It is a good thing that, at the beginning of this presidential election season, Hillary Clinton was not automatically crowned the Democratic nominee-apparent. The former secretary of state and U.S. senator had no natural right to the nomination. And the unexpectedly serious candidacy of independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has energized the race and opened a window to a part of the Democratic coalition that the party has lost sight of since the days of Bill Clinton.
Without the relentlessness of Sanders and his supporters, the serious issues of disparities of wealth, health care, social security and the high cost of higher education might not have taken on the urgency that they have today. Young voters may never have been energized, and older, liberal Americans would not have breathed the familiar idealistic, hopeful air that Sanders somehow has preserved since the 1960s and ’70s.
Sanders is an American political oddity. He is also a most successful gadfly. Neither of those factors qualifies him to be president. So, given the choice of electing him or Clinton president, the choice is clearly Clinton.
With her role as perhaps the most energetic first lady during eight years in the White House and her terms in the Senate and as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, Clinton is by far the most experienced of any of the candidates of either party. Much fun has been made of her having a program for every problem. But Sanders’ problem is that the revolution he is offering is woefully short on details.
Sanders’ lack of interest in foreign policy has shown through during the campaign. His gaffe on Palestinian civilian casualties in the last Gaza war with Israel — he said 10,000, but the actual number was 1,473 — and his offensive observation that Israel used disproportionate force against Hamas, reflects at best an uninformed view of the conflict, or worse, an anti-Israel animus. In contrast, Clinton’s speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference last month was vigorous and hawkish (some say too hawkish) about America’s strong commitment to Israel’s security.
Sanders is an idealist. That’s commendable in a gadfly. But when you are running for president, you need something more. War cries like taking the country back from “the billionaire class” and shutting down Obamacare to set up a single-payer system are simplistic. And we have yet to see the substance of Sanders’ rhetoric match his admirable emotion.
The Sanders revolution won’t get anywhere with an intransigent Republican Congress. Nor would it benefit the United States if he somehow managed to get it through a Democratic Congress. The Democratic Party is better off with Sanders’ issues in the forefront. But translating them into reality will take a more nuanced, multidimensional politician as president.
We urge those who are voting Democratic to support Hillary Clinton.