The Hillary-Bernie Debates, Part 1: Blood on My Hands

(This dialogue was first played out on Facebook. It has been re-posted here. During this series, I will be featuring my friend Jeremy Marion as a guest poster. He is a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter. I voted for Hillary in the primaries.)

DEM 2016 Debate
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, left, and Hillary Rodham Clinton talk before the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

ME:

I gave money to Bernie Sanders today.

I do not think Sanders is a viable president; I like some of his policies, but a lot of them seem irrelevant to the U.S. economy as it currently exists. I don’t think he can build consensus or really get much done. I don’t like his gun policies. I think he is often stubborn and unwilling to listen or reach out or compromise. Mostly, I’m really turned off by some of the stuff his supporters say (“You better vote for Bernie because I’m never voting for Hillary!”) and how delusional many progressives seem to be about how expensive his policies would be and how difficult they would be to pass. Though my heart is progressive, my mind is practical, and Hillary is my practical choice. She’s smart and tough. She knows how to work with people, prioritize, compromise, respond to the public, and get around Washington. She is a skillful and experienced politician who has consistently led and stood for the center-left’s policies (though, yes, those things have changed over time, with the public and our party). Overall, though, I’ve just been proud to be a Democrat throughout this debate season, and impressed by both of my candidate’s intellects and efforts.

That being said, I was deeply disappointed by Hillary’s AIPAC speech, and it was the last in several moments over the last few weeks that made me uneasy. I do not expect politicians to always be 100% truthful with the public (I am not 100% truthful with my students– that would be unprofessional, and national security isn’t at stake in my daily work), and I expect in many ways for them to say what people want them to hear. In some ways, this is what we pay them to do: comfort us, tell us we believe the right things, tell us that things are stable while they take care of the hard parts for us, behind the scenes. But Hillary has presented herself as a continuation of the Obama era, and one of the things Obama has developed is a foreign policy that is less imperialistic and more peace-focused. He has avoided starting a wholesale war in Syria the way we jumped into Iraq. He has insisted in several cases that other countries’ problems are their problems. He has opened his hand to Iran and to Cuba. He has urged peace and reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I would never be surprised that a speech at an AIPAC event would be pro-Israel in some way. But I do not like the ease with which Hillary suggested that more weapons were the answer, or the way she offered my country’s overwhelming power to bully “enemies” by violence as protection that Israel can count on. There were other ways to write that speech, which acknowledged the U.S.’s historic friendship with Israel and the realities of anti-semitism while also acknowledging that the best of friends help us to do what is right, even when it is hard. We all know that the U.S. giving Israel more weapons is too easy, is not right, and is not going to lead to more peace for either Israelis or Palestinians.

I want my students to grow up into a world with fewer guns at home and fewer weapons abroad. Many of them will go from harsh urban streets to harsher foreign deployments, and these policies and attitudes will affect them. It may cost some of them their lives. And if I have voted for someone whose policies lead to violence, the blood is on my hands too.

I want our next president to be a leader of peace, not someone who offers weapons-and-violence-by-the-U.S. cheaply, without agonizing over the lives such a gift package could cost.

I wish Bernie would stand up to guns at home. I wish Hillary would not so freely offer violence and weapons abroad. I wish. I wish. I wish.

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JEREMY:

Well said. I still disagree with some of these points but I am happy you are open to hearing new arguments and forming new opinions. The things I disagree with are as follows…

1) “I do not think Sanders is a viable president.”

I think he is plenty viable. I think if people understood his positions, he would beat her in a popular vote assuming everyone voted. He has the disadvantage of the mainstream media being against him and at the same time for Hillary. FOX hates Hillary more than Sanders, but CNN and MSNBC and even the Daily Show have been against Sanders from the start. Sometimes it is blatantly obvious and other times it is subtle.

He also has the disadvantage of terrible voting laws like closed primaries, no same day registration, and more of the like.

Finally, he beats the republicans by bigger margins than Hillary in almost every poll.

Even if he is not viable, I think it is up to progressives to make him viable. Bernie and his supporters must mold the consensus if it is not there yet.

2) “I like some of his policies, but a lot of them seem irrelevant to the U.S. economy as it currently exists.”

Not sure which ones you are referring to.

3) “I don’t like his gun policies.”

I’m not sure which policies you are referring to here either. From what I know, his views are sensible. He was against the Brady Bill only because it would allow people to sue mom and pop gun store owners if a gun they sold was used to hurt someone. I’m all for allowing people to sue the manufacturers for failing to improve safety features, but a mom and pop store should not be liable if someone uses a hunting rifle to kill someone.

Perhaps there is a different issue you are referring to, but I’m not sure.

4) “I think he is often stubborn and unwilling to listen or reach out or compromise.”

There are certain things that we should not compromise on. But he has shown he is willing to compromise. He is known as the “Amendment King” for his effectiveness for getting things passed and working with others. He has also voted on many bills he did not support because it was better than the alternative. Sanders will make compromises if they improve the conditions of the middle class.

5) “Mostly, I’m really turned off by some of the stuff his supporters say (“You better vote for Bernie because I’m never voting for Hillary!”)”

