Why I'm Voting for Hillary in the Primaries

>> Sunday, February 7, 2016

Photo courtesy of Hillary for Iowa

Before I get started on a political topic (which is always touchy), let me remind you of a few things: (a) this is my opinion and not a condemnation of anyone else's views, (b) favoring Hillary is not an attack on Bernie, (c) if you favor a GOP candidate, there's really nothing for you here, and (d) this a blog, not a democracy so if your comment isn't contributing to the discussion reasonably, I'll delete it without apologies. That includes bashing candidates in ways that accomplish nothing and bringing forth any conservative propaganda talking points. Be as naive as you want, but not on my blog. If you want to talk issues or my specific points, by all means, but I'm not going to take abuse, dish it out, or allow it to go on in my comments unchecked. This is not kindergarten. Grow up.

Before I get started, let me explain who I am and where I'm coming from. I am 48 years old. I have a background in science, rocket science, engineering and writing. Politics has been something I ignored far too long. I have long had liberal views on a number of issues, but I was never much of one for labels (I'm still not). When it came to voting (at a much later age than it should have), I didn't pay very much attention. That changed after I ignorantly and thoughtlessly voted for George W. Bush. It hadn't even warmed here in Houston before I was aghast at what we had wrought. My vote wouldn't have changed anything here in Texas, but I hadn't done research, hadn't thought it through, hadn't cared enough to pay attention and vote appropriately. I was part of the problem. I would not be part of the problem again.

What that means is, when people who have been working these issues (on the left) for decades, marching and caucusing and speaking out and making calls for what they believe in, say I haven't been there like they have, they're not wrong. And I respect that. It also means that I'm far more careful to pay attention and do my homework before I form opinions about issues and about candidates. Also, the argument that one can learn from even the most heinous mistakes of the past resonates with me because I've been there. More than once.

So, what do I like about Bernie Sanders? Lots of stuff. He's fighting for many issues that matter to me and he always has. Not all of them, mind you, but several. He's something of a purist and somewhat passionate and I'm cool with that. I totally agree that money and politics is a bad mix and I appreciate that, at least with intent, that's what he tried to do and tried to keep the focus on issues. I believe he genuinely joined in to get his message out without the intent to torpedo his own pet issues or jeopardize having someone liberal in the White House (and there are many who feel differently, but it doesn't change my vote either way). He appears generally true to his beliefs in many ways, even if he isn't the saint that some would have us believe.

But there are things I don't like. Some of the issues that matter a great deal to me appear to be low priority to Bernie (and won't be fixed with his inequality plans). I know he thinks those measures to improve the world for the middle class will fix it all given he tends to describe the post WWII years as if it was a utopia as the middle class grew in power and influence, but women and minorities saw very little of those benefits; they were, in fact, left all but behind until they took action themselves in the sixties. He may have forgotten that rather egregious oversight; they have not. I don't like his slow response on guns or his lack of expertise on foreign affairs (a substantial portion of the President's responsibility). Foreign policy is something a clever President can really use to our advantage as President Obama has demonstrated.

I don't like demonizing any group of people, even the filthy rich. There are clearly greedy assholes out there who care nothing for regular people but that is not true of all of them and it's misleading to do so. When people get passionate on the basis of hate, it makes me uncomfortable.  That's dangerous.

He has not been vetted and the very fact that he hasn't been raked across the coals at this point tells me two things: (1) we have no idea how he'll react to the kind of pressure and nastiness that both President Obama and, for far longer, Hillary Clinton have withstood (with poise, I might add) and (2) that the Republican slime machine either thinks he has no chance or is positive they can take him out without trouble else they'd have started in already. I hope we never find out, but, if we do, I hope their confidence is misplaced. I've noted, that, if I were a hard core Bernie supporter, I'd be very unnerved by the silence because the purer and more perfect he's seen to be (and some are already saying no one's attacked him because there's nothing to attack - which is desperately naive and almost certainly wrong), the harder he will fall if someone uses the right spin. Look how they swift-boated Kerry, using his own heroics to attack him. Substance is not necessary. After all, the GOP hasn't been a big one for substance for the past few decades, preferring inference, innuendo and boldfaced lying.

