There is a fervent buzz on Emerson’s campus. Students characterized for passion and determination have channeled their energies into the presidential primary, and even more so into the barrage of arguments against Hillary Clinton.
The climate of this primary has produced voters who so staunchly support one candidate that they readily ostracize the other. Yet nearly every argument “Bernie Bros” throw at Clinton dissolves under a microscope. The two contenders stand for the same things, and most attacks are outdated, ill-researched, or hypocritical. So, from a Clinton-supporter who also respects Sanders, a few rebuttals:
Hillary voted for the Iraq War. This is true. But it’s also true that in 2002 the Bush administration misrepresented CIA findings to present Iraq as a major threat. This is confirmed by Michael Morell, one of Bush’s briefers from the agency at the time. Ninety percent of Congress—meaning numerous Democrats alongside Hillary—voted for a war they thought was the right thing to do. This argument also suggests Sanders is thus experienced in foreign policy, but one good vote is not “experience.”
Hillary voted for DOMA. In 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was brought before Congress, then-first lady Clinton took no part in voting. Furthermore, this argument implies Bernie is an advocate for LGBT rights, which he is not been in the past. When Sanders voted against DOMA, he proclaimed it was strictly in defense of states’ rights, and in 2006 voted against marriage equality in Vermont. Both candidates were in favor of the 2015 SCOTUS ruling.
Hillary is a flip flopper. No, she is not. She changes her mind based on new information, and then sticks with it. She learns, paying attention to changing views so her policies reflect the needs of a country rather than her own. In the ‘90s, she supported the tough-on-crime mentality and has, since 2007, discussed limiting minimum sentences and ending the drug war. She has developed plans to seek equality in the criminal justice system and in schools for people of color, despite accusations of being a “white feminist.” This adaptability contrasts Sanders, who for example, refuses to revisit gun control policies in a country where mass shootings are becoming more frequent and more deadly.
Hillary is owned by corporations. This reflects a misunderstanding of how corporate donations work. The bulk received from major companies don’t come out of corporations’ pockets, but from individual donors; contributions from individual employees appear as being from their employers. What’s more is the question of this attack’s validity. In 2008, 20 percent of President Barack Obama’s campaign was funded by Wall Street companies—in 2012 it jumped to one third. Obama was running for office at a much more dire time in terms of fighting Wall Street, yet his donations were disproportionately less criticized than Clinton’s presently are. Not to forget that Bernie has called on big banks to donate to the DNC and the progressive agenda.
Hillary is a moderate Republican. First of all, there is no such thing; the GOP constitutes intransigence. Hillary has fought her entire career to support progressive causes from universal healthcare to income inequality. To equate her to a John Kasich is to invalidate this work. It is to conveniently ignore that Republican super-PACs are raising millions to slow her momentum, and it is to needlessly discredit her immense work as a global advocate for human rights.
The above arguments hardly account for the slew of purely ad-hominem ones: “She’s a bitch,” “I want a president who doesn’t care what her hair looks like,” or “She only has votes because she’s a woman.” If Hillary went onstage with bed-head, waving her hands, joking she only had two pairs of underwear, people would call her a crazy grandma—but it’s cool when Bernie is a crazy grandpa. To say that she has only gotten this far because she is a woman entirely disregards the barriers she’s had to break down to get there.
Sanders’ rhetoric is irresistible, but his visions and political affiliation are not as “revolutionary” or feasible as many believe. Democratic socialism has existed since the early 20th century, and universal healthcare and affordable college are not radical requests. The reason we don’t have these things is because not enough voters want them in order to elect representatives who will support such programs proposed in Congress. Hillary Clinton learned this when she faced ridicule and gridlock upon proposing universal healthcare in 1993. She learned that often, progress relies on pragmatism, and steady work. It’s not as easy as, in Bernie’s words, “rising up.”
So when considering the word progressive, do we mean the candidate who shouts the most appealing promises regardless of plausibility, or the candidate who has been advocating for these goals on a national level, facing relentless backlash, and making steady progress on them for forty years? Yes, Clinton and Sanders have differences, they represent different points along the liberal spectrum, but attacking one for the sake of bolstering the other is unsustainable; it ostracizes members of the same movement who share the same goals, ultimately, making the right wing’s job of weakening the progressive cause much easier.