It is a common refrain for Bernie supporters: “Hillary Clinton is no different from the Republicans.” While pithy, this talking point is grounded in political fiction and parochialism. Although she is hardly the standard-bearer for progressivism, Clinton stands starkly apart from most Republican lawmakers, and to equate the two sets a dangerous and unhelpful tone.
In the interest of transparency, I am a dedicated Bernie supporter. I find Clinton’s brand of liberalism too soft, insufficient and center-seeking. That being said, my upbringing in America’s south taught me the difference between a Republican and a Democrat — and Clinton is no Republican. Republican politicians pass laws denying transgendered people access to their appropriate restrooms, and try their hardest to bar same-sex couples from adopting children. Republican legislators fight for disenfranchising voter ID laws, which significantly dilute the democratic will of non-white working class communities, and restlessly agitate for restricted access to abortion and contraception. Hillary’s track record is far from perfect — lobbying for the disastrous 1994 crime bill, arguing against same-sex marriage as late as 2004 and aiding a destabilizing coup in Honduras that directly caused an explosion in violence. However, these shortcomings do not amount to a GOP-esque assault on marginalized communities. The difference may be one of degree and not of nature, but it is still meaningful.
It is permissible, maybe even constructive, to attack Clinton’s record. However, falsely equating her with Republicans is simply inaccurate. As exemplified by the aforementioned GOP policy initiatives, Republican politics feature actively rolling back progress. The roots of this can be traced back to Nixon’s southern strategy, where the GOP obliged the anti-black racism of many Southern white voters in order to win the presidency and win back a majority in Congress. Since that point, actively opposing social progress has been an inextricable component of the GOP — the glue that holds its coalition together. In states like North Carolina and Mississippi, that is what the GOP offers: the repeal of progress.
Conversely, Hillary offers a lack of adequate progress and a cold, distant embrace of progressive ideals instead of a genuine one. Many people justifiably argue that America’s deeply entrenched issues of structural racism would not noticeably change under Clinton. But this is exactly the point — Clinton’s probable lack of change means that oppression in America won’t swing too much for better or for worse. Yet if the sitting president is named either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, we would see radical change — just not the kind America needs. Clinton’s social policies are still wholly inadequate, but it is farcical and dangerous to pretend that they are parallel to those of the GOP.
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