Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley (AP Photo/) (AP/Nati Harnik)

Hillary Clinton is just Republican lite: Sorry, boomers, but this millennial is still only voting Bernie Sanders

Clinton's half-measures would be a band-aid on real problems -- and lead to a very conservative president in 2020


Walker Bragman
December 23, 2015 1:15AM (UTC)

My last article, in which I take the position of "Bernie or bust," seemed to set off a fierce debate, and drew heavy criticism from Hillary supporters. I would like to address some of those concerns, and elaborate points that I made.

I'll start with a brief recap of my main point: If Hillary gets the nomination, and is elected, she will inadequately address the problems this country faces, that are angering people, by negotiating from the center/right and then moving right as a compromise, to give us mere half measures or quarter measures. I fear, given her New Democrat background, that she will likely use social programs and financial reform as bargaining chips.

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I strongly believe that Hillary will kill the momentum that has been generated over the last eight years by Barack Obama, the first liberal (not progressive) Democrat to be president in years--and that will do more damage to the Democratic brand than four years of a Republican president would do to the country. I am not saying that four years of a Republican would not be worse for the country than four years of Hillary in the immediate; I am saying that four years of Hillary will do more long-term damage by prolonging the Democratic realignment.

Americans want real change--and they're looking to the Democrats to provide it. But if we only put a band-aid on issues like the wealth gap and financial reform, which is essentially Hillary's plan, Americans will not be satisfied. As much as politically-minded people remind us that change is slow, what Hillary offers is too slow. Her kind of change is weakness.

If the New Deal taught us anything it's that unprecedented sweeping government action can happen quickly. FDR achieved significant reforms within the first hundred days of his presidency. Hillary's supporters have not learned from Obama's biggest blunder: negotiating from the middle with opponents on the far right. These people insist that we have to just keep making slow progress because all we can hope for are small gains. They point to the weakness of the Democratic Party since the 1970's as evidence of their position. However, this is a common misunderstanding of history and the lesson of the Democrats' decline from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Democrats must stop blaming their losses during these years on Democratic inaction, or strategy errors (like when Hillary-in-the-general-election supporters "recall" how Ralph Nader voters in 2000 hurt Al Gore, and argue that Bernie or Bust is naive). The fact is that the country had changed, and the Democrats couldn't tap into it. Civil rights brought about a conservative realignment. The south, which was the political force behind the New Deal, recoiled at the overhaul that was the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. They left the Democratic Party over the next few decades joined the GOP, giving Republicans the advantage in electoral politics.

This history shouldn't, however, teach us to have less ambition, or to settle for less when we can get more. We should still pursue big changes and broad, far-reaching legislation. We should just do so with the understanding that at a certain point we will push too far for the average voter. The best we can hope for is that by the time that happens, and the country starts to swing the other way, we have achieved something strong enough to withstand the coming realignment (like Social Security, which has withstood the Reagan realignment).

In the '90s the Democrats figured out the prevailing narrative and adapted. Ultimately, they accepted the GOP rhetoric and economic platform--that's what the New Democrats were; Reagan Democrats. While this move got Bill Clinton elected president (along with the fact that George H.W. Bush couldn't fix the Reagan economy), since then, we have had a hard time recovering. Getting anything passed has not been easy since we willingly tied our legs together...

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But now we face a different situation than we have in 50 years. The country is moving left out of desperation for change after years of Republican dominance. The GOP is unable to tap into this shift, like the Democrats of yesterday. Now, we must show courage and not settle for anything less than a New Deal-style overhaul. Only an overhaul will do. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate proposing such an initiative. It is not worth electing a Democrat if our party isn't willing to go the distance. Hillary is the wrong candidate for 2015. If this were 1994, I'd vote for her in a heartbeat, but it is not. And so she will not get my vote, and I will instead write in "Bernie Sanders" across that section of my ballot.

I will now address everyone's favorite counterpoint.

The argument I keep hearing is "the SCOTUS is up for grabs in 2016 so we must vote Hillary if she gets nominated."

