Guest post by Katy Stoll
Editor’s Note: After his big wins in Washington, Hawaii and Alaska, Bernie Sanders has regained some momentum in the race against Hillary Clinton — and now all your liberal friends on Facebook are busy fighting over Bernie supporter Susan Sarandon, who suggested it might be better for Donald Trump to become president if Clinton wins the nomination. “Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately,” she casually remarked. “If he gets in, then things will really explode.”
Before we burn the whole place down, it might be a good idea to put things into perspective. Our guest writer Katy Stoll has explored a level-headed argument for why Bernie Sanders is worth supporting; for the sake of fairness, she also sat down with her friend Daniel Vincent Gordh (her colleague at Cracked.com and best known as Darcy from “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”) to talk about why he’s supporting Hillary Clinton for president.
We promise we’ll interview a reasonable Republican if we can find one.
Why are you voting for Hillary over Bernie?
Well, first I’ll say this. When we were all wondering who was going to run against Hillary and Bernie Sanders stepped up and declared his candidacy, I was thrilled about that. I’ve followed both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ careers for a long time. I grew up with very political, progressive parents. My dad and mom met in grad school for philosophy. They separated when I was very young and since then my mom has been with a woman almost my entire life.
So when Bernie stepped up I was like, “This is amazing, what a dream team!” And as much as I love Hillary Clinton, in the beginning, I was considering both of them. Her relationship to Wall Street bothered me and I started looking into all the claims, but saw that most of them didn’t really hold up. I liked the things Bernie was saying, but as I looked at them more closely and thought about the political context, I started to see an approach that I thought was much more likely to be effective in actually making significant change in our country.
The reason I support Hillary is complicated, but essentially comes down to the uniqueness of her experience. She is not just qualified, she is uniquely qualified. She spent eight years in the White House as First Lady, where she was very, very involved, more involved than most first ladies are. Then she was a senator, and then she ran for president — during which time she gained a ton of experience running a campaign — and THEN she was Secretary of State. A very effective Secretary of State. During his first term, Obama was spending so much time on domestic issues he gave her a tremendous amount of responsibility to represent us internationally. Besides that, I also support her policies and her approach to dealing with specific problems, and ultimately those are the things I think we should all be talking about.
Okay, so tell me a little about her policies that you support.
I was watching an interview with Al Franken, who likes and has worked with both Hillary and Bernie, and he was talking about Hillary’s breadth of knowledge on a wide range of policy issues. And when you really watch her speak at length about issues, you notice she has a wide variety of issues that she can speak about in great specificity. Hillary is out there talking about specific ways we can prevent pandemics, ending elephant poaching and the ivory trade, treatment for PTSD, ways of promoting LGBT equality internationally, all kinds of things that don’t get covered because they’re not sensational.
With Bernie, he has talked a lot about his policies, and a lot of his goals and policies I am in total agreement about — but I feel he hasn’t really leveled with people about how hard and/or impossible it will be to do some of these things. I completely agree with so much of his message, but we have seen so many broken campaign promises in our lifetimes, that I am more wary of someone who has big goals without a strategy to enact them than someone more pragmatic. I think pragmatism is a greatly undervalued quality.
It gets frustrating to support Hillary sometimes, because she’s getting attacked so often about Wall Street or about Benghazi or her emails, and she gets essentialized into these one or two negative qualities for people. She gets caricaturized as this corrupt political figure.
Like with all the memes?
We divide ourselves into two camps and we become blind to criticism of our candidate, and we stop communicating, and when you do that everyone is just screaming at each other and there is no interchange of information. The truth is, we should be holding both candidates to the same scrutiny, to think of them thoughtfully. But the supporters are not always so respectful to each other.
People accuse Hillary of not always being so supportive of LGBT rights, and I know you have strong feelings about that. [Gordh came out to his followers on Instagram in 2015.]
I do. Dan Savage spoke about this recently and he puts himself in both camps — he supports both candidates equally in terms of LGBT rights. But he basically lashed out at the people demonizing her and said, “What incentive does someone have to change their point of view if you’re going to demonize them for their old position?”
People point to Hillary in 2002, speaking in favor of traditional marriage. Her husband passed the Defense of Marriage Act [a 1996 federal law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman], and under Clinton there was also Don’t Ask Don’t Tell [a 1994 policy that barred openly LGBT people from serving in the military].
This is the common story I hear and I get so frustrated by it, especially when I see people criticizing her record on LGBT rights who aren’t a part of the LGBT community. Not that you can’t have your opinion, but a lot of times it really lacks perspective. We can look back at them now and say they are bad policies, but you have to look at them in the historical context to actually understand them.
