SINCE I STARTED aggressively vetting Bernie Sanders, I have been called all kinds of names by his more excitable supporters. I’m a Republican, a cop, a corporatist, a centrist, a Boomer, a McCarthyist, a member of the Democratic Party establishment, a member of the media establishment, and, this past week, an active CIA operative spreading propaganda. Also, I’m only here for the money, I’m only here to sell books, I hate healthcare, I detest poor people, I love war, I’m working for Russia, and so on to infinity. Most of the time, their slings and arrows of outrageous bullshit just make me laugh. This is the price one pays to be a truth-teller in the Age of Trump.
What does piss me off about the Bernie zealots, though, is their presumption of moral superiority. To them, anyone who isn’t ideologically pure (in their warped view) is garbage. Anyone who supports a candidate who might actually win the general election and then, you know, get shit done, is a centrist, a corporatist, a cop. Bernie is their democratic socialist Messiah. ONLY HE can transform the country! HE ALONE can fix it!
If these people actually cared about changing the world for the better, they would realize that their guy is incapable of even articulating a fleshed-out policy, let alone implementing one. All Sanders can do is scold and finger-wag. “Break up the banks!” was Bernie’s big rallying cry in 2016. He said this over and over and over. But when asked, point blank, how he would break up the banks, he could not answer. What a fucking fraud!
The horrible, horrible irony is, the candidate best suited to enact the progressive policies Bernie die-hards claim to want is…wait for it…Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016. In the early 90s, when Bernie was still new to Washington, washed ashore as he was on the noxious red tide of NRA money, HRC was conceiving of and trying to install a progressive healthcare system. That’s when the GOP operatives started to target her, and that’s why they started. They viewed her, rightly, as a threat to their corporate interests.
Contrary to the GOP narrative, Hillary Clinton is a good person. She has always been about sacrificing herself for the greater good. Read about how she spent her years as the First Lady of Arkansas. Nothing in HRC’s biography suggests she’s a true centrist, a corporatist, or whatever Bernified label these Kool-Aid drinkers want to throw around. She is a pragmatist, sure. But pragmatism—compromise—is how shit gets done in this country. To suggest otherwise is to be ignorant of a quarter millennium of American history. Willingness to compromise in order to make incremental steps towards an ideal solution is not the same thing as not being progressive.
As I wrote in 2015, when I was much more willing to be nice to the ride-or-die Berners:
But here’s the thing: how do we know Hillary is not just as progressive as Bernie? How do we know she’s not like the narrator of “First We Take Manhattan”: They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom for trying to change the system from within. To me, the interesting thing about Hillary is that, as experienced as she is, she’s never really been in charge of anything before. As First Lady, she advised Bill. As Senator, she depended on working with her colleagues (who started off hating her, but whom she won over). As Secretary of State, she was implementing Obama’s foreign policy, not necessarily her own. Even Bernie was once in charge of Burlington, Vermont, but Hillary has always been a #2. What happens when she’s the one calling the shots? Don’t you want to find out? Isn’t Hillary exactly the person we want driving the car at this point? Give her the keys!
I know the negatives. Hillary presents as a pragmatist, a cool customer who blows with the wind, who is slave to polling data, who is terrified of screwing up. But I suggest that beneath that veneer is a rank idealist, the starry-eyed dreamer who tried to reform the nation’s health care system all those years ago. Her idealism was not beaten out of her; it’s just been incubating, waiting for the right moment to reveal itself. If she wins the White House, the liberal genie will pop back out of the lamp.
And if she were elected Chief Executive, I believe we’d be treated to one of the most accomplished presidencies in recent memory. I think she’d take Bernie’s talking points and run with them, like FDR did with Al Smith’s, and I think she’d have a better chance of implementing them than he would. And you know how the job has a steep learning curve? How it takes new presidents a few months to figure stuff out? Yeah, she’ll be ready to roll on Day One. No one has ever been as prepared to be president as Hillary.
I will believe until my dying day that HRC would have been the best president of my lifetime. Like, historically great. That’s what we could have had, but Berners decided to go with the GOP talking points and weaken HRC’s campaign—and for what? A deadbeat dad who didn’t vote until he was 40, who couldn’t hold down a steady job, who identified as a communist, who his colleagues don’t like, who bristles at criticism, who is, as I said before, incapable of articulating policy plans, much less implementing them. Again, if the bros really supported a progressive agenda, they would back a candidate who has done more in three decades in Washington than name a few post offices.
And now they want to screw it all up again! I can forgive being for Bernie in 2016, before we knew about Russian active measures, before the press even began to vet him. In 2020, however, there is no excuse.
Photo: JoAnn Dornick via Wiki Commons.