The Question of Electability

We are a few days away from the make-or-break New York Democratic Primary in which Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders will face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a ferocious battle for the Democratic nomination. Sanders seeks to increase his winning streak  to nine in a row in his home state while simultaneously placing a major dent in his opponent’s delegate lead while Clinton tries to slow his momentum and solidify her position as the front-runner in this race.

As Sanders continues to surge these past few weeks, Clinton and her surrogates have been ramping up the attacks on Bernie Sanders. When Sanders badgered her for a debate in New York before the state’s primary, Clinton’s chief strategist Joe Benenson told him he needs to watch his tone if he wants to debate, perhaps aware of the negative impact pre-primary debates have had on her campaign. Soon after, the hashtag #ToneDownForWhat began trending on Twitter and Facebook, with Sanders supporters using it as a way to mock Clinton and cajole her into accepting a debate. Sanders supporters also dug up footage from the 2008 campaign which shows her saying that “you should be willing to debate any time, anywhere” while discussing her 2008 campaign for president with the Sioux Fall Argus Leader to highlight her hypocrisy. After a few days of this, Clinton caved in and had her camp propose a few debate dates to the Sanders camp.

However, the Sanders camp declined two of the three proposed dates. Clinton’s national press secretary Brian Fallon then responded by saying that the Sanders campaign needs to “stop with the games” and just accept the dates. The Sanders campaign fired back, stating that they declined them because the scheduled times would limit the viewership of the debate and are thus unfair to the people of New York, who they believe deserve to hear the candidates debate one more time before the state’s crucial primary. The date of April 4 happened to be the date of the NCAA men’s basketball championship in Houston, Texas and was shot down because the Syracuse basketball team would have potentially been in the final, which would have leached massive amounts of viewers from the debate. The Sanders campaign also turned down the April 15 date because this debate would take place on ABC during their Good Morning America time slot instead of during prime-time, where more people would be watching. Both campaigns eventually settled on April 14 (today), and will be debating live on CNN at 9 PM EST (6 PM PST).

On the eve of this pivotal primary, both candidates will try to make their case to the residents of the Empire State in a last-ditch attempt woo them over. For Sanders, a major victory would cut deeply into Clinton’s lead and continue adding to his momentum; a minor victory would be a little less helpful in his quest, but would serve as a strong strategic and symbolic victory nonetheless. For Clinton, a major victory in New York would negate Sanders’ recent surge in the polls and put her one step closer to the nomination she’s been after for nearly a decade. A minor victory for Clinton could potentially slow down Sanders’ momentum.

Tonight’s debate will certainly be focused on the question of electability, attempting to figure out which candidate will fare better against whatever savage beast the GOP throws at them in November (presumably, Donald Trump). While Clinton supporters and much of the mainstream media have branded Sanders as an unrealistic opportunist whose pie-in-the-sky ideas have never nor will ever work, Sanders supporters are beginning to push the narrative that he is arguably more electable than Hillary Clinton and has a greater chance of beating the GOP than she does.

The question of electability should deal with a lot more than just the candidates’ current positions on different policy matters. Because candidates could easily update or completely reverse their views on issues, the question of which candidate is more electable should also take into account their past choices and actions as well as their integrity and honesty.

When it comes to consistency, trustworthiness, and honesty, Sanders beats Hillary Clinton by a wide margin. A poll of likely voters conducted by Quinnipiac University showed that 67% of Americans, 30% of Democrats, 74% of Independents, and 64% of women find the former Secretary of State “not honest and trustworthy.” The same poll found that Bernie Sanders “has the highest favorability rating of any candidate and the highest scores for honesty and integrity, for caring about voters’ needs and problems and for sharing voters’ values.”

Across the board, Hillary Clinton has negative net favorability ratings in every major poll conducted across the country. This was not always the case. It wasn’t until this time last year when Clinton’s un-favorability rating began surpassing her favorability rating; interestingly enough, this switch happened during the same time Senator Sanders first announced his campaign for president. Sanders  has higher favorability among Republican and Independent voters than Clinton does, votes that could potentially help the Democratic party win the election in November, especially considering the growth of the “Never Trump” movement.

