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Centrist and proud of it
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jducoeur
There's been a prevailing narrative in the current Democratic primary, promulgated heavily by much of the media (which loves simple narratives), that goes kind of like this. *Real* Democrats, who have principles, are voting for Sanders. The people voting for Clinton are doing so reluctantly, mostly because of "electability", but they don't actually *want* her to win, they just want to beat the Republicans. That's because she's a "centrist", which means she doesn't have any principles, and she's "just" a politician.

Enough of this crap.

Let's say this clearly: I'm voting for Clinton because I think she'd make a very good president. Frankly, I think she'd be better than most, precisely *because* of who she is and what she stands for.

I quite enjoyed the '08 primaries, because I didn't feel like I was choosing between the lesser of two evils. Both of the candidates were smart centrists. (Much of the electorate deluded themselves into believing that Obama was some kind of radical, but I always found that mysterious: if you listened to what he actually said, he was *obviously* a centrist, and that was much of why I liked him.) I decided to vote for Obama over Clinton for one simple reason: I thought his campaign was better *managed*, and the Presidency is, first and foremost, the ultimate management job. That's the point of the freaking executive branch -- they're the ones who are supposed to get things done. Since then, I've developed more respect for Clinton -- she did a solidly good job at State (itself a big management position), and knowing what I know now I'm not sure which way I'd go if offered the same choice.

(Actually, Obama had one other advantage: I have a mild preference for younger leaders. That's not a viable option in the current Democratic primary, and that makes me sad for the party.)

Yes, she's an insider. That's a *good* thing. I am continually mystified by the cult of the "outsider", and rather scared by the apparent right-wing desire for a fascist who will come in from the outside and sweep everything before him -- the potential danger aside, it's a rather anti-American (if long-held and common) viewpoint. In a finely-balanced system of checks and balances, being an insider is how you get things done -- *effective* presidents, the ones who actually accomplish something, are the ones who have a lot of experience in the field. And yes, that means being a politician.

As for the whole "she has no principles" charge, give me a freaking break. Yes, she's a little nuanced. I like that in a politician. The dangerous politicians -- the *scary* politicians, ultimately -- are the ones who see the world in simple black and white, believe that their way is the only way and that complex problems have simple solutions. The world is complex and nuanced, and our culture is evolving a lot faster than most people notice. Leading that culture without causing more problems than you're solving requires recognizing and navigating that complexity.

And yes, she's made a few mistakes -- the whole email-server thing was a dumb own-goal. But seriously, as scandals go, this one's pretty pathetically minor. Frankly, for a woman who has been square in the spotlight for 25 years, I'm deeply impressed that the worst the Republicans are throwing at her so far are that and their delusional fantasies about Benghazi. Anyone who can go that long, under that kind of microscope, and only be getting those accusations, probably has more integrity than most of us.

She'd make a damned good President. Out of the entire circus of candidates who have thrown their hats in the ring this time around, she's the only one I can honestly say that about. I am supporting her on Tuesday, proudly and with my head held high. I encourage you to consider doing the same.
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(Deleted comment)
You've laid out a case for Clinton being a useful administrator. You have not made a case for Clinton being a leader. And you have completely ignored that a Republican-controlled Congress won't let either Clinton or Sanders do anything without a massive struggle.

Given that, I would rather have a leader who is setting out to do the right things (as I see them) rather than a competent administrator who will continue to carry out business as usual, especially with regards to corporate rights, income inequality, civil rights, and health and education policy.

I have seen polls strongly suggesting that Clinton is reviled by the Republican Party's base, whereas Sanders has a good chance of turning the more moderate voters' heads.

(I would also rather have competent administrator Clinton than any of the fascists - that's not a metaphor, that's a description of my opinion of their policies - currently on the Republican list.)

Well, we should be clear that both Clinton and Sanders would have a titanic struggle with the Republicans. They've been quiet about it, but if Sanders winds up as the nominee they're going to make hay with the "Socialist" moniker -- tying him (mostly unfairly, but probably with some success) to Europe's economic problems and such.

The Republican base is a lost cause either way. The election is mainly going to be won on the middle ground with the unaffiliated voters, as usual. You can argue that one either way (Sanders would be more appealing to the anti-politics types, Clinton to the moderates), but I honestly think that it's wasting one's time to believe that the Republican base is going to either of them. They're going to vote for whichever Republican is nominated. (Unless it's Trump vs. Sanders, in which case you get the odd possibility of the Bloomberg third-party run actually happening and upsetting all calculations.)

