I am a 27-year-old, politically active, progressive millennial voter. I am a political junkie; my background is political science and American history. However, if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination (a big "if"), I will likely not vote for her, and will instead write in "Bernie Sanders" ... and I encourage my readers to do so as well.
I never thought I would be encouraging people to not vote for the Democratic nominee for president. Looking at 2012, history illustrates that the only way to change politics is through primary elections: If you want change, vote for the party aligned most closely to that change, and participate in primaries, but when it comes to the general, select the "lesser of two evils." However, I am disgusted with how the Democratic Party is resisting that process.
The DNC's actions regarding the number of debates, the scheduling of those debates and the treatment of the candidates is disgraceful, and undemocratic. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has disappointed me as a young, active Democrat. The second debate was on a Saturday night, and the viewership was predictably small. In fact, two of the seven debates are scheduled for Saturdays, and one is scheduled for Friday. The DNC's leadership has seemingly aligned itself with Hillary Clinton, someone who, in my opinion, is an unqualified candidate for the following reasons:
1) Hillary's personality repels me (and many others).
I find Clinton to be disingenuous; a political insider, an opportunist who will say anything to win -- and I'm not the only one. Polls consistently indicate higher unfavorable views of her than positive. Even though her positive numbers are higher than the other candidates', she has negative ratio (which Bernie does not). I do not trust Hillary Clinton. She claims to want to rein in abuses on Wall Street, but her top donors throughout her career have been Wall Street firms. And I'll never forget her shameless invocation of 9/11 to justify those donations. Then, of course, there's her "evolution." She was against gay marriage for years; now that it is a popular position, she's wrapping herself in a rainbow flag. She was for the Trans Pacific Partnership for years; now she's against it, also coinciding with popular opinion. The real question I have is: What Hillary will people be voting for if she gets the nod?
I am also bothered by her political double talk. Whenever Hillary reminds us that she is, in fact, a woman, I can't help feeling condescended to. Does she really think that gender is a substitute for policy positions in a Democratic primary? I am a feminist, but I'm not going to support someone just because she is a woman. I guess you could say I'm waiting for the right woman to be president, and frankly, Hillary isn't that woman.
2) On foreign policy, Clinton is a neoconservative.
Hillary Clinton's so-called solution to ISIS is jingoism at its finest: pursuing ISIS "across the Middle East" and ramping up airstrikes. Many Democrats and pundits call her the "responsible choice" due to her experience. I challenge this assessment.
Hillary's plan for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is characterized by five main flaws:
1) Unilateral action against ISIS, where the United States ignores borders of sovereign nations in order to track down military targets, makes us look like an invading force to the locals. Most of the MENA region views the United States with at least skepticism, and at most outright hostility.
2) A significant number of ISIS recruits did not join up because they hold radical Islamic beliefs, but rather because it is a solid paycheck in an area of the world where your other option is slave wages.
3) The members of ISIS we kill have family and friends. To them, it doesn't matter why an American bomb did the killing, just that it was an American bomb that did the killing.
4) We don't know where every bomb will blow, and who might become a victim. How many children will we kill? How many will die as a direct result of our intervention? More than 500,000 children have died in Iraq. This gets back to No. 3, but for every life we take, we risk radicalizing that person's friends and family -- people are people, and grieving people will seek an outlet. ISIS is more than happy to be that outlet.
5) We do not fully understand the culture of the people we're fighting, or the culture of the people we're trying to help. This should have been one of the most important lessons of the Iraq War. How can we hope to win hearts and minds when we still characterize ISIS as a plague that we can wipe out, and everything will be fine. ISIS is a symptom of larger regional issues.
Hillary's approach to ISIS is remarkably similar to that of George W. Bush with al-Qaida, and it has characterized her "experience" with foreign policy throughout her career. As much as she says her Iraq War vote was a mistake, it is consistent with the decisions she made at the State Department. From the failed intervention in Libya to the removal of the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, due to his ties to Hugo Chavez, and his replacement with a murderous fascist regime.
