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Doing What It Takes To Accomplish Goals

February 28, 2016

As the 2016 Presidential campaign progresses, much has been said by the candidates for the Democratic nomination about what policies are worth achieving and whether or not they are actually achievable given the state of the nation as it is today. Since the field has been winnowed down to a contest between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, much discussion has been made distinguishing  between lofty ideological goals and the concrete steps which reaching them requires. Idealism vs. Pragmatism – where we are given the choice between the idealistic visions of Sanders and the pragmatic trade-offs which Clinton sees as necessary to making concrete progress in the betterment of our society in the near term.

The Sanders campaign has been a stark contrast to Clinton’s in many respects. First and foremost, he has been among those in the forefront of a movement to get big money out of our elections. Unlike Clinton or the Republicans seeking the nomination for that party, his fundraising does not include Super-PACs and has consisted primarily of small donations by millions of individuals, rather than large donations by a relatively small number of wealthier individuals and corporations. He also sees a political system which has increasingly come to be dominated by large corporations and the wealthy, which have been given increasingly free reign to influence government in a manner which has increased wealth and income inequality throughout our society.

Without Sanders’ presence in the race, the issues he has been raising about economic inequality, improving governance to better serve the needs of the working class, rebuild a middle class that has been decimated by a race to the bottom in terms of real wages for all but the very top elites, improving education and health care affordability for all, etc., would probably have been neglected to a far greater degree than if he had remained on the sidelines. None of these issues have surfaced on the GOP side. Although Martin O’Malley has similar progressive thinking, his message never really caught fire during the months that he participated in the process (he certainly wasn’t able to match the fundraising of either Clinton or Sanders). Other progressive populists mentioned early on as possible contenders for the nomination, like Elizabeth Warren, decided not to run.

Sanders’ candidacy, despite its unconventional nature and the fact that he had never run as a Democrat in the past (including a long career, first as mayor of Burlington, VT, then in the US House of Representatives and Senate), has certainly added to the level of discourse and at least forced the Clinton campaign to sound more progressive than it otherwise would have if she had run unopposed for the nomination. She prides herself on being a progressive who gets things done, but little of that came through in her 2008 campaign against Obama. She played a prominent role in President Clinton’s attempt at Health Care Reform in the 1990’s and gained valuable experience in foreign policy during her tenure as Secretary of State, but her campaigns have been fairly standard politics as usual.

Sanders has a few things going for him which may or may not enable him to overcome the inertia of the Democratic nominating process which definitely favors Clinton as a party establishment insider. He has a message that is meaningful to many, both inside and outside of the Democratic Party, who have become disillusioned with a gradualist approach to improving the lives of the vast majority of Americans. Promises made or changes proposed in speeches (State of the Union or otherwise) which are either not acted upon or quickly shelved at the first sign of difficulty in getting passed though Congress are a big problem for both the Democrats and the Republicans.

Nobody expects the Republicans to do anything other than what they’ve been doing since they got Reagan elected in 1980 – “improve” the economy by making it easier for the wealthy to keep their economic gains (rightly or questionably acquired). Stagnation caused by these policies gets blamed on foreign competition, immigrants or the poor themselves. This is perhaps best illustrated by the way Donald Trump has come to the head of the Republican field by ramping up racist, xenophobic fears to distract from the fact that the economy sucks right now for most of us by design.

Voters, increasing numbers of whom have never known a solid economy where one could get a quality education without incurring tens of thousand of dollars of debt and then get a good paying job in their chosen field quickly upon graduation, are becoming impatient while waiting for this economic resurgence to take place. Foot dragging in Congress, where hundreds of billions are spent yearly on war-making and its preparation with nary a whimper of dissent while spending endless hours plotting how best to cut food for poor kids, Social Security or other social safety net programs, has become nearly intolerable.

