© Josh Sager – April 2016
While discussing the 2016 primary election with other Democratic-leaning voters (who plan to vote for either Bernie or Hillary), I have noticed a disturbing trend emerging among many who support Hillary Clinton. These “liberal” Democrats have completely repudiated some liberal ideas—namely opposing the corrupting influence of money in politics and ensuring easy access to the polls—simply because it is beneficial to their short-term partisan ends. In short, their desire to see Hillary win the primary has completely blinded them to these vital liberal values and led them to support policies that liberals usually decry conservatives for championing.
Before Hillary decided to run her 2016 race using big-money donations and super-PACs, there was wide agreement among Democrats that big money was a major problem. The idea that moneyed interests and wealthy individuals should be able to funnel giant sums of money into the coffers of political campaigns was seen as corrupt on its face and anathema to the ideals of democracy.
Unfortunately, now that Hillary is running her campaign using these big-money funding mechanisms, a large percentage of the Democratic base has made an abrupt about face on the issue of campaign finance reform and decided that money doesn’t corrupt politics. They join the likes of [the late] Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme in claiming that money doesn’t even create the appearance of corruption and that such big money is perfectly fine, just as long as you can’t tie a specific corrupt action to a specific donation.
Not only have large numbers of Hillary supporters reversed their opinion on campaign finance, some have even begun to lionize Hillary for her efforts to spread corporate money even deeper into the Democratic Party. Through join fundraising ventures, largely facilitated through the DNC and Hillary’s Super-PACs, the Hillary campaign has helped down-ticket democrats raise millions of dollars in big-money donations. In effect, Hillary has acted as a big-money bagman who helps spread donations to less influential or connected Democratic politicians.
While Democrats need money to compete against Republicans in 2016, corporate/billionaire money has strings that corrupt most who touch it. Once a politician becomes reliant on big money, they become hesitant to offend donors and will often provide favors to those who have supported their campaigns (e.g. tax breaks, subsidies, deregulation, etc.). Hillary’s propagation of this corruption down-ticket into the Democratic Party may help some Democrats win their elections, but it will also increase the level of influence that large donors have over these Democrats and ensure that Democrats become ever more conservative on economic issues.
Unless they want to address the fact that their candidate of choice is complicit in big-money corruption and the blight that has infested our political system, Hillary supporters simply cannot hold liberal views on campaign finance—one value must be subsumed to the other. All too many have decided to support Hillary over their values: they see her speeches as just standard politics, rather than a front-loaded bribe by big banks and her acceptance of big money as just what is necessary to compete in the modern political environment.
Access to the Polls
During the 2016 primary, it has become apparent that Hillary has the most support among older voters, long-term Democratic voters and African American voters, while Bernie wins crushing victories among independents and younger voters.
Traditionally, the Democratic position on voting has been that access to the polls should be easy and free. New voters should be encouraged to enter the system and voter disenfranchisement is a betrayal of all liberal democratic values. Because of these convictions, Democrats have fought back against GOP measures to restrict the polls, disenfranchise vulnerable demographics, and block access to voter registration.
Unfortunately, many Hillary supporters have changed their tune on these issues of democracy now that their candidate benefits from restrictive voting laws. I have seen many Hillary supporters defend, if not champion, the idea that only partisan Democrats be allowed to vote in primaries, excluding and disenfranchising independents who regularly vote Democrat. Many also promote the idea that long-term Democrats should have more influence than newly registered Democrats, many of whom are younger and more likely to support Bernie.
Ironically, independent liberals and younger liberals are the very voters who the Democrats rely on to beat the Republicans in the general election. Excluding them from the primaries creates the situation where the Democratic establishment is expecting liberal voters who have been excluded from the primary process to carry the Democratic water and win the election for the party.
In addition to changing their opinion on making access to the polls easy, many Hillary supporters I have talked to have excused extremely restrictive primary rules that they would never accept in the general election. When woefully inadequate numbers of voting booths are put on college campuses, they shrug and just say that this is the system. When states like New York impose absurd voter restrictions (e.g. NY requires that primary voters be registered Democrat or Republican 6 months before the election if they want to vote), they support these restrictions to prevent “non-Democrats” from swaying the results of the Democratic primary.
