Sunday, April 10, 2016


April 10, 2016: BERNIE OR HILLARY II

          Last time I considered this question--a month ago? six weeks?--I left room for changing my mind. Barring unforeseen circumstances, my mind is now made up. I am 100% for Hillary.

          And it is Bernie himself who killed the small chance he had with me. The more I learned, the more I disliked and distrusted. One of the key things was finding out on FB that in the ranking of our 100 Senators on a scale of willingness, or ability, to compromise, he came near the bottom, 98th out of 100. Who was number 99? Ted Cruz. That told me a lot. Politics is all about compromise. In the real world no one gets everything he or she wants. Every engineer designing cars or airplanes or ear plugs knows that if you want one feature, you have to give up another. Every politicians knows that to get anything done, you have to make deals with people you may not like whose views you abhor. You have to compromise. Bernie, at no. 98, clearly has not been willing to compromise. He stands on principle. Well, that's nice, but it's also a killer in terms of accomplishment. Bernie does not have his name on major bills. He is known if at all for attaching amendments to bills. Bernie is, in short, an ideologue.

          Standing on principle. Spare me. My redoubtable wife, Lorraine Dusky, has been trying for years to get the closed adoption laws in the State of New York, indeed in states all over America, changed, so that adoptees can find out who their biological parents are, and therefore who they are. Change has been blocked often by adoptive parents who happen to hold office in State Legislatures and have done everything in their power to block change. And they have. This has gone on in states all over the country. It persists. It is a major injustice. In states where the laws have changed, they have often had attached to them a proviso that a biological mother can if she wishes veto its application to her. They can choose to remain anonymous. Well, there are other campaigners in this process who find this veto proviso unacceptable, and campaign against the passage of laws that don't give them the whole shebang, total change, total surrender from the other side. All or nothing. They wind up with nothing. But they stand on principle. They're ideologues.

          A free college education for everyone, at least in the public colleges? Wow! A direct appeal to the young, saddled with crushing debt from their own college educations. I quote Ernest Hemingway--"Isn't it pretty to think so." The how of things seems to escape Bernie at every stage. The 50 states all have some sort of public education, which those states pay for with the college tuition they charge, as well as general funding from taxes, and in may states right now this funding is shrinking, partly on Republican grounds, namely 'why should we do anything for our people?' and partly on good old American anti-intellectualism and its pride in native ignorance. So how is this going to happen? Is Bernie going to tax the rich? Great. Now in the states controlled by Republicans, and the majority of them are, how is the Republican love for the rich going to transform suddenly into its opposite? The Republicans in these states are not going to disappear. They are not going to change their minds. It seems obvious this year that a lot of Republicans at the national level are going to lose their offices, but at the state level? Is the gerrymandering that favors Republicans going to disappear without floor fights that will go on for years? Bernie is not giving us the how. Bernie promises to get rid of the big banks, but when pinned down he can't say how.

          But there's going to be a revolution, he says. Really? Where are the signs of that? I don't see any. This is not a revolutionary country; the people who take arms against a sea of troubles already have the arms. and they're pointing their muzzles in the other direction--against change; against minorities and liberalism and government control of Western lands and the like. When it comes time to vote for true liberals like Gene Macarthy or Walter Mondale or Hubert Humphrey, they don't. It's not a liberal country, and the many liberals among my friends don't seem to understand that they live in a bubble, that out there in Oklahoma and Idaho and the South it's very different. Very different indeed.

          And Hillary? She gets it. She doesn't engage in magical thinking. She campaigns, as Gail Collins pointed out yesterday, in the places where people live and work and she listens. She finds out what they care about. She knows that Wall Street is immortal and it's a good thing to get to know people who control hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs. They are not necessarily the enemy. It's a complicated world. Wall Street, like any business, needs to be regulated, but it's not all evil and greed. Nothing is. Wall Street fulfills essential functions. So does mining, so does agribusiness, so do so many of the big bad wolves of American liberalism. These entities are not the enemy. You regulate them. Regulation has powerful enemies in Congress. You have to work through Congress to get major things done. Hillary will compromise. Bernie doesn't compromise. He stands on principle.

          Hillary lives in the real world. She knows you don't get everything you want, and you don't get anything in politics all at once. You have to work for it, and real change, deep change, takes years. How long has it been since we won the Civil War? One hundred and fifty years. And where is racism now? All gone? I used to say it would take as long to give out as slavery lasted--more than 300 years. Now I'm thinking, maybe longer. She knows that as President, you have to be president of all the people, not just the liberals. You lose as often as you win, and are happy to make small gains. If you can't reform the system, which is entrenched, you try to manipulate it to your advantage. You make friends with the press if you can. You keep your friends close, your enemies closer. She is one of the most experienced politicians in America, as everybody knows, and she's down on foreign policy; indeed, she has a foreign policy, and it's not clear that Bernie does, or what it might be when he's faced with the enormous problems it constantly presents. In the now famous Daily News interview he couldn't figure out how to balance the American role in Israel with his native distaste for Israeli injustice toward the Palestinians. Come on, Bernie. You're running, as John Oliver would say, for fucking President of the United States. You have ISIS to deal with along with North Korea and China and the woefully neglected South American countries, along with the terrible conditions in Central America that drive immigrants into our arms. How are you going to deal with it? What's your policy? Do you have a policy? Or is it all and only about income inequality, which is another major problem nobody knows how to solve?

          Hillary does not have charisma but I like her more and more. I like strong women and married one. She keeps me alert. She has her causes but she's not ideological. She can change her mind. But her heart is always in the right place. And she is no ideologue. She understands what's possible, what isn't; she fights for her cause but can compromise. So do I, in my small role running a regulatory board here in Sag Harbor. I don't stand on principle, I stand on practical, doable. I am mostly liberal, but not always. The arc of history moves toward justice, said Martin Luther King, but slowly. Very slowly. That is a wise thing to say. Bernie has yet to say a wise thing. We all know economic inequality is a plague, a blight upon the idea of America. But he promises impossible things. Thanks for bringing it up, Bernie, but it's time to let the people who live in the real world manage change. And by the way, you really look bad when it comes to gun control.