In previous columns I have insisted that it is Bernie’s political obligation to lead his flock of followers in Hillary’s direction. It is doubtful that the November election can be won without a substantial number of them. They are not only critical in securing a Democratic victory in the coming contest, they are the future of the Party — and hopefully the nation. Bernie has made his point. It is where I hope to see the US headed. Now he must move these masses of young voters and independents in Hillary’s direction.
But there is another change in direction to which many of us have given scant attention. In the next few weeks Hillary will be pivoting away from the internecine arguments of the primaries to the hard issues she will face in the general election — but not so fast, Madam Secretary. Before you move down that path, there is another pivot you must first make: It is toward Bernie’s ten million enthusiastic voters. Hillary must take them seriously enough that they are drawn into her agenda as she is drawn into theirs.
In many ways the job is less problematic because she and Bernie do not significantly differ on many issues. On the need for universal health insurance, the need to find a way for all capable young people to attend college, the need to narrow the gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us, the increased regulatory control of the big banks, the reversal of the Citizens United decision, taking seriously climate change and the use of alternate energy sources in place of fossil fuels, effective gun control, raising the minimum wage, the right of women to control their own bodies, equal pay for equal work — on all these and much more, Hillary and Bernie are pulling together.
But there are two other issues on which Hillary must pivot toward Bernie, and they are both matters of foreign policy. First, Hillary’s basic orientation is as a hawk. In terms of the support of America’s devastating current wars, she stands to the right of Donald Trump. While she now says she regrets her vote to invade Iraq, if you trace her stance on the use of America’s military force to control much of the world, she tends to see the nation’s uniqueness in terms of its iron fist. Her almost complete captivity by the Pentagon makes any amelioration of the nation’s bellicose foreign policy under her presidency a dim possibility. And that is NOT where Bernie’s throng stands. They may not be pacifists, but neither do they look on the rest of the world as pawns we ought to control no matter the size of military force we need to do so.
The other issue is her absolute commitment to the state of Israel, with no significant concern for the rights of the Palestinians. Repeatedly the United States has called for Israel to abandon the further development of communities of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. With every request by the United States for Israel to construct no new settlements, Netanyahu insists on building even more. Our answer has been more millions of dollars given Israel and dedicated to increasing that nation’s capacity to control both Gaza and the West Bank. Similar calls by the United Nations — often vetoed by us — have only hardened Hillary’s absolute support of Israel, and she needs to recognize the seriousness with which Bernie’s supporters are committed to fairness in that part of the world.
Perhaps no single decision on her part would be more indicative of her willingness to recognize the vital importance of Bernie’s constituency than the naming of an acceptable candidate for Vice President. Perhaps Bernie himself might be the best choice.