INTERVIEW: Why Should We Believe in Bernie Sanders?
Guest post by Katy Stoll
Editor’s Note: The problem with politics as a trending topic is that the loudest and most annoying people tend to get the most attention. Even on the relatively nerdy Democratic side, it’s hard to wade into the Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders debate on social media without seeing words like “Bernie Bro” or “Corporate Shill” thrown in people’s faces. (We don’t even know how to deal with the Republican side right now.)
So this election season, we’re trying something a bit different. We asked actor and writer Katy Stoll, best known for her work on Cracked.com, to interview her good friend Lucas Neff aka Jimmy Chance on FOX sitcom “Raising Hope.” Katy is pretty sure she’s voting for Hillary Clinton but doesn’t often feel comfortable discussing politics. Lucas is a vocal and passionate Bernie Sanders supporter. What followed was a thoughtful political debate in which nobody got mad even once. Enjoy!
Let’s start with something simple. Why don’t you tell me the things that draw you to Bernie over Hillary?
Let me just say that I am in no way the most informed member of the electorate, certainly not an expert. But for me, the main draw to Bernie is indeed the main thrust of his message, which in short is getting money out of politics. I really feel that this is an underlying root problem for a lot of the inefficacy that we see in DC — you know, this sort of partisan paralysis, the inability of the government to govern. It is partly ideological as well: universal health care, reproductive rights – although to be honest I don’t particularly care for Bernie’s stance on guns.
What is his stance on guns?
He represents a lot of rural folks who are gun people, so he isn’t as evolved on gun rights as I would like. But to get back to what I was saying about the part of his message that I do connect to, part of Congress’ inability to achieve anything really seems to be equal parts ideological and cynicism. That stultifying cynicism seemingly taking root in the ability of wealthy, corporate interests to advance or stall causes as consequence of their vesting funds with little to no restraint throughout Congress. I truly think that Bernie’s right; the overturning of Citizens United and the removal of these enormous sums of cash from Congress will remove a lot of the impediments to effective governance.
What always pops up as a question for him is, “How do you actually expect to make this happen?” So is that the main expectation? That by first “getting the cash out of Congress,” it will then be easy to accomplish all the broad plans he has?
Yeah, I think that is part of it. There are a couple of different reasons why I think a Sanders presidency would be the best at achieving actual policy. One of which is the Down Ballot Effect, which is when people are energized by a candidate, it affects all of the tiered lower elections below that greater office. So that when Democrats go out and vote for president, they also vote for other Democrats on the ballot in local state elections.
Meaning we get more Democrats in office…
… and it can change the body politic. I’ve read some analysis that says Democrats can take back the Senate in the next election, which is a start, right? I think turning those elections in the favor of progressives means that it will be far easier, or at least more plausible, that he will be able to push through a lot of his stated legislative goals.
Conversely, Hillary is much more confident and open about unilateral Executive Action, which is what Obama has been using. But the problem with Executive Action is that it’s vulnerable to litigation, and if brought before the courts can’t be implemented until it’s upheld as constitutional.
Yeah. Executive Action kind of feels like a Hail Mary with the hope that something sticks. That’s the term, right, a Hail Mary? From the Football Sports?
Yeah, that works! And while EA is a necessary tool, the idea is that Bernie just by being who he is could increase the amount of progressives in Congress, maybe win back a majority and help alleviate or mitigate the intensity of how necessary Executive Actions are.
I can see what you’re saying. But just the fact that he exists in this race has pulled Hillary in a more liberal direction, and people are paying attention, especially youth voters. It feels like the tide is turning more progressive in general, and that is momentum that Hillary would be able to leverage as well.
Well, I think the fact that Hillary started with a 61% to 7% predicted Iowa finish a year ago and then ends up 49.6% to 49.3% says to me that there is a demo of voters who either were not engaged at all and are now engaging, or she just lost the appeal…
Probably a little of both.
Totally. So there is something to be said that she may be sort of bleeding voters.
People don’t think she is as likeable as Bernie, and I honestly don’t totally understand why — which is I guess one of the reasons we are having this conversation. On paper she is a great candidate. Like, probably the most qualified candidate we have ever had. In the history of the United States.
