Lamar W. Hankins :
Here’s how I evaluated this year’s presidential candidates

And my quick list makes it clear to me why I voted in the Democratic Primary for Bernie Sanders.

U.S. Capitol Stephen Melkisethian sm

U.S. Capitol. Photo by Stephen Melkisethian / Flickr / Creative Commons.

By Lamar W. Hankins | The Rag Blog | May 4, 2016

After nearly four months of following the presidential campaigns in far too much detail, and after much discussion with friends (not all of whom are progressive), I borrowed an idea from Alcoholics Anonymous. I decided to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory” of the issues that really matter to me in the presidential election. I did this to clarify my values, not those of others, or to convince anyone that I am right and they are wrong.

My inventory will not be anyone else’s inventory. I compiled it without regard to what anyone else has said or written about the campaigns. The issues occurred to me in no particular order, but I think the first two represent my greatest concerns. I believe making such an inventory is worthwhile. It has provided me more clarity about why I support Sanders rather than Clinton on the Democratic Party side. When you see my priorities you will understand why it has no relevance for the Republicans.

I will not support someone who is surrounded
by neocons and neoliberals.

1. Foreign policy: I want someone as president who does not believe in intervention and involuntary regime change, who does not want to use the military as an essential element of foreign policy, and who does not believe that it is right for the U.S. to control vast parts of the world for our own benefit and the benefit of corporations. I want someone who accepts the democratic decisions of other people, even if we find them abhorrent. I think the candidates’ advisers are important. After all, they will be giving the candidates their views on how the U.S. should act in the world. I will not support someone who is surrounded by neocons and neoliberals — the sort of people for whom American hegemony over the rest of the world is the highest goal.

2. Economic policy: I want someone who will hold the banks and the entire financial industry accountable. When financial industry leaders violate criminal laws, they should be prosecuted. Civil penalties should be used to strip corporations and the financial industry of their ill-gotten gains, not just take away a small portion of those gains.

Financial practices that harm the economy and the people should be prohibited.

Financial practices that harm the economy and the people should be prohibited. We should never tolerate banks or related financial institutions that are so big that their failure will do significant damage to the economy.

Trade policies should be written to benefit those in our country who want to work, and they should never permit the violation of U.S. laws and regulations by substituting international trade regulations that are implemented by international mediators or courts that disregard U.S. laws and regulations.

3. Criminal law policy: I do not want a candidate who supports the death penalty. I want a candidate who will support the decriminalization of the drug laws and all other laws that criminalize private activity between consenting adults. I favor vastly increasing drug treatment programs and the resources needed to help those with criminal records find the training and education required to obtain good jobs. Ending the stigma of a criminal record in employment and housing is as important as prohibiting racial or sexual discrimination.

4. Poverty: I want a candidate who will focus on the needs of the poor with a goal of helping people find their way out of poverty. This means that the candidate will support a minimum wage of $15 an hour, indexed to inflation, that will begin with a brief phase-in.

5. Housing: I want a candidate who will support decent housing for all and who will develop programs to secure this goal in a way that will benefit families and the economy.

Every day I see people whose lives are cut short or diminished by a lack of access to health care.

6. Health care: I want a candidate who favors a single-payer health care system, with proposals about how we get from where we are to reach that goal. Every day I see people whose lives are cut short or diminished by a lack of access to health care. And of equal importance is for the health care decisions of women to be beyond the business of anyone other than a woman and her doctor. Efforts to prevent ready access to reproductive health care, including abortions, must be thwarted.

7. Environment: I want a candidate who acknowledges that man-made climate change is a threat to our lives that must be addressed. My candidate should support the rapid movement away from fossil fuels as part of a program to address climate change.

8. Public works: Our decaying infrastructure must be fixed, probably with funds secured by reducing the military budget by half and closing corporate tax loopholes that allow corporations to escape paying over $100 billion in taxes yearly. [Note – See Nicholas Kristof on “The Real Welfare Cheats” in the April 14, 2016, New York Times.] The example of the lead contamination in water in Flint, Michigan, is just one recent example of what is wrong with America’s infrastructure.

I want a candidate who will work to make it easier for people to vote.

9. Voting: I want a candidate who will work to make it easier for people to vote; someone who will call out Republican efforts to limit voting participation and say what these efforts really are — anti-democratic, elitist, racist, and authoritarian.

10. Campaign finance reform: The ability of the wealthiest among us to control or influence government policies through campaign contributions means that the views of most of the people are usually given short shrift, if they are considered at all. This was a problem long before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, but that case made the corrupting influence of money in politics a much greater hindrance to achieving democratic values.

11. Corporate privilege: Corporations have now been recognized as people for all purposes other than incarceration. After all, how do you imprison a corporation. This is not what was intended by the founders. Corporations were once created for narrowly defined purposes and existed for limited time periods. Their records were judged by whether they produced a public benefit. Now corporations can be created for virtually any legal purpose and they exist in perpetuity. They dominate our politics.

Corporations should not have rights.

Corporations should not have rights. They should be given certain, defined privileges that will assure that they serve the public interest. Note that this idea does not impinge on personal liberty. Anyone can create any business he or she wishes to create. But the limited liability of the corporate structure should be reserved for those businesses that can demonstrate they will serve the public interest.

