Pollack super-pac endorsement: Hillary Clinton for President

Since 2007, I volunteered hundreds of hours for Barack Obama, first when he was a candidate and then as president. I spent even more time in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 working to pass and then to defend health reform. My personal super-pac even made two campaign commercials for President Obama.

This time around, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s gotten surprisingly close here in Illinois. If you agree with me, make sure to vote.

I have three basic reasons to support her. This isn’t complicated.

My first reason is very practical: Senator Sanders is too big an electoral risk.

I admire and like Senator Sanders. He is running a classy and effective campaign that has inspired so many people, especially young Democratic primary voters. He has pushed everyone, including Hillary Clinton, to address key issues of economic inequality. Quite properly, he is forcing Democratic politicians to demonstrate greater personal and political distance from Wall Street. That’s important. He is improving the future of the Democratic Party.

Many of my friends on the left support Sanders in the hope of forcing Hillary Clinton to adopt more progressive positions. That’s an understandable strategy. But it is a pretty transactional one, embraced by many on the left who don’t actually want Sanders to win.

There are risks to this strategy, too. Sanders will lose. Yet the longer things drag on, the more Sanders will be tempted to pursue strategies that deepen divisions between liberals and the left or that otherwise damage the overall Democratic brand. The longer this goes on, the more the Clinton and the Sanders camps will begin to do the Republicans’ opposition work for them, alienating each others’ supporters and creating problems for the general election.

Sanders’ Chicago ads trying to tie Hillary Clinton to Mayor Emanuel exemplify these dangers. In the moment, these ads are drawing blood because of the Mayor’s political difficulties.  These ads contain not a word about our state’s unpopular Republican Governor ,Bruce Rauner.  now engaged in a knife fight with organized labor, recipients of social services, Rahm Emanuel, and pretty much every Democratic constituency in Illinois.

Ironically, a Sanders nomination might be the worst thing that could possibly happen to progressive Democrats. If he went on to lose, Sanders would be considered the new Ralph Nader, with obvious consequences. Those on the left who argued that Democrats should pin their hopes on a 74-year-old Jewish Vermont socialist would find themselves in exile within party politics for many years.

Let’s be real. Once the Republican attack machine spends $100 million with clips of Sanders praising left-wing governments in Cuba and Nicaragua, not to mention whatever else they can uncover, there’s a big risk that Sanders would just be crushed in a general election campaign.

If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz accomplishes this victory, we’ll have a mean-spirited conservative President signing laws passed by strong Republican House and Senate majorities. Republicans would repeal the Affordable Care Act, enact deeply regressive tax cuts, reverse President Obama’s efforts on climate change and immigration, do deep damage to a woman’s right to choose, undermine voting rights, and more.

Republicans would then pick Justice Scalia’s replacement. Don’t forget that Justice Ginsberg is 82. Justice Breyer is 77. And I almost forgot: Justice Kennedy is 79. Republicans would thus be in a position to pack the Supreme Court for decades.

For reasons of sheer electability, Sanders is a non-starter for me and for many others. That’s one big reason why African-Americans and Latinos vote for Hillary Clinton in overwhelming numbers, and why very few Democratic office-holders support Sanders, even among progressive Democrats. They can’t afford to take that chance.

My second reason is simpler and more positive.

Hillary Clinton has realistic ideas to protect President Obama’s main accomplishments, and to build on them. Look at her health care plan, her child care plan.She supports a public option in states willing to try that. She has many proposals to patch the holes in ACA while making health care more affordable. Look at her other policy proposals on hillaryclinton.com. She has spent the last forty years working to enact universal coverage, improve women’s health, expand efforts to help children. This is real stuff. It’s realistic, too.

Finally, I believe she has more depth and substance than any other Democrat or Republican running this year.

As Clinton herself admits, she’s not a natural, charismatic politician in the way of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. She is incredibly smart, informed, and substantive. She is far more knowledgeable than anyone else running. Just watch any debate or town hall in which she has participated. Listen to what she says about anything from the situation in Burma to the death penalty, to the dilemmas of health care reform.

If I may say, Clinton reminds me of many women of her generation with whom I’ve worked with in health and social service settings. They aren’t flashy. They don’t have much bandwidth to shoot the breeze at the coffee machine. They show up early, and they get down to work. They eat lunch at their desks or on-the-run while they’re doing their work. They are the real workhorses who actually get stuff done.