Health Care Reform and Dodd-Frank were early accomplishments by the Obama Administration. The Affordable Care Act definitely helped many Americans gain coverage who had none before. At the same time, State of the Union Speeches every year have been calling for minimum wage increases as well as other improvements designed to aid the economy and improve the standard of living for the most vulnerable among us, only to get stonewalled by an recalcitrant Congress unwilling to see the value in helping out anyone other than those already well off.

America needs political leaders who are willing to stand behind their ideals and fight for them. Being elected to an office is meaningless if that power is not put to use in the interests of those one is elected to represent. That is – they live in the district, state or nation that elected them. No reference need be made to ability or willingness to bribe (through political contributions) most efficiently in order to gain future legislative or other favors. The grassroots organizing that Sanders has engendered in this campaign is sorely needed in the Democratic Party to deflect the sheer money madness that Citizens United has wrought on our political campaigns. Rather than trying to beat the Republicans at their own game, the Democrats should be taking advantage of the fact that their message of equality (or at least less severe inequality), fairness and justice is a far easier sell than the one the Republicans have been trotting out.

Difficulty is not the same as impossibility. We need more leaders with imagination and willingness to work hard to get worthwhile things accomplished, rather than protect and extend their tenure in office. Bernie has been espousing his ideas for decades – even before he ever won an election. He has never veered to the right politically to get elected. I don’t agree with every stance he’s ever taken (come to think of it, most of the times I’ve disagreed with him was when he was backing something President Clinton was doing that didn’t turn out so well), but he’s never given me any reason to doubt his integrity or willingness to go to bat for his constituents.

Hillary may well win the nomination, but if she wants to become our long-overdue first woman President, she’ll need the energy and enthusiasm of those who have brought Bernie from relative obscurity to where he is now. They can certainly be a force to be reckoned with in navigating the legislative process on Capitol Hill to accomplish the lofty goals she has been espousing on the campaign trail. They may even be able to elect a Congress more likely to act on behalf of OUR interests rather than those of the oligarchs. That would be a good thing -  and a BIG deal.

 

Suggested Further Readings:

‘Both of us share the goal of this and that. But only one of us will try to score the goal.’

Clinton says Sanders’ healthcare promises ‘cannot be kept’ during Milwaukee Dem debate

Dear Americans, Please Stop Dreaming of a Better Nation

In Fact, Argue Experts, Sanders’ Medicare-for-All Numbers "Do Add Up"

Why We Must Try

Top Ten Reasons Why Bernie Sanders Can Win

The Pragmatic Case for Bernie Sanders

The vast left wing conspiracy to stop the single payer movement

Why Bernie’s Health Care Plan Is Very Realistic and Achieveable

The BS Challenge To Democratic Candidates

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13 Comments
  1. >>> “Hillary may well win the nomination, but if she wants to become our long-overdue first woman President, she’ll need the energy and enthusiasm of those who have brought Bernie from relative obscurity to where he is now.”

    And possibly more than that, I’m afraid. Although Sanders has certainly invigorated many young people, far too many more have already disengaged from the political process. Voter turnout to-date in the primary elections has been significantly down for Democrats and dramatically up for Republicans. This political asymmetry in voter enthusiasm could mean big trouble for Dems in November.

    Those mostly young people who are rejecting America’s political system and social institutions are not likely to be swayed by any self-serving rhetoric coming from the status quo establishment candidate in Hillary Clinton. They are terribly disillusioned, increasingly nihilistic, and jaded by the unfulfilled promises of Barack Obama. From a political and historical perspective, the mood of the nation somewhat resembles 1980. From a sociological perspective, the growing cultural polarization and social stratification afflicting America in the 21st century is inherently dangerous.

    The Dems best hope, IMO, is for Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination and so offend centrist independent voters that they’re forced to vote for Hillary.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m glad that Sanders has been educating the public and pushing Hillary to the left. Even if he doesn’t end up the nominee he has really contributed a lot! Hoping SO MUCH for a Democrat in the White House, and hopefully more Dems in the Senate, to start undoing damage the Supreme Court has inflicted on this country.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree. It would also be nice to retake the House, but every little bit helps.

