We are coming up on the 2016 Washington State Caucuses in Seattle, and I confess myself excited. I've been to every Presidential Caucus since 2004, when I was the PCO for Marysville 1, a Howard Dean supporter, and managed to run a precinct caucus that had no John Kerry support.
In 2008, my precinct caucus was packed. At the time, I lived in the Central District, and the caucus was more of a gathering of neighbors with a few votes. We limited speeches during ours to two minutes per side, and the Obama team speech was a two minute tirade against the Clintons, while the Clinton team speech was a two minute speech about Hillary Clinton. I still remember the opening line: "Thank you for talking about Hillary - I too would like to speak about Hillary Clinton." Well played.
People like to dog on the caucus as an outdated system. But let's take a look at what it's purpose is: selecting the person to lead the message of the Democratic Party as our presidential nominee. In a state like Washington, with no Party registration, this is the best way to ensure that Democrats are picking our Party's nominee, which is, frankly, the way it should be. I hate our top-two system for partisan races because it allows non-Democrats to pick who they think best aligns with our Party's values - people who don't align with our values, or even know them.
Taking a look at other nations, the idea that people who are not members of a Party being allowed to pick nominees of a Party is ludicrous. I've spoken with folks from Canada, and a few European countries, about this over the past few weeks, and they find our system entertaining, but nonsensical. Perhaps this is why it is so difficult for our Party's to effectively run a message for our candidates to be a part of. The Liberals in Canada, for instance, won because they were all on the same page for messaging, and their MP candidates were picked by the Liberal Party.
Looking at our candidates, this is part of what gives me pause about Sen. Bernie Sanders. I think he has some good ideas, particularly on tax fairness policy. I would love a single-payer healthcare system in the United State. If there was an opportunity to unilaterally, as President, abolish the death penalty federally and in all 50 states, that would be badass.
But the fact remains that Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. In fact, he brings a long history of railing against the Democratic Party. If elected on the Democratic ticket, he would be expected to then basically lead our Party - yet he has been AWOL on actually building a grassroots legislative system to elect people to Congress that would support his specific agenda. There is not the effort to support State Parties, those that will work on GOTV (particularly for down-ballot races) that are so important in retaking Legislatures across the country in advance of the 2020 census and redistricting. Grassroots doesn't start with the President and work its way down - it starts with local races and works its way up.
The contrast with Hillary Clinton here is something to behold. Her campaign has been about her, and about building the Democratic Party. That's not to say she is a perfect candidate. Her support of the death penalty is something that gives me pause. But at the same time, while our current president has also expressed support for capital punishment, his judicial picks for the U.S. Supreme Court have most definitely indicated a willingness to overturn Gregg v. Georgia.
On the actual issues, Clinton has shown a very broad depth of knowledge on many issues, and a deft ability to address inequality beyond the very broad "Billionaires v. The Rest of Us," speaking to institutional racism, a willingness to "say her name" regarding Sandra Bland and other victims of excessive, murderous force, gender pay inequality, LGBT rights, and outlines of plans to implement through executive action and collaboration with Congress. Looking at her time with the State Department, she has shown the ability to be effective in addressing these issues for State Department employees, quietly establishing many partner rights for LGBT families, for instance, before the rest of the Federal Government was on board. Speeches are great - action is better.
And then there is guns. Sanders has a disjointed history with guns. One of the areas where he has been most consistent, however, is supporting blanket immunity for firearm manufacturers from civil litigation. Tobacco manufacturers for years sold a deadly product, and withheld information on the health ramifications. They still were able to be sued. Courts played a part in auto manufacturers having to install basic safety devices like seat belts. The maker of Four Loko was able to be sued for creating an unsafe product after deaths from over-consumption. In all of these cases, the lawsuits led to manufacturers having to make their products safer, or more clearly show how unsafe they are.
What could a result of a civil action against a gun manufacturer be? Well, we know the technology exists for fingerprint triggers, for instance. And who knows what other things! But we can't know, because the N.R.A. and gun manufacturers' insistence that this industry receive blanket immunity is more important than actually using civil actions to do what Congress is unable to do: improve safety for kids and families across the country. That Sanders is on the wrong side on this issue, and continues to advocate for gun manufacturers during debates, is not "progressive."
Clinton brings to the table significant experience in many areas, and notably in campaigning. This Fall's campaign is going to be brutal, and she knows how to fight back. She has the ability to speak in a way that is not pure absolutes, and while some knock her for her evolving positions on various issues, an ability to evolve is not a bad thing, and is good to show people that you can, in fact, change on an issue and it's OK. Her victories in the Primary have been fueled by our 2008 and 2012 coalition: women, people of color, and urban residents (to date, the only urban area that Sanders has won is the greater Salt Lake City area).
In addition, she is bringing support to the down-ballot races that will be crucial to implement progressive policies in the states, and ideally be in control of more redistricting processes than the Republicans. Redistricting wins Congressional seats.
Finally, she shows our daughters that anything is possible. You're goddamn right I want to see a woman in the White House, and as President. My daughter's first introduction to Presidential Politics was in 2008, and she is lucky to have grown up knowing that women can, in fact, be significant players and considered for the presidency. But looking at the contests this year, there were still only two women running for President - Clinton and Carly Fiorina. In 2008 there was Clinton. In 2004 there was Carol Moseley Braun. In 1972 there was Shirley Chisholm. Five women for major Party presidential nominations. And how many men? Considering that women are still horribly underrepresented in Congress, State Houses, Courts, and pretty much every hall of power, that we have a very well-qualified woman who is electable as our potential nominee is huge. And that she weathers continued attacks on her looks, her tone, her nuance, and keeps on fighting sends a message to my daughter that I greatly appreciate.
I like that Sen. Sanders is in this race. I think he is pulling Clinton to the left, and opening up more for her to use as real policy positions in debates against the Republican's candidate. And unlike many in my Party, I hope he stays in as long as it takes. Extended primaries are good for our Party and our eventual candidate. I also hope that, whoever is unsuccessful, follows suit with what Clinton did in 2008, and support and push their supporters to support the eventual nominee. The Supreme Court is too important to screw with for ideological purity at the top of the ticket.
But at the end of the day, after watching many debates, reading up on both candidates, and in consideration of what is in the best interest of the Party, this Saturday - #ImWithHer.