Sanders’ positive favorability might stem from his record as a Congressman. For nearly every “bad” decision the United States government has done in the past two decades, such as the passage of the bigoted Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), or the passage of the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 90’s, or the costly invasion of Iraq in the early 2000’s, there’s a C-SPAN video of Bernie Sanders detailing why the legislation is bad and outlines the ways in which it will hurt our country.

There’s even a video of him basically predicting the recently-leaked bombshell known as the Panama Papers in 2011. During a Senate floor hearing on the Panama Free Trade Agreement, Sanders voiced his opposition to the bill and warned Senators that the Central American country of Panama is the perfect offshore tax haven for b/millionaires and corporations to stash their money in order to avoid taxation. Five years after his warning went unheeded, his biggest fears was proven correct when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a massive 2.6 terabyte-sized cache of 11.5 million individual documents spanning nearly half a century.  The leak is the single largest leak of confidential information in history (2,600 gigabytes), making the previous record holder, the 2013 “Offshore” leaks (260 GBs), look lie a minor inconvenience.

The documents, which were leaked from  Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, first surfaced over a year ago when an anonymous source approached Bastian Obermayer, a reporter for Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, and began passing him documents little by little with the motive to “make these crimes public”. The documents provide location and shareholder information of over 214,000 offshore shell corporations created by heads of state, family and friends of politicians, and famous people from around the world to avoid paying taxes. Interestingly enough, there are no names from the United States… yet.

(As a sidebar that is worth mentioning, the ICIJ is a part of the Center for Public Integrity, who lists the Open Society Foundation as one of its major institutional founders. The Foundation’s founder and chairman is Hillary Clinton mega donor George Soros.)

Another such video shows Sanders standing up for gay men and women at a time where most politicians wouldn’t have dared. In 1995, a whole 16 years before the repeal of the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, then-Rep. Bernie Sanders stood up for our gay and lesbian service members, by bashing Rep. Duke Cunningham’s (R- CA) derogatory comments on allowing “homos in the military”, asking him if he was referring to the “many thousands and thousands of gay people who have put their  lives on the line in countless wars”. This was a year after President Bill Clinton signed the policy into law.

While Sanders was taking a bold stance by supporting our gay service members, Hillary Clinton was championing the passage of DOMA into law. Even six years after its passage, Hillary Clinton did not waver her opposition to marriage equality. In a 2002 appearance on Chris Matthew’s Hardball, Matthews asked then-Senator Clinton if she believed that New York should recognize gay marriage. Clinton flatly replied “no” and was greeted by audible booing from the crowd, which made Clinton smile quite smugly. Two years later in 2004, during a Senate floor debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment (which would have federally defined marriage as one man and one woman), Clinton made it crystal clear that while she opposed the amendment, she did not want to define marriage as anything other than that between a man and a woman.

Though she began supporting same-sex civil unions in the early 2000’s, Hillary didn’t come around to fully supporting same-sex marriage until her tenure as Secretary of State in March of 2013, where she released a video with the Human Rights Campaign in which she voiced her support for marriage equality.

In a 2015 appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Hillary recanted her opposition to gay marriage, explaining that she only supported DOMA in order deter an amendment such as the Federal Marriage Amendment from passing, despite having little proof that she was exactly what thinking that at the time being.

Clinton’s support for gay marriage seemingly grew as the American public became more and more accepting of it. She even acknowledged this in a 2014 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, where he asked if she changed her stance on gay marriage as Americans became more accepting of gays, to which she replied that she herself is an American and that we’ve all evolved as a nation.

Hillary is not alone when it comes to her “evolved” stance on gay marriage: then-Senators Barrack Obama and Joe Biden also opposed gay marriage and didn’t voice their support for it until before the 2012 election. In fact, most Democratic politicians and voters during this time also opposed gay marriage. Sanders, however, stood out as the most progressive voice  on Capital Hill for the equal treatment for gay people before it became widely accepted.

