18 May 2016

PLEASE READ: Clinton as presumptive nominee despite the fact that Sanders has at least half the party behind him

As a from-before-he-announced Bernie Sanders supporter, and wholehearted believer in the general outlines of Bernie Sanders's agenda, I don't endorse the behavior of every single Sanders supporter. Some are understandably frustrated by the dysfunctional primary system in this country, under which, legitimately, Clinton is on the way to nearly certain nomination, and as a result, have said some intemperate things. Still there is an undeniable late momentum in the Sanders campaign, which has won the majority of primaries in the last month and a half and has at least a shot at carrying California, the largest prize of all.

To those Clinton supporters who say Sanders is a spoiler, and are angry that he won't "drop out," I say: your argument is hollow and indefensible. Clinton herself waited until almost literally the last minute herself when she was in a somewhat similar situation in 2008. But that's not really the point. The point is that the Sanders campaign is not just a personality contest. The candidate must remain in the race to advance the agenda his supporters, now clearly at least half the Democratic Party, believe in. His campaign, in other words, is a movement for Progressive realignment of the Democratic Party. Sanders and his supporters expect to be taken seriously, and to have a significant voice at the convention. They expect the nominee to take their views seriously, and to address the FACT that Sanders's policy positions in general are currently favored by the majority of Democrats.

In short, Sanders's supporters demand to be heard, and we expect anyone who claims to be the leader of the Democratic Party to represent the views and aspirations of the rank and file. Which means no more neo-liberal Centrist "Clintonism." Hillary Clinton, if she expects to unite the party and turn this into a wave election with a very good chance of flipping the Senate and making significant inroads in the House, must articulate and actually put into effect major small-d democratic reforms in the way the Party functions, and, more importantly, must articulate and honestly work to execute a far more Progressive policy agenda than what she has articulated in the past. The fact is, as of the present, she is barely winning the unqualified support of half the party. To unify the party, she had better realize that she needs to move towards, and stay with, the Progressive base. That means no backtracking on the disastrous, failed trade policy of the Obama administration. Rethinking the neocon interventionism that is probably the most disturbing thing about her record, personally. Supporting significant movement towards single-payer or public option in health care with major reform in out of pocket costs to working people and America's vast marginalized underclass. Supporting labor interests over finance in all aspects. Ditching the centrist Wall Street compromise mentality underlying Dodd Frank and working to enact serious, effective and permanent Wall Street reform, as articulated best by Elizabeth Warren. Supporting major tax reform to shift the burden of taxes more onto the wealthiest Americans and closing the loopholes and offshore havens that allow many of them to (legally) evade taxes. Expand, not cut, retirement security. Work to enact massive infrastructure investment, especially in renewable energy. And work for family leave, paid child care, enhanced job programs, enhanced food security, and free public education through college. (Which we once had in this country, in case anyone has forgotten).

If she gets smart, and embraces substantially all of these things, she will not only win the White House in a landslide, she will have a real mandate to make major changes in this country, once we are able to gain control of the Congress, which, with this kind of mandate, could actually be within reach while she is still president.

But if she does not, if she reverts to form, tacks to the Center, brings in Larry Summers and Robert Kagan and their ilk as advisers, the chance that she will face the kind of gridlock that's hobbled the Obama administration, and that a rebuilt Republican party could come back to power sooner rather than later, will be much greater. And our country cannot afford that. Clinton could win the election but effectively lose the ability to govern, and squander an opportunity for real change, that she owes in a significant measure to the insurgent campaign of Bernie Sanders. And if she does not understand that, she is not nearly as smart as people say she is.

I wish I could say I was optimistic, but I'm not, particularly. I see many signs that Clinton is already reverting to the kind of compromise-in-advance, Republican lite politics that have disaffected, justifiably, so many in the natural consistency of a Progressive Democratic Party that should be there representing them. I hope against hope she gets a bit more of the "vision thing" before the Summer campaign season is fully underway, and campaigns on, and then put into effect, real Progressive policies. Clinton is supposedly a "fighter." If, as seems almost certain, she is the nominee, she will have to prove it.

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