As for right-things-as-I-see-them, I should be clear: I actually don't agree with Sanders nearly as much as many of my friends do. I *am* a moderate, and he's well to my left, and a tad more radical than I like; I honestly believe that, even if he was allowed to do what he wants, he'd do a lot of damage along with the good. (Not nearly as much as any of the Republicans, of course, but still.) That's part of my point -- I like Clinton's style, and I like how I believe she'd get things done. Yes, more gradually than many would like, but that's the best way to accomplish change in my experience...

I'm not supporting Clinton unless Sanders loses (to a degree that I am deeply regretful I never managed to find time and spoons go volunteer for Sanders), but I think you and I have a fundamental disagreement that's going to keep us from being able to argue about this well, which is that I'm *not* a centrist; I'm a socialist.

And I'm also not mystified by the cult of the outsider; I understand it perfectly. I don't agree with it to the extent that the Repulicans do-- I don't want someone who's never been in Washington at all trying to take up this job because it is a job that requires some fairly essential skills-- but wanting someone who isn't in the mess, who hasn't compromised their principles? Oh, yes, I understand that. Because the Republicans have gone in and taken insane stands, and rather than say that there is a line over which we will not go, Democrats have tried harder and harder to compromise, and you can't compromise with people who have no interest in compromise, or whose idea of compromise involves taking away fundamental civil rights from large groups of people. Until there are rational Republicans, I want someone who will draw that line in the sand and say "no, you cannot do this anymore; if that means we get nothing done then it means we get nothing done, but I will not let you ruin the country any more than you already have."

I think you and I have a fundamental disagreement that's going to keep us from being able to argue about this well, which is that I'm *not* a centrist; I'm a socialist.

And that's fair -- if you agree with Sanders' general worldview, then it's totally appropriate for you to support him. I don't, though, and I'm getting a bit tired of the notion (on both sides of the aisle -- it's even worse on the right wing) that if you're not an extremist you're not actually serious.

I want someone who will draw that line in the sand and say "no, you cannot do this anymore; if that means we get nothing done then it means we get nothing done, but I will not let you ruin the country any more than you already have."

Oh, I totally agree. And from both of their records, I think Clinton has more of a chance of actually standing up to the Tea Party and making them look like jackasses than Sanders does. She has more history in the center and more credibility staking out the middle ground (and more balls than Obama), whereas I suspect that Sanders would huff and puff a lot, and the opposition would continue to mostly ignore him, exacerbating the already-dangerous standoff...

I'm actually really kind of bothered (and weirded out by) the notion that Sanders is an extremist; I follow enough European politics to be aware that in countries without an absurdly contracted political memespace he's basically a mainstream centrist.

Okay, that's fair. He's well to my left (I'm essentially a "liberal" by the European definition of that word, rather than the American), but I'll grant that the American left/right divide has shifted well to the right -- by the standards of the 70s he would have been fairly middle of the road.

I do think he'd get tarred with that brush, though, simply by dint of calling himself "Socialist" for so many years. That's not as fatal as it would have been 20 years ago, but it's still going to be a problem for a good deal of mainstream America...

"the cult of the 'outsider'"

This is why we have a governor who is in the process of gutting every stride our state has made over the past 10 years. Health care? Let's dismantle that, using the money the federal government gave us to implement it in the first place. Women's rights? Eh, they don't need any. Ethics? He's so ethical, he's dismantling the ethics commission.

Bevin ran on a platform of "I'm not Obama." If you listened to him (which apparently most people who voted for him did not), he said he was interested in only supporting the wealthy who put him into office. The fact that's he's pissed off Mitch McConnell is telling. I know the impeachment thing is never going to happen, but I really hope it goes somewhere.

Back to your original post. I hate the rhetoric of "If you don't support Sanders, you're not a real Democrat" and "If you don't support Clinton, you're not a real woman." I can have issues with both of them and still be a real voter. I don't know who I'm going to vote for yet (though I don't think it matter much, since KY doesn't vote until mid-May). I just wish I could vote out most of the Republican contenders. They terrify me.

I just wish I could vote out most of the Republican contenders.

"Most"?