I get it, but I hope you understand why they say that. I have held that same position before. It was mostly out of rage. The dirty tactics that Hillary has used throughout her campaign have been infuriating. Enough to make me curse at the television. When the reality of a Trump presidency kicks in, most of them will change their tune like I have.

6) “…and how delusional many progressives seem to be about how expensive his policies would be and how difficult they would be to pass.”

He has proposed ways to pay for everything. Also, it is ok if his plans don’t pass as they are now. Like I said before, he will compromise as long as the final deal is better than the way things are now. This election is about more than policies, it is a much-needed political revolution. The only way to make progress is to fight for it and I know for a fact he will fight harder for the people than Hillary will.

7) “Though my heart is progressive, my mind is practical, and Hillary is my practical choice.”

Robert Reich said it best. “I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.

“But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”

I am not ok with the system we have now. The amount of death and suffering caused by our current system, directly or indirectly is a moral tragedy. The time for this political revolution was a few decades ago and only Sanders is fighting for it.

8) “She’s smart and tough.”

I’m sure she is smarter than the average person, but the amount of blunders she makes is concerning. She has consistently shown she lacks the wisdom required to make the right decisions the first time. I feel like a large part of her campaign is about “evolving” on the issues she was wrong about in the first place. Sanders record shows he is a wise independent thinker who bases his decisions on reason and compassion.

9) “She knows how to work with people, prioritize, compromise, respond to the public, and get around Washington. She is a skillful and experienced politician who has consistently led and stood for the center-left’s policies…”

She will not be able to work with the republicans. They hate her as much or maybe even more than Obama. They may disagree with Sanders, but I don’t think they hate him.

I don’t see how she prioritizes well. The two most pressing issues we face is climate change and campaign finance reform. Sanders is stronger on both. Campaign finance reform is probably the top priority. If we can’t fix that first, then we can’t fix anything else.

I don’t think she knows how to respond to the public either. There is a reason she has such a high disapproval rating. There is a reason why so many Sanders supporters say they won’t vote for her. You are a supporter of hers and she has even managed to rub you the wrong way. Her campaign has been a series of blunders that require damage control to keep it afloat.

I don’t think she has consistently led. Her political career has been marked by her penchant for being on the wrong side of history only to evolve after the polls show it is safe.

10) “I do not expect politicians to always be 100% truthful with the public (I am not 100% truthful with my students– that would be unprofessional, and national security isn’t at stake in my daily work), and I expect in many ways for them to say what people want them to hear.”

I agree with this. The problem is that Hillary doesn’t lie in the good way you are referring to. She lies in the worst way, for her own political gain. There are dozens of examples, but I’ll just use one.

Remember when she claimed to have landed in Bosnia under sniper fire?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZHO1vo762c

It was hard to watch someone try to wiggle out of such a blatant lie only to later say she “misspoke” due to sleep deprivation. This lie was on par with the lie that Brian Williams was suspended for. I don’t know a single person in real life who lies as consistently and as maliciously as she does.

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ME:

I’ll answer #2 later (longer post– but in short, I don’t think the US is going to be a small semi socialist European country any time soon), but the Brady Bill is literally the best we’ve got. It’s the best organization out there, it does the best research and advocacy. You and I both know that his reasons for not supporting gun regulations have mostly to do with his voter base in rural VT and little to do with the bill itself. That justification is silly, and you know that. Even if such a case went to court, nothing would happen– that line of the bill is meant to hold stores accountable for upholding the law which is necessary. And yes, stores should absolutely be held accountable… We hold them accountable for selling cigarettes, poisonous food. Guns aren’t so different. This is what I mean by compromise, right? No law is perfect.

And for the record, I give away 10% of my income to various organizations that are doing the work I think is important in the world and right now, my rotation includes $100 each month to the Brady foundation. My students are asked to write dystopian stories at the end of tenth grade each year. As we go through the problems our world faces and the possible futures ahead of us, they say that what they wish more than anything is that there would be no more guns. So that matters to me. No “just”s about it.

Other than that point, I think this piece did a nice job of explaining some of my thoughts.
http://www.chicagonow.com/…/love-sanders-but-why-im…/

I know you have a rebuttal for everything, JJ. At this point, we both have voted and only can wait it out.

I’ll be with either of them, and I will play their strengths, and I will support them.

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JEREMY:

I honestly do not know much at all about the Brady foundation. I took Bernie at his word when he gave his reason why he voted against it. I do think defending the mom and pop stores is a valid reason though. I feel like it would be similar to suing a gas station for selling you cigarettes after you get lung cancer. I think the manufacturer should be held liable instead of the store owners. I have not read the bill myself so perhaps you are right about it being a non issue and that line is only meant to make sure they are following the law.

I love that you donate 10 percent of your income to charity. I hope I didn’t come off as demeaning in my argument above. I hold you in pretty high regard which is why I like to engage with you in the first place.

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ME:

Not at all! It is a great treasure in life to have friends who will argue ideas with you. I’m excited for the rest of our series.

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