It’s no secret that I’ve become disenchanted with the Sanders campaign — and to some extent with Bernie himself. A few folks have pointed out that since the beginning of his campaign I’ve been harder on Bernie than I have on Hillary. And it’s absolutely true — I have been. That’s because I expected more of Bernie than I did of Hillary. In fact, I still expect more of Bernie than I do of Hillary. I expect Hillary and her campaign to engage in traditional politics; I expected Bernie and his campaign to move beyond that.
Let me also say I’m not entirely opposed to traditional politics. When practiced with integrity, politics is about getting stuff done. It’s about finding the seam between what’s ideal and what’s possible. But when practiced with cynicism or ego — and way too often these days, that’s the default toggle — politics becomes about tearing down the people with whom you disagree.
Which brings me to this. Over the last few days, I’ve seen this posted five times by five different people. All of them are people I like. They’re all people I firmly believe have integrity. They’re people who would never deliberately spread a lie. And yet there’s this:
I don’t know anything about Ron Gavalik. But I do know this is bullshit. I don’t say that because I’ve become a convert of Hillary Clinton. I haven’t — though I accept she’s going to be the Democratic nominee and I’ll work to get her elected. I say this is bullshit because I took the time to look into it. I looked into it because this made no sense to me. I may not be an avid Hillary supporter, but she’s always been sound on the issue of Social Security. I had to wonder if she’d somehow changed her position.
Here’s how this sort of pernicious bullshit gets spread. It started back before the New Hampshire primary, when Bernie made a categorical statement that he’d never accept any sort of cut to Social Security. Daniel Marans, a reporter for The Huffington Post, asked the Clinton campaign if they were also willing to make “a red-line pledge not to cut [social security] benefits.” According to the article Marans published, the aide pointed Marans to the Clinton campaign website, in which Hillary is quoted as saying “I won’t cut Social Security. … I’ll defend it, and I’ll expand it.” The aide then told Marans the following:
“She has no plans to cut benefits and, in fact, has a plan to expand them.”
That seems pretty clear, right? But wait — no plan to cut Social Security doesn’t mean she won’t consider it at some point in the future. Could that mean she’s ‘open’ to the idea? Marans then interviewed Nancy Altman, who has a lot of experience in issues involving Social Security (and who, by the way, also does reporting for The Huffington Post). Ms. Altman stated Clinton’s policy statements:
“do not definitively promise not to cut the program.”
That’s technically accurate, though radically misleading. On her campaign website Clinton lays out her plan to extend Social Security benefits and very clearly states “I won’t cut Social Security” but she doesn’t say “I definitely promise not to cut the program, honest, cross my heart, I’m not making this up, pinkie swear”.
Marans also interviewed Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee. When asked for a response to Clinton’s aide’s comment that Hillary doesn’t plan to cut benefits, Ms. Taylor said:
“George W. Bush had no plan to invade Iraq.”
Since George W. Bush DID, in fact, invade Iraq, clearly Hillary Clinton will almost certainly cut Soci…you know, that notion just too stupid for me to even finish writing it.
Let’s review all that. A reporter for The Huffington Post interviewed a Clinton campaign staffer who stated Hillary had no plans to cut Social Security but DID have plans to expand the program. He then interviewed another reporter for The Huffington Post who read the Clinton campaign’s position on Social Security and decided it didn’t include a definite promise not to cut Social Security. Finally, he interviewed a third person who noted that George W. Bush invaded Iraq.
Got that? That bit of rank speculation was then reported at CommonDreams.org under the following headline:
Hillary Clinton Refuses to Rule Out Any and All Benefit Cuts to Social Security
And that leads us directly back to Ron Gavalik’s bullshit claim that Hillary Clinton is ‘open’ to the idea of cutting Social Security benefits for poor folks.
There are valid reasons to prefer Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Lots of valid reasons, in fact, which is why I supported Bernie early in the campaign. There’s simply no need to make shit up and smear it all over the Intertubes.
This is exactly the sort of ugly politics Bernie opposed at the beginning of his campaign. It’s bullshit like this — and the willingness of so many Bernie supporters to fabricate bullshit like this — that led me to end my support for Bernie’s campaign. It’s bullshit like this — and the willingness of so many Bernie supporters to believe anything if it suggests Hillary is evil and corrupt — that disappoints me more than any of the ugly attacks spread by the Republicans.
You don’t have to lie about Hillary to support Bernie. You don’t have to resort to this sort of bullshit.