The Pause Before the Votes

The caucuses and primaries begin in a couple of weeks, so shit’s about to get real. I haven’t been able to watch the debates, but I do read the reviews, and here are my thoughts at the moment regarding Sanders and Clinton.

Bernie Sanders has the stronger, clearer vision of where the country, and the Democratic Party, need to go next. He also seems to have the stronger grasp of the underlying issue of big money corroding democracy. However, there’s a compelling argument that Hillary Clinton is better at the nuts-and-bolts stuff and would be a more pragmatic choice in the short term. I’m not going to argue which candidate is more electable, because they both have strengths and vulnerabilities. We’ll see how they do in the primaries.

My biggest fear of a Hillary Clinton term in office is that it will be more of kicking the progressive can down the road, in hopes of some bright, shiny future when the progressive vision can be actualized. This leads to people getting turned off and giving up on participatory democracy, especially younger people. Sanders, I think, understands that nothing will change unless it’s forced to change.

My biggest fear of a Bernie Sanders term in office is that once he gets into the give-and-take of actually governing, which means making some compromises, the progressive Left will turn on him as rabidly as they did on Obama. In a weird kind of way this is an advantage for Clinton, whom progressives expect to sell us out. When she makes compromises it won’t cost her as much support.

I also question how much of his vision Sanders can accomplish without a progressive majority in Congress. I suspect we’re stuck with tweaks no matter which Dem is in the White House, as long as the Wingnut Right is still calling the shots. However, a Republican in the White House is unthinkable. I have to believe that won’t happen.

43 thoughts on “The Pause Before the Votes

  1. Sanders can’t force the change – especially, any major changes.

    No President can. At least, not without the support of the majority of the people.

    FDR was able to make progressive change because The Great Depression made people desperate enough to try something… any thing.

    LBJ was also able to do so, because a majority of Americans were sickened by what they saw on their TV’s, and sided with the peaceful black protesters over the violence and abuse heaped on them, by those in authority.

    Reagan was able to reverse progress because, again, he got enough people to clamor for what he was selling.

    Obama did what he could, with the level of support he thought he had.

    As I said before that I like both Hillary and Bernie.
    But in a nation which has been brainwashed into thinking both the words ‘socialim’ and ‘liberal’ are dirty four-letter words, Hillary may not only be the easier sale, but a candidate who has been put through the relentless conservative wringer for longer than any living Democrat, making her a more experienced and tougher candidate.
    Not to say Bernie’s not tough, but she’ll already have gone though a nationl campaign, and Bernie hasn’t.

    Them’s my $0.02 worth.
    I’m still up in the air between the two of them.
    YMMV.

  2. Sanders’ continued butchering of foreign policy questions, coupled with his fantastical unicorns and rainbows for all, er, “single payer plan.*” Probably did it for me. I’ve got no real problem with running as a message candidate, and I think it’d be super if Sanders made a run at unseating Schumer as Senate leader next January, but at this point he’s not even pivoting in the direction of acting like someone who has a viable chance of being elected President of the United States (or, rather, someone who is preparing for that possibility in all it entails) so I’m hard pressed to actually vote for him over Clinton.

    *Not only is the “math” in Sanders’ proposal the sort of things you usually only see in Republican tax cuts plans, but I’m really annoyed that he didn’t even bother to put forward any proposals for expanding the ACA that might actually have a chance at passing in the event Democrats manage to win Congressional majorities.

    • “Sanders’ continued butchering of foreign policy questions, coupled with his fantastical unicorns and rainbows for all, er, “single payer plan.*” Probably did it for me.” Actually, I suspect the money you must be getting from the Clinton campaign to shill for her probably did it for you. But in the long run, some form of single payer makes sense, if you understand how it keeps costs down and delivers better health care in just about every other first-world nation in the world but ours. The question is how in the world would it ever be enacted in the U.S.?

  3. I’d rather have a fire-breathing progressive who calls out the corruption for what it is – than a triangulating establishment democrat who tries to ‘split the difference’ between what the people need and what Wall Street wants.