I don’t sense that same solidity in Senator Sanders. He offers an inspiring message, but when you get under the hood and examine what undergirds his sweeping promises to reduce mass incarceration, when you ask for a realistic political and administrative path to enact his single-payer plan, the details and the substance aren’t really there.

If you–like me—are looking for the best chance to win the 2016 election, it’s time to support Hillary Clinton and close this thing out. Then Clinton, Sanders, and other Democrats can pursue a scientific war plan to defeat the Republicans.

Democrats can also focus on progressive candidates for many other offices. The real future of the Democratic Party will be found down-ticket, among progressive candidates for the Senate and House, and in state and local government.

These are the men and women who would provide immediate support for a progressive agenda, and who will provide the talent pool for 2020 and beyond. Bernie Sanders himself will never be president. I suspect one of the men and women he inspires someday will be. Sanders should build on his successful candidacy to work for that.

March 15th is the Illinois primary. I hope you vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s important.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

22 thoughts on “Pollack super-pac endorsement: Hillary Clinton for President”

  1. In DuPage county and I agree with your sentiments. I find Sanders rather frightening from a liberal point of view. He spews out rhetoric without a plan B to get there. Even if he won I think he would be a disaster.

  2. I agree, for very similar reasons — even though I may well be closer in general to Senator Sanders across a range of issues.

  3. "For reasons of sheer electability, Sanders is a non-starter for me and for many others. That’s one big reason why African-Americans and Latinos vote for Hillary Clinton in overwhelming numbers, and why very few Democratic office-holders support Sanders, even among progressive Democrats. They can’t afford to take that chance." Cite, please. And what makes you so sure she can beat Trump?

    I have some issues with Bernie too, and I agree (I think) that winning is essential. But that doesn't make me lean Hillary. What does that Nate guy say? Bc as I yammer about near constantly… we are (still) primates. Sexism, it's kind of a thing. I think debating Trump is like trying to catch a greased pig (and no I am not trying to get cute with that… I really just mean, it's difficult!) We keep waiting and waiting for the right to come to its senses… maybe they aren't going to!

    So, it's going to be about turnout. My instincts stink! Anyone I back in a primary loses! So I need statistical guidance.

  4. Also, the Nader comparison is kind of a cheap shot. I could just as easily complain about Clinton's sense of entitlement (which she is hiding better these days thank goodness).

    Why can't they just run together already? Done and done. No I don't care about the order, very much.

    1. Whoever wins the nomination needs to put someone younger on as VP. They're both quite old compared to the average presidential candidate, and only a younger VP that voters feel comfortable with will assuage voters' fears about the age question. If elected, it also sets a younger Dem politician up as a viable successor.

  5. I'll add a fourth reason: Bernie Sanders skill set works much better in the Senate than in the White House. He 's a one note politician, and, while it's a really important note, he can't even manage to pretend that he cares all that much about anything else. The president needs a much broader focus. Foreign policy won't take a hiatus just because Sanders wants to focus on income inequality. Racial justice issues really are about more than just economic deprivation.

    Sanders also is not a team player. He's never helped to elect Democrats. He's shown an active disdain for involvement in internal Democratic Party politics and influence within the party. Hell, he wasn't a Democrat at all until he ran into New Hampshire rules that required him to be in the party to get on the ballot. That's fine in the Senate, where there's a place for a bomb thrower. But the president has to be the leader of their political party, and there's zero evidence that Sanders can do that. If you enjoyed watching Democratic representatives and senators feud with Jimmy Carter to everyone's detriment, you'll love a Sanders presidency.

    I kind of disagree with Harold's point that Sanders can't articulate a plausible path to enacting his platform. That's true, but not terribly relevant, because no other Democrat has a plausible to doing so at the moment, given Republican control of the House and possibly Senate. No, Sanders' problem is that his program will be under constant attack from Democrats in Congress, providing unending fodder for the "Democrats in Disarray" narrative. A part of that is because there remain an unfortunate number of instinctively centrist Democrats there, but it's also because Sanders has passed up three decades of opportunities to build solid ties and create allies. It would sink his presidency and set back the liberal project, just as Carter, another otherwise exemplary person, did.

