Yes, I’ll Vote for HRC. No, I’m Not Happy About It.

By James Kwak

Now that Hillary Clinton has wrapped up the nomination, I have no problem with Clinton supporters saying that Sanders supporters should back her in the general election. I’m certainly voting for Clinton (not that my vote matters, since I live in Massachusetts), and every liberal Democrat I know who likes Sanders is going to do the same. (Yes, there are probably some Sanders voters who will vote for Trump or stay home, but they are largely anti-establishment independents who were always unlikely to vote for Clinton.)

Apparently that’s not enough for many in the Clinton camp, however, who insist that I should be happy that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, and that this is actually a good thing for progressives—defined loosely as people who want higher taxes on the rich, less inequality, stronger social insurance programs (including true universal health care), and better protections for workers. The argument is basically that Clinton is (a) more pragmatic, (b) more skilled at getting things done, and (c) more likely to be able to work with Republicans to achieve incremental good things, while Sanders would have simply flamed out in futility.

To which my first answer, which I’m sure I share with many other liberals is: Yes, I know how the Constitution works already. I know we have three branches of government, and that the Republicans control Congress.

And that’s exactly the point. We’ve had centrist Democratic presidents for sixteen out of the past twenty-four years. It turns out that having a pragmatic Democrat in the White House is good for some things, like maintaining four “liberals” on the Supreme Court, preserving the right to an abortion, and slowing down Republican plans to cut taxes on the rich. (Since 1992, the top tax rate on capital gains has only fallen from 28% to 23.8% and the top tax rate on dividends has only fallen from 31% to 23.8%.)

Having a moderate Democratic president, not surprisingly, also produces some major pieces of moderate legislation, ranging from the center-right (welfare reform) to the center-center (Dodd-Frank) to the center-left (2009 stimulus, Obamacare). The stimulus, for those who might think this is unfair, came in at $580 billion over its first two fiscal years—not even twice as much per year as the 2008 stimulus signed by George W. Bush, at a time when the economic situation was much less bleak. And Obamacare, lest we forget, was originally a Heritage Foundation proposal and then Mitt Romney’s health care plan as governor of Massachusetts. (If you want to know what I really think about Obamacare, look here.) The big progressive win of recent years, marriage equality, happened despite the opposition of Bill Clinton, and of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign. Obama, who has flipped twice on the issue, may very well have secretly supported same-sex marriage for all these years, but the important point is that he didn’t come out in favor of it until after the writing had been engraved into the wall.

But when it comes to the structural factors that govern the changing tides of history, it turns out that having a Democrat, any Democrat, in the White House doesn’t count for much. This is what has been going on in Congress since Bill Clinton was first elected (data thanks to the Vital Statistics on Congress project):

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 10.56.06 PM

(I estimated the impact of the 2014 elections, assuming that the average ideological position of each party remained the same and only the party split changed.) It turns out that the only thing that can shift Congress to the left is a spectacularly catastrophic Republican president mired in an unpopular war and then a catastrophic economic crisis. The popularity of both Clinton and Obama late in their terms has had little effect on Congressional elections.

So what accounts for the rightward drift of American politics? Having Democratic presidents who actively try to position themselves in between the two parties—Clinton beginning in 1995, Obama occasionally, such as in 2011—certainly hasn’t helped. More important, though, have been those structural factors. One is that Republicans have just been crushing Democrats at the state level. This chart comes from Philip Bump at the Washington Post:

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 11.01.12 PMNote the increases during both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

This is both an effect and a cause. It’s an effect of the fact that conservatives have better fundraising and training networks, more motivated local activists (e.g., people running for school board so they can stamp out evolution), and just more money. It’s a cause of the first picture, because Republicans have translated control of state governments into Congressional gerrymandering. In 2012, for example, Democratic House candidates received more votes than their Republican opponents, yet the Republicans ended up with a majority by more than thirty seats. The entire political system has been tilted more in the Republicans’ favor, to the point where the presidency is the only prize that Democrats can fight for on equal terms—because all we need is one charismatic (Obama) or well-connected (Hillary Clinton) candidate who can raise tons and tons of money.