  4. “But in the long run, some form of single payer makes sense, if you understand how it keeps costs down and delivers better health care in just about every other first-world nation in the world but ours. The question is how in the world would it ever be enacted in the U.S.?”

    Well, it won’t, for exactly the reason it “makes sense.” Even putting aside that Americans has consistently shown that they’re not comfortable with massive disruptions to existing healthcare plans (even the cancellation of ripoff grade plans actually got traction against Obamacare), the current system has persisted for 60 years and Americans are largely accustomed to “overconsumption” of healthcare and are never going to accept UK/Canadian style rationing and cost-capping. The simple question to ask here: How many liberals even would trade their employer based plan for Medicaid?

    Also it’s worth pointing out that this;

    “delivers better health care in just about every other first-world nation in the world but ours.”

    is flatly false. Most advanced nations do not actually have a single payer system, which is basically limited to the UK, Canada, Australia, and Spain. The rest of Western Europe basically has a more robust form of subsidized and heavily regulated public-private partnership that has the same basic structure as the ACA. It’s really telling that single payer advocates in the US so often conflate non-single payer systems like those in France or Norway with single payer.

    And I remain oddly amused with the implication that no one could have problems with Sanders unless they were being paid by his opponent. That’s a terribly convincing rebuke, to be sure.

    • Brien Jackson — we can quibble over the definition of “single payer,” but when you say “The rest of Western Europe basically has a more robust form of subsidized and heavily regulated public-private partnership that has the same basic structure as the ACA.” I know that to be bullshit. I’ve written quite a bit in the past about the health care systems of other countries. Switzerland’s system resembles the ACA; the remainder are substantially different. And I believe the U.S. has to make the switch to a national system sooner or later, as inconvenient as that might be for a lot of people, because the costs in our system are killing us. Literally. It’s killing our economy as well. Obamacare is a step in the right direction, but only a step. If Clinton wants to say that she will push for incremental change to bring the ACA closer to a truly nationalized system, that would be a compelling argument to vote for her. So let me know if she does that.

      //I remain oddly amused with the implication that no one could have problems with Sanders unless they were being paid by his opponent. // I didn’t address that remark to “no one,” but only to you. You are too obvious a shill. A really good one, but an obvious one.

  5. As things stand now I’d vote for Hillary just on the fact she’s a woman..I know that doesn’t sound like a very informed or engaged voter, but understanding the political climate as it is I think he idea of breaking the glass ceiling for women as President and Commander-in- Chief would be a tremendous achievement for Progressivism. No doubt that Hillary has her flaws, but considering the arena she has to survive in a lot of those flaws can be tempered with understanding.
    I’m sure she would understand full well that if elected to the office she would have to produce the best she could for the will of people that elected her and to secure her own legacy. There is a possibility that she could become her own person if she is politically secure and satisfied her ambitions.

  6. I watched bits and pieces of the debate and I have to admit it was the first one I’ve watched this election season. I can’t sit through the republicant bullshit, lies and distortions what with me high blood pressure and short fuse and I never knew when the democratic debates were on, bad marketing? My take away was I don’t really like any of them. Clinton seemed a bit entitled and condescending towards Bernie, Bernie seemed a little over the top and not very well organized and that O’Malley what a stump, bad as JEB! I’ll vote for whoever wins the nomination but to be honest I’d rather have President Obama for another four years or John Kerry or Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken or Russ Feingold or…………………

  7. I saw a clip of the Repuglican’t debate where Kasich’s facial expressions were identical to Chester Honeyhugger’s.

  8. ” However, a Republican in the White House is unthinkable. I have to believe that won’t happen.” WON’T HAPPEN, if turnout “happens”.

    Mr. Jackson: who votes on foreign policy? Nobody. Especially when we have had it good. Obama got us out of two wars, started normalization with Cuba, and got a widely-praised nuke deal with Iran. ANY of the Republicans would be likely to put boots on the ground somewhere in the Middle East just to enrich the coffers of their investors. Either Clinton or Sanders would be so much better than ANY Republican, it’s not worth even discussing.

