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Friday, March 11, 2016
Note To Hillary: Stop Alienating The Left
As I've written before, my admiration for Bernie Sanders and what he stands for goes back decades, but I fear that in a general election the well-honed, well-financed right wing attack machine will launch a shock and awe red baiting campaign against this socialist Jew that would drown out his ideas and undermine his candidacy. Given the stakes in this election -- particularly, the Supreme Court -- electability trumps (pun intended) everything. And so, I've have made my peace with Hillary Clinton because, despite her many flaws, I believe she best appeals to the diverse core constituencies that will ensure a Democratic victory in November. But her flaws, unfortunately, continue to frustrate and, unless she changes her approach, are likely to alienate one key constituency -- progressives.
While Hillary has thankfully (and credibly) adopted many progressive positions, in no small part due to Bernie's challenge from the left, she remains remarkably tone deaf when it comes to the progressive community.
She must stop attacking Bernie's integrity and his voting record as somehow less than progressive. This does nothing to shake Bernie's progressive supporters and only furthers a narrative that she is less than honest and will say anything to get elected. It is perfectly appropriate to argue that many of his proposals -- such as single payer health care and college free tuition -- are unrealistic, and that she has better, more practical policy ideas. It is fine to ask what specific plans he has to get Big Money out of politics (particularly given his comment that "any Supreme Court nominee of mine will make overturning Citizens United one of their first decisions," which makes no sense). It is even ok to make the argument that Bernie is not as electable as she is. But parsing Bernie's votes just makes her look disingenuous. Voting on bills in Congress invariably involves difficult choices about legislation that includes some good, some bad and some ugly. It is unseemly to criticize Bernie for voting for a good bill that contained some bad and ugly sections or rejecting a bill that, in his view, contained too much that was bad and ugly.
And she's got to stop fawning over Republican icons. Hillary has repeatedly touted her friendship with and admiration for Henry Kissinger, one of the most villainous U.S. political leaders of the 20th Century. His role in the Viet Nam War alone, from undermining the Paris peace talks prior to Nixon's election to directing the massive clandestine bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia, which indiscriminately killed and displaced millions of civilians, should be enough to disqualify Kissinger from polite company, much less make him a sought-after foreign policy consultant. Apart from Hillary's close relationship with him -- which is troubling enough -- the fact that she felt compelled to name check Kissinger during the debates shows a disturbing disconnect with the left.
Then today, in the context of Nancy Reagan's death, Hillary praised the Reagans for starting a "national conversation" about HIV/AIDS. This is as mind boggling as it is offensive. It is beyond dispute that President Reagan did nothing and said nothing while the AIDS epidemic became a national and international health crisis. Despite the desperate need for federal funding and research, as well as leadership to quell the homophobic reaction to the disease, the Reagans remained silent. By the time President Reagan ultimately addressed the issue of AIDS in 1987, towards the end of his presidency, over 36,000 had been diagnosed with AIDS and almost 21,000 people had died. This was one of the most despicable aspects of his despicable presidency.
Hillary has since claimed that she misspoke about the Reagans' record on HIV/AIDS, but what was she thinking? And why does she continue to say things that are undoubtedly going to alienate voters that she is going to need in November? This is a burning (berning?) question.