Monday, February 29, 2016

Bernie Sanders for President

I have been writing some about politics, off and on, but now I want to be more plain. The Massachusetts primary is tomorrow, part of Super Tuesday - and the race is still open - not as open as it was in 2008, but still open. Another reason to be glad I'm a Democrat - the GOP nomination looks pretty well sealed up, and a horrifying nightmare it looks to be too! Donald Trump! Though truth is, it's hard to see anything about Trump that's any worse, or any different, than the rest of them. Maybe he says the racist stuff out loud - maybe he shrugs off the KKK rather than pretend to disavow them (and conjure up poor Robert Byrd, ex-klansman and Democrat - did you know he was a Democrat?) - but the policies and rhetoric is pretty much all the same over there. If anything, Trump seems to have some traits that are less horrible than the rest of them - not being willing to let people die in the streets, that kind of thing... Though his main characteristic is that he is a con man all the way down. Does he believe anything he says? does it matter? will he do any of the things he says he will, if he were somehow to get elected president? I don't know. I don't want to risk finding out. And he won't be running unopposed - we still get to vote against him!

So - I am a Democrat, and glad of it. And tomorrow I am going to vote for Bernie Sanders. I know Hillary Clinton is probably going to win in the end, and when she does, I will vote for her, with nary a complaint. And given what she's going to run against - I will vote for her with a good deal of enthusiasm. But that is still to come. For now, I still have a choice on the Democratic side, and I am taking Sanders. Why?

1. He is closer to the policies I want to see enacted. I know Clinton has moved to the left - but Sanders still has her beat there. The things I care about, he supports, and is more aggressive about: higher corporate taxes and higher top marginal income tax rates; more spending, on infrastructure and other job-creating projects. I want a better health care system, And he is more likely to push that farther. I want something done about sky-rocketing tuitions and student debt - he pushes that. something he talks about. He is less likely to support things like TPP - he is likely to be stronger on labor. He will push harder for minimum wage hikes - he will work to break up big banks and restore the kind of regulation that kept us from having these economic collapses every 10 years or so. He will work to improve Civil rights - for women, Blacks, gays - though I think Clinton will be just about as good on this. Truth is, Clinton won't be bad on most of these issues - he's just usually a bit better. And much better on some things (TPP, say.)

2. I can't deny there is some negativity to this. Hillary Clinton is maddening. I know that most of the things people attack her for are bullshit - Benghazi? no! shut up! But it's also hard to ignore what she has done. The money she's made - and who she's taken it from. And more than one of her political choices - supporting the Iraq war - there was no excuse for that in 2003, and no reason for Democrats to forget it now. we may have to forgive, move on - but we don't have to reward, or accept, the ones who voted for it. I also find the dynastic politics she's part of depressing. The Clintons are not fools - this is not the Bush family, getting dumber and more venal as you go down the years, but it's still annoying. And though she is smart and accomplished, in her own right, she is where she is because of Bill Clinton. And Bill? looking at his presidency now is a bit depressing - it was depressing then, and comparing him to Obama, it looks even worse. Health care, gays in the military, gay marriage - things Obama got and Clinton gave away. Welfare reform, deregulation of financial institutions - those are Clinton policies, and look what they got us. I know it isn't fair to blame Hillary for Bill's policies - but she was there too... All this - I said she was maddening: she is; Bill was. Because they are both so smart, such skilled politicians - and because they can talk as good a game as anyone. But they have always tended to tack to the center - tack to the machine. She still can't seem to understand that there are values outside of Washington and Wall Street - or maybe, that there are values outside the machine that are, in fact,opposed to the machine. It drives me crazy.

3. So what about electibility? It's a big topic this winter - will Americans vote for someone who calls himself a Socialist? It's a bugaboo word for the Republicans - they will run against it with all their might. But there are two things about that - the first is - they hate socialists, but they aren't too fussy about who they accuse of being a socialist. They've been calling Obama a socialist since day one - Obama? they'll call Hillary a socialist as soon as they will Bernie. Socialism is an insult - it doesn't mean anything. They have emptied it of meaning, and it's quite possible that no one cares about it any more. I don't know if it will be such a drawback.

The second point, and this is the big one - the GOP may hate reds - but they really hate Hillary Clinton. I can see it, in my crazy tea bagger cousins and moron friends, they are just itching to go after Clinton. They are doing it now - attacking her relentlessly, to the point that they half endorse Sanders sometimes. I am not sure if they don't hate her more than they hate Obama - at least, they have been practicing hating her since 1992. Obama, in the end, is just a black guy - Hillary Clinton is Hillary Clinton.

And one more point on this subject: I think this election will be determined by turnout. Get 60% of the voters to vote and the Democrat will win. Get under 50% - and look into the job market in Toronto. And there - Clinton will be able to control the party machinery more, and their GOTV efforts. But the Democrats are horrible at getting people to vote - that's the biggest single reason for the trouble this country is in now. Those 40% mid-terms. Here - I think Sanders inspires people - they will come out; Clinton - might get people out, but I think there is more danger of Democrats shrugging the election off if she is there. I hope not - but I suspect it will be more of a challenge to get people out...

So - those are my reasons for voting Sanders. I wish he could win, I suppose - I don't expect him to be able to. I can live with Clinton. I think, in the end, whichever of them wins the Democratic nomination will, in fact, win the presidency: Trump might do more to get out the Democratic vote than anything any Democrat can do. But I think even Trump is overrated as an electoral force - parties matter more than people. We are in an age of extreme party discipline - a fact the Republicans seem to have figured out, and the Democrats have been slower to adopt. Of course it serves the Republican's interests more than it serves the Dems' - deadlock is easy in the American system, with all its checks and balances. And deadlock helps the GOP - they can make government ineffective if they refuse to govern. They make government ineffective, then run on government's ineffectiveness. They work to make people cynical about government, about elections - so they don't vote. Because - they do not want people to vote. The fewer votes the better for them.

Look at the controversy over replacing Scalia: the GOP is counting on the idea that by making the system not work people will give up on the system. Now - that could backfire - there's a pretty good chance it will - the Democrats might be able to use this issue, if they try. But the GOP plan is clear enough. (Of course, if Obama were to take them up on it, and not nominate anyone - they would run against that, right? Sometimes, they seem to be daring him to rule by fiat - they've come pretty close the last couple years: doing nothing - forcing him to govern by executive action for the country to continue to function - and of course, running against his attempts to keep things going.)

I could go on. I will stop. I will end though by saying - the odds are good nothing much is going to happen until the 2020s. The GOP will hold the house - it would be almost impossible to get it away from them (they won a strong majority in 2012, despite getting several million fewer votes, for House seats, than the Democrats) - and they can continue to paralyze the government. It makes the election a strange one: Sanders and Clinton can talk a good game, but how much will they be able to do? Not a lot - how will they operate in that environment? I suppose it's another reason to vote for Bernie - he seems less likely to compromise and make deals with people who won't compromise or make deals. Clinton might try - which will end up being nothing but unilateral giveaways, because until the GOP breaks in half - which might well be coming, sooner or later - they will not pass anything.

And what happens if Trump wins? I am not sure - the GOP is organized around refusing to govern - they have had it easy the last 7 years. If they controlled government - they might try to finish the place off once and for all (that is, steal everything left over from the last time the fools ran the place), or get involved in a land war somewhere (invade Mexico? you know - wars certainly stimulate the economy). Or - they might collapse into posturing and incompetence and - god knows what could happen. Nothing good. Let's not do that, right?

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