During the Republican primaries, I always hate when the candidates play the “who’s more conservative” game, waging a sophomoric battle against anyone who dares to be different or have different ideas that stray away from the norm.
Unfortunately, this is becoming the Democratic Party, too.
Ever since the Iowa caucuses, when Hillary Clinton narrowly beat Bernie Sanders, the two candidates for the Democratic Party have waged an ideological war over who is “the establishment” and who is the most progressive. Their vitriolic rhetoric has divided the Democratic Party and its supporters, pitting the Clinton camp against the Sanders camp, playing right into the GOP’s plan.
But when it really comes down to it there is only the bottom line: both candidates are progressive, and both are members of the powerful Washington establishment.
Sanders has been a member of Congress since 1991, serving in the House until 2007 when he became a United States senator. While in the Senate, he chaired the powerful Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and has been a force for key progressive causes his entire career. Hillary Clinton on the other hand, was first lady for eight years, wielding unprecedented power within that position – She used it to influence legislation regarding healthcare, childcare, and crime. She served as a United States senator for eight years before being appointed to Secretary of State, a position she held for four years. For decades these two individuals used their power, their influence, and their prestige amongst their colleagues to get progressive ideology put at the forefront of the national debate. To say Bernie Sanders is not part of the Washington establishment is being blissfully naïve. He may not take the same donations as other members, he may not flip-flop like some of the others, but he (as well as Clinton) certainly has been a part of an elitist group of 535 individuals who call the shots on just about everything.
That’s why Clinton is also being particularly disingenuous when she says she’s not part of the establishment. She is, she has been for decades, and she needs to embrace it and use it to her advantage. As she says in her own words, she’s a progressive who gets things done. Running away from who she really is, like she did in 2008, will only hurt her.
When it comes to being a progressive, Sanders’ Notion that one cannot be a moderate as well as a progressive could not be further from the truth. A look at GovTrack’s Analysis of members of Congress will show that Senator Sanders is ranked as the most Extreme leftist member of the Senate. Basically, next to Sanders, almost all Senate Democrats are “moderate.” Surprisingly though, Elizabeth Warren, the left’s newfound hero, is actually ranked as the 12th most liberal member of the Senate. Those who are ranked before her are:[Bernie Sanders] Richard Blumenthal
and finally…[Elizabeth Warren]
Even Chuck Schumer beat out Elizabeth Warren in the “who’s the most progressive senator” category. So when Sanders brushed off the Senate Democrats as part of “the establishment,” he drew a divisive line between himself and those most closely aligned with him. Senators Blumenthal, Whitehouse, and Gillibrand were not far behind in the ideological ranks.
Just because one is the loudest voice in the room doesn’t mean they are the only “true” progressive.
The ideological scoring is set. Some Democrats are more liberal than others, and some are considered “moderates.” But here’s the kicker: liberal or moderate, all the Democrats, time and time again, have voted in favor of the most progressive principles to come before this Congress. They voted in favor of Obamacare. They voted in favor of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. They all voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. They voted in favor of background checks after Newtown. They voted to fund Planned Parenthood. They all backed President Obama’s immigration executive action. Most of them backed President Obama’s cap on carbon emissions. They all backed Warren’s bill to allow students to refinance their student loans. They all backed equal pay legislation. The list goes on and on.
So Sanders’ belief that one must adhere to a certain (and unfair) litmus test of progressivism has the potential to alienate many true Democrats who, at the end of the day, stand up for what is right. Whereas Hillary Clinton may be more moderate compared to Sanders (as everyone else is considering he’s the furthest left you can get), she has supported all the measures listed above and then some. To somehow associate her “moderation” with skepticism or comparison to the GOP is equally ignorant.
How can Democrats demand the Republicans take a centrist, moderate approach to governing but simultaneously demonize Democrats who take the same approach?