Sure, yeah. That’s a great case. But I’ll make a point which to me is demonstrative of “The Hillary Problem” and that’s foreign policy. Foreign policy has sort of been considered her irrefutable strength. But then if you actually examine her policies, I think that most progressives wouldn’t be too pleased. She’s a war hawk. She believes in aggressive military intervention in a lot of cases. At least far more often than what makes me comfortable. Take this Kissinger thing: she directly references him as a mentor. And he is a war criminal who is responsible for the death of millions. Millions. Cambodia, Bangladesh and Timor alone…
But this is an ongoing American problem: our unwillingness to look at our country’s narrative from any vantage point other than American exceptionalism. And I personally believe that Hillary is one more thread in a national tapestry that would potentially breathe longer life into some of our darker global actions. And this barely gets talked about in our national conversation, but Hillary is yet another politician that is very unsympathetic to the desperate plight of the Palestinian people, but is aggressively pro-Israel, for better and—I think—in some cases, for worse.
Look, these are difficult statements to make and I certainly don’t wish to offend anyone in the Jewish community. I’m descended of the tribe myself. But I mourn the state of Israel, and not just because of the delicate and precarious situation the Jewish people find themselves in, but also because of its swing into right wing extremism. Which I think is tragic anywhere.
This is obviously a very complex situation — how would Bernie handle it differently?
Well I can’t speak much to that specifically, but I can say with some evidentiary confidence that Bernie’s stance is different. And how he handles every issue, to me, seems to be from the same moral vantage point.
He is consistent.
He is consistent! And I heard this the other day, and it made me take pause. What is the unifying theme between the Clinton campaigns? Between her run in 2008 and now, what is the unifying theme? Why does she think she needs to be President? I honestly don’t know. Do you know? I know she was against Universal Healthcare…
Was she though? I don’t remember her ever being against Universal Healthcare but I could be wrong. I KNOW she supported it when her husband was president.
Well, that’s part of their “Realpolitik Real Results” attitude. The Clintons are mirrors of who they think America is, from a slightly left-leaning centrist point of view. But if you’re at a time where you think that real change needs to occur, where you feel like the system is fundamentally broken, do you want someone that is going to shift the status quo slightly, or do you want someone to come in who is going to dramatically attack the problems that we’re facing?
That’s the big question, what it all boils down to philosophically. Not to keep repeating myself, but what I worry about is how feasible a lot of his plans are. He says this is totally doable, but not HOW…
Well, from what I’ve read his proposed tax policies would produce about $13.6 trillion in revenue, which would cover Universal Healthcare. But also from what I’ve read, it may not cover a ton of other policies…
But even in regards to healthcare, I was reading today that his plan really isn’t realistic, that the revenue from his plan would fall drastically short from what he is projecting and that the fallout could result in hospital closures and job losses and other Terrible Awful No Good Very Bad Things of that nature. I guess in the back of my mind, there is this fear that it will all backfire, and a lot of important progressive causes will be set back even further.
Right. I understand that fear, and I think it is valid.
Thank you. To be fair, though, I also am not very adventurous in general.
I guess what I would say is that we are the sole example of a First World country that does not have Universal Healthcare. So there are models for this, like, everywhere. So the idea that we are wandering blind into an unexplored space is a fallacy. There are lots of examples and precedents, worldwide, for us to follow. But you can’t honestly look at our healthcare system and say this is the best we can do.
But both Bernie and Hillary want to reform and improve upon what we have.
Well, to an extent that’s true, but there’s a severe material difference, I think. Hillary is for the improvement of Obamacare, while Bernie wants to implement Single Payer Healthcare. Obamacare is still wholly within the private sector; Bernie’s proposing government supplied public healthcare as an option for literally everyone.
It would be a lot of work to make that happen.
Yeah, but it is covered in his tax plan, which raises a ton of money. And the majority of that money is coming from the wealth of the top 1%. Which I’m okay with. And a fair amount of people argue that his tax plan would reduce income, but what that doesn’t account for is how much money people would save because they aren’t paying for healthcare anymore.
Totally. But isn’t there also a business tax? I definitely am not an economist (shocking) and this might be off base, but I can’t help but worry about the ramifications on people like my mom, who is a small business owner.
Well… I would guess that they would try to find a cutoff point between the profitability of the business, what a business is pulling in, and where it falls in the tax code. And while any negative impact isn’t ideal, I think you have to compare it to the benefits for America at large. You have to ask, what is better for our society? And I am sure Hillary has great ideas, and there would be some good to come from it – but is it enough?