      1. I think Brett is referring to some other candidate still in the race whose campaign is being financed largely by Wall Street, corporate lobbyists, and assorted fixers. The one whose family has enriched itself to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in “speaking fees” from those very same corruptors.

        1. I didn't know it was possible to get three downvotes. Because of my sympathy for the underdog (and despite supporting corporate 'hos, see below), I gave you an upvote.

          The good news/bad news about a Clinton victory in November is that she will be a Democratic president (good!) and disappoint liberals (bad). This is true of every Dem president we've ever had, including FDR, who, after welcoming the plutocrats' hatred in 1936 (good!), signed the conservative coalition's austerity budget (bad), responsible for the "recession in a Depression." (He also interned Japanese-Americans, and mostly disappointed people who cared about equality for African-Americans.) Obama has been a terrible disappointment to a lot of folks too (maybe you).

          As to the good parts of a Clinton presidency, you can probably recite them along with me. She will appoint liberals to the federal courts, and almost certainly carry forward Obama's project of diversifying the bench. She will appoint environmentalists to the EPA and Interior and all other relevant Executive branch posts. She will appoint an attorney general and head of the civil rights division, among other slots, who believe that racial inequality is still a problem. Her Labor secretary will be pro-labor. She will carry on with as many executive actions on immigration as she can get away with. She might even surprise you with her appointments to Treasury and other financial regulatory bodies – she's a Democrat, and she knows how many votes Bernie got. She will not retard the future of the Democratic Party. She will sign the most liberal legislation possible, as her Dem predecessors did. (And some will claim more liberal legislation was possible, and Hillary caved, betrayed, went wobbly, etc.)

          The good news/bad news of a Bernie presidency is the same as for Hill. He will be a Democratic president who disappoints the left, while carrying a program that no Republican would countenance, even with a gun to his head. Vote for Bernie in the primaries, for Hill in the general if she gets the nom. Prepare to be outraged after Jan. 20th, but know that on 90-99% of the issues you care about, she will be as good as Bernie, and a lot better than any Republican.

          1. I am less sanguine about the good parts of a Clinton presidency, mainly because of what I've been reading about Hillaryland. The appointment of good reformers at Treasury, the SEC and other financial regulators would be a welcome surprise but I find it very difficult to believe that she would disappoint those who have financed her campaign and showered her with cash.

            Similarly, it is difficult to see someone with such close connection for energy companies making genuinely good appoints at Interior and EPA. I think if she appoints a pro-labour person to the Labor Dept., she will seriously disappoint the many large businesses and their lobbyists who have given generously to her campaign and who have made her family very, very rich. So, I don't see why she will sign the most liberal legislation possible when it is against the interests of those who have surrounded her for so many years.

            I understand that hope springs eternal but I don't think it is a good basis for evaluating politicians. I will certainly vote for Hillary in the general election but unless the premise of most of the reform legalization of the past century is totally wrong, I can't see her being even remotely as good as Bernie.

          2. How good she is will depend on how good Congress is. The same is true of Bernie. Four years from now, either you and I will both be reasonably happy, or we will both be unhappy, because to the extent that we represent two poles of the Dem coalition, the poles are very close together. If there's any meaningful separation at all – I suspect that our main differences are about what's possible, rather than what's ultimately desirable.

          3. LOL. I've seen upvotes mount as high as four digits at some larger sites that use this platform, and have no reason to suppose that downvotes aren't capable of equal extent.

            The commentariat at this site are so deep in denial about Hillary that nitrogen narcosis is a real risk. If you suggest she's not a plaster saint, that any of her ethical/legal problems are real, rather than just the product of a decades long smear campaign, you'll get multiply downvoted for sure. Documenting your comment will only enrage her supporters more.

      1. Right. I'd have voted for Rand Paul, but unfortunately, he dropped out of the race before I got the chance.

        Of course, I could want to vote for Attila the Hun, and it wouldn't make Hillary Clinton an ethical person.

        I don't have a particular problem with somebody who says, "Given a choice between the available alternatives, I'm willing to overlook Hillary's dubious ethics because I like her policies." That's fine, real life politics forces choices like that on people all the time. You might even say, it's designed to force choices like that on us.

        My problem is with people who say, "I like Hillary's policies, and (so I'm going to pretend) she's a moral person, too!" It's one thing to be forced to make an ugly choice. It's quite another to pretend the choice isn't ugly.