I also have a problem with Clinton's propensity for international arms dealing (especially to donors to the Clinton Foundation). Hillary was behind training and arming of the Syrian rebels -- many of whom turned out to be Islamic extremists. Her interventionist approach is reminiscent of the Reagan/Cold War era. Let's remember that the U.S. armed both sides of the Iraq-Iran war, al-Qaida and the Taliban. In the '80s we printed and distributed textbooks that encouraged "jihad" as a means to fight the Soviet "menace." This approach to foreign policy is why so many people hate us around the globe. Currently, the majority of Iraqis, both Sunni and Shi'a, have somewhat negative to very negative views of the United States, according to the Arab Barometer, which surveys attitudes across the MENA region. In Sudan, a majority have negative views of U.S. intervention in the region. Similarly, a majority of Egyptians believe that U.S. intervention justifies armed opposition to the U.S. And of course, mistrust and resentment toward the U.S. are also held by the majority in Afghanistan.
U.S. interventionist foreign policy over the last 40-50 years has been generating opposition around the world, which in turn is used to justify more intervention. It is clear that Hillary offers only more of the same. There is nothing responsible about her approach.
3) On domestic policy, Clinton is basically a moderate Republican.
The Safety Net:
Hillary Clinton has called her husband's "welfare reform" bill, titled the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, "necessary" as recently as 2008. For starters, welfare reform of the kind offered in the legislation had been a Republican dream since Reagan's touting of the "welfare queen" as a part of the Southern Strategy) -- and Bill gave it to them. The Clintons both say this move was responsible for putting people to work, and to an extent that is what happened. But what they leave out is the fact that after its passage, thousands of poor Americans stopped receiving benefits, and extreme poverty spiked (particularly among minority communities).
Reasonable minds may disagree about welfare, but reforming the system to avoid fraud (which is estimated at less than 2 percent of payouts) shouldn't be a fiscal priority, and here's why:
The United States currently spends $59 billion on traditional welfare, which might sound like a lot. However, the United States loses $150 billion to tax havens and $92 billion to corporate subsidies. In other words, our handouts to the wealthy far exceed our handouts to the poor. Personally, I've never been a fan of punching down. The focus on abuses by the poor while ignoring those by the rich is characteristic of the Reagan Realignment (which is the political tradition Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton come from as New Democrats).
Clinton is also hesitant to commit to expanding Social Security. This fits for someone who still holds the '90s "welfare reform" as a success.
Another policy initiative of Hillary's I take issue with is her reluctance to support a gradual increase to $15 minimum wage. Instead she stays with $12. In defending her position and attacking those of her fellow Democrats, Hillary again echoes Republican arguments: it will cost jobs; it is too much too fast.
There is no evidence that minimum wage increases cost jobs. As I have previously written, when the minimum wage was first enacted (at a time when near-slave wages had been commonplace), the end result was that people had more money to spend; the percentage of income spent on necessities shrunk. As a result, the GDP grew. There is no reason not to believe this will happen again. It cannot happen overnight, but it must happen.
Hillary proposed a version of universal healthcare in the '90s. However, she has since retreated from that position. Her justification? "The revolution never came," as she said in the second debate. And so she gave up, because she couldn't get something done immediately following the Reagan Realignment. That's not the kind of political courage I want from my president. Worse still, she's now attacking universal healthcare as a "tax increase," echoing Reagan and the GOP narrative that taxes are bad and government is inefficient.
Here again Hillary sounds like a Republican when she attacks Bernie's plan to make state college tuition-free in America. An economist friend of mine put it best when he said, "It isn't how much you pay in taxes, but what you get back for that money that matters."
Hillary's justification has been "I don't want to pay for Donald Trump's kids to go to college." Well there's just two problems: 1) Donald Trump's kids probably won't be going to state college, and 2) under Bernie's plan, Donald Trump's taxes will be much higher in order to ensure that every student can attend state college, tuition-free.