Sanders also opposed the disastrous invasion of Iraq. On the eve of a key 2002 vote that would have authorized President Bush  to “use any means necessary” against Iraq, then-Rep. Sanders spoke out against the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, as it was called, saying that there is little to no proof that Iraq poses a direct and immediate threat to the United States. Sanders insisted that we instead focus on domestic issues, such as the tumbling value of our stock market, the loss of manufacturing jobs, the stagnation of workers’ wages, the rampant income inequality, and the lack of care for our veterans who risked it all for their country. Sanders went on to explain that he opposes the resolution because of the human costs  of the war (both in terms of US troops and Iraqi civilians), the legal precedent such invasion would set, the negative effects the invasion would have on the freshly announced War on Terror, the strain that it would place on our country’s economy and burgeoning trade deficit, and finally, the unintended consequences of the invasion, such as who will govern Iraq once Saddam Hussein is deposed and the role the US would have in a post-Hussein Iraq.

Meanwhile, then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the authorization of force. She would later explain that she only voted in favor of the resolution as a means to prod Saddam Hussein to let UN weapons inspectors back in Iraq. She stressed the importance of diplomacy in such a tense situation, stating that while it was a “difficult vote” for her to make, it was not “a vote for any new doctrine of preemption or for unilateralism or for the arrogance of American power or purpose” and was certainly not “a vote to rush to war”. Regardless, that’s how then-President George W. Bush perceived the vote and launched an invasion of Iraq a few months later– before UN weapons inspectors even had a chance to go back. Five years and 4,491 American lives later, Clinton walked back her support for the war just in time for the 2008 presidential election.

Clinton’s comfortable ties with corporate America are also quiet disturbing. Among her top twenty donors throughout her entire political career are names like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Time Warner, and Lehman Brothers, all having donated handsome amounts of money to her both her Senate and presidential campaigns. Clinton has also received a total of $1.8 million for eight speeches given at conferences held by financial institutions in the past decade, another point Sanders and supporters have made sure to hammer her on. An attendee in one of these such conference in 2013 stated that Clinton “sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director” than a candidate for president. Speaking of Goldman Sachs, three of these speeches were given to the notorious multinational investment banking firm for a total of $675,000. This is the same Goldman Sachs who was just recently forced to pay $5.1 billion by a federal judge for deceptive mortgage practices leading up to the 2008 meltdown.

Clinton not only gave speeches to mega corporations, but she also worked for them. During her husband’s tenure as Governor of Arkansas, Hillary Clinton served on Walmart’s board-of-directors and often rubbed shoulders with the Walton family at social events. Even as numerous unions were endorsing her 2008 bid for the White House, Clinton shied away from bashing Walmart’s unethical practices, such as the paltry wages their employees get paid or their anti-union policies, unlike most her liberal colleagues (including Sanders), sometimes even going as far as praising their business model.

Since her departure from the corporation, Clinton has received generous contributions from Walmart and the Walton family, both to her campaign and to the Clinton Foundation, her and her husband’s non-profit organization. The most recent of these contributions came in December of 2015, where Alice Walton (daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton) donated $353,000 to Clinton’s Democratic National Committee Victory Fund. Despite her ties and time spent with the Walmart corporation, she makes no mention of it in her official biography.

There’s also the unnerving contributions individuals, interest groups, and foreign governments have made to the Clinton Foundation. Though the Foundation insisted that their disclosure of the Foundation’s donors would ensure “not even the appearance of a conflict of interest”, many critics have pointed at these questionable donations as a sign that they use the Foundation as a way to accept donations for political favors.

