I have tried to avoid writing diaries on the presidential primary because so much of what I think of the situation is at odds with many of the Daily Kos members here, especially those with whom I would naturally align. I am a Bernie Sanders supporter, and remain so. That having been said, unlike many, as someone who has spent the last few years making the effort to reform politics in states near me, I have very little but praise for the efforts of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and their work to make a change in many of the issues I care deeply about.
Despite the ongoing sux-rox campaigns that go on here at Daily Kos, I figured that I would finally bite the bullet and write a diary that says a bit of what I think: Hillary Clinton’s pragmatic but dogged campaign has done something I didn’t expect at any point a year ago: her campaign is putting in the very difficult work of putting together resources and backbones for much smaller candidates, and urging state parties and state leadership to act in bold, aggressive ways.
More importantly, her campaign’s efforts to instill real, tangible progress on issues that surround it go beyond political expediency and reflect a campaign that has made more than a small effort to leave behind communities, states, and office holders around them better off then when they arrived. I wanted to take a bit today to tell that story; of pragmaticism, the future of state level progressive politics, and her campaign.
Before we start, I want to preface this by saying, if you see my title and you are prepared to come into my diary to insult me, insult candidates, make spurious claims, etc. then fine. I can’t stop you. But be aware that I really don’t come to Daily Kos for personal validation, as I have plenty of validators in the real world and despite the fact I probably need to lose about 20lbs, my feelings will not be personally hurt or swayed by what you say. Good for you, get it off your chest, and let’s move on.
With that having been said, I want to talk about the state of Democratic infrastructure in America. To be blunt: it’s a damn disaster. No matter who you vote for in the presidential race, the fact is, we are struggling terribly in many states in America to recruit and woo candidates to enter races. Resources are not there, structure is not there, support is just not there.
At Netroots Nation 2014, I spoke with several and bemoaned exactly how much money the Clinton campaign was already bringing in, noting: “how does this help state level candidates..” Over the last 12 months, though, I have come to realize that investment into the Clinton campaign has turned into a tool many of those states desperately needed, not just because of who received it, but how those resources have been used.
I realize that a few weeks ago, those who support Bernie had a huge kickback on the Hillary campaign for her use of campaign overflow money. Since I don’t want to get back into that here, I’d recommend that before you bring that up in a comment, please read this, which explains my position on that issue.
But I want to talk about what the Clinton campaign has done at the state and local level that deserves some progressive praise. In numerous districts around the nation, we simply have no one running or no one of merit running. How do you fix that? How do you change the landscape of the federal and state legislature?
Here’s what I can tell you: beginning last summer through today, the Hillary Clinton campaign has reached out, fairly agressively, to almost every state party near us. They have done so with resources and people who were willing to help. Those individuals weren’t just there to help Hillary, they often acted as facilitators for individuals who looked to run for US House, helping to connect potential candidates to resources, provide them connections with people in DC; and when state parties asked, the Clinton campaign was more than willing to go on the record and back them — whether they were a state she would win or not. These efforts seem small, but for state and county organizations, her campaign’s efforts to reach out and provide them human resources and infrastructure was desperately needed, and in some cases, her support of these issues in states helped decide whether or not the state would push for them.
For those who have criticized Hillary Clinton on many issues, I’d point out that it was her campaign that made real entreaties to state parties and encouraged them to become more progressive in their platform and legislative approach. Items like the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act push in Missouri? While numerous Missouri Democrats favored, pushes by partners and support through elements like the Clinton campaign showed many that they would have support, all the way up the ladder. When people knock her on LGBT issues because of something more than a decade ago, I point out that local groups will tell you her campaign had no problem reaching out to tell state legislators they believed in it and would stand for LGBT rights in the fall, which helped influence people to do the right thing.. not a decade ago, but in the last two months.
This is something that many in these areas haven’t seen in a while. Democrats have been too used to campaigns that said “don’t talk about this there, let’s not inject national into your state, etc.” and yet, when asked, at every turn, the Clinton campaign said yes. Repeatedly. To raise money for local candidates, to provide support for federal candidates, to help recruit federal candidates.