Think about the situation that puts us in. Republicans are apoplectic at the idea that Hillary Clinton could appoint the deciding justice to the Supreme Court, but the smart ones realize that she will be able to accomplish little else; even if by some miracle Democrats retake the House, Republican unity will suffice to block anything in the Senate. Democrats, by contrast, are terrified because a Republican president means that they will get virtually everything, unless the Senate Democratic caucus somehow develops a backbone (which it certainly didn’t have under George W. Bush): not just the Supreme Court, but a flat tax, new abortion restrictions, Medicaid block grants, repeal of Dodd-Frank, repeal of Obamacare, Medicare vouchers, and who knows what else.

What’s the lesson here? It isn’t that Bernie Sanders could accomplish more than Hillary Clinton in four years against dug-in Republican opposition. He couldn’t. It’s that having a president isn’t enough. We need a movement. That’s what the conservatives have had for decades: embryonic in the 1950s, quixotic in the 1960s, on the rise in the 1970s, ascendant in the 1980s, and increasingly institutionalized, entrenched, and ideologically extreme ever since. We need to stop thinking that winning the presidency more often than not is a long-term strategy. What we’re doing isn’t working. It needs to change.

I wouldn’t call Hillary Clinton the lesser evil. She isn’t evil. I think she will be a decent president (except when it comes to foreign military intervention, where she frightens me, but a good deal less than Trump does) and she will more or less hold the line against conservative extremists for at least four years. And, of course, it will be nice to join the ranks of civilized countries that have chosen women as their leaders. But she’s the candidate of the Democratic status quo, and the Democratic status quo isn’t working.

We need to do something different. We can have a debate about what that is. I think we need two things: comprehensive electoral reform (which is why I supported Larry Lessig in this election) and a wave of unabashedly ideological candidates who push the overall debate to the left. But Hillary Clinton amounts to doing the same thing again and hoping for different results.

Update: I inadvertently (really) typed “Hillary Trump” when I meant “Hillary Clinton.” That’s been fixed.

46 thoughts on “Yes, I’ll Vote for HRC. No, I’m Not Happy About It.

  1. Well, THIS Clinton supporter doesn’t ask you, or any other Bernie supporter, to be happy about voting for Hillary. You don’t have to like her. What we do ask you to do is refrain from trashing her. All that will do is depress turnout in November. Depressing turnout will make it less likely that we get a more progressive Congress. Don’t we all want more progressive legislation?

    So stop the Hillary hate, at least until after the election. Then hold her feet to the fire. You bet.

  2. A better option in a dependably blue state: Jill Stein, Greens. It empowers the Greens and puts corporate Democrats on notice that they risk losing power if they engage in their usual behavior. It also lets you sidestep the “Boss Tweed” tactics of the establishment parties. (“I don’t care who people vote for as long as I can pick the candidates.” — Boss Tweed)

    As for “stop the Hillary hate, at least until after the election. Then hold her feet to the fire…” That’s like trying to bargain about the price of the toaster you bought at the garage sale after you’ve paid for it. Bizarre.

  3. None of the candidates are any good, but Clinton is exceptionally an evil and vile human being. Throw in hundreds of CONgress Members who proliferate crony capitalism at the expense of The People, does it matter anymore? Washington was right about Party’s, yet The People continue to elect, and re-elect, those who do them, their families, their fellow American, and this country harm. Brilliant.

  4. There is only ONE party, don’t delude yourselves into believing anything else. These two choices are choices between the devil and satan, this is all that is left. When the time arrives the public will desert Hillary like rats on a sinking ship, in order that Trump can be played like the fiddle he is, so don’t be disappointed when it happens, it was written.

  5. “Having a president isn’t enough. We need a movement.”

    Yeah! If you haven’t tweeted that, please do.

    Maybe the Sanders Democrats will go on to found one.