That brings us to taxes. I'm only going to discuss capital gains because Mother Jones does a great job of assessing her income tax proposal. The focus of Clinton's tax proposal is curbing risky, short-term profiteering in capital gains. That's not a bad goal, but that's also where her plan ends. She wants to double the short-term capital gains tax, but she leaves unchanged the long-term. Her plan impacts new investors and the middle class while protecting the super-rich. Sure, America's billionaire class often does make risky investments, but that's not where the majority of its assets are. Long-term safe investments (long-term capital gains) are how the wealthiest Americans just accrue money, which is creating a landed aristocracy in the United States. Nothing could possibly be further from the American Dream than wealth pooling at the top, while the rest of America scrounges to get by. The current system (and what Hillary's plan doesn't change) allows the billionaire class to continue to be taxed at a lower rate than America's workers -- meaning the wealth will stay at the top -- and, as history has shown, it does not trickle down.
The Banks and Wall Street:
Hillary's approach to taxes mirrors her approach to the big banks and Wall Street: She wants to target the immediate threats while leaving in place the underlying problem that the banks are too big and have too much influence. Often citing AIG, and explaining that it is "not a bank," Clinton scores a lot of points among fiscal conservatives, as well as uninformed Democrats. Let me fill in the gaps right now that allow people to accept Hillary's weak stance on financial reform.
This is essentially what was going on prior to the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States:
Let's say I'm a lender and I work at one of the six mega-banks in America.
1) I actively look for poor folks who I know have little education, and I try to sell them a loan to buy a house, at a "teaser" interest rate that would skyrocket after a few years. The reason I target people like this is because I get paid on commission for how many loans I turn out, and there are more of these people than there are qualified buyers.
2) I take out an insurance policy on the loan from a company like AIG.
3) I then take the loan, and package it with other loans given to similarly unqualified buyers (which also have insurance policies attached to them).
4) I then bring these debt packages to a rating agency like S&P (whom I pay per product). If they don't give me my triple A rating, I'll find one of their competitors who will, and because I represent one of the six mega-banks created by Bill Clinton allowing interstate banking, and his repeal of Glass-Steagall, which allowed the merger of commercial and investment banks, I exert enough influence on the rating agencies to generate a race to the bottom. They will all give me AAA ratings.
5) I take my AAA-rated subprime product and sell it for what it would be worth if everyone paid off their loans. The problem, of course, is that they most likely won't be able to pay them off. However, I don't care because as soon as I sell it for a huge payout, it ain't my problem -- and either way, I have insurance.
6) My bank has basically an unlimited license to gamble with other people's money, and as a result lenders are making huge profits.
Of course, this whole model went belly-up when people began defaulting on their payments. Nobody was sure what they were holding on to, or the actual value of their assets. This is why the banks needed to be bailed out, and why they stopped issuing loans. Another unintended consequence was that these banks were also where most Americans kept their money -- money that lenders were gambling with -- a direct result of the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
Note: Please note that Politifact seemingly gives Bill Clinton a pass for the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, making the case that the behavior that caused the crash would have occurred with or without Glass-Steagall. This assessment hinges on proximate cause; that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was not the proximate cause of the crash. However, I find the argument and the article too limited. The repeal of Glass-Steagall was one cause, in fact, of the rise of too-big-to-fail banks. The fact that mega-banks were allowed to form was behind the catastrophic scale of the crash. However, also to blame for the size of the banks was the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 (also signed by Clinton). This law allowed banking across state lines. Without these two pieces of legislation working in concert, a banking crisis would have been nearly impossible, as banking would still be purposefully decentralized. As for the behavior that directly caused the crash, and what the Politifact article mistakenly focuses on? That was also enabled by Clinton: the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated derivatives trading.
