I get it. Bernie Sanders is a great Senator and a powerful progressive voice. He is and has been an asset to the Senate for years and has played an important role in the presidential race by showing what rallies the left of the country and what issues are most important to citizens. But having said all that, the only legitimate candidate to be president is Hillary Clinton. Here is why.
First, Bernie Sanders lives in a political fantasy. Sanders has presented ideas which sound very appealing—forcing corporations to pay full taxes on profits held abroad, funding tuition for students at four-year public colleges and universities, a single-payer health system, cutting Wall Street banks down to size, raising the minimum wage, etc. But not only are these ideas light on detail—more on that later—he is deluding himself if he thinks that even a single one of them is a legislative possibility. In the words of Vox’s Ezra Klein, Sanders is running on the idea of confrontational politics. In a conversation with Wolf Blitzer, he mentioned that he knew that Republicans would never accept his free tuition proposal but that “the American people will go along with it.” That is at best naive and at worst willfully ignorant of the American political reality.
Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine addresses this point as well. In a piece critiquing Sanders’ viability as a candidate, Chait says, “Sanders offers the left-wing version of a hoary political fantasy: that a more pure candidate can rally the People into a righteous uprising that would unsettle the conventional laws of politics. ‘The major political, strategic difference I have with Obama is it’s too late to do anything inside the Beltway,’ he told Andrew Prokop. ‘You gotta take your case to the American people, mobilize them, and organize them at the grassroots level in a way that we have never done before.’” But as Chait notes, President Obama’s election was predicated on mobilizing a more passionate, far larger grassroots base than Sanders’. Why would the same strategy work this time after failing in 2008?
Hillary Clinton, in contrast, is experienced and savvy enough to read the political climate for what it is and will continue to be: a sclerotic, reactionary, conservative-dominated legislature and Supreme Court. Progress, if it is accomplished at all, will be incremental and piecemeal, and more likely, a future Democratic president will be spending a lot of his or her time defending the progress that President Obama has been able to make. Hillary Clinton, who understands the machinations of Washington better than anyone, is much better suited for that role than Bernie Sanders.
Second, Bernie Sanders is an ideologue and Hillary Clinton is a technocrat. Contrary to widely held perception, their beliefs are not dramatically different—both want expansions of health care, more regulations on Wall Street, to overturn the Citizens United decision, immigration reform, climate change policy, and sentencing reform, among other things. But Hillary’s greatest strength is her zeal for policy-making. Klein again, in a different article, is worth quoting at length:
Clinton’s reputation, among people who’ve worked with her, is impressive. Even Republican staffers will admit they’ve never briefed anyone better informed. Stories abound of unsuspecting deputy assistant secretaries charged with running a meeting on some obscure sub-issue only to be peppered by detailed, knowledgeable questions from Clinton herself. During her time in the Senate she won over legions of ex-haters with her work ethic, her seriousness, and her pragmatism. Even people who didn’t agree with her appreciated her no-bullshit attitude toward getting things done.
Another way of saying that, though, is Clinton wins over even people who disagree with her by treating their ideas with respect—she takes the time to understand their arguments, she’s honest about her counterarguments, and she is relentless in her efforts to find shared ground on which to make progress.
In contrast, Sanders’ plan for single-payer health care—a plan which would uproot the ACA and alter the insurance of tens of millions of Americans—is eight pages long and raises revenue for the plan by blithely raising tax rates on virtually every segment of the American population, businesses and individuals alike. His plan for Wall Street reform is well shorter. He has proposed raising the marginal tax rate on top earners to 90 percent and “forcing” corporations to pay taxes on overseas profits, not particularly concerned with how to do so or the actual effect it will have on the economy. There is little substance behind the flashy, headline-grabbing titles.
I am fully aware of the passion for Bernie that is infusing my generation right now, and I am equally aware that I will not change anyone’s minds with this piece. All I am asking is that if Bernie ends up losing the nomination, please go and vote for Hillary. She may not possess the charisma of Barack Obama or the radical progressiveness of Bernie Sanders, but she is a strong and capable candidate and expert policymaker who has been a liberal champion for decades. My former boss, by all measures one of the ten to fifteen most progressive members of the federal legislature, unequivocally supports Hillary Clinton. She deserves your vote as well.
After working in Washington, D.C., for two years, Andrew Orlebeke (’10) is in graduate school in Seattle, Washington, studying public policy. In addition to public service, he has a passion for traveling and an abiding love of sports.