In short, a lot of Hillary voters are making the exact same excuses that the GOP usually uses to justify blocking access to democracy. They are proving that their conviction in opposing anti-democratic election laws is only valid when their candidate is being hurt by it, and that they find these anti-democratic laws to be perfectly acceptable if it helps their interests.
If convictions are only held to when they produce results that you like, they aren’t real convictions. Hillary supporters who excuse voter disenfranchisement efforts aimed at Bernie supporters or big-money corruption brought into the party by Hillary’s campaign are demonstrating that they are partisans, not liberals—their affection for Hillary overshadows their principles as liberals/progressives.
Values must be held to regardless of who is violating them. Even the most vociferous Hillary supporters should decry legalized corruption and anti-democratic laws, despite the fact that these things help their candidate. Unfortunately, many partisans have failed this test of principles and are now on the road to becoming a version of what we all once despised in the GOP.
As a longtime Democrat who supports Clinton I have a few observations of my own.
1. I notice that the closer Secretary Clinton gets to securing the nomination the more strident is the language some of the Sanders supporters. One example? Claiming that anyone who supports Clinton is equal in political philosophy to Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Really? Suggesting that the mere practice of raising money from large donors (or individuals) is the same as “corruption” is an idea searching for evidence. That reasoning leads to the inevitable conclusion that since Barack Obama raised almost 3/4 of a BILLION dollars in 2012, he must the the single more corrupt politician in US history. I don’t accept that premise.
2. So, why do many old time, longtime liberals tend to support Clinton rather than Sanders? She has been a champion of individual rights, children’s rights, health care and women’s rights for over 30 years. That is her record. We have watched her stand up to bigotry and hateful attacks without flinching. Undeniable. To criticize her for raising money is OK. But the game is played with money. And by the rules. If the other side is playing by one set of rules you better know what you are doing. I think it is fine that Sanders has 99% of his money from individual donors.. Clinton has 91% from individual donors. And on the whole her donors tend to be wealthier, hence they contribute more. Those are the rules of the game. If you can change them, do so. But the SCOTUS gave us Citizens United and a mature politician knows that you have to deal with that. Does big money, in and of itself, insure that a candidate will get elected? Ask Jeb Bush. He raised $ 154,000,000. John Kasich raised $ 24,000,000. Which one is gone? . Nothing unethical or illegal about how her money is raised. She is playing by the rules.
3. Access to the polls. Should it free for everyone? Absolutely. All people have the right to vote in the general election. But that does not give one a right to vote in primary elections. Primary elections are there for a purpose. So MEMBERS of a political party can decide which candidate best represents their ideas and interests. Based on what logic or philosophy does an individual think he or she should be able to choose a candidate for an organization of which they are NOT members? Absurd. New York does it right. If you want to have a say in the process of how a political party chooses a candidate, then get off your duff and register with that political party. NY also makes sure that the GOP or Dems cannot “cross over” and attempt to screw up the other party by voting for the weakest candidate. A very good system.
There is absolutely no contradiction is holding the view that everyone should be eligible to vote for in the general election on one hand, but only legitimate members of a political party should be allowed for vote for who they want to represent them, on the other hand. Completely consistent. To suggest that is the same as preventing citizens from voting in the general election is ,again, illogical. To suggest that Dems who want only members of their OWN ORGANIZATION to vote is hardly “voter suppression”. It is common sense.
Idealism , if not mixed with a dose of reality, becomes fanaticism. Calling liberals who do not jump on the Sanders bandwagon “hypocrites” or “not real liberals” smacks of what I hear constantly from the far right of the GOP. They demand political purity, They demand everyone toe a very narrow party line. I do not.
Tearing down Hillary Clinton does not make Bernie Sanders bigger.
