One of my favorite plays is Avenue Q. Lex and I saw it in London, in 2006, when we were traveling in Europe after graduating from college. The song that I remember most from it is “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.”
This election cycle reminds me of that song but switching out hypocritical for racist. Everyone’s a little bit hypocritical.
We would all prefer not to be hypocritical. We’d all prefer that our favored candidate is not hypocritical. Our candidate is pure and true. Their candidate is a lying oaf. If only that were the case.
All candidates change positions. All candidates are hypocritical. And the sooner we accept that, the sooner we may be willing to vote strategically and logically instead of getting so worked up when someone “attacks” “our” candidate, who *to be clear* never engages in negative campaigning and only ever merely responds with “facts.” Facts are facts and the tone is just exasperation not anger. Sure.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s take a look.
Bernie Sanders is famously independent. Not only has he long been an independent, he has a long history of disparaging Democrats (also Republicans). He has called the Democratic and Republican parties “Tweedledee and Tweedledum” for allegedly selling out to “the billionaire class.” He has been said the following things: “You don’t change the system from within the Democratic Party;” “My own feeling is that the Democratic Party is ideologically bankrupt;” and “We have to ask ourselves, ‘Why should we work within the Democratic Party if we don’t agree with anything the Democratic Party says?'” Not exactly mincing words. He has said so many negative things about the Democratic Party that he once said that he wouldn’t run as a Democrat (when the Democratic Party was trying to get him to run as one) because it would be “hypocritical” given his criticism of the party. Of course, now things have changed. Late last year, Bernie announced, “I am a Democrat now.” Not that he’s refraining from bashing the Democratic Party since joining the team. A few weeks ago, he called fundraisers that George Clooney put on with Hillary Clinton “obscene” and condemned Hillary for “going to big-money people to fund her campaign.” He failed to mention that the vast majority of the proceeds was not going to Hillary Clinton’s campaign fund, but rather the DNC and state party committees, meaning if he becomes the Democratic nominee he will benefit from that money as will the candidates he will need for his “political revolution.” Not that that has stopped him from complaining about the “billionaire class.” Earlier this morning he tweeted: “The financial crisis on Wall Street demonstrated that we have a government that is of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent and for the 1 percent.” Bernie has been in Congress for over 25 years and was mayor of Burlington for 8 years before that; what does that make him?
Given the beating she’s taken in the press and from opponents over the years, it may not even need to be shown that Hillary Clinton isn’t exactly pure or consistent in her views. Hillary says that she “has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights throughout her career” and her website proudly proclaims that “our country won a landmark victory this past June when the Supreme Court recognized that in America, LGBT couples–like everyone else–have the right to marry the person they love.” But in 2008 Hillary did not support the right of gay couples to marry. One of her rationales for not supporting marriage equality was that marriage should be left up to the states (an argument now used by Republicans). She wasn’t a complete bigot; even back then she supported civil unions with full equality of benefits for gay couples. Starting in 2013, she began to support marriage for same-sex couples.
Like Hillary, Bernie likes to portray himself as a champion of gay rights. Last year he claimed that he he has been waiting for the nation to catch up to his support for marriage equality. He also proudly notes that he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), implying that his vote was one of conscience and in support of gay rights. Earlier this year when Hillary received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, Bernie’s campaign spokesperson insulted the group and then said that he thought that “the gay men and lesbians all over the country will know who has been their champion for a long, long time and will consider that as they make up their mind on support for his campaign.” He also brought up Bernie’s vote against DOMA. But in 2006 when asked if he supported marriage for same-sex couples he declined, saying he was in favor of civil unions. He said that marriage is a state issue, which happened to be the same reason he gave for voting against DOMA in 1996, when LGBT rights were a lot less politically popular.
One of the biggest targets for Democrats’ attacks is the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that held that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment and that although corporations and unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they can advocate in other ways, including through ads. The practical application of the decision is the advent and rise of super PACs, political committees that can spend big during political campaigns while hiding the identity of the donors contributing to them. Hillary has gone so far as to say that if she were president a litmus test for her Supreme Court nominees would be whether they would overturn the decision and she has decried “the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans.” But that hasn’t stopped her from using super PACs herself, ones funded by wealthy individuals (who, presumably, would like a close relationship with the next president).
