The New York Times‘ Trip Gabriel (1/31/16) is worried about Iowans, whose “embrace of candidates on the ideological fringes has amplified a national grass-roots rebellion against establishment politicians.” Gabriel writes:
Both Democrats and Republicans have seen their presumptive nominees of a year ago — deeply experienced, proven political leaders — brushed aside by Iowans in favor of idol-smashing outsiders.
This dichotomy—between the “experienced” and “proven” presumptive nominees and the presumably inexperienced, unproven outsiders—doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. Idol-smashing Bernie Sanders has a history of political activism that goes back to the early 1960s and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981, and served four two-year terms, stepping down in 1989. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from Vermont in 1990, and served eight two-year terms. He was elected to the US Senate in 2006 and was re-elected in 2012, so he’s so far served nine years as a senator. That adds up to 33 years in elective office.
Hillary Clinton, by comparison, was elected to the Senate in 2000, was re-elected in 2006 and stepped down in 2009 to become secretary of State, a post she held for four years. That’s 12 years of experience in government service—a considerable amount, but considerably less than Sanders.
Yes, Clinton was deeply involved in politics as the spouse of President Bill Clinton—but if we’re going to count that experience, then we should probably count Sanders’ years of work in the civil rights and anti-war movements as well. In any case, it’s hard to make the argument that the difference between Clinton and Sanders is that one is an experienced politician and the other is not.
Meanwhile, the “deeply experienced, proven” candidate on the Republican side is Jeb Bush, who was governor of Florida for eight years, from 1999 through 2007, and in the late ’80s was Florida’s secretary of Commerce for a little less than two years. So he has roughly ten years of government experience.
Ted Cruz, who Gabriel makes clear is another idol-smasher (whose “views are anathema to Republican leadership”), was a law clerk for a federal appeals court judge in 1995 and for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 1996. After advising the George W. Bush campaign in 1999-2000, he worked in Bush’s administration for the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. He then served as Texas’ solicitor general from 2003 until 2008. He was elected to the US Senate from Texas in 20012, where he’s now served three years. That’s about 13 years in government office.
The moral is: The New York Times won’t count your experience as actual experience if it doesn’t approve of your “fringe” politics.
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