#FeelTheBern ? Check again.
Since the Republican Primary has descended into a literal dick measuring competition, I thought today was as good a time as any to take a microcosm-ish look at the battle on the Democratic side for the nomination of President to these United States.
Here’s a bit from the March 6th debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Flint, Michigan, just a few days before that primary.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, you’ve been endorsed by two of the biggest teachers’ unions. There’s an awful lot of great teachers in this country. It’s an incredibly difficult job, one of the most difficult jobs there is but union rules often make it impossible fire bad teachers and that means disadvantaged kids are sometimes taught by the least qualified. Do you think unions protect bad teachers?
CLINTON: You know, I am proud to have been endorsed by the AFT and the NEA, and I’ve had very good relationship with both unions, with their leadership. And we’ve really candid conversations because we are going to have to take a look at — what do we need in the 21st century to really involve families, to help kids who have more problems than just academic problems?
A lot of what has happened and honestly it really pains me, a lot of people have blaming and scape-goating teachers because they don’t want to put the money into the schools system that deserve the support that comes from the government doing it’s job.
COOPER: So just to follow up, you don’t believe unions protect bad teachers?
CLINTON: You know what – I have told my friends at the top of both unions, we’ve got take a look at this because it is one of the most common criticisms. We need to eliminate the criticism.
You know, teachers do so much good, they are often working under most difficult circumstances. So anything that could be changed, I want them to look at it. I will be a good partner to make sure that whatever I can do as president, I will do to support the teachers of our country.
I think it’s clear that Hillary was not going to use the expression “bad teachers,” so she went the long way around the barn and attacked the anti teacher union movement in a general sort of way. This is a solid answer – I give it a B+. I think it would have been far simpler to say, “Unions protect their members – that’s what they do, that’s why their members pay union dues,” but whatever.
Now let’s see how Bernie responds to the same question:
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: What our campaign is about, is asking people to think big not small. And when we think big and we talk about education, we’ve got to ask ourselves a simple question, how is it — starting at college that hundreds of thousands of bright young people are today, unable to go to college because they can’t afford it? How is it that maybe your kid — and when I was growing up, we didn’t have any money — we’re not even dreaming about going to college because they knew it was another world.
So starting with the top, now I know some people think it’s a radical idea, I don’t. I believe that every public college and university in this country should be tuition free.
So that your child regardless of the income of your family knows that if she’s studies hard, she is going to be able to go to college. And you know what else we do? We invest in child care. Right now, you’ve got child-care workers making McDonald’s wages, that is crazy.
COOPER: Thank you Senator.
SANDERS: I want well trained, well paid, child care workers to give our youngest kids advance opportunities.
COOPER: I want to go over to my colleague, Don Lemon.
So… can’t argue with that, right? Except that in NO WAY ANSWERED THE QUESTION. The word ‘union’ didn’t come out of his mouth once during his response to a question about unions. This is my problem with this guy – he has good ideas, but I have serious doubts about his ability as a politician; he can’t even function well in a debate, so how’s he supposed to lead the free world?
Here’s another bit that illustrates my problem with Bernie “Just need one more refill on my coffee, miss” Sanders:
QUESTION: A lot of members work in the auto industry here in Flint. That’s ultimately what I wanted to do when I got out of school unfortunately, I was unable to get any one of the big three and that’s why I now reside at Shinola. If you are elected president, what are you going to do to in the United States instead of sending them overseas to other countries?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: I’m going to do what I think will work which is both carrots and sticks. Let me talk about the carrots. We’re going to have a very clear set of proposals and incentives for manufacturing so that we change the way that companies think about making investments again in America. I have a comprehensive manufacturing plan that I will be implementing.
We’re also going to invest more on infrastructure as we both have said, “it’s woefully under resourced.” That will put a lot of people to work. I want to do more to help small businesses, they are the source of two thirds of our jobs and we have to help them start and grow, particularly minority and women-owned small businesses.
We need to do more to help create clean energy as a source of good jobs but I am also going to go after companies. You know, when a company decides to leave like Nabisco is leaving and they have gotten tax benefits from Chicago and Illinois to stay there, I will claw back the benefits. They will have to pay them back if they are leaving a place that actually invested in them.
I am also going to go after companies like Johnson Controls in Wisconsin. They came and got part of the bailout because they were an auto parts supplier and now they want to move headquarters to Europe. They are going to have to pay an exit fee. We are going to stop this kind of job exporting and we are going to start importing and growing jobs again in our country.
COOPER: Senator sanders, I will let you…
SANDERS: I am very glad, Anderson, that secretary Clinton discovered religion on this issue but it’s a little bit too late.
Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of the disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America.