No matter who you endorse, this groundwork benefits all democrats, everywhere, including Bernie Sanders.
Over the last few days, several members of Daily Kos have discussed the endorsement out of Flint, Michigan and other groups, often in harsh terms. I’ve heard things like “maybe the mayor is just endorsing because it’s too risky to side with the guy that wants to prosecute their governor..” I want to say to this: please, don’t make me laugh.
Every day in Kansas, Democrats receive notices that someone is running a petition to impeach our governor. Democrats will scream about the need to prosecute someone. All of this is well and good, but for a lot of us, it is just a soundbyte. It makes us feel good — it is what we believe — but it accomplishes very little.
I too, believe that Governor Snyder needs to be prosecuted. That said, his prosecution would be months away if it were to happen, and a conviction of the governor will do absolutely nothing to help the people who have already been poisoned by lead and chemicals.
The Hillary Clinton campaign did something practical, pragmatic, and progressive. Instead of yelling at the problem, they rolled up their sleeves and did something about it. She dispatched two aids with federal forms and material, and her campaign worked to help find those people resources — whether it was clean water or an attorney to sue. She worked with the city leaders to help them get together the federal paperwork to do something about it, immediately. More important than yelling at Governor Snyder, more important then denouncing what happened, her campaign did the human & decent thing and put people to work helping other human beings.
It is no wonder the mayor of Flint endorsed Hillary; while Republicans were busy bumbling around the issue, her campaign worked to get people water. Do you think that doesn’t impact how people feel about you?
My Interactions with The Campaigns
I think all of us at some point work with the presidential campaigns. They cannot be avoided. It’s pretty well known I put effort into the Bernie Sanders campaign; the Hillary state staffer knows it, the Bernie staffer knows it, the Hillary and Bernie people in other states know it. It has not, at any moment, stopped the Hillary Clinton campaign from going “above and beyond” in resources to help outreach to potential candidates.
As leads for potential candidates came up in Missouri, the Hillary Clinton campaign was quick to help notify people, to give those candidates a chance to find help. In Kansas, the Hillary Clinton campaign helped county parties with information into their district — and not just about Hillary, but issue based advocacy that often didn’t involved Hillary Clinton at all. Just a connection: “This is who we found, you should give them a call.” It was a refreshing, forward look at the way we wish more states and campaigns would work; an outlook that said: we are trying to figure this out together.
Defining What Is Progressive
Many writers on Daily Kos will gladly take you to task for saying anything like my next statement, but at this point, this far into my thought, my opinion is “eh”. It is not easy to just say “this person isn’t progressive” “this person is progressive”; to me, the most fundamental part of progressive is “progress”; are we making active progress on an issue.
I think about this often. I sometimes read diaries which slam Hillary Clinton for views 20 years ago. 15 years ago. I think to myself: 17 years ago, I took money and worked pretty exclusively with some serious hard-core conservatives to help elect them. I took their money gladly, I worked those races gladly, and I helped work with some people that would get me pilloried in many progressive audiences. 13 years ago, though, after a few years of disappointment, someone made to me a compelling argument I hadn’t heard before. And as someone who did debate for a significant part of my life, that argument changed a big part of my world view.
I think about this in light of numerous attacks on Hillary — “well, she was..” and I think: man, if that standard was used on me… and yet, there are times it still is. At least once a year, I will have someone accuse me of being a “Koch Industry mole” or a “Republican Infiltrator” because my family is deeply conservative and because 17 years ago.. I think: Ok. Well, good for you to think that. Oh wait, my brother/father/sister has said what online and because of that, I must be Y? Or, great, you found an ad/speech/campaign I worked in ‘98 or ‘00, and that is your grounds. Great, too.
I have never been a fan of “they changed their mind!” as a counter argument. I certainly did. I was convinced by a better argument. I think many people come through the crucible of ideas over their life and their views change, mature, and differ. Hell, in the last year, I’ve had my viewpoint changed on issues. It happens.
What I know about being a progressive is this: if you want to be a progressive, you can’t do it by yelling at the moon or demanding purity and sitting on the sidelines. You have to actually effect change. Big or small, you have to move that needle to do something positive.