I am also disturbed by his tendency to act as though he's the only person who's been fighting for the issues he cares about, in government, in the legislature, anywhere. It's not like he's been alone in this, but you'd never know it to listen to him. And he's been pretty dismissive to the others fighting the same fight he has, including our current President and many Democrats that are his colleagues. Despite the executive nature of the Presidency, it really isn't a one person show and anyone who hasn't learned that from watching President Obama the past eight years really hasn't been paying attention. And, Bernie's agenda is almost exclusively legislative, which argues where he is (and has been) in a much better place to put it into action. If he could rally his fellow legislators. Instead, only two legislators have endorsed him, and that's a pretty telling marker to me on how well he will be able to able to push them to back his more extreme plans.    

None of this makes him a monster. But these are legitimate concerns about anyone who strives to be President.

I will admit also that, people of the liberal variety who are dismissive of what President Obama has done, distance themselves from him, and, most tellingly, show no sign of having learned anything from his presidency are unlikely to convince me their ideas will succeed where his efforts did not.

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton, a woman I was aware of but only peripherally prior to 2008. Most of what I'd heard, I'd heard through the media so, as you might expect, it was almost entirely mud. And, in 2008, I still wasn't digging in deep. I liked Obama almost from the start and never really looked past that (and I can't say I'm sorry I voted for him, though, again, it made no difference here in Texas). But, it was also the first contest where I saw the GOP slime machine in full swing first at Hillary and then at President Obama, not only during the election but afterwards, for what started as months and turned into years, never letting up. The insinuations and sneering were everywhere, but without anyone hating on him being able to come up with concrete reasons, just flimsy allegations of wrongdoing that I could debunk with a few minutes of research. I came to really respect President Obama, not just because of his tremendous accomplishments against non-stop ugliness and obstructionism, but because of how he never seemed to lose his love for this country or lose sight of what mattered most to him, how he remained true to himself, though I'm sure there are decisions he wished he hadn't had to make.

I learned.

So, when Hillary came in again, I realized that I didn't know much about her except the mud I'd seen, but, here she was, still strong. President Obama had trusted her in his cabinet and she had gone to help him, even after a tough and undoubtedly disheartening primary. Both those facts  mattered to me. So, I started slogging through the mud, finding out what, if anything had substance and I found out very little except a few votes she either regretted or I wouldn't have chosen (Obama and Bernie have them, too) and some choices her husband made that she gets dinged for. But I could understand how those decisions were made at the time. I tell my kids all the time, "You can't always get what you want." I don't know why anyone thinks it's different in the White House, especially after watching our President have to compromise again and again to get things done (with his own side, too, I might add. Dems aren't sheep or soldiers walking in lockstep).   

I watched her poise and good temper when the Republicans (who never really retired her slime machine), cranked it to full speed. It's not because I think she "deserves" the White House for all she's been through (I think the Presidency is a hell job, myself), but it says something about her that she can withstand it without losing herself or her principles. Many people (like Obama) we never saw tested. I read about her accomplishments, not just from her supporters, but by unbiased sources like votesmart and others. And I recognized many of the mannerisms required to succeed by strong women in her just as I've cultivated them in myself and other women of accomplishment in my field (where I don't think women take near the pounding they take in politics).  I've seen her take pride in President Obama's accomplishments, some done with her, and promise to build on them, a plan I admire. I've read about her crusades from before they were popular, when they only hurt her politically, that she never flinched from, and those that scarred her, but didn't stop her. Looking objectively at her past, I've seen her grow, change tactics, learn from her friends and her enemies, learn from President Obama (and probably taught him a bit). Fight smarter. I'm all about that, let me tell you.

I find it telling that, while many are cool and grudging on her public persona, the people who most admire her are the people who really know her. It's not always that way (as I discovered when reading about Bernie) and I think that says a great deal on who you really are.

She's not perfect. She's supported things, particularly in the past, I wish she hadn't. Made mistakes, changed her views on things, cozied up to banks and big business, made a show at least of being hawkish, and I'm pretty pacifist. But very few of those things are black and white. Being able to work with big business is far from a bad thing; it's being owned that's bad and that I haven't seen that. Some people are certain that she is, but I'm not convinced. And I won't be without hard data and I mean more than one or two data points, because there's a pretty impressive voting record that backs her and says she is more than all talk.  As for those data points, I know damn well I've made mistakes and learned from them. I'm not about to tell anyone else they can't. And it's pretty frickin' clear to me she's never stopped learning. I respect the hell out of that, too.

She gets that she's going to need legislative Dems on her side (and have locked up a large number of their endorsements as well as many governors'). She's also shared some of her campaign funding to help in other Dem races and that's damn crucial for whoever ends up in the White House. On the foreign policy side, we have no one anywhere running for President with a fraction of her expertise (not just experience, expertise). And it does matter that she's a woman, not just because women are under-represented (badly) in government but because women of accomplishment have an inkling of what it takes for women to get and keep power in a cutthroat world.