    As far as the ACA. It should be obvious to anyone versed in economics that single payer is the way to go. Failing that, getting medicaid expansion in every state would reduce costs of the whole ACA significantly. And the only thing preventing that are the 20 states willfully ignoring the wishes of large majorities who want expansion. That could be a wedge issue for Democrats, now people are becoming more familiar with how the system works.

  9. If Elizabeth Warren was running, I’d be inclined to vote for her over Sanders in order to break the glass ceiling for women. There are nuances of differences, to be sure, but there’s a person who is just as committed as Sanders to returning democracy to the people.

    HRC is a democrat who honestly believes money in politics is a force which can be harnessed for social good. The problem is that no one can predict where Clinton will come down when the interests of citizens is in conflict with the connected special interests who invested in her campaign. Would she allow a pipeline in exchange for an equal-pay bill? Would she ease regulation on Wall Street in exchange for closing some tax loopholes? She will try to convince herself and voters that we are getting the better part in those deals but in my experience, Wall Street and K Street have mastered the game. The economic crash of 08 was the indirect result of easing banking regulation by Bill in exchange for???

    As regards foreign policy, Sanders clearly and correctly opposed the war in Iraq when it was unpopular to do so. HRC voted for military intervention. So let’s go easy there lest voters remember the true facts.

  10. @maha:

    “we can quibble over the definition of “single payer,””

    Um…no…we can’t. “Single payer” refers to a very specific form of heathcare provision, and if we start calling France or Germany or Norway or even Sweden, really, a “single payer” system then we aren’t talking about anything specific at all.

    ” I’ve written quite a bit in the past about the health care systems of other countries. Switzerland’s system resembles the ACA; the remainder are substantially different. ”

    The word “substantially” is doing a lot of work here. Ultimately they all represent some form of tight markets for insurance provisions, tight regulation of for-profit insurance companies, and public-private partnership. France or Germany may be substantially different in degree than Obamacare, but their systems are also obviously much older and there’s been more time to build on that since.

    “And I believe the U.S. has to make the switch to a national system sooner or later, as inconvenient as that might be for a lot of people, because the costs in our system are killing us. ”

    The federal exchange is obviously a beginning step in this direction that can be built on, and probably will be as more states decide it’s a better deal to ditch their own systems and participate in the federal program. But in any case this is just non-responsive in the long run; if you’re going to try to get past the fact that Americans have consistently shown themselves to be overwhelmingly opposed to major changes that affect their own existing plans, then you need to at least propose some sort of working theory for how that’s going to happen. Otherwise you do what basically everyone other than the Britian, Canada, and Australia have done: pursue a series of incremental reforms within the existing system in ways everyone is far more comfortable with.

    “If Clinton wants to say that she will push for incremental change to bring the ACA closer to a truly nationalized system, that would be a compelling argument to vote for her.”

    I think all of these count as such, and are at least as detailed as Sanders’ entire published single payer plan.

    https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/health-care/

    “I didn’t address that remark to “no one,” but only to you. You are too obvious a shill. ”

    Again, this continues to be amusing because (as I think I’ve said before) I actually used to be in politics, and I’ve never been shy about “disclosing” the politicians I’ve worked for. I’m not even enthusiastic about Clinton so much as I don’t particularly care for Sanders.

    • I read that Krugman column already. It doesn’t disprove my point about the superiority of a single payer plan over the ACA. He does say the Sanders plan has flaws, and as I already said, if HRC wants to make the point that she will improve the ACA to make it a more national plan and less of a “kludge,” that’s a compelling argument. And I understand she’s made proposals in that direction. But as I see it, any proposal that *isn’t* an incremental step toward a true national, nonprofit, mostly taxpayer funded health care system is a problem. It may take another 30 or 40 years, but the nation needs to get there somehow.

  11. Oy!

    Glenn Frey, one founders of The Eagles, just died at the age of 67.

    Ok, there’s the 3rd one.
    Maybe now Death can give us a break, and stop taking talented people from tha arts.

  12. Mr. Jackson,

    Thanks for the link.

