by Hunter Simonson
When it comes to nominating a presidential canidate, “Republicans fall in love, Democrats fall in line.” This phrase is uttered by the political class as a universal truth, even when it’s not. For the last two presidential elections, Democrats like myself have been blessed with a candidate we can stand behind proudly, who clearly breaks that media-driven narrative. President Barack Obama makes our little hearts swell like no president since Kennedy. So how can we return to a time before our BFF-in-Chief?
Democrats have reached the point where, yet again, we have to fall in line with the most plausible, most inevitable candidate. To do otherwise would guarantee a Republican presidency in 2017. It is with a great sigh, and several caveats, that I resign myself to Hillary Clinton.
This hasn’t been easy for me. My friends carefully apply their Bernie 2016 bumper stickers and dream of an America with greater social mobility, a higher and narrower spectrum of wages, full social and economic equality for women and minorities, and a president who’s into punk music. I too dream of these things, but my understanding of the fabric of our country leads me to one conclusion: No self-professed socialist can win the White House in 2016. The Bernie train is on a collision course with this disappointing reality.
But cry not, children! Hillary isn’t so bad! Though the nomination process is young, we can see the effect that Sanders’ progressive populism has had on his Democratic competitor. Clinton has had to adjust her position to a new political appetite amongst liberals: bold words and truly revolutionary action. One way of viewing this shift satisfies the common wisdom that Clinton is a political hack — unchained to specific positions. This may be true, but a study of Clinton’s past shows that her political views have changed in much the same way that America’s views have changed. If the worst thing you can condemn a politician for is expediency, your expectations are unrealistic. Clinton has shown that she is not an ideologue, that she’s able to adapt her centrist progressivism to fit the demands of voters.
What is it, though, that makes her so unattractive to Democratic voters? I can list a few things. Her hollow, overly enthusiastic laugh. The smarmy way she nods her head. Sentences that seem to be formed through cold fusion by a team of code-breakers with an English lit. degree. Whatever it is — I get it. But in the face of inevitability, I can’t help but feel that this android woman isn’t all malice and deceit.
It’s important that voters don’t reject candidates out of hand. When Clinton explains that she wants to level the economic playing field and make education affordable for all Americans, I see no reason to assume she’s lying. Do her positions go far enough? No. Is she the populist Democrat we need? Probably not. Is she better than any conceivable Republican candidate? Absolutely, yes.
In a recent interview with Vox, President Obama compared being the President of the United States to being the captain of an almost unimaginably large ship. In the face of his liberal critics, who denounce him for not following through on a host of campaign promises, he reminds them that ships as large as ours must turn gradually and deliberately.
Obama’s presidency has shown that when truly progressive presidents try to shake up the system from bottom to top, resistance from the establishment is prone to spoil the whole deal for everyone.
When dealing with a Republican party, like the one we have now, progressives need to understand that it takes a spoonful of sugar to get the medicine down. A look back on the presidents we would consider our greatest shows that their political tendencies echo Clinton’s pragmatism more than Sanders’ populism. At this point, we need things to get done.