        1. Brett, Idle curiosity–You mentioned you'd have voted for Rand Paul. I would add "for obvious reasons." So among the remaining Republican candidates, do you favor the one who could actually be a real President–Kasich?

  6. The electability issue is not exactly a slam-dunk for Clinton. If you look at the had-to-head polls up to this point, and not by cherry-picking, it would be a slam-dunk for Sanders. You can guess reasonably that this will change, but there's a long way to go before they even become equal. Furthermore, if you get out of the bubble of the well-connected, and talk with evangelicals at bars in the midwest, etc., those long-time HRC negatives become very real and vivid. These people who say that they will never vote for HRC but would vote for Bernie are real flesh-and-blood, not just some glitch in a badly done survey, or in 20 badly done surveys. The DNC model of a 1-D electorate where you can always do better moving to the right has little to do with the actual electorate who also care about authenticity, honesty,…

    On the issues, you entirely leave out the big one where Presidents actually have some say- foreign policy. Here Hillary is sincere and consistent, and an intense hawk. Repeated lavish spoken and written praise of the serial war criminal Kissinger should give a clue. Iraq, Honduras, Libya, Syria, ….

    And now yesterday's latest in the unforced HRC errors,: "Libya was a different kind of calculation. And we didn't lose a single person." If the Republicans look very, very hard, do you think that perhaps they can find some footage to run with that that will indicate it might not be accurate? To go with the sniper fire, Reagan HIV leadership,… videos?

    There are no guarantees in this business, but again the 1-D picture of a passive American center-right electorate just doesn't capture the real feel of things, especially this year.

    1. I hear this argument a lot, and my counterargument always is that there's a reason the Republican operatives mostly are going after Hillary at this point: they think Sanders would make an easier opponent. The Republican slime machine managed to make John Kerry, an honest to goodness war hero, look like a weak sissy liberal in the public's eyes. You think they can't destroy the credibility of a self-avowed socialist? Hillary is a known quantity. Driving her unfavorables any higher is going to be nigh-impossible. I think it's fair to say that most people who are not Dem primary voters know nothing about Sanders, and I'm not sure why his supporters think that will benefit him in a hypothetical general election.

  7. The electability argument in favor of Hillary seems to be based on an a priori assumption that she's more electable because everyone knows that she's more electable. It is taboo to question her electability because doing so makes her much less electable; which is bad because she's more electable. This version of the case for Hillary’s electability seems to be little more than a tautology.

    Which is interesting because, as I say, there's nobody making the affirmative case for Hillary's being more electable, perhaps because the basis for her superior electability is her very strong appeal to the plutocrats who are the traditional enemies of the Democratic Party. And it’s worth bearing in mind Hillary’s more “elite based” approach to social change; something that makes her far less like to deliver on any but the most modest promises to liberal. I would like to recommend this article by Jeet Heer:

    It also seems to me that the other assumption here, that people are fundamentally happy with the status quo and largely unconcerned about the future, is very much open to question. The seems to be an anger bubbling up from those abandoned to the vicissitudes of lazes faire. Some of it is on display at Trump's rallies where it mixes with the toxic soup of conservative white anxiety. But the economic fears of middle class people who know they are being left behind and who know that the children won’t live the same kind of life make them receptive to a message of economic populism that Hillary can’t deliver.

    Equally, I agree that there is an Obama legacy with defending but I’m not sure that Hillary is the right person to do it given that the lobbyists and fixers with who she’s surrounded herself opposed just about all of the achievements you mention and, indeed, many of them are even now actively working to reverse them What would be their role in a Clinton White House?

    Here is an excellent article by Lee Fang at The Intercept on this point:

    And another by Jonathan Chait:

  8. Bluntly And I wonder how many other people feel this way? Being president should NOT be a family business. Rule by families and aristocrats is not the mark of republics or democracies. It is a Precedent that SHOULD NOT be set. 2nd: She is a wholly owned subsidary of wallstreet and GoldmanSachs. Nothing will change it will be business as usual. And anyone who believes she won't sign the TPP is deluded, Their hasn't been a free trade agreement in 30 years that didn't break the working class worse and worse. But if Wallstreet wants it she'll sign and to hell with the working class. She is at best ethically challenged.

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