    One can not get much more authoritative than Krugman, but what I would strive for is gradually expanding Medicaid to cover everyone–not rationing and maybe not as cheap as Canada, but closer to that goal. I have zero faith in the Free Market and zero faith that keeping greedy private insurers around serves any interests except those of the greedy private insurers.

    I think you will find most followers of this blog would regard Obama as a strong and effective president, as do I, but his capitalist bent seems to lead him astray and will likely be an Achilles heel for HRC as well.

    I can’t tell you how pissed I am at the president for doing NOTHING to stop the surge of charter schools; they suck funding away from public schools, providing unregulated nothings in their place– the money going into private businesses.

    And, yes, I will vote for HRC to stop whatever sociopath the Republicans decide on, but she is a “hold your nose” candidate for me, where Bernie is someone I think most people can get really excited about.

  13. I have read and seen some pretty disturbing things about HRC over the past several months. Apparently she wants to have sanctions on Iran, and a film clip I watched where she is gushing over the death of Kadaffi is pretty gross, to say the least.
    That said, the Republican appear to be escapees from a home for the criminally insane. I’m leaning towards O’Malley, but I don’t know if he could beat the Repugs. Strange days indeed.

  14. “I read that Krugman column already. It doesn’t disprove my point about the superiority of a single payer plan over the ACA.”

    Healthcare policy is really a question of political economy, and to be frank I think Sanders’ proposal is a great illustration of why it wouldn’t really work as advertised in the U.S. Note that Sanders plan promises no co-pays or deductibles, at the least very strongly implies that no claims will be denied, and says nothing about reimbursement rates. It promises a lot of savings, to be sure, but that seems to be entirely circular reasoning: There will be savings because this is single payer and Canada/Britain pay a lot less for healthcare than we do. That the most serious proposal for single payer in decades doesn’t promise cap healthcare spending, tightly ration care, and use monopoly power to drastically cut payments to providers (which is how single payer actually cuts costs) rather clearly gives away the game.

    We’ve also seen plenty of instances where even liberals blanched at technocratic initiatives to cut costs at the margin where they viewed it as coming at their expense. The two cases that come immediately to mind are unions rebelling over the “Cadillac tax” in the ACA and some feminists who got angry over recommendations that young women with low risks of breast cancer not get routine mammograms. Americans are very accustomed to routinely accessing more healthcare services than they “need,” and the country would need a very large cultural shift in this regard to actually accept the reductions and cost-benefit analyses that make the UK or Canadian systems so much cheaper.

    • “Healthcare policy is really a question of political economy, and to be frank I think Sanders’ proposal is a great illustration of why it wouldn’t really work as advertised in the U.S.” As usual, you’re not reading what I’m saying. Sanders’ specific proposal is not going to happen, I agree. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. will not move to some version of a national taxpayer-funded health care system eventually.

      What you don’t get is that our current system is not sustainable, no matter what Americans are accustomed to. The ACA appears to have pushed a day of reckoning into the distant future, but a transition must be made eventually, and Americans will accept once the old system has collapsed of its own unsustainable weight. We need to be moving incrementally in that direction. And now, good bye.

  15. “I also question how much of his vision Sanders can accomplish without a progressive majority in Congress.”

    This is why he is calling for a revolution. He is telling his audience that votes for progressives in the down tickets is just as crucial as votes for him. Presently, there is a progressive running against Wasserman. As I recall, it was Bernie’s candidacy that prompted him to do so. Hopefully, more will follow suit and primary the corporate/moderate Dems.

    So yes, if Bernie does win the general but doesn’t get the Congress he needs, it will be a challenge. Having said that, I believe Bernie will actually work toward the next cycle of congressional elections to push for progressives to run. Can the country wait the additional two years? Might not be that long if Bernie puts the pressure on the ones he looking to get primaried.

  16. I’m way for Sanders over HRC if only because Wall Street is a time bomb that’s waiting to destroy us all (do see The Big Short), and she’s way too in bed with that crowd, and I and much of the country is ready for a real progressive, instead of a triangulator.

    The issue for me is electability. I won’t vote for Sanders if it means a Republican gets in.