People forget where the Gay Rights Movement came from. It had very humble beginnings. Before Stonewall in the early 50’s, when the whisperings of the movement were beginning, homosexuality was considered a crime and a mental illness. In fact, there was no such thing as a homosexual person then, just a person engaged in homosexual behavior. I mean, people used to be subjected to lobotomies for it, aversion therapies, castrations. Even in the 90’s, gay marriage was still nowhere on the horizon.
People forget that before DADT, coming out as gay in the military was like shooting yourself in the foot. Bill Clinton wanted people to be able to serve openly in the military! DADT was the compromise with those who wanted an absolute ban, that allowed people to serve — but serve in the closet. And of course, as we grew and understood that wasn’t good either, we finally changed. At the time we didn’t understand what it meant to respect gay people as a country, and we still are very much learning.
So while some people are saying look she was against marriage equality, they are leaving out that almost everyone was against marriage equality, especially the American public. If you’re going to blame her, you better blame your mom or your cousin, and take some of the blame yourself. We have grown as a society. Also, she was in support of Civil Unions, which we forget was fighting for gay rights at the time — and it was the same position that Bernie held.
My parents were actually affected by the Defense of Marriage Act. They didn’t get federal protections for their marriage. So they were the ones that had a state-recognized marriage but not a federally-recognized marriage which, for one, made their taxes a nightmare. But my parents love Hillary Clinton. Because while some people see a video on YouTube saying marriage is between a man and a woman from over a decade ago and call her a liar who doesn’t care about LGBT people, we saw someone who the LGBT movement really reached, who became a powerful ally, who marched proudly in our parades. We saw the evolution of a person to the point where she spoke on the international stage, gave a 30-minute speech where she said, “Gay rights are human rights.”
If you actually watch the whole speech, you realize not only is it extremely comprehensive, it is really realistic. She says, “Look, these are hard conversations for people, but we have to talk about them. And whether or not you believe something is wrong, you cannot legislate against it because it violates people’s human rights, and we need to handle this on a global scale.” When you really know her record, you know that it is something she truly cares about.
Meanwhile, we still have the Right desperately trying to rip away LGBT rights and hiding discrimination in all this “religious freedom” legislation. We still have a lot to do in this country. Being good for the LGBT community isn’t just about supporting gay marriage. It’s about youth homelessness, it’s about addressing bullying and suicide and drug abuse, it’s about protecting us from workplace discrimination, it’s about addressing our health outcomes and the HIV epidemic that is still going on, it’s about addressing the issues the trans community faces, and so much more. I’m much less interested in attacking Hillary for things she said twelve years than I am in attacking the issues LGBT community faces with her.
You mentioned initially having concerns about her connections to Wall Street, so let’s discuss that for a bit — because I know that lot of people share your concerns.
She’s gotten a lot of flack for Wall Street — for how much money she’s received from Wall Street campaign contributions, about speaking fees that she’s gotten, how she won’t release her speeches from these events. At first that was definitely one of my concerns, and she didn’t have a great answer for it; she wasn’t comfortable defending it.
When you look into it more, you see that people have put the conclusion ahead of the evidence. I completely understand the concerns, but we have no evidence that she has ever taken a contribution from Wall Street in exchange for a favor of any sort. The argument that just by simply by virtue of receiving these donations she becomes bought by Wall Street just doesn’t hold water for me. Obama took more contributions than any candidate had and then passed Dodd Frank. And these donations are coming overwhelmingly from individuals working on Wall Street rather than as some lump sum from the institutions.
Meanwhile, way more money is being spent by Wall Street to support Republicans. Some people see that as evidence that she’s just as bad as the Republicans on Wall Street regulation. But you could just as easily come to the conclusion that there’s some diversity of thought within Wall Street, and that a minority of people on Wall Street support her — after all, many of them were previously her constituents.
Yes, she gets paid very well to do these speeches (and of course she does, she is a world leader) but what is the quid pro quo? She received money for the speech; to me that’s a debt that’s been paid. I understand if people don’t think her proposed policies go far enough, and that’s a legitimate conversation to be had. But it’s different than the one that says she is a Wall Street shill, without proper evidence to support its claim.
One of Bernie’s biggest issues is Healthcare, so let’s discuss her stance. She wants to improve upon Obamacare, is that accurate?
Well, essentially you have two camps. You have Bernie Sanders saying that we should offer government-funded Medicare for everyone, that it is part of our rights as citizens, and were going to pay for it through X, Y and Z. The other camp is basically saying, we just fought for this. We fought against the Republicans who want to do the opposite, and this was as much as we could do. Let’s take the advantage we have now and build on it.
