street shill” Clinton or the “unrealistic grumpy socialist” Sanders, both candidates are far… far better than anything the GOP will nominate.
And as I’ve said plenty of times before, there’s far too much at stake this election to allow a Republican to be our next president.
Copyright 2016 Forward Progressives
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