In the fall, should Bernie be the nominee, part of what will help propel him to the White House is the effort that the Clinton campaign undertook, and the open outreach to communities to help rebuild, to find resources, and to do more then just “yell that the issue”.
Why I Still Back Bernie
Reading this diary, many are going to say “damn you so & so”. I’ve been critical of Bernie’s healthcare plan, which I frankly don’t think is well thought out — not because I don’t believe in single payer, but because I don’t think his plan gets us there, now or ever. I’ve been critical of some of the attacks made by Bernie supporters on Hillary, which have at times trended into what I perceive of as near Republican shilling with outrageous conspiracy theories and the like.
Despite that, though, I back Bernie for the Primary. Unlike many here, though, I do not see this as “the world ends” if HIllary is the nominee. For me, a baseball fan, a Hillary Clinton run for US Presidency in the General Election is a stand-up triple. Despite all of the naysayers who flaunt ridiculous outlooks on the general election, the electoral college strongly favors Hillary in a general election, and I believe a Clinton presidency would bring about significant progress on numerous issues I care deeply about. There is nothing wrong with that, and as a fan who loves small ball, I would point out to voters that her effort over the last year of her campaign is praiseworthy beyond her just seeking the office; they are works of pragmatic problem solvers who worked to not just build her campaign, but to help enact real change.. even before she took office. I would gladly, happily support Hillary Clinton in the general election.
But I back Bernie Sanders for one reason: while Hillary Clinton is a stand-up triple, Bernie Sanders reflects a Democratic opportunity to “swing for the fences”. It is a chance to clear the decks and bring in new, disenchanted voters who want to believe in big ideas. It is difficult for a candidate to follow a 2 term presidency; ask Al Gore. George HW Bush understood that eventually, voter fatigue sets in. Hillary Clinton represents that 3rd Term of Obama, which I’m frankly OK with. But I believe that for longterm success, we have to look much longer term. I believe should Sanders be our nominee, that at 78 he would not seek re-election in 2020, and the Democratic party would have multiple chances at transformational presidencies; I view that as a good thing. I think his campaign not only brings in non-voters, but it brings up a different discussion of the issues.
I believe campaign finance reform is crucial. At the same time, I think his assertion that “Money in politics is the root of infighting” is just, well, wrong… sorry, you can strip the money out and Republicans will still hate you just as vehemently on the issues.. I have always backed Bernie for a much more simple reason: he reaches out to people in a way that helps bring people back to the voting booth who have previously dropped out altogether.
This is something the Democrats do need.
But I’ve lost all interest in tedious “let’s debase Hillary” stories. They simply do not match the reality I see in state houses, in county party offices, in state party offices anywhere I have been. It doesn’t match the cooperation I’ve received; it doesn’t fit the narrative of what happened in Flint, it doesn’t change the role she has played in actively encouraging even deep red states to make the effort.
I will work for Bernie to win the nomination, but I know should he do so, his campaign will owe a serious debt of gratitude to the leg work, the party building, the outreach, and the fundraising that Hillary Clinton has done. Sanders supporters who decry the money sweeped into the DNC need to realize that money will go to whoever wins the primary, and that could be Bernie Sanders, could it not?
I’m ready for the comments that bash Hillary. Bring it. I’ve already made up my mind and I’m already working for Bernie. But I have no interest — none — in a taking personal afront at a political campaign that represents the first time in more then a decade I’ve seen a national Democratic effort work to rebuild with real resources and outreach statehouse and local races that desperately needed someone to care. Because for all of Bernie’s talk of a revolution, the only campaign who will open their phone lines, offer support, and provide connections so far has not been the Sander’s campaign.. it’s been the Clinton people, who have not once, not in this entire election, turned down a chance to help a local candidate. Not once, at least not for me.
And sorry, that’s a progressive value I will not shy away from praising; because that work — changing our states, and the lives of people who live there — she deserves all the praise she can get for that effort.
I look forward to Bernie in the general, but all progressives should be happy that the Clinton campaign didn’t just horde their resources, they worked in every way they could to help all democrats — and they didn’t do it for praise or PR (I’m not being paid a dime by Hillary, I can tell you that), they just did it because it was the right thing to do.