I think I’ve finally figured out a big piece of what’s been bothering me about the Democratic Primary. It has to do with comparing Bernie’s and Hillary’s voting records as if they are comparable, when I don’t think they are.
Bernie is running as a Democrat now, but throughout his political career, he has not been a Democrat. Yes, he has caucused with the Democrats, but that’s substantively different from being a Democrat.
Having a party allegiance means working from within a party to help frame its platforms and policies, support its candidates, and try to maintain hard-won gains (often incremental) against the incursions of the other party. It makes me think of the ‘sacrifices’ one makes when one gets married and has a family. You have responsibilities and commitments that have a profound effect on the landscape of your choices and on the decisions you make.
Bernie’s record is undefiled by Party concerns. I doubt that considerations like trying to help other Democrats get elected factored into his choices a whole lot. And people generally would expect him to vote far to the left, being a Socialist from Vermont and all. You aren’t surprised when he votes against the war in Iraq or for Gay Marriage. And don’t get me wrong – it’s great. I agree with his votes and I applaud him for his consistency … but I’d argue that those votes were possible because he was unencumbered by larger commitments.
When Hillary votes for or against something that vote is taken in a different context. Some might call that calculating … I see it working within the system to get things done. When you’re working as part of something you might have to compromise your own personal views for the good of the whole. Bernie has not done that.
So for him to come now and use the power and machinery of the Democratic party to run for President strikes me as disingenuous. For him to compare his record to Hillary’s as if they were actually comparable is disingenuous. Bernie’s purity was largely possible, I’d argue, because he chose to be unencumbered by an affiliation to one of the major parties.
Who knows how Hillary would have voted, had she been a Socialist from Vermont who caucused with the Democrats when she wanted to. We can’t know. Hillary chose to work within the party and throughout her career has been more measured, more cautious and, yes, more compromising.
AND she has evolved.
AND she has gotten things done.
We don’t know how she’d have voted on things, had she chosen to go Bernie’s route … but I do think she’d still have voted for the Brady Bill. That’s the last thing I’ll get into, because it continues to really puzzle me.
Bernie seems to have pretty consistently voted his conscience and values – against the Iraq debacle and for other things that I mostly agree with. I think he’d say that on these really important issues he isn’t swayed by polls and such. But on gun control his votes are suddenly all about representing his rural constituents. Really? Do you want to have it both ways, Bernie? I’ve not yet heard an answer on this that doesn’t feel like an evasion … and it’s puzzling and discomfiting … a big inconsistency in someone whose bread and butter is consistency.
I truly don’t understand.