  17. Bernie all the way!

    The Right is completely comfortable pushing an agenda so extreme it borders on Fascism (gun laws and abortion laws for two quick examples.) We on the Left should at least try to elevate our nations to the standards of a median, Western developed country (not that any one of them does not have its individual foibles and blind spots).

    We need progressives just to get to “no longer dysfunctional”, in my view.

    • BJ is a classic shill. I see him all over social media declaring that he *just learned* such and such a thing about Bernie Sanders, and this caused him to make up his mind in favor of Hillary Clinton. He’s been doing this for months.

  18. In listening to any of the candidates, and I fault all of the candidates equally here, there’s four kinds of promises, two of which are impossible in the current climate.

    First, there’s FDR-style progressive promises made in a the political climate of a supporting Congress. Not happening any time soon.

    Second, there’s might-come-true promises which could realistically emerge through negotiation & compromise. That’s how stuff usually gets done when it does get done. Not happening any time soon.

    Third, is the totally vacuous promise that can’t possibly be kept. (A wall with Mexico & Mexico pays.) Most of Hillary’s and Bernie’s campaign promises are impossible – because the House will never agree. Listen to any list of promises and ask for each promise, “Will that need Congress, and will Congress agree?” It’s OK to listen to fantasy promises – candidates seem to feel obliged to issue them. But it’s not important – the perfect example is changes in health care – Bernie’s health care for all won’t happen and HRC will never get the GOP to make improvements to Obamacare, especially if they make sense.

    The fourth area is where you should pay attention. Ask, “Can this be done by executive action?” If the answer is ‘yes’, then you should pay close attention. I think Bernie will push the limits of executive action, and HRC will be frightened of impeachment. In the only area where a president has any power today, Bernie will confront and HRC will triangulate.

  19. “Trump just got a “huge” endorsement…from none other than the barracuda”

    The kiss of death; I bet Cruz paid her to do it.

  20. Tom… I’m not sure that’s a kiss of death. Maybe it would be for rationally thinking people, but when you’re jockeying for position among the crazies to capture the evangelical vote, it’s closer to being manna from heaven. Trump is working his way into the fold in a very insidious way considering he’s never laid the groundwork or even acknowledged an abiding faith. It seems to me the evangelicals are looking for a political home..If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, then the mountain will come to Mohammed?

  21. “It seems to me the evangelicals are looking for a political home.”

    I’ve harped on this before, but I think Swami is right. As much as they complain about the “secularization” of the USA, Evangelicals have taken a large role in it. They fell to the temptation of earthly power. This also provides them with the opportunity to present themselves as victims. The metaphor that comes to mind, i.e. stolen from Joe Campbell, is a kind of fossil called a pseudomorph. This is where the original creature has entirely disappeared and the cavity is filled with a substance that solidifies in the shape of the creature. It takes on the precise shape, but, it is not what it appears to be. The “Christian” appears to be a congregation, but, more and more they have become a political party taking on the form.

    Uncledad, is that you performing “Mother Goose?”

  22. Doug: I think you have hit the nail on the head. Now I have an excuse to be depressed, besides the weather. It seems hopeless without a revolution.

  23. Goat,

    Great Steve Earle tune, one of his best, I find it surprising that they played that on CMT (see the logo), that cable channel is the FAUX news of music video channels. I’d wager they thought it was a pro-Israel song? No that’s not me playing Mother Goose, I wish, it’s a friend of mine!

  24. Onclepere,

    We cut our cable so long ago, I don’t have any associations with any of the channels. But, I remember that one of the Republican cogreecritters took aim at WMNF in Tampa because they played this song. It still holds up after all these years. Iris Dement is a minister if I remember correctly. She’s definitely not in the Huckabee mold.

    Her voice is so different from her husband Greg Brown’s voice, it would be interesting to hear a duet.

    Here’s another Bernie Sander campaign song:

    https://youtu.be/SYqDpL0YCvI

  25. I’ve seen Iris live several times, she’s a regular touring partner with John Prine (the greatest folky of all time), she’s has a unique voice, not my cup of tea but you can’t deny the talent!

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