Despite Clinton’s cozy relationships with the corporations and institutions that helped cause the Great Economic Recession of 2008 and continue exploiting humans throughout the world, despite the vast amounts of money she has received from them (both in speaking fees and campaign/foundation contributions), Hillary insists that no amount of money could clout her political judgement, instead promising that she will be tough on Wall Street and make our country’s economic system fair for everyone.  My question to Mrs. Clinton is how does she expect us to believe she is the best candidate to fix the system when it is very clear that she is benefiting from it as well as further perpetuating it?

In contrast, Bernie Sanders has criticized corporate influence of American politics like no other. Seeing as how the American taxpayers bailed out corporate America during the 2008 recession, Sanders believes it’s about high time they return the favor. To pay for his ambitious plan to send young Americans to college tuition-free, he plans on placing a 0.5 percent speculation fee  on all stocks traded and a 0.1 percent fee on all bonds traded. Sanders is also the strongest advocate for campaign finance reform our country is in desperate need of. Instead of the privatization of elections that is currently going on, Sanders believes that the election process needs to be publicly-funded to ensure that candidates get an equal shot and ensure that there is more transparency. Continuing his agenda to help middle class Americans, Sanders is also the only major candidate that has advocated for the dismantlement of this country’s largest financial institutions, stating that “if it is too big to fail, it is too big to exist“.

Sanders not only talks the talk when it comes to campaign finance reform, he also walks the walk. While there are currently three super PACs that have aligned themselves with the Sanders campaign, not a single super PAC is sanctioned by Sanders himself. The only other remaining candidate who can make such a claim is Donald Trump. Sanders has even sent a cease-and-desist letter to one of these unaffiliated super PACs to show he means business.

Technically, the only super PAC that does contribute a significant amount of money and support to the Sanders campaign is the National Nurses United for Patient Protection PAC, but they are far from your average PAC. Unlike virtually every other candidate’s super PACs, the National Nurses United PAC works exactly how the Supreme Court envisioned political action committees to work when they ruled on Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. the FEC a quarter of a century later. That is, the super PAC has complete independence from the Sanders campaign; none of his vendors, consultants or strategists work for the PAC and there is little coordination between the campaign and the PAC. The donations to this pack also come from membership fees paid by the 185,000 member nurses who make an average of $57,000 a year, not from the coffers of b/millionaires.

The image speaks for itself. (Source)

Even without the help of super PACs and super wealthy donors, the Sanders campaign has broken multiple fundraising records and has plenty of cash on hand to take this fight all the way to the Democratic convention in July. His secret? A vast army of donors throughout the country who donate an average of $27. The Sanders campaign now has amassed over 6.7 million donations from 2 million individual donors. This army has helped Sanders out-raise Hillary Clinton for three months straight, raising $20 million in January, smashing that record in February by raising $43.5 million, and then breaking his own record in March by gathering an astounding $44 million in contributions. This brings Sanders’ total campaign contributions from the first quarter of 2016 to $109 million. This is compared to Clinton’s $15 million in January, $30 million in February, and $29.5 million in March, for a total of $75 million raised in the first quarter of 2016.

These contributions have helped Sanders close the gap on Clinton’s fundraising juggernaut. If contributions on behalf of PACs are thrown out, Sanders has raised a total of $140 million to Clinton’s $160 million throughout their bid for 2016. Unlike many of Hillary’s donors who have already donated the maximum amount possible set by FEC regulations ($2,700 per election for individuals), 99% of his donors have not done so, thus can contribute again and again and again.

Yes, people’s beliefs and rhetoric does indeed change and evolve with time; they absorb new information and have new experiences that shape their beliefs and can help them grow. People don’t typically have the same views that they had a decade or two ago; I know for a fact that 10 year-old me was not thinking the same things 20 year-old me is thinking about. Hillary Clinton is no different: she too has evolved many of her previously-held beliefs and there’s nothing wrong with that. But when one is presented with a politician who has been consistent and correct for the  most of his career, it’s hard not to pay attention and give recognition. Maybe it’s time that we listen to what the man has to say.