    Like

  4. Great post, Rick. I’m conflicted, and can also relate to what Robert commented above. I will not vote for Hillary in the primary. In 2008, I remember her throwing low blows at Barack Obama, and Palin picking up those same accusations during the campaign. If Hillary wins the nomination, I just might stay home on election night, or vote for Dr. Stein of the Green Party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even if one refuses to vote for Clinton in November, I would encourage nobody to just stay home. Too many other races that need to be won as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rick, what you say is true. In our local and state elections however, many run without a challenger. I leave those spaces blank anyway because they can vote for themselves and still win. There’s a good chance that I won’t stay home on election night. I’ve made that threat before and still voted.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Great article, as always. Hillary will never be able to convince anyone she will truly “follow Bernie’s lead! Hillary is for Hillary and if that isn’t apparent by now, there is nothing to be said to convince anyone otherwise!
    I cannot envision her as president of our country. However, as you say, Rick, no one should stay home because there are other races we need to vote on and win as well!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I sent this to the authors of a piece in The New York Times April 2nd, on Donald Trump and the Republican Party:
    Our political, not to mention economic, physical, moral, social, and environmental deterioration, is really disturbing. I’d like a peaceful solution to the political events scheduled in Washington D.C. later this month, by http://www.democracyspring.org/ and http://democracyawakening.org/.

    The Citizens United decision prompted me to draft legislation titled The Fair Elections Fund–a Whole New Ball Game, based upon years of relevant experience. It re-imagines the rally cry of the Revolution: $7.00/year for “Taxation With Representation.” Just as current campaign funders obtained the representation they “bought,” if the majority of citizens want a real Representative Democracy, we must support candidates willing to represent us. Several attorneys have reviewed it; none have found a better idea.

    You are well aware that political parties are just clubs that have wedged themselves between the People and their government. The current “election” is a public subsidy for the selection of political party delegates who will select candidates that represent the parties, not necessarily, or likely, We, the People. The ’70’s $3.00 donation to Presidential campaigns and political party conventions facilitated that takeover. Thereafter, public subsidies to businesses increased as the wealth and influence of most citizens declined.

    Alternative proposals suggest campaigns dependent upon small donations. That is 1) insufficient, 2) unpredictable, 3) anonymous, 4) perpetual fundraising, and 5) denies citizens the right to choose which candidates may use our money. My effort is to give candidates and voters a viable, independent voice in our governance.

    Another issue is voting practices. My concern about Ranked Choice Voting is that voters may make errors that nullify the ballots. Also, in Oakland, CA, the system was manipulated in such a way that an unpopular candidate was elected. Alternatively, Approval Voting 1) dilutes the “spoiler” effect of more than two candidates, 2) identifies the voters’ second choice if the Directors remove a “winner” who cheated, 3) expedites filling a vacancy if the “winner” is recalled, and 4) informs the Electors in choosing the President and Vice President, with consideration given to their compatibility as a pair.

    It is not my place to propose how the American People may reshape their country. This is a structure for them to do so within existing law, without reversing the Citizens United decision, which still won’t eliminate fundraising or expand choices. Is your government worth $7.00 a year to you?

    Please share your thoughts on http://www.thefairelectionsfund.com, @thefairelection.

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  3. Angry Bear » Clinton Announces When She Will Disclose Her Healthcare Insurance Improvement Plan: She’ll announce it just as soon as the Republican presidential candidates tell us theirs. [Typo-corrected 3/2 at 2:28 p.m.]
  4. Angry Bear » Clinton Announces When She Will Disclose Her Healthcare Insurance Improvement Plan: She’ll announce it just as soon as the Republican presidential candidates tell us theirs. [Typo in sentence referencing Max Ehrenfreund's Wonkblo
  5. Doing What It Takes To Accomplish Goals – Does the Future come about because of our past?

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