February 8, 2016

DAVIES | Hillary Clinton’s Ideology Gap

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I would rather have Bernie Sanders as president, but Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Such is Sanders’ electability problem, distilled. His policies and ideology may be more in line with mine but his chances in the general election are slim. Despite polls’ projections of Sanders’ electoral strength against the top flight of GOP contenders, Americans’ ideological attitudes towards what they consider socialism will prevail in denying him victory. Why else would the Republican Party support and defend Bernie “Hammer and Sickle” Sanders? As Donald Trump summons fear of the far enemy of “radical Mexicans” and “Muslims” (or “radical Mexican Muslims.” I hear bin Laden loved Chipotle) — it is not inconceivable that he could do something similar with the near enemy of “elderly socialists.”

Hillary Clinton’s faults run deeper — her candidacy, indeed Clinton herself, lacks a defined ideological message or position. Some may argue that the election of a woman would send its own message, but her electoral appeal cannot be founded solely upon gender. Barack Obama’s message — the appeal that catapulted him past Clinton in 2008 — was not grounded in race but in a faith in change.

The Clinton campaign, ably supported by the Democratic Party machinery, has effused about why she is capable of being president whilst dodging why she should be president. To compete with Sanders’ zealous tirades against a rigged system, Clinton offers extensive enumerations of her voluminous accomplishments from a life spent flitting about the flame of the presidency. In an election cycle surging with irrational passions, Clinton’s laundry list looks a little limp.

Sanders’ fiery ideological appeal is augmented by the dislike and distrust of his opponent that exists, subtly or not, amongst both progressives and conservatives. Along the political spectrum, Hillary and Bill Clinton provoke hesitation and doubt. Questions about cozy relationships of varying flavors have dogged the pair throughout their political lives. From Bill’s interns and Hillary’s emails to the Clinton Foundation’s donations — the family’s chosen tool of nepotism which faces questions over political benefits received by donors — the Clintons are suspicious product.

The empire of the Clinton family was supposed to usher its matriarch into the nomination, supported particularly by women and millennials. Bernie Sanders has thwarted those political machinations, in no small part due to the support of younger voters. His curmudgeonly grumbling rings truer than Clinton’s cringeworthy attempts to be “hip.”

Millennials have grown up during the ascendancy of the Democratic left. Clichéd as it may be, Obama evoked hope. After two terms of realpolitik, those dreams have been quenched. Now, Sanders evokes anger at a system that refused to accommodate the hope of 2008. Clinton, with her speaking fees and her perception as heir to the nomination, is ingratiated with an ossifying economic and political elite.

Bernie Sanders, regardless of one’s opinions on the means he proposes, gives off the striking appearance of someone concerned with the collective good (like a communist, right?). The same cannot be said for Hillary Clinton. Her nebulous politicking (see gun control, the TPP,…, Iraq) exposes a view of power as ends rather than means. A life spent at the coalface of government has no doubt shaped her politics but her managed message and cyborg smile betray someone who more frequently asks not what she can do for country than what her country can do for her. Clinton’s positions are unmoored from any identifying ideology, little more than wisps that flow with the wind. We know what Sanders would do (or at least try to do) in office. We do not know the same about Clinton.

Yet she’s still more acceptable than a Jewish communist. If Obama is Hitler, Sanders is Stalin (let’s purge Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)). Maybe when Sanders takes office and can’t get anything through a red-hunting Congress I’ll rue our naivete of what he could achieve. Or maybe when Sanders becomes Party Secretary and paramount leader of People’s Republic of the United States I’ll rue ever condemning Hillary Clinton.

Alex Davies is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at ajd253@cornell.edu. Have I Got News For You? appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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