When the Left Behaves Like the Right: Primary Season 2016


This election season has been particularly fascinating.  On the face of the early election cycle, it appeared there was a superbly fractured GOP facing a united DNC.  What seemed like a couple dozen Republican candidates from all across the spectrums of experience and delusion crowded the nomination playing field.  On the other side – Clinton.  Sanders stepped into the game, and I felt confident enough to voice a theory that the DNC had deliberately asked Sanders to run in order to help create space for Hillary to push left without seeming immoderate. This left room for both the typically moderate Democratic voter AND the undecided voter to elect Clinton in the face of such an outrageous and fractured GOP race.

Alas, what has unfurled on the Democratic side has been just as fascinating to watch – if also incredibly frustrating for a liberal like myself, becoming nasty and brutish over time. It appears that the GOP rhetoric war on Clinton has been effective – even on the left. Despite a career-long dedication to liberal causes, Clinton’s detractors on the left are using conservative language to demonize her.  We keep hearing the same things over and over again… “it’s a feeling,” “she’s just… not trustworthy,” “she isn’t transparent,” “she’s owned by big corporations,” “I just don’t like her.”  None of these things is quantitatively accurate (she does have donations from corporations; however, this has not stopped her voting against their causes – AND maintaining positive relationships with them all the while!), and they are an indication, in my mind, of something quite problematic with the left.

It appears that the left is pulling a tea party. The language is nearly identical: we need a revolution; the establishment is too untrustworthy (nevermind that Bernie has been in the Senate and caucused with the democrats for decades; nevermind that Clinton served in the “outsider” Obama White House, nevermind that Clinton & Sanders are very good friends, etc); the establishment isn’t listening to us, etc.  This is interesting, but more than that it is frightening.  What, truly, is going on here?

Literally the only thing Bernie is stronger on in some ways is financial reform. And that is important, so I don’t want to downplay this.  I do believe in challenging the policies of big finance, and I’m all about implementing serious and substantial regulations of the industry to keep it under control.  However, in regards to student loan reform and addressing costs of college (which whoever ends up in the white house will have to deal with in the next few terms anyway – otherwise it is absolutely going to collapse our economy), public education reform, income inequality and other financial reforms the two are nearly identical in policy and voting record.

Furthermore, Hillary has been the first one to respond or come out in support of reform on many social topics.  She sat down with Black Lives Matter first; she came out against Hyde early and decisively – and it took Sanders over a week to respond similarly; she has been consistent in her calls for gun control reform, which Sanders ardently avoids; she has been consistent in her messaging to Latinos in attempts to be inclusive. Yes, she has made mistakes. She has misspoken, or been insensitive in some of her attempts to garner votes or to show herself as relatable. But I think these are the things that happen when someone with privilege is really trying. There’s a reason Sanders hasn’t made the same mis-steps: because he hasn’t been stepping publicly, choosing instead to do so in small meetings across the country.

I like Sanders, I really do. I’ve long been a fan of his work and his voice. However, I believe voters on the left have been duped by the voices yelling and fussing about Hillary on the right for a very long time. There is something to be said for someone who can work the system and do it well, all while not compromising her personal beliefs. The 2016 primary season is astoundingly similar to 2008 in tone… “the outsider” male swooping in to overtake “the establishment” Hillary Clinton. I’m afraid if that’s what we end up doing, we’ll end up with another disappointing presidency – yet another “outsider” man whose promises out measure his abilities to deliver due to a lack of relationships and finesse.