In the debate this week, Hillary Clinton closed by saying "I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country."
It was a knock on Sanders, of course, and it might turn out to be an effective one. But Clinton is right: she’s not a single-issue candidate. So let’s have a look at where she stands on a number of issues and compare her positions to those of Bernie Sanders.
But, first, full disclosure. While I respect the remarkable strength Hillary Clinton has shown in the face of the sexism and outrageous attacks she has contended with in her career, and while I think she has an excellent record on some issues, I am, for reasons that will become clear, a supporter of Bernie Sanders.
Sanders supports a $15/hour minimum wage. Clinton favors a more modest increase to $12/hour. For families trying to survive, the difference between making $24,960 (at $12) and making $31,200 (at $15) is huge.
Sanders opposed the 2001 bankruptcy bill that would have made it more difficult for consumers to escape past credit card debt (it failed, but a similar bill passed in 2005). Clinton opposed the bill before she was elected to the Senate, but then voted in favor of the bill.
Sanders opposes the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership, as does every union and environmental group, because it gives corporations an unprecedented, extra-judicial process to enforce their interests, and includes no such protection for labor and environmental standards. Clinton advocated for the TPP 45 times as Secretary of State. In October, she abruptly changed her mind and says she now opposes the TPP.
Sanders wants to expand social security by raising the amount of income that is subject to the payroll tax. Clinton wants to protect it but has said (as she did in this week’s debate) that she wants to aim the extra benefits at poor people. That sounds good, but such means testing always been opposed by Democrats because as soon as social security begins to look like welfare, it is vulnerable to being dismantled.
Sanders is in favor of making college tuition free, and would pay for it through a tax on Wall St. speculation. Clinton is not in favor of this proposal.
Sanders is for breaking up the biggest banks, the ones that almost took down the world economy in 2008, and for reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, a 1933 law that was repealed by Bill Clinton in 1998 and that was one of the underlying causes of the financial crisis of 2008.
Clinton is opposed to breaking up the banks and to reinstating Glass-Steagall.
Bill and Hillary Clinton have been paid more than $6 million for speeches to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital, UBS, and Morgan Stanley. These companies have made additional contributions to the Clinton Foundation. (Their total earnings from corporate speeches alone is a staggering $153 million). These banks do not want to be broken up, nor do they want Glass-Steagall.
ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Sanders opposed the KXL pipeline and opposes offshore drilling and fracking.
Clinton supported the pipeline, offshore drilling, and fracking (which she promotedaround the world as environmentally safe) until just a few months ago: she came out against Keystone in September, offshore drilling in December, and fracking just last month.
Sanders supports putting a price on carbon, which most environmental groups see as necessary. Clinton’s climate change platform, almost inexplicably, does not address carbon and is not in favor of banning extraction of fossil fuels on public lands.
I wrote “almost inexplicably,” but the Huffington Post reported that “Nearly all of the lobbyists bundling contributions for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign have at one time or another worked for the fossil fuel industry.”
As I wrote above, Clinton’s past support of the TPP (in 2012 she said “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade”) is troublesome because (among other things) it gives corporations the right to sue a government, in private tribunals, for unlimited cash compensation over nearly any policy that might reduce its profits. See the Sierra Club report, A Dirty Deal, on how the TPP threatens the climate.
Sanders supports a single payer system but amended the Affordable Care Act to fund Community Health Centers and voted for the bill. Clinton opposes a single payer system.
Clinton has taken in roughly $13.2 million in campaign contributions from the health sector. Since 2013 she has received $2.8 million in speaking fees from the industry.
Sanders has called for the end of prohibition of marijuana, letting states legalize it if they choose to. Clinton opposes legalization but supports medical marijuana.
Sanders was one of the few dissenting voices when he voted against the Iraq War in 2001, as he was when he opposed the Gulf War in 1991, saying,“It is my belief that a war in the Persian Gulf now—an absolutely unnecessary war—would be a terrible mistake that this country would regret for decades to come.”
Clinton voted for the Iraq War, as well as for the 2011 Kyl-Lieberman amendment that pressed the country toward war with Iran. Sanders opposed that amendment.
Clinton is now touting her relationship with Henry Kissinger, a war hawk and friend of the Clintons who is widely seen as a war criminal responsible, says historian Greg Grandin for “at least 4,124,000 civilian deaths.”
Sanders voted against the Patriot Act in 2001, 2005, and 2006, saying “I believed then and am even more convinced today that the law gave the government far too much power to spy on Americans and that it provided too little oversight or disclosure.” Clinton voted for the Patriot Act all three times.
On reproductive rights, both Sanders and Clinton have a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood, which gave its endorsement to Clinton, saying, “Hillary Clinton holds the strongest record on reproductive rights of all presidential contenders in not just this election, but in American history.”
The candidates have identical stands on affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. Neither supports reparations for slavery.
On gay rights, the two candidates have similar positions — now. But Hillary Clinton supported the Defense of Marriage Act (which Sanders voted against) until at least 2007. Hillary now says DOMA was a defensive measure taken to ward off a Constitutional amendment, but Rachel Maddow (in a very moving segment you should watch) pretty much calls bullshit on that line.
Hillary Clinton, in 2004, said on the floor of the Senate that "I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman…. I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman.”
She ran for president in 2008 while openly opposing gay marriage, and did not come out in favor of same-sex marriage until 2013.
Sanders has voted against the Brady bill gun restrictions several times. Clinton supports the Brady bill. Both support background checks and oppose immunity for gun manufacturers (Sanders has changed his position on this). Interestingly, Clinton called herself a pro-gun churchgoer in 2008 when she ran against Obama.
Sanders opposes the death penalty. Clinton supports it.
Sanders has always opposed the private prison industry. Clinton, under pressure from Black Lives Matters activists and others, cut her ties with the prison industry and gave their campaign donations to charity in October, 2015.
We know about the speech money: a remarkable $153 million in income for the Clintons since Bill left office in 2001. Hillary claims the money has never influenced her votes or policy positions.
But as she makes this claim, her campaign is planning to conduct a massive fundraising effort with corporations that have lobbying goals at stake; the DNC her allies control is dropping rules that limit donations from lobbyists; and her campaign is holding lobbyist-hosted fundraising events in Mexico City and elsewhere.
And there were at least 13 occasions— worth $2.5 million—when Bill Clinton received a six-figure speaking fee from corporations or trade groups that were at the time engaged in lobbying at the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. Regimes in Colombia and Haiti and elsewhere have been direct beneficiaries of her policies. Simon Head’s reporting in The New York Review of Books reveals a shocking pattern of influence peddling that both undermines Hillary’s claims to objectivity and makes her vulnerable in a general election. I’ve written about theColombia connection.
And now we’re learning that the Clinton Foundation has received a subpoena from the State Department.
You can love Hillary Clinton, and I can respect that, but it’s simply not true that their positions are essentially the same.
You can think Hillary would be stronger in the general election, or that she’s more pragmatic, or that a woman ought to be elected this time, or that she’s a better leader. But you cannot claim that their positions are essentially the same.
You can be pissed off, and rightfully so, at the sexist attacks on her by people on both the right and the left. But that doesn't make her a progressive candidate.
You can want a moderate Democrat, and that’s totally fine.
But whether it’s working people or war, climate change or criminal justice, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have fundamentally different records. I’ve summarized their records in a spreadsheet that has been read some 25,000 times so far. Feel free to share it with your friends.