If anyone hates Citizens United more than Hillary, it’s Bernie. He believes that it is “disastrous” and would allow the wealthiest people in the country the opportunity to purchase political power. Like Hillary, Bernie would “[o]nly appoint Supreme Court justices who will make it a priority to overturn Citizens United and who understand that corruption in politics means more than just quid pro quo.” But that doesn’t mean that Bernie hasn’t been benefiting from super PACs. In fact, he might be benefiting the most in the Democratic primary right now, in part because Hillary has been trying not to spend money attacking him as she’s been trying to pivot towards the general election and avoid alienating Bernie’s strong base of young and independent voters. And, as noted above, if he does win the Democratic nomination, he and his revolution will benefit from the many millions of dollars that have been raised (with Hillary’s help) from many big-money donors.
Bernie and his campaign have also made abrupt changes in their views on different important things just during this campaign cycle. At first, Bernie and his supporters thought that superdelegates, a product of the “party establishment,” were part of a “rigged” system that “thwart the will of the people,” “border[ing] on fraud.” Simply, superdelegates were undemocratic and should vote for whoever received the most pledged delegates, reflecting the will of the voters. That seems fair (and idealistic). Democracy seems like an important value for the Democratic party. But then Bernie got pretty far behind in both pledged delegates and the popular vote (he’s currently behind by 212 pledged delegates, which is a much bigger lead than Obama had over Hillary at any point in 2008, and about 2.4 million votes in the popular vote). And now the story coming from Bernie’s camp is a little different on super delegates. Sanders aides have said that they will try to sway superdelegates to vote for Bernie at the DNC convention even if he’s behind in pledged delegates. And Bernie has refused to say that the superdelegates should not decide the election if he’s behind in votes going into the convention, noting that there could be “other factors.” In fact, he’s said that superdelegates in states that voted for him by healthy margins should listen to the voters in their state and vote for him, but superdelegates in states that voted for Hillary don’t necessarily need to do that. Pretty quick change in position (and, really, fundamental principles) in just a few months.
Recently, Bernie hasn’t only changed his position on superdelegates. He’s also changed his position on Hillary. In February, at a debate, Bernie said, “I happen to respect the Secretary very much. I hope it’s mutual, and on our worst days, I think it’s fair to say, we are a hundred times better than any Republican candidate.” This wasn’t a one-off quote; he’d been consistent. In May of 2015, he said,”Maybe I shouldn’t say this: I like Hillary Clinton.” In November of 2015, he said, “And by the way, on her worst day, Hillary Clinton would be an infinitely better candidate and President than the Republican candidate on his best day.” But then, this week, a misleading Washington Post article was published, causing Bernie to respond strongly, to say the least (ironically, the Washington Post gave Bernie three Pinocchios for relying on a headline it published). Bernie said that he doesn’t believe Hillary is qualified to be president–because of her super PAC, voting for trade agreements, voting to authorize the Iraq War, and a number of other things (almost all of which would make President Obama “unqualified” too). The next day, he defended calling her unqualified. And today, he tracked back to his earlier position: “Here’s the truth. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I respect Hillary Clinton. We were colleagues in the Senate and on her worst day, she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates.” When asked if she’s qualified to be president, he responded, “Of course.”
There isn’t anything inherently wrong about changing positions. It’s a good thing when politicians change their position if the new position is an improvement, as both Hillary and Bernie’s current support of marriage equality shows. I’m glad Bernie, at least today, is again saying that Hillary is qualified to be president and acting like he’ll support her if she wins the nomination. As noted, I want more unity within the party, not less.
Of course, Democrats (and Social Democrats and Independents or whatever Bernie is) are not alone in their hypocrisy and changing positions. Republicans engage in hypocrisy and change positions like it’s their job. I was going to point out some examples in this post but then it got too long. I’ll have plenty of posts about them as we get closer to November.
This isn’t to say that all politicians are the same or that voting doesn’t matter. Far from it. Politicians can be very different. The divide between current Democrats and Republicans is huge. And voting is vitally important. Our politicians don’t only affect our country, they affect the entire world.
So let’s remember that it’s fine to have a favorite candidate. It’s fine to think that your candidate is the best one. But don’t pretend that your candidate is completely principled, wise, and true. Everyone’s a little bit hypocritical (or a lot).
Also, your shit stinks.