Barney Frank on Why One Shouldn’t Vote for Bernie Sanders: point-by-point

Published online 24 July 2015.

I’m sure that some of you feel that this material has been covered, perhaps in the comments section of joelgp’s diary, which itself contains an admirably organized summary of Frank’s points.  This is, of course, about Barney Frank’s piece “Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Bernie,” dated a couple of days ago on Politico.

I haven’t, however, seen a detailed point-by-point examination of Frank’s discussion just yet, and a brief scouring of DailyKos.com doesn’t reveal such an examination.  In providing such an examination below the noodle, I advocate for the virtues of point-by-point examination — following the belief that the only way we’ll really understand people’s arguments is to examine their specific statements as regards whether or not they stand up to scrutiny.  Here we want to see — what do Frank’s statements look like when compared with the world in which they claim to have some sort of meaning?

At any rate, Frank argues:

1. [Republicans] “believe boosting Sanders’ candidacy is their only way to prevent Clinton emerging as the nominee with broad support early in the process, strengthening her position in November. They are correct.”

Frank’s assumption here is that Clinton will be “strengthening her position” from here to November.  This may be the case, or it might be otherwise.  “Strengthening one’s position” through more campaigning is a likely outcome if one is a candidate with little prior public name recognition — but that’s not the case with Hillary Clinton.  There remains the possibility that one or more of the Republicans may “strengthen their positions” through improved name recognition in the following months, or that Bernie Sanders may strengthen his position with Democrats.Hillary Clinton may, also, “strengthen her position” in debate with Bernie Sanders (and perhaps also in debate with Jim Webb and with whomever else decides to run for the Democratic Party nomination.  Sometimes being able to organize one’s thoughts in disagreement with others makes one stronger.

Joelgp’s excellent summary of Frank continues with a second argument:

2. “I believe strongly that the most effective thing liberals and progressives can do to advance our public policy goals — on health care, immigration, financial regulation, reducing income inequality, completing the fight against anti-LGBT discrimination, protecting women’s autonomy in choices about reproduction and other critical matters on which the Democratic and Republican candidates for president will be sharply divided — is to help Clinton win our nomination early in the year.”

Frank’s argument here may be correct — but with political issues upon which Clinton needs to be pressured, it probably isn’t.  Pressuring politicians means offering to vote for other politicians if one doesn’t get what one wants.  That’s where a Bernie Sanders campaign may prove useful to us regardless of its ultimate outcome.We continue with the list:

3. “Without any substance, some argue that she has been insufficiently committed to economic and social reform — for example, that she is too close to Wall Street, and consequently soft on financial regulation, and unwilling to support higher taxation on the super-rich. This is wholly without basis.”

To support this argument, Frank then cites a couple of instances in which Hillary Clinton has said nice things about banking reform:

Well before the Sanders candidacy began to draw attention, she spoke out promptly in criticism of the appropriations rider that responded to the big banks’ wish list on derivative trading. She has spoken thoughtfully about further steps against abuses and in favor of taxing hedge funds at a fairer, i.e., higher, rate.

However, anyone can Google-search “Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Connections” to find a number of discussions, most of which are summed up in David Corn’s concerned question here:

Hillary Clinton’s shift from declaimer of Big Finance shenanigans to collaborator with Goldman—the firm has donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation—prompts an obvious question: Can the former secretary of state cultivate populist cred while hobnobbing with Goldman and pocketing money from it and other Wall Street firms? Last year, she gave two paid speeches to Goldman Sachs audiences. (Her customary fee is $200,000 a speech.)

And David Corn, one should remember, is a “liberal” with establishment-media credentials.  Corn’s concern doesn’t go away merely because Clinton has said nice things about banking reform.Barney Frank’s fourth point (according to joelgp) is this:

4. “The media are very happy to have a race to cover where they feared — yes, feared — there would not be one. While Republican officeholders cannot be seen to be kind to a socialist, conservative commentators and media will be joining Kristol in touting Sanders’ heretofore unnoticed virtues.”

Now I don’t see this in Barney Frank’s Politico text, which is fine.  It’s implied, there.  The concern, more specifically voiced, is that Sanders can be easily red-baited with the term “socialism.”A counter-argument in this regard is that the term “socialism” can be attached (by the red-baiters) to any attempt we might make to expect anything in return for our tax monies outside of the standard police state which protects the vast property holdings of the very rich.  Significantly, then, if we really want anything from government, we can expect to be red-baited.  How well does Sanders handle this sort of rhetoric when it makes him a target?

The fifth argument joelgp cites is as follows:

5. “Of course it is not only possible to accept the legitimacy of Clinton’s liberal-progressive credentials and still prefer that Sanders be president, it makes sense for the most ideologically committed to hold that view. But wishful thinking is no way to win the presidency.”

All arguments that specify that “so-and-so has no chance of being President” are, at their most effective, self-fulfilling prophesies.  The idea is to say that “Bernie Sanders has no chance of becoming President” in order to “make it so” — maybe if we say it often enough, and loud enough, Bernie Sanders really will have no chance of becoming President.  The problem with such arguments, of course, is that Bernie Sanders has a real, distinct chance of becoming President.

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