Hillary Clinton: The Candidate of Cynicism

MYRTLE BEACH, SC - FEBRUARY 25:  U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at a Get Out the Vot
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - FEBRUARY 25: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at a Get Out the VoteÓ rally February 25, 2016 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Clinton continues herÓ campaign in South Carolina, as the state will hold a primary for Democratic candidates this Saturday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If you are looking for idealism in the Democratic Primary, you will not find it among Secretary Hillary Clinton's supporters. While Senator Bernie Sanders' supporters look at the world and say "what if," Hillary Clinton's supporters look at the world and say "not so fast." It seems like Clinton's supporters are constantly trying to lecture Sanders' supporters about the feasibility of our candidate's ideas. They think Hillary's ideas are more grounded in reality. They think Congress is more likely to work with Hillary. They say Hillary has more experience getting things done. However, what I see in this line of argument is cynicism. Clinton's supporters believe this is how politics has to be -- a series of unfortunate compromises that make no one happy. They believe there is no point in shooting for the moon. To them politics is and will always be a contact sport where politicians say and do anything as long as it furthers their agenda. Sanders' supporters want more from politics.

Perhaps what I see as cynicism can also be viewed as pragmatism. For example, is Congress actually more likely to work with Clinton than Sanders? I see no evidence that says they will. If the GOP hates President Obama and proved for eight years that they would obstruct his every move, why would they be more likely to work with Clinton? Clinton has spent her entire career speaking on the potential existence of a vast right-wing conspiracy against her and her husband. If she and her supporters really believe that the conspiracy exists, where do they get the idea that Clinton will have an easier time working with Congress than Sanders?

Clinton supporters also point to her electability when discussing their choice to support her over Sanders. Let's ignore for a second the recent Quinnipiac poll that shows Sanders beating every GOP candidate in a head to head matchup and the fact that the same poll shows that Clinton loses to every GOP candidate in a head to head matchup except for Trump (who she only beats by one percentage point). Arguments about electability are deeply cynical. Instead of choosing the candidate that has the most interesting ideas, cynics choose the candidate who has the perceived best opportunity to win. An idealist would go with the candidate that excites them the most and then try to rally the country to overcome electability questions.

Sec. Clinton's recent run in with a Black Lives Matter protestor at a private event illustrates my point about cynicism among her supporters. Clinton was confronted with her past use of the term "superpredator," which she used to describe certain Black and Latino youth. For Clinton's supporters, her use of the term is not problematic. To them it can be explained away, is in the past and has no bearing on her current candidacy for the presidency. The same goes for her six figure speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banking institutions, her acceptance of private prison lobbying dollars and her vote for the War in Iraq. For Clinton supporters this is all just part of doing business in politics. It requires no explanation or a very weak one at best. It can be shrugged off as a past mistake (if even that) and again has no bearing on her current candidacy for the presidency.

I spent the first six years of my career identifying idealists in politics through the nonpartisan nonprofit I co-founded, United Leaders. And, in the Democratic Primary it is clear to me who is the idealist and who is the cynic. Sen. Sanders' appeal is based in idealism. His supporters hear his ideas and think about what politics could be if we elect to the presidency someone who thinks big. Sec. Clinton's appeal is rooted in the idea that she is the more pragmatic alternative to Sanders' wide eyed optimism. If that is not cynical, I do not know what is.

Where would we be if we chose cynicism in the 1960s when President John F. Kennedy called for putting a man on the moon? Kennedy was an idealist. He looked at the world and asked "what if?" He wanted to do the unthinkable. He didn't settle for lesser ideas or pragmatism. And, in order for the United States to lead the world in space exploration he had to propose an idea that seemed far fetched at the time. But, we eventually accomplished that goal.

What we are really debating here is who would you rather have negotiating for you against the GOP. I've learned about negotiation that if you come to the table having already made a ton of concessions you are unlikely to come out of the negotiation with anything close to what you really want. A skilled negotiator identifies what they want to get out the negotiation and asks for more than what they think they will have to settle for- knowing that if they ask for less they are likely to get much less than what they want. Sanders is the candidate asking for more. Clinton is the candidate asking for less. Who would you rather have negotiating for you? I choose the idealist.