I give up. It is clear the people allowed to vote have chosen a candidate who is for mass incarceration, who is for regime change, who is unable to raise money from individuals but instead relies on corporate donations and super PAC’s, who needs to evolve on basic human rights, who is constantly scandal plagued, who is further to right on trade than Donald Trump, who thinks that parties who control the government are not de-facto government institutions and therefore should have the power to select the only candidates with a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming viable, who continues to push “free trade” which is anything but free, who is not at all aggressive on climate change, who is not willing to divert funds from military endeavors to things that would actually help the people of this nation, who is willing to sell arms to global powers yet likes to bring up the dead children in a school shooting for political gain, who shames anyone who chooses her opponent as being uninformed, or betraying women, who loses head-to-head match-ups against Kasich in all polls and Cruz in some, who helped her husband kick people off the welfare roles, who will never push for single-payer, who says that Sanders supporters want “free stuff” rather than just changing what stuff we actually pay for, who will not properly insulate us from the behavior of a corrupt financial sector, who participates in the very systems of oppression in regards to campaign finance she claims to be against, who (in the words of the President she continues to try to piggy-back off of) was “careless” with handling her email, who made the same derogatory claims about Obama supporters she makes about Sanders supporters (“Obama boys” “Bernie Bros”), who hides behind her surrogates to attack the qualifications of her opponents then cries foul when Sanders gives it back personally, and who came up with the strategy after Wisconsin to discredit, disqualify, and defeat Sanders and untie the party later after Wisconsin. As if we will just fall in line.
And Mr. Urban, I respectfully disagree. I was a delegate for Obama in ’08. This is exactly the same campaign she ran. I didn’t like her then, I don’t like her now. It has nothing to do with Sanders likely not getting the nomination. I like my Democrats to be Democrats, or at least be honest that they are not progressive when they so clearly are not. I am sick of every single policy distinction brought up between our favored candidates being spun by her campaign and supporters as some sort of personal attack. She was pro-NAFTA. She gives up on single-payer. She was pro-TPP (“the Gold Standard”) until it became politically inconvenient. She was for “traditional marriage” way too recently (again, until it became politically inconvenient in this party), she voted for Iraq and was basically the architect of Lybia. Those are facts from her record, they are not personal, and would be the opinion of the progressives in the party regardless of the involvement with Sanders. It is why we tried to draft Warren. But when your campaign thinks they can take personal shots about my candidate (including his wife), and more importantly, when the candidate PERSONALLY says that Sanders supporters are uninformed and need to “do their research”, calls us Bernie Bros, claims we are sexist because we simply disagree, then yes, it gets personal.
With this race, this coronation SHOW, I am done with the Democrats. I will vote for the liberals and progressives in the races. Most of the time that will be the Democrat. With Clinton, it most definitely will not, and this is not a new opinion.
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Josh. Don’t give up. Disagreements based on ideas and evidence are the core of what makes the US system function. Personally I hope Sanders stays in to the very end, collecting delegates and bringing in more Dem voters. He is forcing Clinton to shift leftward, which is good.
Do the Clintons play hardball politics? You bet they do. And so did Mr Obama. When you play against the GOP you had better be ready to play hardball. As Obama said: “Politics ain’t beanbag”.
Do politicians stretch the truth. And try to find weaknesses in their opponents. Yep. They take the votes of others and twist them. Take their words out of context. Yep.Call each other names, even. Yep.Imply they are corrupt. Yep. I suggest if you get a chance read the Lincoln-Douglass debates. While both candidates deal with important issues they also spend a lot of time being nasty to each other and calling each other liars! Doesn’t make it right. It just is.
I am not going to criticize Bernie because I agree with most of what he wants to do. And so does Clinton..
But I will suggest some answers to a few points you raised.
1. The Iraq War vote. I openly opposed the Iraq war myself. I thought at the time it was wrong. But keep in mind that the Congress was fed information controlled by Bush and Cheney. And the “war authorization” was actually written to force Mr Bush to use all avenues available to find a solution and go to war as a last resort. The actual document itself contains outright lies (unknown by Congress at the time). It was also based on the misinformation given to Congress. I know,It was BS. To his credit Sanders joined the majority of Dems in the House and voted against it. Clinton was just wrong in that vote, in my opinion.
2. Regarding Clinton’s support for “mass incarceration”. No . That is just not true. Bill Clinton did sign the 1994 Crime bill, which was a compromise with the GOP. That is true. And while much of it revolved around spending more money for kids in the inner cities parts of it was aimed at longer prison sentences for violent offenders. No one was incarcerated under the law unless they were found guilty of a violent crime. At the time many cities were controlled by gangs. And gang violence was the main target. Those were the “super predators ” Clinton referred to. And they WERE super predators. They were terrorizing inner city neighborhoods.
