February 10, 2016 by David K. Sutton
Bernie vs Hillary: Who’s The True Progressive, And Why It Matters
During Democratic debates, Hillary Clinton has often said any of the candidates on the stage are a better choice for president compared to the Republican field. Of course this is true, but it masks the substantive chasm that exists between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Clinton would like you to believe she is the true progressive candidate. But, Clinton wants you to also believe she is the most practical candidate who can get things done because, as she puts it, the policies of her opponent, Bernie Sanders, are too extreme. In other words, Clinton is saying Bernie Sanders is not really a “true” progressive, because his ideas are “too” progressive. So instead, liberals should support Clinton because she knows the limits of social and economic justice within the modern construct of the American political machine. But, what Clinton doesn’t understand is that it is both economic and social justice, sometimes radical, that levels the playing field, raises wages, brings opportunity, and overall makes people’s lives better. So, who is the true progressive again?
Why does it matter that we support a true progressive for the Democratic nomination? Because the Democratic Party cannot afford to continue nominating candidates who offer a weak-kneed version of progressive liberal values, adopted by the Democratic Party starting with President Jimmy Carter, and then fully embraced by Hillary Clinton’s husband, President Bill Clinton, only to be largely continued by President Barack Obama. There’s no question Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama meant well, and are hands down better than anyone running for the Republican ticket in the past forty years, but their presidencies were at best slightly left of the Republican establishment of their time, an establishment that has continued a rightward march that probably started around the time the Democratic Party decided to neuter itself. The progressivism of FDR’s “New Deal” and LBJ’s “Great Society” were replaced with the incrementalism of low expectations that is at the heart of the modern Democratic Party.
The economic equality Bernie Sanders is talking about on the campaign trail was once as American as apple pie. There was a time the Democratic Party actually showed its support for economic equality with action, not rhetoric. When the Democratic Party lost its mojo, it became the second corporatist political party, aligning itself just to the left of the Republican Party, decades later opening the door for the fringe Right to gain greater traction within the GOP.
The Democratic Party once understood that massive economic inequality leads to a depressed economy, with stagnant wages, stunted purchasing power for the consumer, leading to further economic malaise. Its an economic death spiral where the only people who come out ahead, are those who were already ahead. This is why the trickle down supply side economics of the Republican Party has time-after-time proven to be malarkey. It is the consumer that is king in a capitalist economy. It is demand that fuels production.
The last time we saw this level of wealth accumulation in the hands of so few, the country suffered through the Great Depression. In response, the left adopted economic justice as its cause, and the Democratic Party pursued a set of economic policies known collectively as the “New Deal.” Socialist programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) led to millions of new public works jobs, and a socialist safety net called Social Security helped lift millions of senior citizens out of poverty, forever changing the economic landscape. Well, at least we thought it would be forever.
But, starting in the 1970s, we decided collectively as a nation that the middle class had it just a bit too good. We decided the robust middle class that the New Deal helped to create was sticking it too hard to the “poor” rich man. And so we set in motion the largest redistribution of wealth in the history of this country, creating the most lopsided wealth distribution we have seen since before the 1929 stock market crash. And what has the modern Democratic Party done to rectify this? Not much I’m afraid. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who said “the era of big government is over” during the 1996 State of the Union Address. And it was Bill Clinton who promised to all but kill welfare. And let’s not forget the massive deregulation of Wall Street during Clinton’s tenure, including the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act which repealed the Depression era Glass–Steagall Act (1933) which forbid securities companies, insurance companies, and commercial banking from commingling their business interests under the same roof, which at least in part led to the market crash in 2008 and the Great Recession.
All of this is to say, we need to think long and hard about who becomes the Democratic nominee. Can the Democratic Party continue to be the slightly more sane, but nonetheless Wall Street-backed party that it has become? And can we bank America’s future on yet another big business Democrat?
So, are you for the continued incrementalism of the modern Democratic Party embodied by the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton? Or, are you for revolutionary economic change, much in the style of the “New Deal” as envisioned by Bernie Sanders? Are you for the centrist quiescence of Hillary Clinton? Or, are you for a left-leaning, democratic-socialist progressive very much in the mold of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
Because it matters who we nominate. While both Democratic candidates might be better than anything the Republican Party has to offer, that doesn’t mean the two Democratic candidates represent the same ideals. Hillary Clinton is offering incremental (don’t rock the boat) change, while Bernie Sanders is offering a new “New Deal” to fix an economic paradigm in America that is fundamentally broken. This is why it matters who we nominate. This is why the future of the Democratic Party is very much on the line. This is why elections matter.