[The Democratic soul is divided into two halves: the half that wants Hillary Clinton’s professionalism, and the half that wants Bernie Sanders’ idealism. The following is a dialogue between those two halves.]
Hillary half: How do you feel about Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy? I feel like Clinton is head and shoulders above him on foreign policy. I think Clinton will adequately continue Obama’s careful statesmanship and continue to build coalitions for the things we have been working on throughout the last seven years. People say Clinton will bring another war, but I digress. I see no evidence of anything like that happening. I mean Hillary was in his administration for four years and often joined him in the situation room as big events were happening. She knows all the partners, understands multiple nations’ concerns, and the careful path Obama has taken for seven years. Bernie Sanders very well may pull back militarily. While this is probably inevitable given America’s massive military budget, and probably necessary over the long term, such a policy would not be ideal right now.
Sanders half: Those are valid thoughts.
Hillary half: I was just wondering your opinion.
Sanders half: I agree with all that. But I’d say we need a radical alternative course. The gridlock in Congress, by politicians hoping to shut down the government in order to retroactively make Obama a one-term president is not going to be circumnavigated by Hillary. Bernie has a record of successful bipartisan efforts in the Senate, specifically with his recent veterans bill.
Hillary half: That is true. But I believe Clinton when she says that she knows how to get shit done. Hillary, as an ex-senator, clearly understands Congress, the White House, and the State Department, and the debates have demonstrated that she knows the world better than any other candidate. In defense of Obama’s competent administration, Hillary has praised and defended his legacy more than any other candidate, and will most likely enhance his accomplishments with her own. I think she will continue the same impressively repaired foreign relations and the carefully assembled coalitions united to work on the next decade’s most pressing issues. It certainly cannot hurt that many of the people she has worked with since Bill Clinton’s presidency are the people who helped balance the federal budget and grow the economy tremendously during the 1990s.
Sanders half: Clinton going the same course as Obama in such a stupid, toxic, purposefully-ignorant Congress is only going to continue devolving our politics. Above all, Hillary will be forced to continue legislative powers through the application of the executive branch because Congressional Republicans will view her as an even more illegitimate president than Obama. Some are even calling to arrest her and put her in prison on her first day in Congress. This level of partisan opposition will force Clinton to govern entirely by executive orders, which will only further exacerbate the likely coming political attacks on her having broken the law (Benghazi, email-gate). We must radically transform Congress and make it more democratic so that Washington accurately reflects American society. America is a center-left nation now, but a small group of Tea Party jihadists, who have fear mongered the support of a shockingly misinformed voting bloc, will not let you hear it. They have gamed the system with gerrymandered districts and the judicial decision that limitless campaign donations is free speech. The conclusion that good Congressional ideas should be drowned out by bribed ideas doesn’t sound like very free speech to me, and only Bernie Sanders will be able win dramatically enough to seriously wake up Republicans from this fascist spell. Only a Bernie landslide could convince the GOP to start nominating professional politicians.
Clinton half: But I think, since the Republican takeover in the 2010 midterm, Obama has shown that a rational president can still keep America going in the right direction, something Clinton will have no problem doing. After all, she likes to point out that people have bitterly fought her on every issue she has fought for in her public life. I don’t think Clinton has any doubts as to the future of a Republican-held Congress, and I think she knows how to play the game after watching Obama do it. Clinton has a more sober vision than Sanders, and if Democrats do not win a landslide she realizes that Republicans will have to continue battling the Republican ideologues. And so far Obama’s executive orders have all been very legal, and totally within the purview of presidential power. Few of them have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which, in essence, ratifies their legality, despite Republican propaganda to the contrary. This is doubly true as various level courts routinely throw out lawsuits against Obama’s actions signifying that Republicans’ partisanship is frivolous and unworthy of the courts’ time and energy.
Sanders half: Bernie is the best candidate for Democrats to actually win a Congressional landslide. He has the highest favorabilitiy of any candidate, and certainly has the most democratic, populist support. Record-breaking, small campaign donations have to count for something right? The way I see it, if Hillary gets elected, the political vitriol will boil over and she may lose reelection to rabid ultra-conservatives. She will have at best two years to pass through major legislation like Obama, because the 2018 midterm will probably not be kind to her. Republicans would try to deny her any political victory, like they did Obama, and unless she manages some big accomplishments for liberalism, like Obama, she will not get a second term to obtain any sort of a legacy for herself. I believe Bernie, health developments excluded, would be transformative enough to win a second electoral landslide in 2020. Democratic socialists tend to have this effect (whether they use that term or not). America has real problems, and cannot ignore them with tax cuts and new wars anymore.
Clinton half: I think the biggest issue is foreign policy. Obama has helped craft numerous successful coalitions on a wide range of issues. We have Russia and China working with us on Iran; we have Russia working with us against ISIS, or at least not completely against us; most of the Arab world has joined us against ISIS; and we have Europe on our side for all of the above. And one huge development in foreign policy is that we have convinced Iran to completely end their nuclear program and join the international community, and Iran is genuinely helping us try to stabilize the Middle East against Sunni extremism, even if they are simultaneously working towards their own national goals. A discontinuation of Obama’s policies will drastically change the state of the world for the worse right now, and also sabotage American interests for decades to come. Iran’s 80 million population cannot be ignored by a globalized world any longer, and Iran is entering the world stage carefully by trying to avoid escalating tensions with regional nemesis Saudi Arabia and by taking over the stabilization of Iraq after the failed American occupation.
Sanders half: Why would Sanders not continue the same things? I imagine both Clinton and Sanders would keep a lot of Obama’s people.