3. Women’s issues and children’s issues.. Clinton has been at the forefront of the abortion rights issues, equal pay issues and child-centered issues for over 30 years. She was thoroughly mocked out and hated by the GOP for her philosophy that “it takes a village to raise a child”. I am sure Bernie agrees with her on these issues, but she has been the one on point, taking the heat from the GOP over the course of her long career. These are the core issues of the Dem party. She has a long history of fighting for them. (She also fought for single payer health care back in the 90s).
4. I see there is a real generational difference in the support for Sanders v Clinton. Sanders is more inspirational. Clinton is more pragmatic. No candidate is perfect. I like Bernie but I support Clinton because I think she has more experience in the executive branch and has a tougher hide. This election is going to get very nasty. She can take it. Maybe Bernie and his wife can, maybe not.
I see can see why Josh Wrenn has not replied to this reply of yours. This is becoming a “no win” situation in anyone trying to get their point across about their views on Hillary Clinton without you defending everything she has ever done that they do not agree with.
Your reasons for voting for Hillary are your reasons and ones voting for Bernie have their reasons as well. Bernie supporters think judgement is more important than experience. There is no “right answer” to how one looks at it. I have no doubt “Bernie and his wife can take” whatever this campaign deals them. They have survived all the Hillary attacks! Maybe Hillary and Bill can take it, maybe not!
josephurban, I am late in replying to this particular post. However, I have a few oservations re your reply to Josh. 1) You are wrong in saying Josh “claimed” Hillary supporters were “closer to Scalia & Thomas in political phiilosophy. The subject was campaign finance reform. Nothing more! Your “inevitable conclusion” about President Obama is YOUR conclusion, not Josh’s conclusion! 2) all the issues you say Hillary has been working on are ones Bernie has been working on as well. There is a big difference between individual donations of $28.00 and a $200. individual donation! 3) to accept the fact that money is part of “the game” tells me you are perfectly satisfied with the way things are done in a political campaign. This is the big difference between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters. You wrote “a mature politician has to deal with that”. Yes, and, Bernie and his supporters are “dealing with that”. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept it and give up on trying to do something to change it. 3) We are in total disagreement when you say “MEMBERS of a political party can decide which candidate best represents their ideas and interests. In effect, what you are saying is if one does not believe in any of the policies either of the two party system presents, they should have no voice in the matter! What you are suggesting is the two party system works well for everyone (?) and there should not be another choice! You wrote ” based on what logic or philosophy does an individual think he or she should be able to choose a candidate for an organization of which they are NOT members? And, you call that absurd! That fact is based on the U.S. constitution, whether it be a primary or a general election every American citizen has a right to vote for a candidate of their choice. Nowhere in the constitution does it say “party requirements” are part of this right! The fact you say New York does it right does not make it right. When you are telling someone to “get off your duff and register with that political party”once again, you are giving the Independent voter no choice at all! I thought the entire American election process was supposed to be about “choice”, not “party”!. You have a misconception of who an Independent voter is.. Just as any party member, an Independent voter also works and support their candidate with time or money because they believe their candidate is truthful and has the same interests as they do. To take away their vote is tantamount to a “rigged election”! You are, in effect, saying an Independent voter does not have the right to vote except in which case you deem appropriate.
As far as your statements “Idealism , if not mixed with a dose of reality, becomes fanaticism “. Calling liberals who do not jump on the Sanders bandwagon “hypocrites” or “not real liberals” smacks of what I hear constantly from the far right of the GOP.” Interesting! that is exactly what I hear from Hillary supporters as well!
Tearing down Bernie Sanders does not make Hillary Clinton bigger either!
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Irfalstad. We can agree to disagree, I guess. While I usually agree with most of Mr Sager’s commentaries, on this one we differ. So be it.
1. If you will re-read Josh’s first paragraph you will see that he accuses people like me (liberal and a Clinton supporter) of supporting corruption. I quote: “These “liberal” Democrats have completely repudiated some liberal ideas—namely opposing the corrupting influence of money in politics and ensuring easy access to the polls—simply because it is beneficial to their short-term partisan ends.”…
Well, EVERYONE raises money in politics. Obama was the best. Clinton does. Sanders does. You can’t run a campaign without it. When you give a candidate money it is because you expect them to do what you think they should do. Whether it is a Wall street exec or a janitor. A small business owner or a teacher. A corporation or a union. So, I am not sure why he would pick out ONLY Clinton supports and paint us with a “corruption” charge when Bernie and everyone else raises money as well? The question is: Do these candidates raise money legally or not? If they raise it illegally they are corrupt.
