I said a few months ago that I about 40% liked Bernie Sanders and I about 20% liked Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s number probably hasn’t moved anywhere, but Sanders’s has plummeted. I’ve come to the realization that both these candidates pretty well suck.
Clinton’s issues are pretty widely known. She was part of an administration that gave us the Defense of Marriage Act, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and criminal justice ‘reforms’ that saw people of color sent to prison at disproportionate rates. She voted for the Iraq war, she’s been lukewarm on raising the minimum wage, and she praised Nancy Reagan for AIDS ‘outreach’ that was essentially “let LGBTQ people die and pretend it isn’t happening.”
Clinton is just far enough left to make every conservative hate her and just far enough right to make liberals and progressives deeply uncomfortable with her.
Bernie Sanders has run the most embarrassingly inept campaign this election cycle with the possible exceptions of Jeb! Bush and Marco Rubio (who finished fourth through sheer ability to pretend he wasn’t losing horribly). The Sanders campaign seemed wholly unprepared to go from ‘neat ideas’ to ‘legitimate contender’ and handled the transition about as gracefully as Donald Trump handles criticism.
Sanders started as a progressive wish list designed to either force Clinton’s hand on a handful of issues, nudge her to the left outright, or let her get there on her own by seeing how popular some of Sanders’s positions are. Certainly Sanders helped Clinton achieve more agreeable positions on the minimum wage, student loan dept, and Wall Street reform. Through the support of deeply popular progressive issues, he became a viable challenger to Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately all his campaign ever became was a novel ‘what if’ scenario.
Sanders never caught on with minority voters, mostly because he made no concerted effort to speak to them. He seemed to think that vague references to whatever he did decades ago in the civil rights movement along with tackling economic issues (like low minimum wages and income inequality) would be enough.
The minimum wage and income inequality resonate less with marginalized groups because many members within them aren’t well off enough to be at the point where they can worry about them. For people of color (and LGBTQ), they have to worry about getting (and keeping) a job first before they can worry about the wages, or their greater economic implications. Wages and income inequality are important, but they come second to unemployment and the strength of the economy.
Likewise Sanders discussed improving the Affordable Care Act, but that again speaks to more affluent (mostly white) voters instead of the millions whose lives have literally been saved by the ACA existing at all.
Sanders always seemed to be speaking to fairly affluent white college students which is a losing strategy both in the primary race and in the general election. Hillary meanwhile sought to pick up where Obama left off, that is winning nearly every minority group. The country is becoming more diverse and Sanders spoke to demographics that are shrinking.
Hillary Clinton is, like most politicians, a serial panderer who’s only embraced things like Marriage Equality and minimum wage increases once they showed themselves to be clear winners at the polls. Sanders has tried to act like he doesn’t give a shit about perceptions of him by throwing out the word ‘socialism’ every chance he gets, but that word only scares idiots that haven’t moved out of the 70s and 80s. (You know, all the people voting in the other primary.) The truth of it is that Sanders is a political coward as well, refusing to support marriage equality (in 2006! in Vermont!), and putting forth a mixed bag on gun control.
What’s particularly irritating about Sanders is his abandonment of the things that made him popular once he became aware of his popularity. What garnered Sanders a bunch of support was the belief that even if he was destined to lose, he would do so while sticking to his principles until his campaign’s dying day. Instead the Vermont Senator started trying all the scummy bullshit to win that people expected out of his competition. You can’t decry the existence of superdelegates as a corruption of democracy and then turn around and try and get them to vote for you (and against the will of the majority of voters) without looking like anything but an asshole.
Sanders’s proclamation that he wouldn’t run a negative campaign has also proven to be pretty much horseshit. Sanders has gone from refusing to talk about Clinton’s e-mails to attacking her personal character and integrity with assertions of corruption and being in Wall Street’s pocket. (However true these may be, attacking a person is different from attacking their policy.)
And for all his talk of wanting to push progressive ideals, he was awful late to the game in raising money for down-ballot progressives. That suggests that his campaign is less about these ideals and more about Bernie Sanders.
Sanders has shown a Trump-like ignorance of how shitty some of his supporters are, coming to a head this week when he basically pretended that the violent outburst by Sanders supporters at the Nevada state convention didn’t happen.
“Within the last few days there have been a number of criticisms made against my campaign organization,” Sanders said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Party leaders in Nevada, for example, claim that the Sanders campaign has a ‘penchant for violence.’ That is nonsense. Our campaign has held giant rallies all across this country, including in high crime areas, and there have been zero reports of violence.”
Sanders needs to own what his talk of ‘revolution’ has brought out in his more fervent supporters – actual revolting. He needs to own it and condemn it and be the adult in the room so that his policy ideas don’t die with his candidacy because he hasn’t distanced himself from the violence. But this has been an illustration of the problems with Sanders’s campaign – the belief that he can just talk it all away and that people should support him because he’s a good guy, really, instead of taking meaningful action. Sanders has a great vision for what should be or what could be and a strong inability to see what is.
Sanders certainly seems like the bigger garbage fire at this point because of the fall from what his campaign could have been and should have been. Sanders could be the most popular independent candidate in existence, but the fact is the system is in place and he needs to be able to work within it if he wants to have any chance of reforming it. Even if Sanders were to win the democratic nomination he’d have to do that, and he hasn’t shown the ability to.
So what is Clinton?
I manage people, and the ones that impress me aren’t the ones that bring good ideas on day one. They aren’t the ones that are the smartest on day one. They aren’t the ones that are the hardest workers on day one. They’re the people that are better on day 10 than they were on day 1. And they’re better on day 20 than they were on day 10. They’re the ones that are willing to listen and learn and admit their mistakes and grow from them. Clinton may be doing that at a pace far slower than any reasonable progressive wants, but she is doing it.
Verdict: Bernie Sanders is the bigger garbage fire.
Jill Stein has been kind of garbage lately so I don’t know who I’m voting for.