Susan Sarandon bases her well-publicized reluctance to support Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee on the fact that Hillary has taken so much money from corporate interests. Of course, that didn’t stop her from supporting Barack Obama twice.
Sarandon’s thought process exemplifies one of the many excuses that progressives and liberals have given as their reason they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Here’s my complete list:
- They blame her for things her husband did when he was president or for her husband’s inappropriate behavior.
- They do not allow her the opportunity to change her mind on issues based on new information or personal growth, e.g., stiff sentencing laws and the war in Iraq.
- They judge her too hawkish on foreign policy without applying similar standards to Bernie Sanders.
- They believe the right-wing nonsense about Clinton corruption and Benghazi that has been discredited multiple times.
- They make her live by a double standard: It’s okay for other cabinet officials to use her-his personal email for government business and it’s alright for others to get obnoxious amounts of money for speeches, but it’s wrong when Hillary does it.
- They apply a single issue to her, but not to other candidates, such as the acquaintance of mine who said he couldn’t vote for Hillary because of her stand in favor of capital punishment, but voted twice for Barack Obama, who also favors the death penalty.
- They call her part of the corrupt establishment, no different at heart from the Republicans when it comes to taking money from large corporations. This argument was used against Al Gore by Nader supporters in 2000 and led to the election of George W. Bush and his numerous disasters.
If these thought processes sound like excuses, there’s a good reason for it. They are. Much of what masquerades as Clinton criticism hides an antipathy for Hillary Clinton that I can’t quite understand.
I have no problem with progressives or liberals who are currently supporting Bernie Sanders. He is an attractive candidate with lots of good ideas. That people would prefer Sanders to Clinton is a perfectly reasonable position that I respect and encourage.
What isn’t reasonable are the one-third of Sanders supporters who proclaim they won’t vote for Hillary. Even less reasonable are the 10% of Sander’s loyalists who say they would rather vote for the unstable, racist misogynist Donald Trump.
It befuddles me why so many Democrats hate Hillary. A Southern Democrat who once ran for Congress recently told me that it’s because she made the unforgivable mistake of marrying “poor white trash.” I’m more inclined to believe that it’s easier for a progressive to find something fundamentally wrong with Hillary than it is to admit that he-she is not quite ready to have a woman serve as president. Whatever the reason, if we held every candidate to the high standards to which many hold Hillary Clinton, we would only be able to elect candidates who are related to a deity or received divine law on a mountaintop. I guess lifelong contemplation under a Bodhi tree might also qualify.
The simple argument for voting for Hillary is that she isn’t any of the Republicans. Remember all the Republican candidates—Trump, Cruz, Kasich and those waiting in the wings—want to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. All want to lower taxes drastically on the wealthy. All are against any minimum wage. All have militaristic foreign policies. All want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. All would like to limit women’s access to abortion and birth control. All will select right-wingers for the Supreme Court. All want to loosen gun safety laws even more than they already have been in recent years. Of the two front-runners, one is mentally ill and has fascist tendencies and the other serves the ultra-religious right.
The subtler and more uplifting reason to vote for Hillary is that she is a true progressive on domestic issues, albeit one who is willing to compromise, and can therefore help progressives cash in on a golden opportunity. At the very least, Republicans are either going to field a very weak candidate—Trump or Cruz—with practically nonexistent coattails with which to drag along the rest of the ticket. An even more dire situation for the Republicans will be if either Trump or another Republican launches a third-party campaign. In either case, the Democrats are poised to take both the House and Senate. Both Sanders and Clinton list leftward of Obama. Both have served more time in government than Obama had before assuming the presidency and won’t make the rookie mistakes that Obama did that led to the sequester, the reluctance to assert executive privilege in regulations and the continuation of certain tax cuts for the wealthy.
The big difference between the two is that Sanders will want to get us mired in the political quicksand that would be the renewed argument in favor of single payer healthcare insurance, whereas Clinton will accept the jerry-rigged system we have and focus on other parts of the progressive agenda.
To prefer Sanders to Hillary Clinton at this point shows idealism and an admirable political purism. But not to get behind Hillary when she becomes the Democratic nominee merely manifests a political death wish. The differences between the two candidates are minor, while the gap between them and the most liberal of the current crop of Republicans—the madman Donald Trump—is as wide as wide can be.