What’s Left: Clinton vs. Sanders

Despite all of Hillary Clinton’s work as Secretary of State, Clinton does not necessarily have a good reputation in D.C. Her tone-deaf post titled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela,” was intended to pander to Latinx voters. Several bullet points of this article do a decent job of highlighting exactly what Clinton lacks.

First: “She worries about children everywhere.” Clinton supported the sanctions against Iraq during her husband’s presidency that directly led to the deaths of approximately 500,000 children, and she supported renewing those sanctions during her time as Secretary of State in negotiation discussions with Iraq. Sanctions are accepted in international law and were, in this case, believed to be effective in preventing Iraq from obtaining more weapons. But that doesn’t make them right; the lives of children should not be a bargaining chip in international diplomacy. Clinton has a track record of questionable morals and a campaign that whitewashes the effects of those decisions.

Next up: “She reads to you before bedtime…” A number of tweets highlighted the blindness of this one (check out the Twitter hashtag #NotMyAbuela). Clinton was born into the upper class, so she has the time to read to her children before bedtime if she chooses, unlike many of the Latinx voters she purports to represent. Institutional racism and laws targeting illegal immigrants – many of which fail international legal standards in addition to U.S. constitutional standards – have prevented many Latinxs from rising above working or lower-middle class. It’s unclear whether any of the candidates for presidency ever actually represent the majority of the U.S. population, but the Clinton campaign seems unaware of just how unrepresentative Clinton is.

Finally: “She had one word for Donald Trump… ‘¡Basta! Enough!’” This is all well and good, but it speaks to the enmity between Clinton and the entire Republican Party, not to mention the conservative population at large. Trump may not precisely represent right-wingers with whom Clinton would need to collaborate as president, but given how poorly the two parties collaborated under Obama – a president whose primary focus, at least during his speeches, has always been compromise – things do not look good for Clinton.

While it seems that half the college population is “feeling the Bern,” it’s time to address what this really means. Unlike Clinton, he hasn’t issued any statements pointing out his own flaws even though his flaws are comparable to hers.

First up: socialism. A self-professed “democratic socialist,” Sanders is the left’s version of Trump, sans hate speech. While his extremism is not as overtly aggressive as Trump’s, it is frightening enough to many voters that it could mobilize otherwise swing or moderate voters – and perhaps even those who rarely vote – to vote against him. Socialism, for conservative and liberal non-millennial voters alike, is inextricably tied to communism and the Cold War. A Sanders presidency would likely be as divisive as Clinton’s, making all of his sweeping promises of dramatic change implausible, if not fantastical.

Second: his economic plan. Call him Robin Hood. Sanders’ plan essentially taxes the rich to provide jobs for the poor, a laudable and unlikely quest. Notwithstanding the odds of actually getting a chance to enact it, the plan has a possible, gaping flaw: the numbers don’t add up. This is from left-wing economists with no evident agenda of their own, but the Sanders campaign’s immediate reaction was to accuse the economists of working for big money. This does not bode well for Sanders’ future response to attacks, which, with an indubitably hostile Republican party, will be crucial. Nor does it look good for the plan itself. After all, if the campaign must resort to ad hominem attacks to defend its numbers (rather than, say, math) they can’t have a good defense of their plan.

Last but not least: Sanders himself. While it’s nice that Sanders has been primarily funded by small donations (under $30) and is therefore not indebted to any of the large corporations or one-percenters that create super PACs, he is still a white, middle-class, older man with all the inherent biases that identity brings. The longest-standing independent senator and an advocate of civil rights since collegiate days, his reputation may not be enough if he continues to address all issues on a class-based approach. Race, gender, sexuality and other vectors of identity like ability, gender identity, religion and education may intersect with class. Class is neither the universal problem nor its solution. Sanders, as he stands now, is reductionistic.