Bernie Sanders has the best policies. But Hillary Clinton has the chops to advance a progressive agenda—if we make her.
(Originally published by YES! Magazine, Jun 15, 2016)
The presidential primary is over. Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next U.S. president. I love Bernie Sanders and distrust Clinton. I would be terrified by a Trump win and was until now depressed by the thought of a Clinton win. Much to my surprise, I am now smiling.
I see a possible scenario that can make a Clinton win a blessing. It is a long shot, but the logic is simple.
1. Few, if any, Americans have the broad insider experience that prepares Clinton to carry out the basic duties of the presidency—and to advance a progressive agenda if forced to do so by the persistent demands of a powerful progressive political movement.
2. Sanders has activated millennials and independents and energized a powerful progressive political movement with the potential to hold Clinton to a progressive agenda.
3. Trump is fracturing the Republican party and energizing his opposition. These two factors could flip control of Congress. Combined with a Democrat in the White House, that would assure a progressive shift in control of the Supreme Court.
4. These factors together create a moment of historic opportunity.
Clinton has unquestionable credibility and experience within the political and bureaucratic establishments. She learned state and local politics as first lady of Arkansas and presidential politics as first lady of the United States. She learned to work with Congress as a senator. She learned foreign policy as secretary of state working with the world’s most powerful political leaders on the world’s most difficult issues while heading a complex, global bureaucracy. This makes her arguably the best prepared person ever to step into the oval office.
We also know, of course, the Clinton family’s history of aligning with Wall Street and the corporate establishment. To win against Trump, Clinton will surely continue to run against the corporate establishment. Once in office, however, she could easily slip into her old ways.
This is where the social movement that Sanders energized becomes so essential.
Listen to Sanders. Corporate media doesn’t get it, but his language now is all about keeping the movement strong and effective. An essential movement priority must be to maintain intense political pressure on Clinton to advance the progressive agenda on which she is now campaigning.
Within this big picture view, Sanders’ loss of the nomination may be for the best. If Hillary can win, she is better positioned to play the inevitable game of negotiating political tradeoffs that no president can avoid—including with the corporatist wing of her own party that stands solidly behind her even as she campaigns on an increasingly anti-corporatist agenda. Meanwhile, Sanders remains free to continue using his gift for movement building from his Senate seat.
Trump’s propensity for racist and sexist remarks and his history of shameful business dealings may taint other Republicans running for office, improving the prospects of down-ticket Democrats and a long overdue liberation of both parties from corporate establishment control.
I believe that building a powerful transformational political movement is, and always has been, Sanders’ primary objective. What will that movement look like as it matures? Ideally, in my view, it will welcome people regardless of the political, religious, racial, or gender labels by which they identify. It will support global cooperation among democratic, self-governing communities. It will encourage locally rooted independent and cooperatively owned businesses. It will push for new rules to get big money out of politics, end the corporate domination of both major political parties, regulate Wall Street, and break up corporate monopolies. And it will support demilitarization as an avenue to world peace.
This movement should avoid identifying with a political party. It should support any politician who advances the movement’s values and goals, and oppose all who do not.
This is why I have a smile on my face as I stick with Sanders and support the growth of a powerful transpartisan political movement. And commit my vote to Hillary.