A good friend of this blog, Ben Field, is a Bernie supporter, and lately he and I have had some differences over my criticism of the Sanders campaign vis-à-vis the attacks on Hillary Clinton’s honesty. You can read Ben’s latest criticism of me here, and below is my response to it:
You know how much I respect you. And in the past you and I have usually agreed on most things, so I’m not comfortable that we are now so far apart on what is happening and what I am saying about it.
Let me try again because perhaps I haven’t made myself clear: I agree with Bernie Sanders on many of his policy issues. I really do. I would be very happy to live in a country that embraces much of his social radicalism. In fact, I used to love the guy—until he started to attack the integrity of a fellow Democrat who has, from her youth, been involved in progressive causes. Along with some of the unpleasant baggage you mention, Hillary Clinton has a record of supporting many of the things you and I support. She isn’t, for God’s sake, a Democrat In Name Only. That honor, if there is to be such a label applied to anyone in this race, would go to Bernie Sanders, who only recently became a Democrat and, as you suggest, has done almost nothing to help the party itself.
I simply don’t like it when Bernie attacks her character, her integrity. No, let me put it bluntly: I hate it. I’m not “bashing” him for anything other than that. He and Hillary could and should argue about domestic and foreign policy, about past votes, and so on. But they should not question each other’s integrity. And I haven’t heard one Hillary surrogate, or Hillary herself, even hint at the idea that Bernie is dishonest or lacks integrity. But I have heard plenty of Bernie supporters, on TV and online, do so about her. It makes me sick to hear it.
Apparently, judging by your comment—“I do not understand bashing Bernie for insinuating Hillary is less than honest”—you think it is okay for Bernie and his campaigners to question the honesty of someone they will inevitably have to (presumably) end up supporting against a Republican. That’s where Bernie’s reputation for authenticity will run into problems. He and his surrogates—his top media adviser especially—have said “she cannot be believed.” I haven’t heard Bernie disavow that statement, have you? How does Bernie, then, in the near future go out with authenticity and urge his supporters to vote for her, if he fails to get the nomination? How would he do that with a straight face? How would he do that and preserve his own integrity?
You say that I should know that Bernie “is nothing like the GOP.” Well, I hate to say this, but in one way he is acting exactly like the GOP. Do you think that it is okay for him to suggest, and for his top surrogate to actually say, “she cannot be believed”? If you do, I don’t understand that kind of thinking on our side. It makes no sense to me. It’s equivalent to calling her a liar, which Republicans do all the time. All the bleeping time. Just the other day on Fox and Friends, they put up a picture of Hillary on television that has been floating through the sewer that is conservative social media. I timed how long they kept that photo on the screen: 38 seconds. Here it is:
Isn’t that sweet? That’s what Fox “News” and other conservative media do to Hillary every single day, in some form or another. Thus, my question: Do you and other Bernie supporters think calling the eventual Democratic nominee the equivalent of a liar—especially when it plays right into the Republican narrative about her that is pushed and funded by big-money donors—is good political strategy? If you do, I guess I don’t understand anything about politics.
Another thing: I am not attacking Bernie supporters, except those that say they will never vote for Hillary and those who say they would support Donald Trump over her. Such people aren’t really Democrats or don’t really subscribe to even a basic form of progressivism. They are just pissed off at the system and their anger is unproductive. I have a lot of Bernie supporters in my family. They aren’t dumb people. They are earnest people who love Bernie’s message. We just have a disagreement over his electability, that’s all. I am sure they will all, like you, end up voting for Hillary because the alternative is unthinkable. But there are some Bernie fans out there who absolutely will not vote for Hillary under any circumstances. And to the extent Bernie is feeding that hateful beast, I will not hesitate to call him on it.
Finally, you say that I “continually bash” your primary choice. No, I do not. I wouldn’t think of bashing your primary choice. We are both Democrats, for heaven’s sake. Any Bernie supporter who will vote for Hillary Clinton, if Bernie loses, is good in my book. I understand how people can differently perceive primary candidates’ chances of winning in the general election. But I will never understand how people can so very publicly call a candidate the equivalent of a liar and then, just as publicly, urge others to vote for that candidate. Sorry. I just don’t get that.