Tomorrow, I will publish an article on how not to attack Bernie Sanders, Who Cares About Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan? Today, I’m going to discuss the right way to attack Bernie Sanders.
Brian Buetler wrote a really good article this morning, Bernie Sanders Will Be Unelectable If He Keeps This Up. And it gets at a really important point about the Sanders campaign. One thing I’ve liked about the Democratic campaign thus far has been the mutual respect that the two main candidates have shown, and how it has been all a question about the best way to achieve our shared liberal goals.
Let’s not forget that the most important liberal policies are widely shared. When it comes to economic matters, people are for a far more fair system than we now have. And when it comes to reproductive rights, people come down firmly on the pro-choice side. (This is often obscured because the anti-choice movement is good pushing the discussion to the edges of the issue: intact dilation and extraction and fetal tissue.) These are not just things that Democrats agree on; they are things that Republicans largely agree on — especially on the economic side.
So the greatest mistake we can make is to turn this into a primary about purity. Screw purity! A huge issue for me is the minimum wage. Sanders is pushing for a $15 minimum wage. Clinton is pushing for a $12 minimum wage. These are not ideological positions. I’m with Bernie: $15 is what we should be going for. It represents a living wage. But $12 is a worthy goal too. And for people working minimum wage in California (where it is, high by American standards at $10 per hour), $12 would be a very big deal. My concern is that asking for $12 does not get you to $12. But regardless, the issue is not ideological.
And this is especially true when there is a large and growing movement in the Republican Party that we should have no minimum wage at all. Based upon their very primitive libertarian thinking with their Frédéric Bastiat thought experiments, all our unemployment problems would go away if only people could take jobs for a buck fifty a day. So it’s really important that we not lose perspective here.
I don’t like to see tweets like this from the Sanders campaign yesterday:
You can be a moderate. You can be a progressive. But you cannot be a moderate and a progressive.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2016
It was followed up with a series of even worse tweets of the form, “Most progressives I know don’t…” This was responded to cogently by Alex Katz, “Most progressives I know supported the Brady Bill and common sense gun control. Not #BernieSanders.” Now it just so happens that I care far more about economics because I believe economic inequality kills far more people than guns or cars or anything else you can mention. But this is madness to claim that the progressive issues I care most about are what make me pure while I apologize away my heresies.
Brian Beutler’s article is not really meant to attack Bernie Sanders. For one thing, I think he’s highly sympathetic towards Sanders. But he’s providing some excellent reminder to the Sanders campaign that this is not how you win primaries — not to mention general elections.
Recap: How to Attack Bernie Sanders
We know how not to attack Bernie Sanders. Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman have shown us the way to their eternal shame. But Beutler summarized David Roberts’ criticisms:
I would add to this that I do think it is a problem for the Democratic Party to not nominate a woman. The last time we nominated a woman, it was Geraldine Ferraro, 32 years ago — for vice-president. This too concerns me.
None of this means that I now support Hillary Clinton for president. I wear my Bernie Sanders shirt proudly. I will almost certainly proudly cast my vote for Sanders on 7 June (after the primary is effectively over). But I don’t want to see this turn into a purity contest. I’ve written before, Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Real Liberal. Now let’s get back to the real substantive campaign that we have thus far had.