    As to evils…Henry Kissinger? It’s hard to get to to be President without genuflections to the national security state, but, Kissinger? Really Ms. Clinton?

  6. Here’s ( a movement you may like, Raven, formed by former Sanders staffers.

    And as to Henry Kissinger, think about this quote from Abraham Lincoln: “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?”

    The Clintons even got to know Richard Melon Scaife before he died, and even after all the grief he caused them, he said they’re not such bad people after all.

  7. As a Sanders supporter I agree with this blog post. The Sanders campaign gave me hope as do the changing demographics.

  8. If you believe that the reason “Republicans have just been crushing Democrats at the state level” has nothing to do with “Democratic presidents who actively try to position themselves in between the two parties,” then you’re missing the reason why many will never vote for Clinton. Voters have no reason to vote for Democrats in state and Congressional races when the message from the very top is that Democrats don’t care about working people and they don’t care about the poor. They’ll give lip service to opposing racism and misogyny, but they actively oppose any efforts to remove structural barriers for women and racial minorities. No wonder so many in the historical Democratic constituency have given up on trying to navigate the significant structural barriers to voting itself – barriers that the Party opposes only when it benefits them to do so.

  9. You’ve got it backwards, Dana. Electing people at the lower levels of government who share the beliefs you mention will force the higher levels to change. We just haven’t been very good at doing that.

  10. Great observations, James!
    How could the GOP leadership allow this to happen. Watching Paul Ryan yesterday, can’t help but think his mentor, Jack Kemp, is rolling over in his grave.
    Very sad.

  11. I agree. If Sanders supporters want change, they need to do it from the ground up. And if they disappear by the midterms, all we will see is more of the same.

  12. I’m one of those anti-Establishment independents you mention. I’m not staying home; I’ll be voting Green unless Senator Sanders runs as an independent. Your first chart explains that succinctly. I haven’t changed my place on the political spectrum, but Democrats beginning with Bill Clinton have moved to the right, causing a great deal of damage. Your argument that Hillary isn’t “evil” because she’s a centrist rather than an open conservative does not hold water. Most likely, Secretary Clinton will not win due to FBI investigations or some other scandal. Even if she achieves election, that will not help the US out of this pit we’re in. She will not stop the damage to this country by trying to stand still, and she cannot do more. Her money comes from Wall Street and other corporate interests. She will do their bidding. That’s what she has always done and what Bill did as well. Follow the money to find the truth.

  13. Thanks James. I think you pointed out a fundamental problem with establishment Democrats that they are blind to. Yes we need a movement and the hope is that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders can both help down ballot candidates for a more progressive Democratic Party to push Hillary left. If the Democratic Party fails to take heed of this groundswell or put Bernie and Elizabeth in postitions of power within the Democratic Party, they may find themselves out of power in 2020 as they become more irrelevant as young voters see only the status quo. See Rachel Maddow’s comments on the way forward:

  14. They’ve already moved to the left. Obama’s call for expanding Medicare was one of the signs that it is happening.

    I’ve been saying for years that what’s wrong with Democrats is that they tried too much for too long to accommodate right-wing crazies. When the crazies start saying we should take food out of children’s and old people’s mouths, Democrats needed to stand up and say the exact opposite–shout to the rafters about giving them MORE food.

    With what Democrats have been doing, their campaign slogan has been “The Republicans are AIDS, but we’re only chlamydia. Vote for us because we’re not as bad as they are.”

    Bernie has shown the Democrats that they can build the party by refusing to kowtow to the right, and we all owe him a great debt of gratitude for that. I just hope that he and his supporters will continue to build the progressive movement.

  15. And how do you propose that progressives elect like-minded Democrats (to the extent there are any of those remaining) “from the ground up,” without first addressing the structural barriers to voting? How do you get such a candidate – who, absent top level change, will lack Party resources – to (1) reach and (2) excite people enough to show up to vote for school board, when they have no reason to vote the top of the ticket?

