Battle of the Liberals

In most interactions, I am "The Liberal." I take a progressive stance on 97% of all issues, so it's very unsettling to me when I find that I am the most conservative person in a conversation. Since Senator Sanders (D-VT) has been rising in the polls though, I've been in that position often. I've experienced an interesting turn around from being not excited about Hillary Clinton just a year ago, to adamantly defending her against people who say that Senator Sanders might be a better choice.

I'm not going to delve into the debate about the value of a tough primary challenge, or talk about how Hillary Clinton and her many years of experience dealing with foreign affairs make her the wiser choice for the commander in chief. But I want to clear up the idea that Senator Sanders is the only choice for progressives, because Hillary Clinton is a moderate wolf in Democrat clothing.

According to the New York Times, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voted the same way 93% of the time when they were in the Senate together. According to my favorite statistics reporters at 538, Hillary Clinton is more liberal than 85% of members of the Senate, and more liberal than 70% of Democrats. One scale ranks her at the same level of progressiveness as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She's consistently measured as more liberal than President Obama, and only slightly more moderate than Bernie Sanders.

Yes, Bernie Sanders didn't vote for the Iraq War. Yes, he has been an advocate for gay marriage for many years. Yes, Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War and only recently "came out" in support of same-sex marriage. On many other issues, however, Sanders and Clinton are debating "how--not whether" certain things will be done. Financial reform, raising the minimum wage, protecting women's rights, expanding rights for LGBTQ people, reforming the criminal justice system, focusing more attention on substance abuse treatment, protecting the Affordable Care Act, and continuing to make America a more free and equal place, are all things the candidates can agree on.

It's not that Hillary Clinton is not for these issues. In my humble analysis, it is that Bernie Sanders is in the press, talking candidly about those issues, and introducing policy proposals. Hillary Clinton has been incredibly press-shy so far, controlling what parts of her message are heard through her official campaign channels, and not granting many interviews. People think she's a moderate because she hasn't made her views clear.

I hope that once she does, people realize that we are not picking between a progressive and moderate. This primary is coming down to a contest between two progressives (and Martin O'Malley, coming in at a distant third). The biggest difference I can find between the two candidates is that only one can win. I think it's great that Bernie Sanders supported gay rights for many years. But my vote is going to go to the candidate who can put another Anthony Kennedy on the bench of the Supreme Court. Bernie Sanders' lack of experience with international affairs and his more hard-line economic positions make him unlikely to win a general election.

Rather than continue to repeat myself, I'm going to give the last word to former Congressional Representative Barney Frank. In a recent piece for Politico, Frank says, "I wish we lived in a country where the most relevant political dispute was over how far to the liberal side the electorate was prepared to go. Until we do — and I will continue to work with Sanders and others to get us there — spending our resources on an intraparty struggle rather than on working to defeat our very well-funded conservative opponents is self-indulgence, not effective political action."

First Published: July 23, 2015