Let’s face it. As entertainers, the Democratic presidential candidates are a disappointment.
They not only lack the Republicans’ comedic gifts, but also the Republican entrepreneurial enthusiasm for burnishing resumes with failed presidential bids. Fifteen Republicans entered the race. But only six Democrats showed up, and already they’re down to three.
Martin O’Malley, a credible candidate, is running gamely on his self-described progressive record as former governor of Maryland. He trails the “socialist democrat” U.S. senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, and is struggling against the party’s front-runner, our storied former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
The enthusiastic reception among young voters for the arm-waving, 74-year-old curmudgeonly Sanders has baffled Beltway pundits. But then, they don’t get out much. Perhaps like you, they’ve assumed the designation “socialist” is a political death sentence in the United States. But Sanders, a former mayor, has been winning elections for years as a socialist Independent; he’s a newly minted Democrat.
Why has Sander’s hectoring message so unexpectedly resonated? Because he unsparingly calls out economic and social injustice and argues that we, of all people, can do better than this. He rightly warns that climate change is a national security issue because it promises ever more failed states and thus more warfare, and he argues that big banks must be broken up.
The German election of 1932 helped propel Sanders, who is Jewish, toward a career in politics. Adolf Hitler won that one, and he then killed Sanders’ grandfather and members of his family. Nothing more powerfully concentrates the mind on the urgent business of smartening up the electorate than such unspeakable election outcomes.
Sanders admires the political values practiced by the socialist democracies of Scandinavia such as Norway, my former homeland. He insists, for example, that we too must have free, taxpayer-funded college education to compete successfully in a global economy. This may be true.
But Sanders doesn’t dwell on how our understanding of social equality differs from that of the Scandinavians, or on the Scandinavian citizenry’s ensuing tolerance for jaw-dropping tax rates to pay for that equality.
In defense of my sometimes justly lampooned socialist kin, allow me to note that the “godless socialists” of Scandinavia ironically have succeeded in establishing societies that are far more Christian-value based than our own purportedly god-fearing, relentlessly bible-thumping nation. Just saying.
Sanders, who eschews PAC funding, apparently didn’t expect to get this far. So he’s got nothing to lose by speaking impolitic truth to power. Supposedly he’s really running only to keep Hillary Clinton from cozying up even more closely than she already has to the upper 1 percent.
The well-known Hillary
Ah, Hillary, Hillary. It’s not that “We never knew ye’.” It’s that we know you very well indeed.
For decades we’ve watched the untidy, often-unseemly Clinton Inc. saga unfold. It’s approached Shakespearean drama: success and scandal, betrayal and forgiveness, persecution and failure, ambition and avarice, “doing well by doing good.”
Hillary was a professional success in her own right before she agreed to link her fate to Bill’s. Her first job in Washington was for the House Judiciary Committee when it was considering whether President Richard Nixon should be impeached. Who could have foreseen that the same committee one day would vote to impeach her husband? Personally, I regret missing her very short stint in that Valdez, Alaska, salmon canning factory where she herself was canned after complaining about unhealthful conditions.
She was a Republican until she abandoned that party in the 1960s, explaining that she has “the mind of a conservative but the heart of a liberal.” That shows.
Hillary wants to be the first woman president of the United States. And who, pray, is to stop her?
She’s smart, hard-working, deeply informed. And this: She has more relevant governing experience than anyone seeking the job. She’s been trained up in such vexing matters as health care, finance and foreign affairs. And she comes with a little bonus point: She knows what it’s like to be imprisoned in the White House.
She’s nothing if not a political realist, willing to compromise and change her mind if it means securing a greater goal, but here she too often skates on the thinnest of ice.
We’re well acquainted with her flaws: cringe-worthy spin doctoring — i.e., conflating her acceptance of Wall Street campaign donations with 9/11 — and an obsessive, self-destructive insistence on secrecy; see her private e-mail server mess if you’ve forgotten all that came before.
Sometimes we catch a glimpse of Clinton’s rumored charm. But mostly we see a carefully calibrated, risk-averse Hillary who too often comes off as legalistic and insincere. She’s cautious, a curse and blessing.
It’s truly said that Hillary is fortunate in her enemies — this time not only the Republican presidential candidates but also the House Republicans who grilled her for 11 merciless hours trying to pin the Benghazi debacle on her.
She owes those pitiful, tormenting Benghazi boys, big time. With their marathon bullying session, they inadvertently showed the world that Hillary Clinton is unflappable and ready for prime time in the Oval Office. They didn’t lay a glove on her. This woman has been abused by experts.
Hillary’s biggest opponent? Herself — that propensity for obtuse, tone-deaf self-assassination. Yet here she is, leading the pack.
What could possibly go wrong? Hello?
Solveig Torvik, former Washington, D.C., political correspondent for the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, lives in Winthrop.
Solveig Torvik lives in Winthrop.