  16. “The Republicans are AIDS, but we’re only chlamydia. Vote for us because we’re not as bad as they are.”

    Really made me laugh. Thank you.

  17. I think we are losing site that politics has long been lost, there are NO political solutions to this country’s problems.

    Gvt is not the answer to your problems, gvt IS the problem. R.R.

  18. There are lots of effective government solutions to our problems, it just that Republicans won’t let us try any of them. R.R. was the beginning of the problem.

  19. The problems of gvt being on the wrong side of nature go way further back than R.R.. The phrase was catchy and accurate. Name one gvt solution to the problems of gvt being on the wrong side of nature, go ahead, just one.

  20. “I think she will be a decent president (except when it comes to foreign military intervention, where she frightens me, but a good deal less than Trump does) and she will more or less hold the line against conservative extremists for at least four years”.

    Is that not the whole ball game? Our military interventionism is what is kick-starting the global war on terrorism backdrop that depletes our military, financial and diplomatic resources – and then lends a large dollop to loss of liberties.

    Lots of excuses/rationalizations being made for the democratic party and none being very convincing. I don’t see progress in banking, health or energy reform under Obama. And an escalation in military interference into countries that are no threat to the USA.

    We don’t have healthy priorities – just unhealthy agendas. I’ll be voting Green.

  21. “Republicans won’t let us try any” effective government solutions? Really? Republicans are stopping Democrats from *trying*?

  22. Do you understand why you can’t give just one example? It’s because gvt has a hard admitting it’s wrong about anything, that it’s done anything wrong on behalf of it’s citizens. When in fact I have a list as long as your arm of these examples. And once presented with this list, the gvt and institutions go into deep denial about it all, refuse to even so much as talk about it. Then once on the defensive they get mad and refuse to even be criticized over it, it’s pathetic, arrogant( they obstruct wisdom), hypocritical, and hideous, not to mention sickening.

    Why can’t we drug test our politicians, I mean who wants a gvt who is beholden to it’s drug dealers? Why can’t congress and
    the public do it’s own taxes? I mean who wants to be beholden to the man or woman doing your taxes?? These are no brainers
    which can never be addressed.
    Furthermore, what’s the point of institutional linear thinking? To control others to their like minded thinking naturally, when in fact the end result of such behavior only leads to war, because as soon any resistance is encountered the holier than thou thinkers resort to the thing they do best, eliminate the resistance any way possible, even financially in the end.
    Just how great is a country that’s is 19 trillion dollars in debt? Is there even one other country with this great a debt burden? To be payed naturally by the citizens who have been done no wrong by there representatives? I think not.
    What we are witnessing is the great illusion of manipulation and control, disguised as normal or something which has always
    been done in the past, and never to be addressed or changed because of…… wait for it, greed of money and power, it’s
    simple as that,……. says simon.

  23. Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican

    Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.

    All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

    Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

    Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should loose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

    Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.

    Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.

    Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s would still be sitting in the dark)

    He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.

    He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, “We don’t need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have”. –

  24. Joe middle class also realizes that everything he reads is not truth, once using the shampoo he finds he is slowly losing his hair and guess what, it aint coming back, so if he wants to save some hair he must switch shampoos. Joe takes shampoo co. to court only fall short of money proving his case. Joe doesn’t go to church on Sunday, but finds the preacher has taught his congregation on Sunday to discriminate bald people during the week because he interpreted it such in the holy book.
    Even though Joe has the latest, greatest and safest car on the road, he finds it never lasts the test of time and therefore, like reinventing the wheel, must be made even greater during the next model year, not to mention more expensive. Even though Joe uses the latest and greatest public transportation system, he finds it falls far short of other inferior country’s high speed rails and is missing an east and west coast transit system so must now rely on his trusty wheels and strong back to go any length of distance, after traveling such distance finds he has a sore neck and must now visit a doctor who wants to cut into him to resolve his soreatica, promising to make it all better yet now needs expensive pain meds to get through his day. The pain meds are not enough so he goes to the black mkt where he eventually gets busted for something and now has to be an informant to capture the remaining problem which exists on the street.
    Joe finds each morning he is more in pain and at the end of his day he is wore out and wished he never been born into this trap of life and pains. But the gvt has made it illegal to commit suicide so Joe must struggle on and pretend that life is grand in public but it’s okay to beat up the wife in private until she runs out of money and has had enough.
    Welcome to the war on woman, persecuted by men and guys with vaginas because “we are in the majority” and must live by majority rule.

