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Notes From New Hampshire, #6: Bernie v. Hillary — The Electability Debate

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by Jack Beatty

From Dixville Notch to Fitzwilliam Depot, from Hanover to Hooksett, from North Conway to South Danville, New Hampshire Democrats are passionately debating who can win the Presidential election in November: Bernie or Hillary. For now, the arguments roaring here echo faintly across the country. But they will heat up as Democrats from South Carolina to Massachusetts and from Florida to Illinois ultimately must chose: Hillary or Bernie?

Here are some hot and heavy from the Granite State. Bill is for Bernie. Betty for Hillary. Like characters in an Ibsen play, they have been going at it long before the curtain rises.

BILL: …It means nothing that she’s ahead nationally — and not by much, by the way. As Democrats elsewhere troop to the polls it will become clear: Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner who no one wants in front!

BETTY: No one?

BILL: Hyperbole for effect. Make it “few.”

BETTY: Few? A plurality of Iowa voters. The New York Times. The Concord Monitor. The Portsmouth Herald…their editorial boards have all endorsed her…

BILL: Zero enthusiasm for Hillary in that Times endorsement. This is representative (reading from notes): “Mrs. Clinton can be more hawkish on the use of military power than Mr. Obama…but we have no doubt that Mrs. Clinton would use American military power …with infinitely more care and wisdom than any of the leading Republican contenders.” Could they set the bar any lower?

BETTY: You want enthusiasm? Here’s the Boston Globe: “This is Clinton’s time, and the Globe enthusiastically endorses her…” Or Foster’s Daily Democrat: “If elected, she will be an outstanding president.”

BILL: We finally get to electability!

BETTY: An obscure socialist from Vermont is more electable than the most celebrated woman in the world? Come on!

BILL: “Celebrated?” Famous — yes. But for what? Not for accomplishments. For voter-repelling scandals and not just the e-mails and Benghazi, no; I mean the decades of deceit that led Bill Safire, in his New York Times’ column, to brand her “a congenital liar.”

BETTY: Bashed by a right-wing columnist! A badge of honor for Hillary. As for scandal, people don’t blame her for Bill’s…recklessness. She was never more popular than when her husband humiliated her. She bore his disgrace with memorable dignity.

BILL: For voters old enough to remember, perhaps, but ancient history for younger voters. For them Hillary Clinton is an inordinately entitled woman. Any other politician would think twice about collecting millions in speaking fees from the big banks and corporate America. Not Hillary. She kept raking it in until days before declaring her candidacy. Do you know how much the Clintons have collected over the years from Wall Street? The total in campaign contributions, “gifts” to Bill’s foundation, and speaking fees?

BETTY: A number pulled off the web, no doubt.

BILL: No. I read it yesterday in the Times. One hundred million dollars. A hefty deposit on Hillary’s attention as president.

BETTY: The mill worker in Columbia South Carolina. The single mom on the South Side of Chicago. The people, to quote Jesse Jackson, “who take the early bus.” They don’t know Goldman Sachs from Sax Fifth Avenue! And they don’t care! They can’t afford abstract indignation over Wall Street. That’s a coterie issue. One tailored for the white students and up-scale white liberals in Iowa and New Hampshire. Bernie would get nowhere in November running on the slogan — wait for it! — “Reinstate Glass-Steagal!” That’ll bring ‘em out in…all right…in Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Ann Arbor!

BILL: Bernie’s the champion of the working class! A $15 an hour minimum wage. Free college for the kids. An infrastructure rebuilding program to put ten million people with strong backs — inner city kids, the rural poor-- to work. A big increase in Social Security benefits for the millions who rely on it as their lifeline. And the sweet part? It’s all paid for by taxing Hillary’s friends on Wall Street and among the rich!

BETTY: You left out the biggest plank in Bernie’s platform. Medicare for all. Paid for by raising taxes on working people…the Republicans will label it Socialized Medicine.

BILL: Here it comes. Red-baiting thirty years after the end of the Cold War!

BETTY: You can’t deny reality! More Americans would consider voting for a Muslim for president than a socialist. The GOP attack machine would turn Bernie into Lenin. Didn’t he call for “revolution,” too?

BILL: People would come out way ahead under Medicare-for-all. You know that.

BETTY: I know it. But Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch don’t. They do know they don’t trust “the government. “In 1965, when LBJ, pushed through Medicare, 75 % of Americans trusted government to do the right thing “most of the time.” Only 19% feel that way today. Bernie wants the nine in ten of us covered through our jobs to give up our private insurance and trust the government to come up with a better system. It’s an impossible ask. Writing in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait put it pointedly: “It seems bizarre for Democrats to risk losing the presidency by embracing a politically radical doctrine that stands zero chance of enactment even if they win.”

BILL: When 70% of Americans think the country is going in the “wrong direction,” it’s riskier for Democrats to nominate Hillary, the only candidate in either party defending the status quo, than Bernie…

BETTY: I’d like to continue this argument but I gotta work the phones for Hillary..

BILL: And we haven’t even mentioned Hillary’s gender!

BETTY: Or Bernie’s age… See you later…comrade…

BILL: Unfair!

(LIGHTS OUT AS PRIMARY DAY DAWN APPROACHES)

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On Point news analyst Jack Beatty is sending us dispatches from his home state of New Hampshire, as the 2016 candidates for President make their final pitch to voters in the Granite State. Sign up for Jack’s Notes from New Hampshire Newsletter here!

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