Hillary Clinton is about to become a progressive for a bit.
Some of us might be wondering: if Clinton co-opts Bernie’s message and tries to steal his thunder, will Bernie lose his momentum? Will Clinton be able to convince a majority of voters that her new progressive persona is authentic? Will undecided voters give her the benefit of the doubt and settle for her, especially if they have been duped into believing that she has a better chance at winning?
These are legitimate concerns. But we have to keep calm and stay revolutionary. Revolution is our bread and butter. Revolution is what sets our movement apart from establishment candidates such as Clinton. Clinton’s two biggest contributors are Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. She will never, ever be revolutionary. As long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are part of a revolutionary movement, it will be difficult for the Clintons to beat us.
Movements are notoriously difficult to campaign against. Just ask Hillary Clinton circa 2008.
With Bernie, voters will never need to waste a moment of their time wringing their hands in conflicted anguish about supporting him: we know who Bernie is and we know what he stands for, and that’s not going to change. We trust him, and we know that his message’s time has come.
We don’t always agree with him. But we’re not seeking ideological perfection, we’re seeking some semblance of justice in a messy world. Bernie, like no other public figure, is putting himself out there in front of thousands of people day after day, courageously denouncing inequality, relentlessly raising his voice against the economic injustice that pervades our lives. There’s no other candidate like him and there hasn’t been another candidate like him in my lifetime.
Crowds in towns in Iowa and Wisconsin and New Hampshire respond well to Bernie because he is an honest preacher demanding justice for the people. Nobody thinks of him as a radical or an ideologue because he’s not saying anything radical or extreme. All he’s promoting is justice. There’s nothing radical about justice. There is however something extremely radical about Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, Hillary’s biggest campaign contributors, evading justice all these years for their crimes against the people.
The fact that Sanders identifies as a Democratic Socialist isn’t a hurdle, either. Americans are not inherently anti-Socialist. Most of the people who hold strongly negative attitudes toward Democratic Socialism wouldn’t even consider voting for something as innocuous as a Democrat, let alone a Democratic Socialist.
On the other hand, amongst independents and left-leaning voters, there has historically been a fair amount of enthusiasm for Socialism. Just to give one example: in 1908, in my home state of Oklahoma, which is now considered to be one of the reddest of red states, there were 375 locals of the Socialist Party across the state, working in support of candidates in 5 Congressional Districts, 12 State Senatorial Districts, and 35 Assembly Districts. Likewise, in 1912, Eugene Debs received 16% of the vote in Oklahoma. There’s no reason to think that kind of groundswell support for socialist ideas couldn’t recur in red states in the future, especially if inequality continues unabated.
Bernie will be a much stronger candidate than Clinton in the general election. The Clintons have too much baggage to win over undecided voters. There is a deep, deep well of antipathy for the Clintons amongst conservatives, and that antipathy would only resurface in a virulent way in a general election. Clinton does not promise a fresh start or a bold departure from the status quo. She is very much a known factor, and the Republicans would be able to get huge turnouts to vote against her and Bill in a general election.
Bernie, unlike Hillary, would be a big challenge for the Republicans in the general election, for the same reason that he will be such a big challenge for Hillary in the primaries: he has a movement behind him and people feel unabashedly great about him and his message. It’s difficult to defeat a movement.
So if you’re wondering what’s the difference between Bernie and Hillary Clinton, here’s the gist of it: Hillary Clinton’s two biggest contributors are Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. The people for Bernie want to overthrow Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.
It’s just that simple.