And I've seen that stigma that still haunts women, in people insisting she must be dishonest or unlikable based on her "tone." On Bernie getting tons of credit for not going negative and sticking with issues while she gets none at all for doing exactly the same thing and continuing to do so even when some of his troops and even he got a bit personal. Now that I'm looking for it, it's not hard to spot.

I will vote for either one that gets the nomination. I truly believe that either will try to do the right thing from that position whereas I'm confident that no one on the GOP side will do anything but amp up the rape and pillaging of our country and any other country that strikes them. The mind boggles as the potential harm.

But I'm voting for Hillary in the primary. For reasons I noted, but really because, in some ways I identify with both Bernie and Hillary, but not the same way. I identify with Hillary as a human being who cares, who has made mistakes and has learned from them, who is held to a different standard but still excels in her chosen field.  Bernie, I identify with as a purist because I'm rather one myself.  I am someone who, in the human space industry, distinguished herself as a safety engineer. And safety engineers are purists, focused ideally on safety and willing to stop everything else if it's just not safe enough. We have the luxury of not having to juggle schedule and cost and performance, and goals and crew time and limitations, etc. We get to focus on just safety and the program needs us to do that because safety can get lost when you're juggling so many things.


You don't put us in charge because the safest place for a rocket is on the ground. And if you want to accomplish something, if you want to actually conquer space, you have to take some chances. You've got to juggle priorities and necessities, you gotta get your hands dirty and make tough choices, accept some risks, let some things go. You've got to hold tight to your goals, try to always work to the good while never letting all those important balls you're juggling drop.

The Presidency is not a purist's job.

So, with no regrets and no hesitation, I'll be voting for Hillary.


  • Chuck Larlham

    I'm probably more in agreement with you than not. As a '60s grounded liberal who voted for McGovern, I have the history to say that Bernie is almost certainly unelectable. This party abandoned McGovern in the face of Richard Nixon, and we KNEW Nixon was both dishonest and crazy. We abandoned Kerry in the face of Dubya Bush, and we KNEW he'd lied uis into a wholly unnecessary war, and that he was fighting it on credit. But the Party wouldn't/couldn't come up with the money to air the one swift-boat rebuttal commercial it had. We'll do the same to Bernie, I've no doubt of that. Hillary can probably command resources to combat such tactics. Bernie has access to far fewer resources with far less ready cash. In short, even if all you said about Bernie was in error, I think nominating him amounts to nominating a designated loser.

  • Sandy Knauer

    Excellent post, Stephanie. I agree with most of what you say and will also be voting for Hillary, probably with more enthusiasm and confidence because I have watched longer. I also share a regrettable vote from which I learned the hard way to pay closer attention and to never repeat that mistake. Mine was my first vote, for Nixon. Ouch. I have apologized to the world multiple times but will do it again. Sorry world.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I have made my share of stupid moves and bad decisions. Even shown bad judgement for convenience or fear - but I have learned from every one. I feel, having looked into it (and as you've probably observed over time) that Hillary is definitely someone who learns from both successes and failures.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent post, Stephanie. I'm in agreement with much of what you said. It's clear she is the most qualified by far of any candidate, and the best option for our future now. (David Kent)

  • Karen Koskoff

    That is Bernie sticks to his values. Sorry about automatic spell check

  • Karen Koskoff

    We have the possibility to make some sweeping change. It's not with Hillary. I will vote for her in a general election. But Bernie has the proven history of striking to his values. She simply does not and I fear what the Republicans will do with that.

  • Stephanie Barr

    David, I'm glad you liked the post. Always a pleasure to see you.

  • Stephanie Barr

    I'm not into talking anyone out of their choice. I did my own thinking; I'll assume you did your own thinking as well, Karen. I appreciate the grown up response from people I haven't met before. (P.S. I deleted one of your duplicate comments, not because I had an issue, but just because it was a duplicate.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Please pretend I closed my parentheses.

  • C. D.

    Evolve for Progress sake! Vote #HillaryClinton ! -cd

    """(via Allen Clifton) "Bernie Sanders represents the revolution that younger voters want to see in politics and in this country."


    Because last I checked, this was pretty much the same rhetoric I heard about President Obama in 2008 when young voters decided to sit out the next 8 years following his election... until it became trendy to jump the bandwagon again.

    15 months ago Democrats got crushed in congressional and state elections because of how horrifically low voter turnout was.