I mean, this kind of progress takes time. We can’t always do everything all at once.
Right. There are a lot of Republicans who are just fundamentally against Big Government, and changing that perspective isn’t going to be easy. We had a terrible fight for health care and this is what we got.
Now, I don’t disagree with the idea that Single Payer might be the best system for us, and I don’t think Hillary does either. But the approach to getting there… there are other ways of achieving that without suddenly making public an entire enormous industry that comprises almost 18% of our country’s GDP. The other thing we can do is make the Affordable Care Act better — let’s be really aggressive about signing people up for it. Let’s extend the benefits for families in terms of tax credits and let’s bring back the public option and let it compete to lower costs. Let’s negotiate prescription drug prices. We can expand Medicare eligibility and expand Medicaid and eventually we can get to Single Payer in a way that doesn’t happen all at once. Because frankly, I don’t believe that’s realistic in our system of government.
One thing that comes up is her reputation of being a “warhawk.” Do you have a response to that?
I’ll use Iraq as an example, because this gets pointed out the most. Hillary gets a lot of flack for her Iraq vote. People talk about it as if she carried out the war itself. But again, you have to think about this in context. At the time, we had just been attacked. She was the senator from New York. The Iraq War Resolution was also very popular in our country at the time — almost seventy percent of the Senate voted in favor of the war, including Joe Biden. But most importantly, we were all being purposefully fed misinformation by the White House. Now Bernie Sanders says – and I give him credit for this – he didn’t believe them about the WMDs. But I think it’s important to remember that the blame for this rests almost entirely on the Bush administration for carrying out this con.
When you watch Hillary her speak on it at the time, she says that she is hoping for a peaceful solution, and that she felt we needed to give trust to the president that the threat of force would create the pressure that would allow the inspectors to finish their jobs looking for WMDs, which of course is not what George W. ended up doing. Obviously, since then, she has expressed regret. So when I look at the big picture, I just don’t see the oversimplified “hawkish” person that the detractors point to. And I am positive that a President Hillary Clinton would not have conducted Iraq the way George W. Bush did.
And then as Secretary of State, she was wonderful. I mean, she left the office, her last job in the government, with a nearly 70% approval rating. When you hear her talk about American foreign policy, she focuses a lot about diplomacy and all the different arms of military and social power, and the complexity of our relationships around the world. She understands the whole picture better than anyone else. And I did not perceive her to be a hawkish influence in Obama’s administration.
If Hillary gets the nomination, there have been conversations about how much the Republicans hate her. There is this fear that undecided voters will veer away from her.
People keep talking about who is more electable, but we I don’t think we can even have that conversation yet. I’m not voting for Hillary because of electability, and I don’t think people should be voting for Bernie based on electability, because there are so many unknowns. Bernie supporters keep talking about these polls where Sanders is beating the Republicans by more in these national polls, as though it’s obvious evidence he’s more electable. But also everything I’ve read is that general election polls this early on historically have no predictive value.
Meanwhile there is still a whole conversation going on with the Right about whether or not they will be stuck with Donald Trump, and the establishment is waffling between supporting him or not. When the primaries are over, the entire conversation will change. We can’t say for sure if Bernie or Hillary will be more effective at mobilizing Democrats, we can’t say for sure how they will hold up against unending attacks from the Right, or what scandals the Republicans will create.
Some Bernie supporters point to all of Hillary’s “scandals” as something to be afraid of, but we have already seen so many of those attacks come and go and they start to lose their efficacy. They also like to say that she is the most divisive candidate, but in actuality she has had a very high approval rating when she is in office. We have the ability to love her as a country.
There was a very memorable conversation that you and I once had, that we didn’t feel comfortable speaking out as Hillary Clinton supporters.
Right. I’ve talked to so many people who have had that same experience! Some people on Bernie Sanders’ side are very vocal, not only in their support of him, but in their demonization of her. So it’s vulnerable to be vocal in your support of someone who receives so much vitriol. But so much of it is complete nonsense, and I honestly get very frustrated when I see people on the Left repost all the attacks from the Right. I think we should be having a much more civil, nuanced, thoughtful conversation on all of this.
This meme culture we live in is also not very helpful for political conversations. I think in some ways the internet and social media is benefiting us — we potentially have access to more information — but in some ways we are just obfuscating the truth, because there is just as much misinformation out there. People post things that are cruel, mean spirited, and things that are blatant lies, and they get recycled and recycled until they seem true whether they are or aren’t.
In order to get real context on all this stuff, you have to take a much closer look.