The final choice will not be between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton—at least one of them will be long gone before election day in 2016.
Watching the American presidential selection circus reach a near fever pitch a full 17 months before election day almost ensures a final choice between two political wounded warriors. The only question is how much fun it will be for the rest of us while they—the also-rans—and the clown contingent maul each other on the way to the finish line.
For those of you who need to know how the story ends, the final choice will not be between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. At least one of them, and maybe both, will be long gone before election day. In some ways, this is too bad, because it would leave us a choice between two folks who are smart enough to be president and adept enough to have successfully dodged almost every meaningful question all the way to the finish line.
But Bush has his dumbass brother’s monumental blunders to overcome, and Hillary has Hillary to overcome. Bush will move to the right to satisfy those who think his brother saved the planet, and Hillary will move to the left because Bernie Sanders will force her hand.
Speaking of Bernie, it will be intriguing to see what an honest, hardworking, very smart, committed socialist can do to gum up the Hillary bandwagon. He got off to a good start with a terrific speech on May 26 kicking off his campaign in Burlington, Vermont. The speech was a clarion call to a progressive vision for a better America at home and abroad, and it refreshingly ended without asking for God’s blessing of anything.
On the other hand, the Hillary election strategy seems calculated at the moment to keep her from taking any stand on hard issues, while appearing socially liberal on the easy ones. It is obvious to those who are paying attention that Hillary is a woman and believes that women in our society have gotten and continue to get the short end of many sticks. So it isn’t surprising that she is for equal pay for women, childcare in the workplace, reproductive rights, flextime, a higher minimum wage (unclear how high) and the like, all laudable goals.
The problem with this strategy is that it avoids a response to the bigger issues of the day—overall income inequality/intransigent poverty/crumbling infrastructure on the domestic front and a prevailing and failing death-based approach to international challenges. It will be up to Bernie to smoke Hillary out on these issues, so that many of us can develop some confidence that should Hillary win, she can be something more than the first female president of the United States.
Beyond Bernie and the big issues of the day, Hillary will also have to bear the burden of hubris and questionable ethics. The email controversy will keep her on the defensive throughout her campaign, and years of pandering to the greed mongers for perceived “good causes” will undermine whatever rhetoric she comes up with about income inequality. On these matters, Hillary will be debating herself first and then have to respond to a host of self-righteous and arrogant right-wing panderers, all of whom have sold out so often that it seems honorable to them.
Meanwhile, Bernie can legitimately take the high road in that discussion and focus instead on convincing skeptical Americans that good governance and empowered government can thwart greed, better distribute the fruits of honest labor, put people to work rebuilding infrastructure and confront the ravages of poverty. He will also try to convince Americans that we cannot kill our way to a safer world and that building a safer nation from within should be a first priority, one in which racism is the exception and comprehensive health care for all is the rule.
We can only hope that Bernie Sanders is what he seems to be, and that what he seems to be is good enough to confront the corrupt money that drives America’s politics and the blood that shames America’s soul.
*[A version of this article was also published on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.