It’s a lot about who you are, what satisfies you most when it comes to your ambition for a better world. I think that part of the reason Hillary is struggling to motivate voters is that she is saying, “I am willing to try to do what feels feasible,” and that isn’t a very aspirational or inspirational message. I think historically at all those critical junctures where we have suddenly and radically transformed our society, it has always proven possible.
I do see that, but it is a long haul. The Civil Rights movement occurred over a very long period of time.
But was it prolonged unnecessarily because our society was scared of “going there”?
Sure, but that is maybe just human nature. It doesn’t seem all that different now, our ability to make collective sudden changes. We felt this same momentum around Obama, but it quickly dissipated.
Well, I personally think that is contextually specific to Obama and the situation he inherited. When he got into office, both Congress and the Democrats were unwilling to do anything too progressive, and he didn’t push hard enough. I think the American public pretty quickly got frustrated with the lack of change in the midst of an historical national crisis, and the Republicans used that brief period of time to take back Congress.
Okay, so I guess the expectation is that Bernie would come in guns a-blazing from the get go.
Do you think the Republicans hate Sanders anywhere near as much as they hate Hillary Clinton?
No, but I also don’t think they actually considered him a threat. They would hate him if he got into office.
Eh, I doubt it. At least to the degree that Hillary is hated. How long has Benghazi been a thing, how long have we been talking about those emails? She is a symbol of what the GOP hates about the Democratic party, and to imagine that she is going to get into office and be able to communicate to some greater degree than Bernie Sanders with the GOP right wing seems to me a bit naive.
I hear that, and maybe it is naive, but I do feel like the GOP will find things and reasons to hate whoever the main opponent is.
Sure — but that hopefulness that you have, hopefulness that Hillary will be able to get stuff done. Isn’t that the same hopefulness that you’re decrying with Bernie Sanders? There are all these reasons why it COULD go terribly with Bernie, but his supporters have all this hope that it could go spectacularly. So to me there is a bit of cognitive dissonance if you can commend hopefulness about Hillary, but then throw it away as wishful thinking for Bernie.
To be fair, I do think that double standard is something supporters of both sides do to the candidates all the time. But in terms of electability, who do you think is more likely to gain voters? Specifically, Republicans who don’t want to vote for Trump?
Well, in New Hampshire there was a large percentage of people who didn’t know if they wanted to vote between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. I guess they represent this disenfranchised group of voters that have been let down by the government, and I think that those folks are looking for something different. Reform, change, whatever.
Welllllll, people are kind of into the idea of a woman president!
Ha, yeah. I guess “first Jewish president” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
I actually prefer not to focus on the fact that she is a woman, and first female president is very low on the list of things I like about her. I think the feminist question is unfair. You aren’t betraying women if you support Bernie, and it doesn’t make me less of a feminist for liking Hillary.
Totally. It doesn’t matter. I mean, even if a woman wants to vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman, that’s her right. As a supposedly free country, we don’t really have the right to condemn anyone’s motivations, because for that person, whoever they’re voting for, Bernie or Hillary, those reasons are deeply held and not frivolous.
A lot of the things about Hillary — her fluidly pragmatic positions on a lot of issues, her militant interventionist policies — a lot of this may very well have developed as a response to a justifiable fear of being seen as weak merely because she’s a woman. Better to be aggressive perhaps to counter that perception. I mean, how much of her political career is a response to misogyny?
I think that must be a big part of her story. And I do love that she is a woman — I think it is so exciting. I guess that I see Hillary as a total badass who has worked hard, is eloquent and compassionate, and has a lot of leadership experience. I know that Bernie is a good human being with the best interest of America at heart, I am excited by his ideas and philosophically I would love to see them work… but what I don’t know is if he would be a good leader. He doesn’t really have leadership experience.
I honestly don’t think that Bernie Sanders would be that much different than her on the issues that I respect her positions on. There is no doubt in my mind that she would be a good president. And as the first female president I think that there would be a lot of expectation for her to go above and beyond — but for whom? Who would she be serving? And I don’t just mean corporate interests. What cross section of America? The left? The center? And on which issues?
That’s why Bernie, to me, is more identifiable as a candidate. You know who he is, what he is about, and that he would do everything within his power to achieve that goal. And I feel a certain amount of excitement about the notion of a president who is uniquely, singularly and consistently progressive. And passionately so.
Thank you, Lucas, this has been very interesting. You have helped me answer some questions and gain a perspective I didn’t have before. You are nice.
Haha, of course! So are you!