NAFTA, supported by the Secretary cost us 800,000 jobs nationwide, tens of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. Permanent normal trade relations with China cost us millions of jobs. Look, I was on a picket line in early 1990’s against NFATA because you didn’t need a PhD in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico making 25 cents an hour.(APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: And the reason that I was one of the first, not one of the last to be in opposition to the TPP is that American workers…
… should not be forced to compete against people in Vietnam today making a minimum wage of $0.65 an hour. Look, what we have got to do is tell corporate America that they cannot continue to shut down. We’ve lost 60,000 factories since 2001. They’re going to start having to, if I’m president, invest in this country — not in China, not in Mexico.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well — well, I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-Elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.
The money was there, and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry and four million jobs, and to begin the restructuring. We had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry.
Continue reading the main story
He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.
SANDERS: Well, I — If you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy…
CLINTON: You know…
SANDERS: … through — excuse me, I’m talking.
COOPER: Let him (ph) (inaudible).
CLINTON: If you’re gonna talk, tell the whole story, Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Let me tell my story. You tell yours.
CLINTON: I will.
SANDERS: Your story is for — voting for every disastrous trade agreement, and voting for corporate America. Did I vote against the Wall Street bailout?
When billionaires on Wall Street destroyed this economy, they went to Congress and they said, “please, we’ll be good boys, bail us out.” You know what I said? I said, “let the billionaires themselves bail out Wall Street.” It shouldn’t be the middle class of this country.
CLINTON: OK, so…
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
SANDERS: Wait a minute. Wait. Could I finish? You’ll have your turn, all right?
But ultimately, if you look at our records, I stood up to corporate America time and time again. I went to Mexico. I saw the lives of people who were working in American factories and making $0.25 an hour.
I understood that these trade agreements were going to destroy the middle class of this country. I led the fight against us (sic). That is one of the major differences that we have.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Well, if I — if I could…
… to set the record straight, I voted against the only multinational trade agreement that came before me when I was in the Senate. It was called CAFTA. I came out against the TPP after it was finished. I thought it was reasonable to actually know what was in it before I opposed it. I oppose it.
Now let me get back to what happened in January of 2009. The Bush administration negotiated the deal. Were there things in it that I didn’t like? Would I have done it differently? Absolutely.
But was the auto bailout money in it — the $350 billion that was needed to begin the restructuring of the auto industry? Yes, it was. So when I talk about Senator Sanders being a one-issue candidate, I mean very clearly — you have to make hard choices when you’re in positions of responsibility. The two senators from Michigan stood on the floor and said, “we have to get this money released.” I went with them, and I went with Barack Obama. You did not. If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed, taking four million jobs with it.
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: I believe that the recklessness, the greed, and the illegal behavior of Wall Street drove this country into the worst economic downturn in the history of the United — modern history of the United States of America. And I will be damned if it was the working people of this country who had to bail out the crooks on Wall Street.
And what I proposed — and I had an amendment that was defeated — it was defeated by a voice vote on the floor of the Senate — that said to those people on the top who benefited from Wall Street greed — I said, “you pay for the bailout. Don’t go to my constituents, who are struggling to make ends meet.”
Continue reading the main story
In terms of the auto bailout, of course that made sense. In terms of the stimulus package, of course that made sense, and I strongly supported President Obama’s position on that.SANDERS: But let us be clear, one of the major issues Secretary Clinton says I’m a one-issue person, well, I guess so. My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.
COOPER: Senator Sanders…
CLINTON: Well, all I can say is that given the terrible pressures that the auto industry was under and that the middle class of this state and Ohio and Indiana and Illinois and Wisconsin and Missouri and other places in the Midwest were facing, I think it was the right decision to heed what President-elect Obama asked us to do.
He sent a letter, an authorized letter, asking us to support that to save the auto industry. Yes, were there things in it that you and I would not have necessarily wanted? That’s true. But when it came down to it, you were either for saving the auto industry or you were against it. I voted to save the auto industry. And I am very glad that I did.
SANDERS: Let me just say this, while we are on Wall Street, one of us has a super PAC. One of us has raised $15 million from Wall Street for that super PAC. One of us has given speeches on Wall Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, I kind of think if you get paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for a speech, it must be a great speech. I think we should release it and let the American people see what that transcript was.
CLINTON: And I have said and I will say again, I will be happy to release anything I have as long as everybody else does too, because what really is behind that question, Republicans and Democrats, is where I can stand up to Wall Street.
Well, let’s have some facts instead of some rhetoric for a change. I went to Wall Street when I was a United States senator. I told them they were wrecking the economy. I asked for a moratorium on foreclosures. I asked that we do more to try to prevent what I worried was going to happen. I also called for closing loopholes including the carried interest loophole. I also called for changes in CEO pay. I have a record. And you know what, if you were going to be in some way distrusted or dismissed about whether you can take on Wall Street if you ever took money, President Obama took more money from Wall Street in the 2008 campaign than anybody ever had. And when it came time to stand up to Wall Street, he passed and signed the toughest regulation since the Great Depression with the Dodd-Frank regulations.
