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    Tabula Rasa Presidential Candidates Continue to Detract from What’s Really at Stake

    hilaryAmidst all of the sound bites, attack rhetoric and hype around trying to focus on candidate weaknesses, it is often hard to remember that we need to focus on whom, and what, we are voting for. I remember when Al Gore ran for President, and I was always stunned by how different he became when he stood in front of a podium instead of being the warm, engaging, funny person I had just been speaking to earlier. The media focused in on “wooden” Al, rather than his message. I am sure we all wonder what this country would have looked like if he had been elected (oh wait, he was) in 2000. But in the short focus on candidates and the overemphasis of their weaknesses, we often lose sight of what is really important and at stake.

    As noted in the last column, the next President is likely to make several appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. Our community certainly knows how important that is. As an unabashed supporter of Hillary Clinton, I am frustrated by the efforts to distort the facts and attack her on areas that had been standard, and legal, practice. I want to know how she will address income inequality, human rights, continuing to keep our country’s role as an economic and moral leader in the world, ensuring health care for everyone, providing educational opportunities for all, and so much more.

    What we have with Hillary, unlike any other candidate in the race—from either side of the aisle—is a demonstrated record of accomplishments and actions. I have rarely found a candidate who is 100% in sync with my views, so I take a broader view and look at who fits closely with my bottom line issues, and what the alternatives might be.

    hilary2Certainly, at the national level, I recognize that a candidate who might have views more in line with those of us from San Francisco is unlikely to be able to win in the general election. Thus I fear supporting a candidate who says all the right things, yet may not really have a record of action or accomplishments, and would potentially be unelectable on a national scale and could cause us to end up with one of the candidates who opposes almost everything I hold important (from rights for LGTBQ people, to other human rights, to access to education, jobs, healthcare, diplomacy v. force, etc.) History is littered with stories of candidates being used to pressure the frontrunner into moving into a position during a primary, only to have that action come back to haunt the nominee in the general.

    “The usual argument against an insurgent challenging an incumbent or a heavily favored Establishment pick is the risk of damaging the eventual nominee in the general election. In 2010, national progressives tried to make an example out of right-leaning red stater Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), only to ease the path for her Republican opponent in the year of the Tea Party. Ted Kennedy softened up President Jimmy Carter before Ronald Reagan could finish the job. Anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy…made it impossible for Democrats to unify around President Lyndon Johnson, and later, the eventual nominee Hubert Humphrey, paving the way for Richard Nixon and a longer Vietnam War.” (Politico, Bill Scher, August 12, 2015)

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t ensure that candidates we support take principled positions on issues of importance, but to serve as a cautionary reminder that few candidates are perfect, that there is so much at stake in this election, that supporting a candidate who will have a difficult—if not impossible—time winning a general election could end up being more harmful than imagined. Hillary is battle tested, has a record we can turn to, and is not “the shiny new thing.” Hillary is not one of the “tabula rasa” candidates who can say anything they want and people can believe they stand for whatever they want as there is not a real record of being able to act on, or carry out, those positions.

    hilarycarShe is strong, and proven, on wage growth, human rights, economic growth, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, climate change, LGBT rights, and so much more. See her Position Papers. We know that she is not just saying what people want to hear, but is saying the right things—with a record of having done them, too. Being on a national stage requires the ability to actually get something done, and I want our next President Clinton to continue on the path that moves us all forward—not just the few as her Republican opponents would do. Please think about whom you support in this election, how much is at stake, and ensure that we keep the White House in the hands of someone who shares our community’s values.

    Leslie R. Katz is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was the co-author of the City’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, has served on the SF Democratic County Central Committee (as Chair, and as a general member), and serves on the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board. She is an attorney with a government law, policy and strategy practice, with a focus on emerging technologies.