And Josh DOES imply that anyone who supports Clinton is in the same philosophical boat as Thomas and Scalia.
“They join the likes of [the late] Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme in claiming that money doesn’t even create the appearance of corruption and that such big money is perfectly fine, just as long as you can’t tie a specific corrupt action to a specific donation.”
But the fact is that BOTH Clinton and Sanders want to overturn Citizens United. BOTH want a better system of public financing. BOTH are calling for a transparent system. So, to suggest that Clinton supporters are in favor of Citizens United (which is what Josh is referring to) is not correct.
2.Neither Clinton nor Sanders have said they like the current system. BOTH have proposed strong changes to it. But, as I said, it is how the game is played today. That does not mean I do not want the game changed. I do. But you have to play by the rules as they exist. Or you will lose. And you cannot change the rules unless you are in a position to do so. For example: Barack O’Obama supported the “matching” federal dollars system when a senator. But, when he ran for POTUS, he realized that he could raise much more by opting out of the system. The system he championed as fair. So, he did. He played by the rules but abandoned his philosophical position. If you don’t win elections you cannot change anything.
3. Regarding the primaries. I think you are mixing apples and oranges. Everyone has a right (I would say OBLIGATION) to vote in the general election. That is guaranteed in the Constitution (although many states are trying to take away that right). But primary elections are not general elections. They have a completely different purpose.
The purpose of a primary election is to select a candidate that a particular party intends to support. There is no Constitutional right to vote in a primary. Political parties are not part of the Constitution.So, I think you are mixing up what is essential a party issue with a general election.
For example, should people who are dyed in the wool Republicans be allowed to vote to select the Democratic candidate for POTUS? I still do not see how you can support that position. Or should someone who does not want to belong to any political party be allowed to vote in the GOP Primary? Why? Both the GOP and Dems are membership organizations. Why should non-members be allowed to have a say? This is not a Constitutional or a “right -to -vote” issue. It is a matter of membership.
You made the comment: “You are, in effect, saying an Independent voter does not have the right to vote except in which case you deem appropriate.” To that I reply: YES. Independent voters should not have the right to simply vote in primaries because they want to. They have CHOSEN not to join the organization! They have been given the choice of joining a political organization and they have said :NO, I DO NOT WANT TO JOIN!.They want to have their cake and eat it, too. They do not want to make any commitment to a political party, but want the power to choose the candidate to represent that party. I guess on this point we will not agree.
4. I in no way wish to demean Sanders. I think he is a good guy. But I do think that, in this particular essay, josh has let his support for Sanders cloud some of the issues. But that is what the Democratic Party is all about. Discussion and some degree of difference of opinion. Which is fine.
5. Finally, I do not recall calling anyone a “hypocrite” or “not a real liberal”.
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I tried to find out the basis for your continual “Democratic establishment” opinions. There wasn’t anything on your WordPress site. However, I did go to your New NY23rd site and discovered you are on the Yates County Democratic Committee. That does explain it. I understand why you support Hillary and I understand why you don’t believe Independents have a right to vote in a primary. It would have been helpful had you added this information to your WordPress site as well.
I understand the primaries are presented by the two political parties. However, doesn’t the state government play a part in the primary elections? Don’t the states use their election officials, polling places, notification to voters on these primaries, etc.? Doesn’t the Independent taxpayer contribute to these state expenditures?
There is no point in replying to this last post because neither one of us is going to change the other’s mind on what we believe to be true. The fact is you support Hillary’s policies and I support Bernie’s policies. Anyone saying Hillary and Bernie policies are more alike than not is disingenuous to say the least.
No one has accused you of being a hypocrite or not a real liberal. No one has mentioned your name so I don’t see how you can take it personally. Because your definition of yourself is a “real liberal” doesn’t mean it is another persons’s definition of you as well. On the other hand, I have read many Hillary supporters calling Bernie (by name) terrible names as well as lying about him. These are on well respected news site comments section so I would think these people are educated and informed. However, their vitriol towards Bernie is not.
Our discussions have been very informative for me and I appreciate your input on all of them.