So far, I’ve been genuinely undecided regarding the Democratic Party primary. I like both candidates for different reasons. As a Californian whose primary occurs in June, I still have time to stay undecided and watch how their campaigns unfold. But if I had to vote today, I would vote Hillary Clinton.
Both candidates are fantastic Democrats and neither candidate is perfect. In the end, Hillary has the best chance to enact progressive change for the United States. Her best asset is under-appreciated by Bernie supporters, which is her detailed understanding of the issues and policies that currently exist and that she wants to reform. This has been best demonstrated in the Democratic debates (which unfortunately have been underplayed and badly scheduled by Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz). Her grasp of the intricacies and nuances of the issues are the strongest. This matters because as president, she would be most prepared to work within the political system to enact change. The argument that she made in 2008 that she would be most prepared to lead from Day One of her administration is still her best argument for president.
The primary criticism of Hillary and one that seems most often launched from Bernie is her ties to the economic establishment, especially her ties to Wall Street. While Bernie’s populist plan is to break up the big banks, Hillary’s written plan to reform the financial industry was reportedly 10 times lengthier than Bernie’s plan. Again, Hillary’s strongest asset is her depth of understanding of the issues facing Americans. Bernie’s message may resonate more, but it is only because they make for feel-good slogans and sound bites (“too big to fail, too big to exist”). This is why his debate performances tend to be repetitive about Wall Street. However, Hillary’s ties to large financial firms through her speaking fees and accepted donations from the industry should not be ignored by voters nor by her campaign. She sidesteps the criticism by fairly noting that Obama has had similar ties, but hasn’t faced the same amount of scrutiny nor intensity of criticism. Nevertheless, the economic atmosphere that the middle-class is experiencing today is different than 8 years ago or even 4 years ago. While the economy has improved in many ways, the middle-class has yet to feel that recovery. It would be in Hillary’s best interest to take a page from Bill’s book and further connect to voters about this economic frustration.
Bernie is an attractive candidate for today’s economic atmosphere, but there are a lot of questions about his efficacy as a president. His strength among Democrats and liberals lie in his economic message that connects to many people, including me. On paper, he’s been a devout progressive. He’s been rated 100% by Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Human Rights Campaign for his congressional record, two organizations that endorsed Hillary. He promises to instate a single-payer health care system and most importantly for him, start a populist revolution that would take away power from the so-called political and economic establishment and bring it back to the people. While his message is attractive to the most liberal of the Democratic Party, there is still a real question about how he would achieve his goals once he’s president. He has yet to make a convincing argument about he would work to make his radical policies go through Congress (no one asked how he would do it in the last debate). For all the political capital that Obama had after his 2008 and 2012 election victories, he still publicly admitted this year that the rancorous, partisan political landscape of Washington D.C. and to a larger extent, the United States has not improved. Despite this, he still made meaningful change with the same incremental approach in which Hillary would most likely adopt.
When it comes to electability, Bernie has touted his strong numbers in general election polling. However, FiveThirtyEight has noted that general election polling this early has a weak relationship to the final outcome simply because we can’t fully predict what will happen in the final months leading up to Election Day. Bernie has yet to bear the full brunt of Republican attacks and criticism, while Hillary has held up to decades of GOP hate. As a far-left liberal, it would be a delight to see Bernie beat the GOP in a national race, but the fundamentals of his campaigning in Iowa indicates he has not generated as much support as Obama did in 2008 when Obama had a historic ground game there to beat Hillary.
Both Hillary and Bernie are worthy liberals (ISideWith.com had me at over 90% agreement for both candidates). It’s really cringeworthy for me to see their campaigns score cheap, political points through smears and disingenuous attacks. It would be ideal if both candidates stick to their strengths and not attack each other’s liberal worthiness. For Hillary, she’s still the frontrunner in the long-term because of her strong knowledge in policy and her political resiliency. It’s not in her best interests to attack the value of a single-payer health care system. Fortunate for her, she has pivoted and justly criticize the feasibility of such a radical reform when we’re still fighting to keep Obamacare alive. Furthermore, it seems especially unnerving when one of her political operatives co-opt a racial movement and claim “black lives don’t matter” to Bernie despite his record of working for civil rights groups in the ’60s. For Bernie, he bewildered many by calling Planned Parenthood part of the establishment after their political advocacy group endorsed Hillary. It seemed like a moment of unraveling for Bernie, who probably felt he was stabbed in the back by an organization that rated him 100% for supporting women’s health and reproductive rights.
In the end, Bernie may espouse popular liberal ideals, but he has yet to convincingly prove himself more with policy plans and a leadership strategy as rich in detail and scope as Hillary’s, especially in foreign matters where one has to effectively lead among leaders. While Hillary has made strategic missteps in her long political career, she’s at her best when she espouses her deep knowledge of policy and has withstood decades of GOP rancor. Her experience and understanding of foreign policy is thorough and she indeed would be the best to maintain and strengthen Obama’s achievements, which has been and will continually be attacked by conservatives. It’s time to make history once more, finally.