The Democratic presidential primary is causing me trouble. I like both candidates for very different reasons. As I’m writing this, I’m wearing my Hillary t-shirt and Bernie hoodie.
I get Bernie’s appeal. His laser like focus on economic inequality as the primary problem in US politics resonates with me (and lots of voters) for very good reasons. The disproportionate distribution of wealth and its corrupting influence on US politics cannot be allowed to continue. James Carville once described campaign finance reform as the reform that makes all other reforms possible. Bernie’s narrow focus on income inequality feels like its not nuanced enough for a nation as large as ours.
Hillary, by contrast, impresses me with her command of policy. Watching her testify before Trey Gowdy’s laughable Benghazi committee reminded me of why I’ve long found her impressive. She spent 11 hours being grilled by intellectual midgets and didn’t lose her cool. She laughed at the risible question if she “home alone.” She demonstrated a greater command of facts than any of the Republican yutzes on the committee.
After the Benghazi hearing, Matt Taibbi observed:
With Thursday’s interminable, pointless, haranguing, disorganized, utterly amateurish attempt at a smear job, the Republicans and their tenth-rate congressional attack schnauzer, South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy, got people feeling sorry for Hillary Clinton. Over the course of 11 long hours, they made the most eloquent argument for a Hillary Clinton presidency yet offered by anyone, including Clinton herself.
But there is one overriding principle that does animate and define the Clinton campaign, and that’s keeping Republicans out of office. For years, this has been the Democratic Party’s stock answer for every sordid legislative compromise, every shameless capitulation to expediency, every insulting line of two-faced stump rhetoric offered to get over: We have to do this to beat the Republicans.
I never bought that argument, for a lot of reasons, but Trey Gowdy made it look pretty good Thursday. Those idiots represent everything that is wrong not just with the Republican Party, but with modern politics in general. It’s hard to imagine a political compromise that wouldn’t be justified if its true aim would be to keep people like those jackasses out of power.
I agree wholeheartedly with Matt Taibbi. If nominating Bernie makes is an even shot that a Republican becomes President while nominating Hillary makes it 40% likely a Republican wins, I’ll support Hillary without a moment’s hesitation.
But there is a deeper reason I can support Hillary. She’s possesses a deep strength of character, as a powerful, educated woman in a deeply sexist society:
It is strange, then, to find myself, eight years later, not only rooting for Clinton, but feeling exasperated by her left-wing critics. I know their case against Clinton. I agree with a lot of it. I worry about what Clinton’s many flaws would mean for a potential presidency. Now, however, watching her be rejected by young people swept up in an idealistic political movement, I feel sadness instead of glee.[snip]
Since the 2008 election, I’ve grown more understanding about why Clinton made some of the ugly compromises I once held against her. Last year, I wrote a cover story for the Nation about her sometimes vexed relationship with the left. Reading biographies of her and histories of her husband’s administration, talking to people she worked with, and revisiting news stories from the 1990s, I was reminded that before she was excoriated as a sellout corporatist, she was excoriated as a feminist radical. She was widely seen as being to her husband’s left, in a way that threatened his political viability. Time after time, under intense pressure, she would overcorrect, trying to convince a skeptical mainstream press that she was a sensible centrist. Eventually, her tendency toward triangulation became almost instinctive.[snip]
Empathizing with Clinton, however, is a painful business. It means wincing along as she endures yet another round of public humiliation, another batch of stories about women’s indifference to her feminist appeal, another explosion of punditry about her lack of charisma. It means being constantly reminded that people on the left as well as the right find aging women pathetic. It means watching the Sanders phenomenon, in most ways a hugely welcome renaissance of American socialism, with dread as well as delight. There was no shame for Clinton in losing to Obama. But the fact that she’s fighting for her political life against Sanders, a man who initially joined the race more to make a statement than to contend for power, is a mortifying public rebuke.
Hillary Clinton has spent her public life – almost three decades now – on the losing side of America’s complicated misogyny. In the 1990s, she was excoriated for not being a stay at home wife and mother. She was feminazi shrew, a controlling iron bitch, a crazy lesbian murderess, a soulless Lady MacBeth. The genuine Hillary – who is apparently funny, warm, and caring – cannot safely emerge.
Hillarys’ line – “I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country” – is brilliant. It’s accurate. It also feels like the basis of a great general campaign theme that could easily separate her from the Republicans.
Watching her run circles around Trey Gowdy and his gormless stooges convinced me that she’s got the chops to be president.
She’s also an awkward candidate. Bernie shouldn’t be giving her a run for her money – he’s not a great speaker or campaigner. But I suspect he’s also more cunning and cagey than I previously thought. He might pull off a general election win. But then, so could she.
I want it to be both.
Here’s the bottom line: No matter which candidate wins the Democratic primary I will support them. I will vote for them.
But right now? I’m not sure which one I want to win. I know for damn sure there’s not a single Republican running for the Presidency that I’d trust within a hundred miles of the office.