OK, that was a big meal to digest. Let’s break it down:
Trade deals and jobs
Hillary’s answer on this was basically boilerplate: invest in small businesses, American manufacturing, create jobs through much-needed infrastructure projects and so on. Bernie’s rebuttal on this harkens back to Hillary’s support of international trade deals, meaning she’s hurt the people she’s now trying to help, although I would argue that the idea there was to strengthen Mexico because if that country becomes stable, the benefit to the United States is obvious, but I see what he’s saying. This also leaves out the fact that generally, labor jobs go where labor is cheap, and that’s not here. Apparently, the average private sector worker in China makes less than $5000 a year, so… yeah, kinda missing the point there.
Essentially, Bernie’s argument on bailouts is that they’re bad. I think everyone generally agrees with that, but the problem is, I can’t specifically agree with that. Back in 2008, two consecutive Bush administrations had spent us into the toilet as had ever loosening regulations, so, to keep a second Great Depression at bay, we took our medicine to make up for our ridiculous gamble (done on our behalf by our elected officials) and bailed out the banks and the auto industry. It sucked, but it was better than the alternative. Hillary says that 4 million jobs were saved by the auto bailout and… I think that’s not an accurate figure (my search results show figures more like 1.5 million jobs), but yeah, a lot of jobs nevertheless and certainly a large part of the American economy. So, in a vacuum, bailouts are bad, but sometimes, you have to suck it up and get your hands dirty. Bernie reminds me of a kid that sat near me in political ideologies class; he was very “capitalism is good, socialism is ineffective,” which is generally true, but in reality, both of these ideas are very old and the pragmatic course is to use the best ideas from any ideology to better the lives on the people – hence programs like Social Security and the auto industry bailout. Instead, Bernie seems to push the idea that all capitalism is bad. The reality is in between: sometimes, it’s worth investing in something (and probably necessary) even if you hate doing it.
Again, I think we all agree that it’s generally wrong to take money from an industry that you’re trying to regulate, but realistically, it makes sense to grab any free money you can. Who turns down money when you need money? (Running for President is not free.) That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Now, you could argue that no money is free, but for presidents in particular… money is kinda free. Money does its real dirty work in the hall of the House and the Senate – it wasn’t President Obama (or Hillary, for that matter) that tore a ton of teeth out of Dodd-Frank.
Now, I’d like to step away from the debate and see how Bernie’s point on taking money works in reality. As you have heard, Bernie won Michigan, and when I say, won, I mean “won.” True, Hillary was predicted to “win” this primary, so that’s a big deal for Bernie, but what has really been happening in most these contests is either Hillary gets most of the delegates or the basically split them. For example, here are the Michigan results:
Now, just as an example, here are the results from the Virginia Primary:
This is often the case: when Sanders wins a primary, he barely wins it and when Clinton wins one, she f@#king routes him. It’s just true. This is why Bernie is getting his ass handed to him in the delegate count:
This is why Bernie isn’t going to be the nominee. He’d need to win Florida (for example), by a
huge margin, and that’s not going to happen. Right now, Hillary is polling at 61% and even if there is an eleven point swing, that’s still only net him half the delegates, and half just isn’t going to cut it for him. Sure, you could argue that the Superdelegates could run over to Sanders side at the convention, but I’m pretty sure that will only happen in a Democratic primary if the presumptive nominee takes a ruler to their genitals.
This is where that whole money thing comes in: Bernie talks a lot about his small donors (and as a consequence of this, Hillary does, too), but in reality, Hillary is taking big money and winning big. Does money buy you an election? Actually, no; research (done by Freakonomics) tells us that all the money in the world will buy you 1% of the vote and since hardly any major elections are decided by 1%, money has reached a saturation point – meaning, once I jump in the pool, I’m wet – you can’t spray a hose at me and get me wetter.
To the Bernie supporters out there… I hear ya. I think he has a lot of good ideas. He’s probably not a bad guy, but I have serious doubts on his ability to execute as Commander-in-Chief – at least in comparison to Hillary. His misunderstanding of the Black Lives Matter issue kinda sums it up for me – you’ll remember he said, “All lives matter.” That response means he has no idea what those people are talking about because yes, generally, all lives do matter – of course that’s true – but the point is that all lives are not in equally in jeopardy. And if you think they are, numbers say you’re wrong, but that’s not the point either because you’re not running for president, so it’s not necessarily your job to have a firm understanding of this issue. (Although if you do, that is great, you’re great, thanks for reading this long, tedious post!)
And then there’s his debate strategy. Hillary gives nuanced answers about policies; sure, it’s not always some amazing response, but she answers questions. Bernie basically has two responses he reiterates ad nauseam: “Wall Street is bad, campaign finance reform” and “Free college for everyone, we need to improve education.” Basically, he can route any question into a response about his finance and education policies, which is the same thing Marco Rubio does, except Rubio is terrible at it while Bernie has spent his 74 years on this earth perfecting this skill.
And that’s where Bernie falls short of the standard I’m looking for – he seems like a good man with some good ideas, but in the end, I’m voting for who I perceive to be the smarter candidate who, while also imperfect, is imperfect in a way I can deal with.
Or, to sum it up: Clinton good, Sanders less good.