Clinton half: That is not necessarily true. Sanders clearly focuses more on domestic issues and kind of glosses over some of the bigger foreign policy issues. Saying that ISIS and Islamic terrorism is partly the result of global warming, while true, does not really give a clear picture of what our foreign policy is focused on. The most important thing for me is the sure win. Clinton would almost surely win. Sanders is perhaps a bigger if, a wild card. Sanders has never faced a national opponent before, or a smear campaign, or a toxic political onslaught of billions of dollars of Republican attack ads. He has been protected up in liberal and politically unique Vermont, and he is banking on an unprecedented amount of support from the younger voting brackets that are notorious for not actually showing up to vote. We will have to wait for more primaries to see if his message is inspiring enough to change historical patterns.
Sanders half: To the contrary, I believe that Sanders is capable of winning many more Republicans and independents than Clinton. He certainly has much more passionate supporters, and his unprecedented online support is fueled by massive youth support using the Internet to mobilize an increasingly unprecedented youth vote. Meanwhile Clinton must be one of the most polarizing candidates ever to run, and without even defending incumbency.
Clinton half: To the contrary again, and, of course this is just a feeling, but I feel that if Clinton is the nominee many Republicans just will not vote. This is anecdotal, but I have to talked to plenty of Republican-minded people who are convinced Clinton will win and that they probably will not vote. Much of politics operates on politicians’ and voters’ impressions, and my impression is that Clinton is perhaps the most prepared and experienced presidential candidate in history: her husband was governor and president, and she has served as a senator, a two-time Democratic presidential frontrunner, and a Secretary of State. Sanders may win the independent vote, but would likely inspire an oppositional Republican vote. The term “socialist” will be a huge fear mongering opportunity for Republicans, and Fox News viewers are afraid of Democrats enough as it is.
Sanders half: But, again, Sanders has the highest favorability of ANY candidate. Clinton has a lower favorability than several Republicans. I stand by my claim that Bernie has the potential to beat ANY candidate of either party.
Clinton half: We will see if passion correlates to actual voting. Bernie had a strong showing in Iowa, and he is polling well ahead of Hillary in New Hampshire so I admit that he has good shot. A much better shot than even a month ago. But I’m still worried about foreign policy because so few countries have functioning militaries. None of our allies can do what we do nor can they exert the overwhelming strength that America has. They regularly rely on American intelligence and logistical support to do their own missions, and generally, America does the lion’s share of the work to begin with. I think international problem-solving would decline dramatically if America’s military suddenly recedes with a Sanders administration’s focus on domestic issues. Right now Obama has made real progress in the Middle East by working with Russia, Iran, the Kurds, Iraqis, and even the Chinese. He has gotten the world’s key players to participate in active diplomacy and military cooperation, and has persuaded them that peace in the Middle East is in everyone’s interest. While it would be nice if the rest of the world began to share some of America’s peacekeeping burden, this is not likely going to happen since most countries’ military spending has remained low for decades under the American security umbrella. While many argue it would be a good long-term plan for America to begin reducing its military and easing its own burden by more readily relying on combined international efforts, I disagree. It is certainly not a good idea right now in 2016, and might not even be a good idea ever. I think there are multiple political scientific reasons for this—chiefly that the world is safer when there is one, indisputably hegemonic power in the international system. Arms races between comparative powers do not do much to advance peace, and have, throughout history, repeatedly resulted in needless, destructive wars. Other nations may not like America for everything it does—and we have done stupid things, particularly Iraq—but, for many theoretical reasons that I think hold up in real life, I think hegemony is a very stable and useful system. While we cannot deny that we have had the occasional blip on our foreign policy record, there are many countries, particularly in Europe, that would agree that US hegemony works better than any other country being the hegemonic military power. As such, foreign policy certainly demands much of the president’s attention. The fact that the president cannot unilaterally transform the economy, and has virtually no power over the legislature if his or her party does not control Congress, is why I think Hillary is the better choice for 2016. Obama has already stabilized and grown the economy dramatically in the past seven years, and the next Democratic president can now turn his or her attention towards economic inequality. While Hillary is nowhere near as committed to radical change as Bernie, Hillary has repeatedly said this is also an important issue to her. Perhaps Sanders’ initiatives would go too far and it would turn out to be impossible for him to work with the new Congress. There is a higher probability that Bernie will be all bark and no success. Even if Democrats win big, they have a long way to go to dominate Congress enough to usher in Bernie’s proposed revolution.
Sanders half: Not necessarily. If Sanders ran against Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, Democrats could conceivably take back the House in an unprecedented landslide. This election has the potential for a huge voter turnout, which of course benefits Democrats. Both Cruz and Trump would likely drag the GOP into unelectable mud, and Bernie’s revolution is possible. Bernie is capturing passion like FDR in 1932 or Reagan in 1980, and at the very least Bernie’s campaign will be able to mimic the electoral success of Obama’s two victories. I do wish that Bernie would lay out more ideas regarding foreign policy, but I agree with Bernie that soaring economic inequality, the collapse of our infrastructure, institutionalized racism, and the moral decay of our capitalistic economy have passed a point where we can no longer ignore these problems. President Obama is right when he says that ISIS is not an existential threat to America, but the collapse of our democratic government is an existential threat. America’s demographics are changing so quickly that a new political revolution is needed. Equality demands all of our attention.
Clinton half: That explains Bernie’s movement.
Sanders half: Iowa was about as close a tie as it could be for Bernie and Hillary. Let us agree to disagree to go about our days.
Clinton half: We will shall see what New Hampshire and future primaries bring.