Recently I got into an argument with a friend about the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. Typical, right? However, unlike most current political debates which usually wind up being about Trump versus Hillary, our discussion was about the Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Ever since Bernie announced he would be running for president under the Democratic ticket, supporters have been flocking to his side from all across the political landscape, even lifelong Republican and Libertarian voters. Despite this bipartisan support, most of those who “feel the Bern” are Democrats, and as such, it should not be too surprising that many of them—including my friend—have intentions to vote for Hillary Clinton. While I can understand why these people would want to “keep the evil Republicans out of the White House,” those who understand Bernie’s intentions know why a vote for Hillary is detrimental to the causes he is fighting for.
Time and time again, Bernie has called on the American working class to stand with him against the “billionaire class” and the Wall Street elites who control American politics. True to his cause of getting big money out of politics, Bernie has refused donations from major corporations, and all his top donors are workers’ unions.
But what about Hillary, for whom many Sander’s supporters have pledged their votes should she win the Democratic primary? Her list of donors is full of the same financial institutions and major corporations Bernie is trying to fight, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and 21st Century Fox—the parent company of Fox News, which is nearly universally hated by all Democrats. The fact that the parent company of ultraconservative Fox News supports Hillary Clinton should be very telling.
“Okay,” some say. “So Hillary doesn’t have the same opinions as Bernie on everything. Even if many of her policies reflect those of corporatist Republican candidates, shouldn’t we at least vote for her for being socially progressive like Bernie?”
To that I would ask, “But are Hillary’s social policies similar to those of Bernie Sanders?”
To answer this, we should look at the voting records of both candidates. As racial tensions in the U.S. continue to rise, Bernie Sanders has teamed up with the Black Lives Matters organization to develop a new platform on how to deal with racial justice and police brutality. Long-time Sanders supporters shouldn’t be surprised by this development, as Bernie has always fought for racial justice and even marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
I would assert that Hillary, on the other hand, has helped elevate the police state to the unaccountable, violent form it now appears to presently hold. Since her husband held office as president, she has lobbied for bills calling for expanding the death penalty, harsher minimum sentencing, and more funding for the COPS program. While she may now pay lip service to policies similar to Bernie’s, she has yet to introduce—or rally behind—any legislative action.
Not only do Hillary and Bernie have large differences in the policies that they support, but when it comes to staying true to your ideals, the differences in character between the two become obvious. Bernie Sanders has always been progressive and ahead of his time; the positions he holds today—which are just beginning to gain popularity and momentum—have changed little from the positions he held in the 1990s and even the 1980s.
Like many other opportunistic career politicians, Hillary’s official views have flip-flopped back and forth, often following the lead of public opinion polls. Although now recognized as an “official” supporter of same-sex marriage, as recently as 2007, Hillary said she was opposed to same-sex marriage and instead pushed for civil unions. Once public support for same-sex marriage reached over 50 percent in 2013, Clinton was quick to announce her newfound support for the cause.
These aren’t the only problems with Hillary and her stances. One could go on and on about her attacks on net neutrality, her hand in growing NSA surveillance, her support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, her support for NAFTA and the TPP, and her support for yet more rebel groups in the Middle East, just to name a few, but those can be saved for another time. The clear point here is that Hillary is not a progressive, and as such, no progressive should vote for her in the 2016 general election, even if she does win the Democratic primary.
Some may ask, “But Alex, why should we completely remove ourselves from the political process just because Hillary isn’t a perfect candidate?” Although “not perfect” is a very light way of describing Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, a person who doesn’t vote isn’t necessarily removing themselves from the political process. Despite 100 years of work by the ruling elite to convince American citizens otherwise, voting is not the sum of all political action. Instead, we should take the time to regroup and continue building strength. In one year, Bernie Sanders has gone from a little-known politician to a major contender capable of throwing a wrench into the American political machine. If we truly wish for a change, it is exactly this kind of grass-roots strategy and organizational work that must be done.
Sanders supporters know very well the dangers of big money in politics, opportunist career politicians, and the attempts of the 1 percent to subjugate the rest of the country. What many voters don’t seem to realize, however, is that Hillary Clinton has and will continue to uphold those forces Bernie and his supporters are fighting so hard to bring down. If we truly wish to get big money and scheming politicians out of American politics, we cannot vote for candidates like Hillary who have spent their political careers changing their stances and are complicit to the oligarchy which has hijacked our democracy. Instead we must grow our strength, accept any defeats which may come our way, and continue to fight for what we know is right. Of course, voting for Bernie Sanders wouldn’t hurt, either. If nothing else, sign the Bernie or Bust pledge. Taking on corporate special interests and the elite on Wall Street—which politicians like Hillary Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and more have helped come to power—will be no easy task. However, history is on our side. We have the numbers, we have the time, and above all, we have the urgency of the problem breathing down our necks.
Now all we need is the resolve.