    President Obama could have achieved a hell of a lot more had these "revolutionary" voters gotten off their asses and voted in local and midterm elections each and every year.

    But they didn't.. because those elections aren't about trying to fit in with the latest social media craze. Those elections are the ones that matter... those elections are the ones that, just 15 months ago, almost none of them showed up for.

    However, because many of them have no idea how government works, and Obama wasn't able to wave his magic wand and make all their hopes and dreams come true, they pouted, stayed home and let Republicans take over most of our states and Congress since 2008.

    Meanwhile REAL progressives, like myself and those like me, spend nearly every day fighting our asses off to bring about change in this country... BEGGING these voters to show up to vote more than just when it's time to elect a president. And guess what? They never do.

    Yet many of these "every 8 year voters" have the gall to tell those of us who've spent years, if not decades, of our lives fighting for change in this country EVERY SINGLE ELECTION that we're not "real progressives"?


    So, spare me this "this is the movement for the future." This is basically the same thing we see every eight years."""

    Evolve for Progress sake! Vote #HillaryClinton ! -cd

  • Unknown

    Enjoyed your commentary very much. You have arrived at many of the same places I did when considering candidates before the caucus here in Iowa. I was happy to stand for Hillary. Besides her stellar qualifications, I very much like that she reassesses her positions and owns her mistakes. Yes, she learns and incorporates new ideas into her worldview, a trait I also very much admire in President Obama. We need another leader who will stand firm when it is called for but understand that the world and circumstances are not static. I was a young woman in the Sixties. We don't need to attempt a repeat of an era that never was except in the soft haze of nostalgia. We need to chart a course into this century that does not seek to divide us further.

  • Stephanie Barr

    C.D. You bring up a very salient point and I wish both candidates, but particularly Bernie, would make a bigger point out of it. Being president requires working with Congress so electing Senators and representatives is just as important, as you noted here. NO ONE will be able to implement anything without support from Congress and that's going to mean electing Democrats and other progressives. And it applies on the State level. Look at what Red governors have done to their own constituents out of spite on ACA. Letting people die. We have to vote in every election and vote for people who stand for many things that matter, not one single issue.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Mary, I agree. Learning from past mistakes is undervalued as a quality, vastly undervalued, and I like that she's not only learned from her own mistakes but others' as well. That she wants to build on Obama's legacy I find very comforting, as the last thing I'd like to see is losing what we've managed to gain.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely plan to campaign for Hillary. She has a broad and effective experience-through example and her own work with Governing. Sanders: I have very little to like. He cannot seem to control his own Campaigners and followers. If he cannot control them, what business does he have trying to control the most complex democracy on the face of the planet. It is thumbs up for Hillary Rodham Clinton!

  • Anonymous

    Stephanie, I appreciate your comments and your lengthy reasoning process. I have come to a different conclusion, but it is always wonderful to hear from people who have really thought through the path to their vote. As a fellow Texan (I live in Austin) I plan to vote for Bernie, not because I dislike HRC, but because I see fundamental differences in many of their policy positions. While HRC does support and fight for some marginalized populations, she still roots her economic policies firmly in the same neoliberal principles that have created this massive income inequality gap. Their are some great articles by economist like Paul Krugman that explains the birth of neoliberal economics in the 1970's and its expansion particularly under Reagan and Bill Clinton, but also under Bush II and Obama. Sanders philosophy is grounded in economics polices that helped solve the largest wealth gap in American history following the Coolidge debacle. Now, you do bring up a good point that much of the redistribution of wealth that occurred under the 40 plus years of Democratic-Socialist economics policies went to white men, but I attribute that more to the patriarchal familial system and racial cultural policies of the day rather than to the economic theory. The idea that going back to Democratic-Socialism would return us to the days of Leave it to Beaver patriarchy is a bit of a stretch.

    But economics is not the only reason I am voting for Bernie Sanders. Although he has chosen not to fight HRC on the foreign policy front, I think this is a brilliant tactic rather than a showing of weakness. You are correct that many people in the Democratic party view HRC as the most experienced person in America on foreign policy. What does Sanders have to gain by fighting against her at what many believe is her greatest strength? Instead, he has adeptly chosen to force her into the territory where she is vulnerable, economics. Not only does this show me Sanders' skill as a politician, but it shows me how over confident HRC is in her own abilities. Let's not forget that Sanders was not supposed to be anywhere close to HRC in this election, yet here we are. Twice now, HRC has allowed her campaign the message of the election to be controlled by her opponent. The ability to control the message is an essential part of negotiating with congress. In fact, my greatest disappointment with Obama (and there are few because I think he is the best president we have had in my lifetime) is that often his administration failed to show the same prowess for controlling the narrative as his campaigns did. You are correct that HRC has had to put up with the GOP slime machine for a long time and the only reason she has survived is shear fortitude, which I give her tons of credit for having. But, her ability to manage her own PR machine has been one of her weakest points. She often hesitates to answer and then when she does the answer is so transparent in its political calculations that her opponents are easily able to pick it apart. PR management is essential in the Presidency and I believe Sanders has far exceeded expectations in his ability to manage his own narrative.

