October 27, 2016

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY | The Conscience of A Liberal

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Awhile ago, Paul Krugman ran an op-ed piece titled “Plutocrats and Prejudice, in which he observes the division between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during the primaries as a division between what change is best. Senator Sanders says he, along with the people, will revolutionize politics, while Secretary Clinton says she will implement progressive reforms. The question of revolution or reform was discussed previously in Western Europe and pre-Soviet Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Scholars discussed this question in the context of what is the proper interpretation of Marx’s work. To achieve socialism, do we implement reform or do we need revolution?

In the present, the goal hasn’t changed. Although I cannot offer a precise definition, it seems that the modern definition of socialism is the state intervention into civil affairs and markets. If we use this definition, the consequence is that both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton have socialist goals.

Now, in that context, Senator Sanders is on the reformist side: he does not want to topple the government; instead, the senator wants to set in place reforms that would significantly alter the way government is run. And of course, Secretary Clinton is also on the reformist side: stronger government regulation of the financial, oil and gas, and healthcare industry.

So to me, it seems that the question should be: what degree of reform is most attractive? Senator Sanders wants a political revolution, by which he means institutional change using the tools already in place for governance. Thus, Dr. Krugman is correct when he says, “political revolution from the left is off the table” because there is no candidate running on a truly revolutionary platform. However, Dr. Krugman endorses Secretary Clinton because she is a reformist and a pragmatic stateswoman and because Senator Sanders is one-dimensional (all about the money) and idealistic.

The establishment candidate, the madam secretary, honorable senator, first lady! Ah! Her experience and current position demonstrate her effectiveness in “getting things done,” unlike the Senator from Vermont, whose grandise illusions, which captivate the youth with glassy eyes, undermine the progressive cause.Dr. Krugman is mainly afraid that Senator Sanders would destroy the recent, liberal achievements like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank while banking on the fact that Secretary Clinton would build upon them (which seems to be, according to the way she has talked about Dodd-Frank so far, a bad bet).He misses a simple point, however: Sanders wouldn’t cripple the achievements of the progressive movement if his vision  of  a Medicare for all, single-payer system was not implemented.. Not to mention that he wouldn’t destroy Dodd-Frank, but would build upon it. In addition, Senator Sanders wants to slap on more regulations that would secure the people’s savings, like a 21st century Glass-Steagall. Thus, Senator Sanders would implement a cost-efficient healthcare system and tougher financial rules if he “destroyed” Obama’s principal achievements.

Moreover, Senator Sanders is right when he says money is a significant issue and that it touches on all aspects of our society. It affects our political system, social status, culture and wellbeing. When Dr. Krugman says that Senator Sanders is not focusing on other issues like prejudice, he forgets that Senator Sanders was a champion for civil rights and has continuously talked about racism and the role it plays in police misconduct and economic opportunities.

Now my last point is this: because the liberal agenda is, by modern definition, socialist, I believe that the best way to achieve our socialist goal is to elect the candidate who is furthest to the left. That way, if the candidate gets elected, he or she will obtain veto power over hard-fought and tediously produced legislation. Any legislation that gets placed on Bernie Sanders’ or Jill Stein’s desk, for example, that is not within his or her comfort range of compromise — which is further to the left than Hillary Clinton’s — will be blocked. Thus, getting back to the democratic candidates during the primaries, the compromise will produce greater net results with Bernie Sanders than with Hillary Clinton in office.

So to conclude, why did Dr. Krugman write such an endorsement and so near the Iowa Caucus?

Yeah, that was rhetorical.