So, considering what happened, I reiterate my position that the banks must be broken up in order to prevent another crash. There is too much concentrated banking power in the hands of too few institutions. This was the lesson of the Great Depression and the Subprime Mortgage Crisis. Decentralized banking with as many small banks as possible is desirable. When there are only six banks representing most of America, a crisis with even one threatens our whole economy. Our laws cannot keep pace with the discovery of loopholes in those laws. Under Hillary's approach we will be playing a losing game of regulatory catch-up.
Hillary's stance on banking and Wall Street reform is almost assuredly the reason why her donor list has looked the way it has, with Wall Street firms and banks being top donors since she ran for the Senate in 2000 (prior to 9/11).
4) Choosing Hillary threatens the future of the Democratic Party.
Because of her reluctance to hold her friends on Wall Street accountable, there is a serious risk for Democrats in a Clinton presidency: Another crash can happen (some are suggesting it may very well). If there is another banking crash, and if said crash happens while a Democrat is in office, we will have only ourselves to blame when the country recoils from our policies in favor of the GOP.
But there is an even bigger risk. As I've said many times, Hillary Clinton is straddling two narratives: the Obama narrative that government can be useful, and the Reagan narrative that it cannot; that taxes must not increase because government will simply waste that revenue because government is too big.
In order to understand why Hillary sounds more like Reagan than FDR, we have to understand the political tradition she comes from: Bill Clinton was a New Democrat, a group of socially liberal Reaganites who thought the path to recapturing the momentum for the Democratic Party was in finding the middle ground. However, by the '90s, the middle had already shifted right due to the realignment.
It is 2015, and the middle is again shifting. This time, however, it is moving away from the Milton Friedman laissez-faire economic platform that has characterized the GOP narrative for a generation, toward the Democratic Party, which is, in turn, becoming Elizabeth Warren's Democratic Party. Today, the Democrats do not need to sound like the Republicans of yesterday to get elected. But Hillary doesn't get that.
Instead, it is now the GOP candidates who try to sound more like Democrats by talking about wealth inequality, Wall Street and, as GOP front-runner Donald Trump put it, "hedge fund guys getting away with murder." These issues being discussed marks a real shift from 2012, when the Republicans were calling such talk "the politics of envy."
I've said it before, but the time is now for Bernie Sanders. We have the opportunity to popularize the progressive narrative, and pass some real reform. If we do not do it -- if we tack back to the right as Hillary would have us do, thus holding the GOP narrative afloat -- the Democratic Party will remain a minority party at the state level, and in Congress.
But Hillary is better than a Republican, so why not vote for her if Bernie doesn't get the nod?
From a political science perspective, I see American politics through the lens of realignment cycles. We Democrats have a limited time to get done what we want to get done, which is why I would rather lose this election cycle due to low turnout than waste four years. What will America look like if Hillary wins two terms? So far her platform is more about preserving what we have than it is about improving it; protecting women's rights, maintaining Obamacare, etc. The U.S. post-Hillary will, more likely than not, bear a striking resemblance to America now -- complete with all the same underlying problems we face today, like the political dominance of the billionaire class and the massive wealth gap. That's because the issues we must tackle require more than half-measures, and Hillary is the half-measures candidate. Hillary winning even one term precludes President Bernie and makes it unlikely that we will ever see President Elizabeth Warren (who will have to run either in 2020 or 2024 in order to be viable age-wise).
The 2020-2024 election cycles are far more important than 2016. Both the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court of the United States will be up for grabs. I worry that Hillary in 2020 will be an even harder sell than she is now, given the direction the electorate is shifting. The fact is, Hillary is not a progressive. She's barely even a liberal.
That's why I am not ready for Hillary. Bernie Sanders has given America a vision of what a statesman looks like -- the caliber of political leader we can have if we choose. He's been consistent throughout his entire career on issues that matter. There are videos of him from the early '90s that sound remarkably similar to what he is saying today. He voted against "welfare reform," he supported universal healthcare, and in terms of foreign policy, he's been vindicated. Bernie gives me real hope, and I cannot support the "lesser-of-two-evils" model when there is such a person in the race with a serious chance of winning.