  • Anonymous

    But staying on foreign policy...experience does not equal correct decision making. I had the chance to work in two highly important embassies while HRC was the SoS (Sana'a, Yemen and Islamabad, Pakisitan). I was in both of these as a military information support NCO. My job required that I work hand in hand with both the Public Affairs Section and USAID. In both circumstances what I observed was a genuine lack of understanding by HRC of what was actually happening on the ground. in 2009 in Sana'a we were not asking if the Saleh government would fall, we were asking when. The protests in Sana'a's Tahreer square, which later moved to the university occurred every week and were usually aimed at Saleh's inability to provide jobs to the massive youth population. Yet under HRC's direction, we continued to prop up Saleh. Then when his regime finally did fall, we had no plan for how to deal with it. Today Yemen is one of the worst war zones in the world, with Saudi Arabia bombing civilians everyday and Iranian backed Houthi fighters slaughtering thousands. I am not suggesting the HRC is to blame for all of this, but certainly her lack of understanding played a part in our inaction and thus exacerbated the situation. Following Yemen I went Islamabad, and although the situation was not as bad as Yemen, I saw extreme micromanagement from her Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs that led to low morale, frustrated PD FSO's, and a lack of cohesion in public messaging. So, although HRC has experience, I would question whether we should focus on the amount of time she spent working on foreign affairs and rather look at the results of her policies and diplomacy.

    I am very sorry for the long post. I feel that these primaries are perhaps the most important primaries I have seen in my voting life because they do not just answer who will run on the DEM ticket, but they may actually decide what core philosophies drive the Democratic party over the next few decades. But, like you, I will vote for whomever is on the DEM ticket because all of the GOP candidates in contention will potentially cause irreparable harm to the U.S. and our standing in the world. But as I said in the beginning, I really appreciate your thoughtful consideration. I am sure nothing I said changed your vote and that is ok, but I just wanted to offer an equally thoughtful counter opinions lest people think that Sanders voters are nothing but young idealists who know nothing about the world. I assure you that many of us do and we are consistent participants in the democratic process.


  • Unknown

    I'm in Hillary's camp, and cuold vote for either. But when it comes to foreign policy, she is most qualified, having personally met nearly all world leaders. She's been vetted thru fire for decades, and despite Reps' best efforts, nothing sticks, suggesting there's nothing there to begin with (they've tried for DECADES). She can be counted on to nominate wise choices for the Supreme Ct (maybe Obama? We can hope). Bernie's message is so important, but will never have the depth of Hillary's experience.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Hello, Vern58, hats off for you working for your candidate.

    artaudali, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and bringing your own experiences to the table. No, it doesn't change my opinion, but it's always good to hear additional views and data points when looking things over. I welcome other viewpoints so I thank you for yours.

    Unknown, I appreciate your involvement and viewpoint as well. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

  • Judy Broughton

    I am former military...my boys are in service. One daughter serves our country in a different capacity in Paris and the other is a Social Worker and works with homeless in Austin; We are all Hilary supporters - God help us if any republican other than the Ohio Gov makes it in. I fear we Americans are too centered on the world as being "all about me" when in reality its a planet we all share and strength is really in the people who can show restraint and compromise. We have got to get to a point where differences can be worked out w/o blaming one party or another. Its a process and communication is the most difficult and delicate process of all. I personally feel Obama has done a stellar job in soo many areas ..considering the times. What we need, as a country, is respect ..which we currently have on a global level, dialogue with all party leaders, some measure of thoughtful dialogue and compromise w/o our own country and the intelligence to look forward remembering the past is a compilation of mostly good people offering the best they had with the information of the moment and the resources at hand. FOr that reason, we will be voting for Mrs Clinton

  • Stephanie Barr

    Judy, I hear you. I have kids myself (though my children are all younger except my daughter). We have to be looking at the big picture and preserving the world so they have the best future available.

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