Big Ideas: Bernie Sanders’ Big Change Or Hillary Clinton’s Gradualism

Bernie Speach

The Democratic Primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton has created one of the most intriguing, hotly contested battles of will and ideology we have seen in a presidential race in quite a while.

Sanders, with his platform of Democratic Socialism has brought many Independents and young progressives into the fold of the Democratic Party, who might not have engaged in the activities of the two-party system otherwise. While Clinton has created a very effective, high-powered campaign, financed by some of the highest earning donors on Wall Street and in big business today. She has no doubt been eagerly counting up delegates for many months, focused on a base of densely populated metropolitan areas and neoliberal ideals, as Sanders has been drawing huge crowds to events and winning among younger voters and Independents. However, much of Sanders’ wins or gains in recent states have been seen as incremental, but it is the Clinton camp that is the embodiment of gradualism.

As I said, this has been a battle of ideology in the Democratic Party, and this battle has been brewing for a long time.

We have to ask ourselves: What great progressive victory has this type of incremental progress really won us in the last 100 years?

There was the sweeping legislation of FDR’s New Deal, which pulled us from the trenches of the Great Depression; there was Lyndon Jonson’s bold, stubborn idea of The Great Society, which gave us The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Medicare and Medicaid. Then there is Hillary Clinton’s bill in the Senate to regulate video game violence, which died in committee.

It’s true, Bill Clinton’s eight years in the White House left us with a surplus instead of a deficit, and with a health insurance plan for children. However, we also got the 1994 crime bill that disproportionately impacted and imprisoned African-Americans, NAFTA and the Defense of Marriage Act all in the name of compromise and incremental progress. Due to Bill Clinton’s “New Democrat” stance, we saw the Republicans being able to move the Democrats to the political-right almost effortlessly with the same promise of compromise. George McGovern may have lost in 1972, after running a progressive campaign on which a young Bill and Hillary Clinton worked, but progressives still had never lost such ground as they did in the name of incremental progress under the Clinton administration.

I think we are at the point in our country’s history where we can stand no more gradualism, we need real, big progress and we need it now.

Sanders’ plans for healthcare for all, tuition-free public college, and campaign finance reform too name a few are exactly what we need to build a bright future for everyone in America and to keep pace with other industrialized nations who are already achieving these goals for their people.

Recently, Mika Brzezinski asked Sanders on MSNBC’s Morning Joe about the people saying he is “hurting the party” or “hurting Hillary’s chances in the general.”

“I’m hurting the party?” Sanders asked.

Sanders mentioned a recent Harvard poll released this week that found he has a favorability rating among young voters that is high and argued that he is attracting “millions” of people to the Democratic Party.

“So I don’t think we’re hurting the party,” Sanders said.


Mike A. Hewlett

Mike Hewlett is currently serving as Politics and Policy Chairman for Memphis Forward, a city organization working toward progressive policies in the Memphis area. Mike has worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign in Field Organizing and Communications at the Memphis, TN campaign office.

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