by Laura Elizabeth Teller
Why is it taken for granted by so many that Bernie is more liberal or progressive than Hillary?
I think some of the basic underpinnings of Bernie’s thinking are by no means liberal.
I’ve posted on what I see as his innate libertarianism already, at length.
But I see something much more deeply conservative about Bernie.
His entire approach is profoundly conservative.
He engages in a very rigid sort of moralizing which says that it’s desirable to judge people by their associations and what he sees as their character, as “deduced” from those associations.
To Bernie, the fact that Hillary have three speeches to Goldman Sachs (out of hundreds which her booking agent arranged for her to give) defines her.
Her record, which is if anything more strongly critical of Wall Street than Bernie’s, is ignored by Bernie as irrelevant. Her positions are irrelevant to Bernie.
He makes the same argument that right wing demagogues made against people they wanted to paint as “communist sympathizers” during the Cold War: that some degree of contact with someone Bernie doesn’t like means that Hillary is a “corporatist whore”.
The fact that she failed to shun people on the blacklist is central to Bernie’s argument.
And there’s nothing liberal about that at all. Puritanism has never been progressive.
There are three levels to liberalism which I’m thinking about.
The first level is issues, where Bernie is probably closest to being liberal. He argued that health care is a right, for example. That’s liberal. His positions on guns, trade, and foreign affairs aren’t really liberal at all (isolationism is a traditionally conservative position).
Second is approach – leaving things up to the states (as Bernie did with health care before being called out by Chelsea Clinton, as he does with college tuition and infrastructure improvement), is not a liberal approach. That is Bernie’s general approach, though – that’s why he opposed DOMA (he opposed gay marriage at the time, but felt that states should be free to define marriage as the wished), and it explains his gun control votes.
Third is more intangible, perhaps “spirit”, or outlook. This is what I was talking about above, where his puritanical judgmentalism is very illiberal.
So Bernie is arguably liberal on issues, but libertarian in approach, and completely conservative in spirit.
Hillary, by contrast, is a problem-solver. Because her approach to the issues is always tempered by realism through the process by which she designs solutions to the problems, her views may not seem as exciting or dynamic, but she is certainly committed to effecting change, and that makes her a true progressive.
On her approach, Hillary sees the bigger picture, refusing to construct a solution that is easily picked apart by conservative obstructionists, or left to the whims of state governors. She anticipates the pushback, and stands ready to defend her plans on all possible fronts.
As for Hillary’s spirit- perhaps this is where she is most liberal of all. She herself says she is not a natural politician. She really shines when she is meeting people one-on-one. While Bernie Sanders was stalking the Pope for a handshake, Hillary was quietly touring Section 8 housing in New York City, looking for ways to improve the lives of people right where they live.
In a political battle in which the voters are swayed by the perceived “purity” of their candidates, it’s important to “trust but verify”. While one candidate has made the claim to be the purest, most moral and furthest to the left, the other has a lifetime of impressive progressive accomplishments, as well as a future of equally progressive plans. I prefer the candidate with the track record and road map over the repetitive malcontent who has little to offer besides the braggadocio and contrived rage of a soapbox warrior.