  25. Lucy is going to yank the football away from Charlie Brown, again. Hillary will not be elected. I have no clue why she wants to be Prez.

    Who do the Democrats have besides her? No one. THAT fact alone is proof that the Democrats are completed controlled by “super pacs”.

    Bernie Sanders was a self-activated Trotsky wannabe, no chance at being elected….and the “greens”? Puhleeze….

    Trump has consistently said that going into Iraq was a bad idea.

    It is lame B-movie psycho ops (who wants MILLENIALS, the technotards of history, to make up stories about YOU for Homeland Security under a Clinton term??!!) to keep up the hysteria that he will start WWIII,

    Bernie or Bust? No, It’s Justice or Bust
    Can we actually achieve a more just America as one of the outcomes of this political revolution? Yes. I believe we can.
    by Donna Smith
    The Real News Network
    Abby Martin and Paul Jay – What Should Sanders Do Next?
    JUNE 10, 2016
    As Hillary Clinton becomes the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Martin and Jay discuss the strategy of voting for the lesser evil and the potential foreign policy of a Trump or Clinton administration

  27. I am a 45 year old life long Democrat. I will not vote for Clinton. This is a lesser evil I cannot abide. I will vote for Jill Stein.

  28. I’m a 56 year old lifelong Democrat and I’m also planning to vote for Stein. As I’ve asked many to contemplate in the last few weeks – if Trump were the lesser evil – if, say, his opponent were Putin, with all Trump’s policy positions plus imperialism besides – would you then vote for Trump, just because he’s the lesser evil? Two of the last five Presidential elections I’ve abstained from the top of the ticket. This year it’s important for TPTB to know that we didn’t just “forget” to vote for President.

  29. So squeaky the FBI and DoJ can be taken down along with it at the same time, that squeaky??

  30. Neither the FBI nor the DOJ has anything against the Clinton Foundation. If that’s what you meant. Hard to tell.

  31. You mean they no incentive to find and disclose anything, right? No hard to tell, hard to admit.

  32. Been there, done that, consequences STILL have yet to be paid. Only question left is, are you prepared and ready to pay them?

  33. So the test is now whether she did anything illegal, and not how many people were harmed or killed by the many perfectly legal things she’s done?


  34. Who has Hillary harmed or killed? How many people are harmed or killed by decisions made by anyone in any position of power, corporate or governmental?

    We don’t have the choice of not having anybody in charge of anything.


  35. Sure Caro, and no snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche.
    When bad decisions are compounded over time with more bad decisions, consequences eventually have to be paid, the question is, what form? And the answer is, fatal ones.

  36. He is a troll Caro. Rational thought, facts, dats, and history have no impact. He believes what he believes and selectively sifts for what he needs to believe. Sad huh?

  37. Wrong slightner, history is written by the victor, once viewed from another point of view, it has a completely different interpretation. One that falls into an instant denial by western politics over a long period of time(centuries).
    Selective interpretation, perhaps, sad, yes. And you too believe what you want to believe, but the laws of nature do not discriminate over county, state, or even countries borders, only peoples interpretations of them do. And once on the wrong side of nature, always on the wrong side of nature, it’s been proved.

  38. That’s amusing guys, just goes to show how far a 6th grade education can go these days.

  39. History is indeed written by the victor. The problem for both Hillary and the Donald is that neither of them is guaranteed to win the Presidency, given their assorted legal and popularity issues. If one of them does become President, either is likely to lead is deeper into trouble, and the people who “write history” may be non-Americans.

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