In December of 2007, a group of us started going to Iowa to help Barack Obama before the Iowa Caucuses. The DFL establishment in Minnesota was solidly Hillary Clinton back then. I was not with her. She just didn't do it for me the way Obama did. Obama's vision for America resounded with me in a way that Hillary's never did, and vision was always my watchword for a candidate. Vision is the product of your values, and I wanted someone in the White House whose work was based on a clear vision. In retrospect, I probably didn't give Hillary a fair enough shake. Her subsequent work as Secretary of State was very impressive, black-helipcopter-crowd conspiracy theories about Benghazi notwithsatnding. That famous meme of her texting on her blackberry on a C-130 captured everything I dig about how she operates. And I found that back in 2008 I had conveniently forgotten everything she did, ahead of her time, to bring us national healthcare several decades ahead of Obama's time to shine, and what she and Bill did to try to eliminate discrimination against LGBT servicemembers in our nation's military. What Barack was to Vision, Hillary was to substance. And my biggest issue with Bernie Sanders is that he feels to me like the canidate of vision I was so wooed by in 2008, and who ended up disappointing me in a few key areas. In fairness, I probably held Obama to a higher standard of accomplishment and resilience than I should have. It was partially his fault for displaying such clear and compelling vision, and partially my fault for believing he had the track record to deliver it. Remember that first amazing speech he delivered at John Kerry's nominating convention in 2004? At the time, he was running for U.S. Senate and doing, essentially, my job - as a State Legislator in Illinois.
Bernie Sanders cleaned up in Minnesota last night. And good for him, I say. As I've always maintained, if I were choosing a president based on things the candidate promised, I'd have been feeling the Bern all day long. But, like I said, I've been in politics too long to be wooed by grand speeches. Obama made great speeches, and we had great plans for him, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was sorely disappointed that he joined the mob of scalpers peddling tickets to the national security theater, thereby reinforcing policies enshrined in the patriot act - a terrible piece of legislation we Democrats decried under W, but swallowed under his successor. Obama, the grand speechifier, who went to Washington without a Rolodex, and had nothing but the will of the people, no real personal relationships, to help him steer the ship of state, was rudderless against the juggernaut of beltway sorcery. A brick wall Congress became no more malleable - it got worse! Something had I scarcely imagined possible.
You may well say to yourself, "How, Lesch, if you so despised the corporate structures which compromised and hamstrung Obama, can you support Hillary over Bernie? I mean, Bernie rails against the corporatists (right?), while Hillary raises money from them?" Here is why: after 13 years as an elected official, I now pay far more attention to what people do in office, than what they say on the campaign.
I imagine I also hold Bernie to a higher standard than I do Hillary, this in light of the fact that Bernie campaigns as an above-the-fray, conscience-of-the-American-left, crusader for justice, who won't take no for an answer. I've admired him, at a distance, for many years, and quoted him, er, liberally, in things I've written. Hillary, on the other hand, never strove to be my Lancelot. I rarely heard her speak eloquently and virulently against the corporate elitists who would fleece the American dream to line their own pockets; and so, while I was chasing waterfalls with Barack Obama, Hillary was stocking the rivers and lakes of America with my kind of fish, the kind that would yield a better future for my kids and grandkids. It took me awhile to notice that.
When I enlisted in the military in 2009, I was exposed to a new kind of governmental system - one which was better at accomplishing its mission than any military in the world, and yet it was there that I saw some of the most eggregious waste I had ever been exposed to in the 10 years I had already worked as a government employee. I saw millions of dollars expended in frivilous, wasteful, useless systems which neither furthered the mission nor added to force protection. Every veteran knows what I am talking about. I heard them referred to as "OER bullets" (or NCOER bullets, but most enlisted folks know that the real damage is done by offiers, so we'll stick with OERs on this point). An OER bullet (in this context) is a bullet point on someone's Officer Evaluation Report to justify promotion. It recognizes a new system, or product, technique, or procedure which has not previously been widely adopted and whose adoption now serves no useful purpose other than a line on a soldier's OER to prove he/she actually did something in the last year. This problem is not exclusive to the military. It also exists in Academia, which is why you see scientific papers on things like on kitten depression and fish temperament. Someone has to come up with something new. A thesis must be original. The system is built on that. And it's also built on the bureaucratic machinery qucikly dispensing with that new thing as fast as it did the last new thing, otherwise the system backs up and the gears jam. Once in awhile, when the stars aline (usually in a crisis), the time has come for a new thing to actually be adopted as a permanent part of the system, for good reasons. The system adjusts, and things move along as they did before. But those occasions are rare, and they are NOT, I repeat NOT, predicated solely on the person in charge, like a commanding officer, a department head, a CEO, or a President. The new head is like a quarterback: he is a critical part of the team but, as everyone knows, he gets far too much credit for the win, and far too much blame for the loss.
So goes the pick for President of the United States. So many people pin their frustrations and hopes on one person whom they believe can impact their lives, when the reality is that many other people, and many other systems, contribute to affect the daily lives of average folks. Eisenhower noted as much in his farewell address in 1961 by referring to the Military Industrial Complex. Even as an extremely popular President he had limited impact on existing systems. This brings me to the Bernie-Hillary quandary.
The interwebs has, of late, been exploding with Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters villifying each other. Both sides sound silly. No, Bernie won't go down in flames against the GOP nominee. Heck, I think he'd win. And, no, Hillary isn't a shill for the conservative right. For Pete's sake, pay attention to her record on the issues. But after some of the increasingly ridiculous screeds penned by both sides, I thought it worthwhile to dispel a few myths, and to explain why I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President of the United States when the values I have promoted my entire legislative career are probably better encapsulated by Bernie's speeches than they are by Hillary's. Here is my reason: they're speeches. Track record is another thing entirely. And when I talk track record, I'm not talking an out-of-context incident framed to cast Hillary or Bernie in a bad light because you have already made up your mid to support their opponent. Puh-leeze. I'm talking experience and results. Bernie has made a career at casting stones - stones which I think ought to have been cast, mind you, but stones nonetheless. He has been an agitator, an organizer, and a whistle blower. His rants against corporate excess are spot on, but his record of leadership success pales in comparison to Hillary's, though I'll admit that he is more fun to listen to. My gentle support for Bernie is challenged when I hear Bernie's supporters going negative - not just going negative, but going ridiculously negative. Bernie lives in a glass house. He ain't as pure on the issues as some of his supporters seem to think Hillary ought to be. I've made no secret of the fact that I believe the F-35 joint strike fighter boondoggle is as classic example of the fall of America as I've seen. A $400 Billion war machine designed not to complete the mission of the United States military, but to line the pockets of defense contractors. Sanders response: "...my view is that given the reality of the damn plane, I’d rather it come to Vermont than to South Carolina. And that’s what the Vermont National Guard wants, and that means hundreds of jobs in my city. That’s it." So, you see, Sanders CAN be bought. It's just that his purchase price for a bad deal for the American taxpayer, and bad equipment for our men and women in uniform, is different from what we typically expect from politicians. This doesn't mean I think Sanders is a bad guy, it just means that he is, just like Hillary Clinton, a deal maker. Except, when it comes to making deals to advance the interest America's working families, Hillary's got many more notches in her belt than Bernie does. So that's why I'm not feeling the Bern this year. He talks my talk, but Hillary walks my walk. And after 8 years of missed oportunities, I'm looking forward to someone walking the walk.