Mikala Cohen: Defending Hillary!

Source: CNN

Though many thought that the race was winding down after Hillary swept four out of five states in the Acela primary (Bernie won Rhode Island, Hillary won Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Pennsylvania), Bernie’s win in West Virginia suggests that his campaign is down, but not out.

However, there’s always time to evaluate our presidential candidates! Robin Ye, author of one of our Why Bernie op-eds, had some questions for Hillary supporters. Mikala Cohen, one of our Why Hillary op-ed writers, responded:

RY: In an election year that has been characterized as “outsiders vs. insiders”, “establishment vs. something new;” where does Hillary Clinton fall on that spectrum? Clinton has at times categorized herself as outsider, but to me her credentials scream “insider”: her husband was the President #42, she was a Senator of New York, she was the head of the State Department. Even in her non-official capacity, she is the head of a huge global not-for-profit foundation and has become incredibly wealthy in recent years.

MC: I’ll be frank about this whole debate over whether candidates of either party should be considered “outsiders v. insiders” and “establishment v. something new:” this has not factored into my decision to support a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President. If I had to categorize Hillary Clinton as somewhere on an arbitrary spectrum that has different definitions and requirements depending on who you are talking to, she is an outsider with insider access, knowledge and wherewithal. As First Lady, Senator for New York and Secretary of State, she fought massive structural bias and prejudices as a woman, and was committed to engaging in politics for the progress and protection of Americans. Despite comprising more than 50 percent of the US population, women continue to represent less than a quarter of state legislative seats, and only 17 percent of Congress. As a woman supporting her, it is unfortunate that she must be considered an outsider in American politics as a woman, but the fact of the matter is that women are outsiders as elected representatives to our government.

Furthermore, I will admit that she has worked on the “inside” of our broken American political system which is subject to lobbying, corruption and gridlock. She achieved great progress for Americans as an “insider,” i.e. as Senator and Secretary of State, with the knowledge and acumen of how to work within our system to get things done. If we are comparing her to Bernie, who many consider to be an “outsider” in American politics, I really don’t understand why people consider him to be an “outsider.” He has been working as an elected representative to government for decades and has been a member of Congress for more than 20 years. While his beliefs may be considered left of the mainstream Democratic Party platform, I think Bernie should be considered an “established” politician and “insider.” I am not supporting Hillary because she’s an “insider” or “outsider.” I’m supporting Hillary Clinton for President of the United States because my ideals align with her policy platform, her experience in politics is second to none, and I’m confident she can make progress in the White House on my behalf.

RY: I’m skeptical about the likelihood of a candidate enacting substantial reform to a system that has helped her immensely (she’s raised $76 million through Super PACS so far). Especially when Hillary targets the very Jeb Bush donors that pumped 125+ million into his failed campaign. Is Hillary really for campaign finance reform when her actions don’t seem to match her rhetoric?

MC: While this question seems to want to trap the respondent in their own words, I think the question of Hillary Clinton’s authentic support, or lack-thereof, for campaign finance reform is not simply a matter of “actions” “match[ing] her rhetoric.” Since Citizens United and the 2008 Presidential Election, candidates for President and lower political offices on both sides of the aisle, beginning with President Obama, have subscribed to the tactic of Super PAC funding for their campaigns. Under the current (and broken) system, it has become commonplace and accepted that Super PACS and über-rich donors can and will contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to candidates for office. I can admit as a Hillary supporter that she has taken part in this practice, which so many Democrats condemn. It is admirable that Bernie Sanders has been able to raise so much money with small donor contributions, but I challenge the notion that Hillary’s acceptance of Super PAC money means that her proclaimed platform and convictions aren’t true.

In every question on campaign finance reform in debates, newspaper questionnaires and interviews, she has remained adamant on her commitment to “overturn[ing] Citizens United, ending secret, unaccountable money in politics, and establishing a small-donor matching system to amplify the voices of everyday Americans.” Why should we blame her for acting exactly as President Obama did in 2012 when he raised more than $1,000,000,000 for his campaign? President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, a nominee committed to overturning Citizens United, for the highest court in the land. We do not question that President Obama is “really for campaign finance reform.” It seems to me that this is one of the typical attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character that has been perpetuated by the media. That she’s “lying Hillary” who “can’t be trusted” despite her decades of experience, commitment to Democratic values and clear policy platform.

Hillary Clinton has been working within the current framework to fight for her campaign for President and has also successfully raised funds from small donor contributions. According to a campaign report filed in March, Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised $10.5 million from small donors in February, which made up one-third of all campaign contributions. Indeed since the beginning of this year, Clinton has changed her fundraising model, which relied on large donations in 2015, to one that relies more heavily on small donations like that which have funded the Bernie Sanders campaign. While her actions may not have matched her rhetoric in the opinion of the question-writer, I would ask that the question-writer pays attention to what she is doing now.

Check out Robin Ye’s response to questions on why he supports Bernie here. Part two of his op-ed is coming soon, as is Daniel Jellins’ responses to his support for Hillary.

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