(Okay, granted, Kasich may actually not be insane, unlike the rest of them. But man, I long for a Republican candidate who isn't actively repellent, so that I actually got to *choose* in the general election...)

I was being generous. I honestly haven't looked at any of them, since they've been so far to the right of anything I could vote for, it hasn't been relevant.

I'm not really sure what a centrist is.

I mean, I have some political opinions:

IP is out of control.
The rights of the accused are important.
We should do much more than we're doing to make sure that everyone is fed, clothed, cared for, and educated to or above their ability.
We need to do things to make sure we're not propping up slavery and abuse economically.
The world is my family, not just the US, and everyone's lot should be better, not just ours.
But I'd still like to have a reasonable standard of living.
One of the purposes of government is to soften the lot of poor people, help the middle class pool resources, and distribute extra resources from the rich to the benefit of all.
Democracy and self-governance is a public good, and everyone competent to participate should be not simply allowed but encouraged to do so.
Systematic discrimination is the opposite of meritocracy, and to be avoided.
Market economies mostly work. But sometimes they fail, which is one of the reasons we make governments.
People should have the freedom to say what they want and believe what they want--but not inflict those sayings or beliefs on others who don't want.

But does this put me in a particular political camp? Well, a lot of it puts me in the far left. I don't value property as a good in and of itself (rather than a means to an end), and my value to religious freedom.

Where I tend to differ from the far left is mostly specific matters of doctrine. I don't -believe- in global warming, although that's certainly well pointed to by evidence and I give due to weight to that evidence and scientists who analyze it, and I do think that encouraging investment in renewable energy is an overall good; this puts me way left of a lot of "skeptics", but ahead of the sizable portion of the left who think that exploitation of nature is per se bad, and that global warming is a sign that we're going to far in usurping nature' role. I don't think that anyone in mainstream politics wants to do enough wealth redistribution; the UK Green party has the right idea proposing a guarunteed income to all citizens. I don't think minimum wage is necessary -if- we replace it with a GI system that guaruntees minimum standards of living without unnecessarily messing with voluntary exchange. I think BDS is Anti-Semitic bullshit, and that a lot of leftist organizations falling into line on it is an abrogation of responsibility. And pretty much nobody is talking about how our political system makes it much harder to pick common ground politicians and squeezes out third parties, encouraging tribalism and giving far too much of a voice to rural minorities over urban majorities.

But in the end, none of this makes me a centrist. If anything, it puts me to the left of Sanders (who is, himself, a "centrist" in that is views neither line up with the far right nor the far left), but having to make compromises on any legit politician. I'm supporting Sanders, because what I've heard from him is -closer- to my politics than anyone else in the race, but I'll certainly vote for Clinton over anyone else likely to run if she takes the nomination legitimately (i.e. not through a superdelegate vote overturning a popular majority).

I like a great many of Bernie Sanders' ideals. I am deeply uncertain about the idea that voting him into the Presidency is the best way to spread those ideals.

But I like the support he's getting - not specifically because I want him elected, but because it's an indication that some ideas once considered extreme on the left are becoming less so.

I wouldn't especially mind him being elected(*), but on a practical level, I expect Clinton:
1. Can get a hell of a lot more done, but
2. will be way friendlier to corporate interests; but
3. is more likely to get her way with Supreme Court nominations, which in the long haul will hopefully more than counterbalance #2.

(For nearly as long as I've been voting, my primary interest in the Presidency has been because of its power to make nominations to the Supreme Court. I mean, veto power is also important, and executive appointments / actions aren't irrelevant, but the Court has such a *huge* long-term effect... particularly upon civil liberties, which is one of my touchstone concerns.)

(*) = Saying "I'd certainly prefer him to the current Republican field" is damning with faint praise, I'd like him rather more than that would imply. Were he elected, I'd expect a lot of not-much-gets-done with a few modest imbroglios or gaffes, but hold out hope that perhaps he'd manage to be more effective than that.

Edited at 2016-02-27 01:11 am (UTC)

Yeah, largely agreed. I more actively like Clinton because I expect her presidency would get more good actually done than Sanders, but Sanders' campaign is a shot in the arm for the country.

And really, it's well past time: the country has been getting dragged steadily to the right at least since The Contract On America back in '94, and I'm somewhat astonished it's taken this long for the left to start really finding its voice again. I may not be left-wing myself, but I do think it's important to have the counter-balancing force in politics...

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