Many Clinton supporters might read this article as simply a barrage of personal attacks that serve no purpose but to further divide the Democratic primary. Many might even go as far as calling me a misogynistic Bernie Bro. But the truth is, this article is merely a compilation of why Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents should question whether or not Hillary Clinton is fit to challenge the status quo, to question whether or not she is the progressive she claims she is. In fact, we have chosen to omit various other instances where Hillary Clinton has showed questionable judgment, mainly in the interest of not overwhelming our readers more than we already have. These include her silencing of her husband’s alleged rape victims, her description of African American teenagers as “super predators” that needed to be brought “to heel” as if they were animals, her support of her husband’s “tough-on-crime” policies (which arguably harmed African American communities more than it helped them by fueling the War on Drugs and prison industrial complex), her role in the humanitarian crisis in Honduras and the collapse of Libya during her time as Secretary of State, her ties with the fossil fuel industry and support of fracking, as well as her usage of a personal email server to handle classified data. These are all issues Hillary Clinton has failed to address and has simply dismissed as “vast right-wing conspiracy” to de-legitimize herself and her husband.

Hillary Clinton has criticized young Sanders supporters who she says “don’t do their own research” and simply accept the “lies” spewing from Bernie’s mouth as truth. But many of Sanders supporters, including myself, support him precisely because we have done our research. None of these scandals are fabricated by the GOP in order to smear her as many of her supporters would quickly retort upon reading this article; these are actual situations in which Clinton has shown questionable, often detestable judgment. Despite being flooded with pro-Clinton drivel published by the mainstream media on a daily basis, anyone with a computer or smartphone and a somewhat reliable internet connection can easily find various instances of this behavior. She has been in politics for most of her adult life so there’s extensive footage and proof that her opponents and even her own supporters can dig through to evaluate her performance as a politician.

Do not get us wrong, Clinton’s record has some shinning moments on it and in many ways, she redefined the roll of women in politics and the roll of First Lady in particular. But when weighed against  her support of the Iraq war or her ties to Wall Street, or a laundry list of other disturbing choices, it is difficult to believe that she is the right choice for America if we want to move forward as a country, especially considering we have a true progressive as her alternative.

If this election does come down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we will (begrudgingly) support Hillary Clinton, like many other Bernie supporters. But rather than settling for the lesser of the two evils as American voters usually do, we have a shot of electing a candidate who is much more honest that any other and who actually addresses the real issues that are facing this nation. I don’t think that our nation can wait another four or, God forbid, eight years. While he will undoubtedly inspire a new breed of politicians, candidates like Bernie Sanders himself come along once in a lifetime.

Many Clinton supporters discredit Sanders for not being a “true” Democrat, that he is only playing the party for his own political gain. In a way, that is true, but only because of the way the rigged two-party system disenfranchises alternative and Independent candidates such as Sanders. Had Sanders chose to run as an Independent, his campaign would have been short lived without access to important party voter and fundraising information as well as missing out on the ability to get his message heard through debates with the other candidates. Sanders might be a staunch Independent, but it is worth noting that he has voted with Democrats over 90% of the time while in office.

Whether or not Sanders is a “true” Democrat is of little importance. This election is not about electing a Democrat, nor a Republican; this election is about electing the candidate who is the best choice for leading our country in the never-ending struggle of creating a more perfect union and who best represents the American people and their interests. Robert Reich, the famed political commentator and former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, put it best on one of his Facebook posts, saying “Hillary is the most qualified to the lead the political system we have today, and Bernie is the most qualified a transform it into the system we need.”

Yes, Clinton has more than enough experience to make her qualified to be president but she is not qualified to stand up for working-class Americans, nor is she qualified to get money out of politics, nor is she qualified to lead the political revolution we so desperately need. The only candidate that is qualified an old, Jewish, self-proclaimed socialist from Brooklyn and his name is Bernie Sanders. I urge our readers who are tired of being screwed over by our government and corporations, who are tired of the status quo which benefits the rich and wealthy at the expense of middle-class Americans, to register to vote and support Sanders in their state’s primary/caucus and again in November.


5 thoughts on “The Question of Electability

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