Eight years ago, like many progressively-minded Democrats, I was bamboozled by Obama, thinking that because he was more authentically left-leaning than Hillary, he’d be a better candidate. But Barrack, as relatively good has he's been, was not a fighter. He wasn't even, really, an idealist. Or a utopian. Bernie, at least, is an idealist. But I don't think he's a fighter, a brawler, a take-no-prisoners crusader. Anyone can jump on a soapbox.
We like to believe that Presidents are made in November. That’s a lie. Presidents are made on Inauguration Day and what comes afterwards. Presidents aren’t the sum total of their campaign promises; they’re the sum total of their accomplishments. In order to accomplish things, you need to be willing to take a punch. You need to be willing to fight. Hillary’s that fighter. No one has taken as many punches, and withstood them all as admirably, as Hillary Clinton. And no one in the Democratic Party is willing to fight as ruthlessly as Hillary Clinton.
Many Hillary supporters perceive electability as her greatest asset. However, for me, that’s a non-issue. I'm not convinced Bernie would lose in November—most of the polling data shows Bernie would likely win in a straight-up race against Donald Trump—but he'd lose just about every legislative battle during his term. He’s not built for a brawl. And he's not made for the ugly business of coalition building. He's not made for reaching across the aisle and nailing down an expedient single-issue commitment from an adversary who otherwise disagrees with him on almost every other issue imaginable.
A couple of years into his presidency, Obama pretty much shirked the battles he should have been waging. I think he was genuinely taken aback by the intransigence of Republican legislators and the animosity he provoked in many sectors of the country. His oratory was fine, at times even fiery, but too often he wrung his hands and opted for non-confrontational high roads. Or moan that his powers to affect change were limited vis à vis the political realities he faced. I respect Obama. I respect his intelligence. But hand wringing ain’t the most effective trait when called upon for leadership.
I can’t ever imagine Hillary wringing her hands.
Bernie, I’m not so sure about. Yes, on the campaign trail addressing cheering throngs of like-minded voters, Bernie expressions passion, concern, and a powerful left-leaning vision for change. But a Presidency isn’t a campaign trail speech. The Presidency requires a day-in, day-out battle.
Hillary is battle-tested. For many many years, she has been one of the most aggressively progressive figures on the national stage. For 20+ years, she’s stood up to the Republicans’ foulest slurs, their worst and most idiotic conspiracy theories. The reason Republicans fear her is that they know she has the intelligence, and the persistence, to stick to her guns and effectively strategize routes towards legislative accomplishments.
Let’s be honest: as compelling an agenda as Bernie Sanders lays out, how many people believe he’ll be able to translate that into effective change? Will there be enough legislation victories to balance out all the utopian ideas that don’t stand a snowball’s chance?
To put it another way: Hillary’s going to be able to accomplish a lot more than Bernie. You know that. I know that. Her vision isn’t as far-reaching as Bernie’s, put she’s got more brawl and a finer, more astute political skills.
The other thing to consider is money. And coattails.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe Bernie is electable given that his likely Republican opponent will be an odious bully. But just because Bernie can win a November election does not mean he’ll have the down-ballot coattails to sweep other Democrats into office. Because of the perceived taint of Sanders’s “socialism,” Democratic candidates in purple and red states will distance themselves from him. Republican attack ads with paint viable Democratic congressional candidates as being Socialist Dupes. That’s not going to help our party’s chances in taking back the Senate.
Fact: No one—but no one—raises money like a Clinton.
Bernie’s people like to believe money is a dirty word. To some extent, I agree with them.
However, a sitting President becomes his or her party’s Fundraiser-in-Chief. They don’t just raise money for themselves; they raise money for the good of the entire party. As the Democratic Presidential nominee, Hillary will be called in to raise money in Senatorial, House, and Gubernatorial races. Bill and Chelsea, both effective fundraisers in their own right, will be out there, raising money and winning races for Democrats.
Money, sadly, matters. Coattails matter. But, more importantly, what happens next January after Inauguration Day matters most. That’s why I’m supporting Hillary.
Errata #1: Last night, Aubrey Hirsch gave a fantastic reading at Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center. Reading selections from her short stories and her nonfiction pieces, I was impressed by the range of her work. One audience member commented that he thought the voice Hirsch uses in her nonfiction and fiction remains constant. I didn’t see that as much. Instead, I was impressed by how remarkably different, tonally, her approaches were between the genres. Hirsch employs a wonderfully quirky dazzle in her short fiction. But in non-fiction, her voice and vision struck me as more penetrating. Both are amazingly compelling.
Among the pieces she read was a short story-in-progress about a kidnapping. The piece seemed so real, and so complete, with a perfect arc. And yet, she explained it was only a first draft. I was startled to learn afterwards that, in its present form, it was only about 500 words long. A piece of flash fiction. As she read it aloud, I had in my mind’s eye a perfect vision of the story, its characters, and its emotions. To accomplish all that in 500 words is truly amazing.
Errata #2: Another piece of my non-fiction (“Why We Need Snow Monsters”) will soon be appearing in Entropy. It’s a mash up of Yetis and Breughels, complete with digressions about depression and Tolstoy and phantasmagoric short fiction. I’ll post a link next week when the essay’s online.
(2/22/16 addendum: The link to my Entropy/ "Why We Need Snow Monsters" essay is here.