As I said, but did not elaborate on in my first piece, this is more true for 2020 and 2024. Let's assume we live in a world where Hillary has won the primary, and angry progressive's didn't turn out for her in the general so she lost. It is true we might lose Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 82-years-old, somewhere between 2016 and 2020. However, there is nothing to suggest that any of the other justices approaching retirement (Scalia, Breyer and Kennedy) will step down with her. The other justices are all in their late 70s. Scalia, the second oldest at 79 years of age, has indicated that nothing short of dementia will lead to his resignation. Justice Breyer announced in September of this year that he will retire "eventually," indicating nothing imminent.

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Then there is Justice Kennedy, also 79. When he will retire is anyone's guess (which does feed concerns that he'll retire between 2016 and 2020), but as a Reagan appointee, he will be unlikely to retire with a Democrat in the White House, which means that if Hillary wins the primary and is elected, he will likely try to wait her out. And I worry that he may not have to wait long.

As I have said previously, we must win the presidency in 2020. I worry about Hillary's ability to win reelection, were she to win in 2016. With the country shifting left, and abandoning the GOP's narrative, Hillary with her center right/conservative record, her Republican-lite policy proposals, and her Republican talking points on minimum wage, Wall Street reform, college tuition, and foreign policy, will be an even harder sell than she is now. Already, more Americans view her unfavorably than view her favorably, and the Elizabeth Warren Democrats are not excited by her.

2020 is not only a census year (which determines the House for the next decade), but those justices I mentioned previously are getting up there in age. Even if we lose Ginsburg and a conservative is appointed by a Republican president in 2016, we will survive. If Ginsburg can hold on for even two years, that makes a difference. The GOP is fading in presidential politics, and 2020 will likely go blue if it goes red now. The main reason is the realignment. Republicans have been dominant for so long, they have lost touch with American voters, and are not appealing to new demographics--especially Latinos. It is worth mentioning that while the GOP is doing well at the state level, that will change slowly as the nation realigns. The GOP is tacking to the right to hold onto the increasingly radicalized, ever-shrinking, socially conservative, southern white people that make up their base.

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It is also likely that the GOP will not hold the Senate in 2016. This should provide some peace of mind to those Democrats worried about new ultra-right wingers on the court. A Democratic Senate will give us the ability to further mitigate the problem of a post-Ginsburg court as the Senate has to confirm any candidate the president would appoint. Why am I so sure of this turnover? The Republicans have two factors working against them:

1. They stand to lose more seats than they have to gain.

2. As with the presidential race, the GOP's shift to the hard right at a time when the moderates are moving left, will hurt them. Unlike House districts, senators represent the entire state, not just a gerrymandered district (this is why the Tea Party did so well in 2010 in the House, but their gains did not translate to the Senate).

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That brings us to the DNC.

As H.A. Goodman has previously written, this race is really about sending a message to the DNC and to the DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (who served as co-chair for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign for president) over their perceived shielding of the front runner from criticism. Unlike in previous election years, the Democratic candidates for president risk being barred from participating in the sanctioned debates if they part in unsanctioned debates. For a candidate like Hillary with huge name recognition, and huge sums of money (most of which is from large donors--and many of those being from Wall Street) there is more to lose from the debates than to gain. She can get her message out without being held accountable for her past policy positions and blunders.

For voters, however, the more information and exposure to the candidates, the better. More debates mean a healthier primary election because they mean a more informed voter base.

I cannot implicitly support this kind of undemocratic action from DNC by casting my ballot for someone who, if you take away the name and party affiliation, is essentially a moderate Republican.  And as much as the 'mature' finger-waggers insist theirs is the only way, the evidence supporting their position is thin. I am all for working within the party to bring about change in the primaries, so long as that process is fair. However, if the DNC's apparent strategy to give the primary to Clinton manages to work, and that in turn costs the Democrats in 2016 due to disaffected Bernie supporters not voting for her, or Hillary's general inability to excite voters, that is on them, not me. I will not be scared or berated into voting for Hillary if she gets the nod.  For the reasons I stated in my last piece, and elaborated on here, I think losing the election is a safer choice for people with progressive goals than a Hillary presidency.

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Walker Bragman

MORE FROM Walker Bragman

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