Bill Press: Who's the real liberal — Clinton or Sanders?

Bill Press: Who's the real liberal — Clinton or Sanders?
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For both parties, the 2016 presidential primary has proven unusual in more ways than one. There have been more candidates than ever before, more outsiders leading the pack, more focus on personalities than issues and, for the first time, a contest on both sides over who’s the real deal. 

That’s not so unusual among Republican candidates. They’ve tangled in the past over which one is the true conservative, and they’re doing so again. But this year, Democrats are also at it: Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Judge dismisses Nunes' lawsuit against Fusion GPS The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill The Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen Fox's Ingraham mocks DNC over Nevada voting malfunctions: 'Are we a Third World country?' MORE arguing over which one is the true progressive.

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The whole issue might not have come up at all, were it not for the boast Clinton made at a Women for Hillary event in Ohio last September: “You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center. I plead guilty.” Sanders saw an opening and sprang for it, claiming that the former secretary of State, by her own admission, could not be trusted to push a progressive agenda in the White House. And Clinton is now pushing back, defining herself as “a progressive who likes to get things done.”

Which one is more progressive? Sanders wins that argument, hands down. He’s the most liberal member of the Senate. He’s been endorsed by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairmen of the House Progressive Caucus. True, he voted against the Brady Bill on gun control, but — as he points out at every campaign event — his entire career has been spent fighting for single-payer healthcare, a living wage, expanding Social Security, breaking up the big banks, supporting labor unions and other planks of the progressive agenda.

But Clinton has progressive bragging rights, too. She’s supported by liberal Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerFormer Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer joins DC lobbying firm Hillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Democratic nominee won't be democratically chosen At Democratic debate, missed opportunities on immigration Surging Sanders looks for decisive win in Nevada MORE (D-Minn.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump pick for Fed seat takes bipartisan fire On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (D-Ohio), among others. True, she voted for the Iraq War in 2002, she originally supported both the Keystone oil pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and she still supports the death penalty. But she also has a long history of fighting for progressive causes, from her work with the Children’s Defense Fund to her leadership in the fight for universal healthcare as first lady to her championing of women’s rights worldwide.  

So, in a sense, this is a meaningless debate. The truth is, to varying degrees, Sanders and Clinton are both progressives. But, at the same time, it’s an important exercise for what it says about the Democratic Party. 

For years, progressives fought unsuccessfully against the defense hawks, centrists and conservative Democrats who ruled the party. Now that’s changed. Today, few argue the party has to be more “in the middle.” Instead, the two Democratic candidates for president are arguing over which one is further to the left.

This bodes well for November, because the progressive agenda of combating income inequality, raising the minimum wage, delivering pay equity for women, creating jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, cracking down on Wall Street and embracing renewable energy is supported by the vast majority of the American people — and offers a stark contrast to the ugly infighting among Republican candidates. Progressives have won the day!

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down.”