12. Israel and the Palestinians: We should end this country’s favoritism for Israel over the Palestinian people. Israelis and Palestinians are human beings who deserve to live in peace and be able to pursue their dreams as long as those dreams do not include taking the land of others. The U.S. has enabled Israel to enlarge itself at the expense of the Palestinians. U.S. policy should be even-handed. We must stop our automatic support for Israel no matter what that government does. We should be as concerned with the lives of Palestinians as we are with the lives of Israelis.

I wrote down the outline of these thoughts in about five minutes. If I took the time to do a bit of research, I’m sure that I would come up with other concerns or flesh out the categories listed. As I was writing this, other issues occurred to me — matters just as important to me as many I have listed in my inventory, but I will stop my inventory with these issues. I have yet to look at the websites of the Clinton or Sanders campaigns (or any others), so I have not been influenced by what I assume are well-thought-out policy proposals that appear at those sites.

I know that Clinton follows the establishment view of the United States versus the world.

My quick list makes it clear to me why I voted in the Democratic Primary for Bernie Sanders. My first two categories — foreign policy and economic policy — are largely satisfied by Sanders’ positions in the campaign. My foreign policy concerns reflect more of what I know about Clinton’s actions and positions than they do of any great detail that Sanders has developed in this area, though he is clearly less interventionist and militaristic in his positions. I know that Clinton follows the establishment view of the United States versus the world that has held sway since shortly after the end of World War II.

Since 1948, U.S. foreign policy has been guided by the stance of American diplomat, political scientist, and historian George F. Kennan:

“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population… In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity.”

Nearly 70 years out, it is quite apparent to me that Kennan’s view has not served the nation well. It is an immoral policy. It has meant that we have exploited the people of the rest of the world at every opportunity and seldom by mutual agreement. We have taken, with or without fair compensation, whatever natural resources we wanted or thought we needed, often at the behest of corporations. We have used our military might to push around or conquer most of the rest of the world, killing multiple millions of people in the process.

Is it any wonder that we are despised by so many?

This attitude seems to be in our DNA. It is an extension of how we have treated the indigenous population of this continent since Europeans arrived here. Is it any wonder that we are despised by so many? The real wonder is that we are despised by so few.

Often, we have made pacts with the devil to get what we wanted. Look at what we have had to do to get Saudi Arabian oil. We have supported with money and military armaments one of the most despotic dictatorships on the earth. It is a country that has supported and fostered terrorism abroad while it systematically deprived its citizens of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — longings that I believe are common to most people. Now we have learned that the leadership of Saudi Arabia may have had a vital role in the terror of 9-11, but our leaders still hold hands with their leaders, both literally and figuratively.

With respect to the financial industry, perhaps Clinton has really seen the light and now will want to hold the financial industry accountable. I can’t know this, but I do know that she supported the deregulation policies of her husband that helped create giant profits for that industry and almost sent this country into another Great Depression.

It strains credulity to believe that her main message to them was how bad they have been.

When someone takes very large sums of money from that industry, including for speeches, it is not too much to ask what she had to tell them that earned her $225,000 for some of those speeches. It strains credulity to believe that her main message to them was how bad they have been. But she can clear all of this up by releasing the full transcripts of what she had to say to them, and only she controls those transcripts.

On most of the other issues that concern me (not the death penalty, of course), Clinton and Sanders come out about even. One may be slightly better on one issue and slightly worse on another, but not enough difference to make a difference for me. It is foreign policy (including Israel and the Palestinians) and economic policy that have made the difference in my evaluation of the two.

It should not need saying, but I will say it anyway: Either Democratic candidate will be a better president than Donald Trump, or any of the other Republicans who ran for the nomination. I do not know of a prominent Republican politician who would satisfy my concerns on any of the 12 groups of issues that are most important to me.

There used to be a time when there were moderates among Republicans with whom I could find common ground. That is no longer the case. Even Ronald Reagan would not stand a chance among this year’s Republican primary voters. It is frightening that we have become so polarized in this country.


Read more articles by Lamar W. Hankins on The Rag Blog.

[Rag Blog columnist Lamar W. Hankins, a former San Marcos, Texas, City Attorney, also blogs at Texas Freethought Journal. This article © Texas Freethought Journal, Lamar W. Hankins.]

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2 Responses to Lamar W. Hankins :
Here’s how I evaluated this year’s presidential candidates

  1. Excellent evaluation, except for the conclusion, the difference between Bernie and Hillary is abismal is like night and day.
    Think of the possibility of bernie with Jill as VP and You have a shure shot forthe White House. Even Trump migt be better than Hillary if push coes to shove, We know already that electoral promises are a political game for traditional politicians. Bernie seems to be an exception. He and Trump have had the courage to speak what they think,

    • This kind of comment makes me wonder if I live in a parallel universe. Trump’s having the courage to speak is great, but then we must judge him on the content of his speech. And the things he has said should disqualify him out of hand for any political office. Not only is he outside the political mainstream, which may be fine, but he’s also way outside the standards of civilized discourse and common decency. Narcissism and bald self-promotion, nationalism and xenophobia, mysogeny, white chauvinism/racism, and religious intolerance, along with an authoritarian personality and a tendency to encourage violence and to appeal to fear and our darker instincts: Yeah, I guess you’re right: What’s not to like!!!

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