I can't overstate how tired I am of those Clinton/Sanders memes. You know, the ones that give the candidates fake positions on things like Radiohead or Pokemon, and while making Sanders look cool and Clinton look lame.
I'm tired of them for several reasons. One, neither of these candidates are cool. They're career politicians, old enough to be our grandparents, who have spent their lives considering the intricacies of foreign and domestic policy. There's no way either of them has an opinion on Pokemon.
Two, the meme takes a great idea, which is a side by side comparison of their policies, and turns it into something funny but unimportant. It does not matter which candidate is cooler. Cool won't stop a future war, or fix our economy. Policy will.
So this week, I decided to compare Clinton and Sanders policies on various important issues. It was harder than I thought, because the candidates issue pages contain an incredible amount of issues, each with a heavy amount of text, and specific policy proposals for anything I could think of. I'm one of the biggest political nerds I know, and even I got bogged down in the specifics.
What made it tough to sort through is that there are few substantive differences between the candidates policy proposals. Both want to demilitarize police forces and reign in the excesses of Wall Street. Both want to ensure equal pay for women and ensure that there are federal protections in place for LGBT people. Both support treating drug addiction as a disease, not a crime, and restoring the voting rights act.
If you spend a lot of time looking at the candidates' issues pages (and I did), you'll notice that Clinton and Sanders agree on almost every issues. What they disagree on is how they will get it done. Senator Sanders leans towards using legislation to enshrine his proposals into law, and Secretary Clinton tends to favor executive actions in her policy proposals.
One clear example of this split is how the candidates responded when asked how they would protect the American people from Wall Street. Sanders talked about breaking up the big banks entirely, and Clinton talked about improving Dodd-Frank and strengthening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sanders favored big, sweeping changes, whereas Clinton argued for more incremental, smaller changes.
Neither approach is perfect, and neither is inherently bad. The problem with executive orders is that they are not enshrined in law the way Congressional bills are. A determined president could easily and legally reverse all the previous executive orders, if they wanted to.
Bills passed through Congress have staying power, as they're far harder to reverse. But while executive orders can be done quickly and easily, a bill passed through Congress takes far longer, especially given how inactive Congress has been in recent years. We would all love to see bills passed through Congress, but President Obama could barely pass the Affordable Care Act with a Democratic-majority Congress. Can we expect a Republican-controlled Congress to be more effective at passing progressive legislation?
There are policy and procedural differences between the candidates, for sure, and people should absolutely understand those differences in order to make an informed choice. But memes may not be the way to do it, no matter how funny and fictional they might be.