When I think of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, I always imagine an enormous rock that weighs thousands of tons and symbolizes American society. Bernie and Hillary are charged with moving the rock one mile down the road. Hillary talks of using ropes, winches and pulleys and of humans working together to slowly move the rock to where it needs to be. Sanders, by contrast, thinks he can fly over the rock, pick it up and instantly transport it.
This extended metaphor captures the major difference between these two long-term progressives. Bernie focuses on the final goals, which he implies are quickly and readily achievable, whereas Hillary focuses on what we can do now to nudge us to the goals. For both candidates, I think these goals include a hybrid economy with a strong middle class, bolstered by a government that provides universal healthcare, keeps quality public education inexpensive or free, cleans up our environment, fosters the transition to renewable fuels and protects the rights of all minorities in a secular society that embraces diversity.
Healthcare provides a good example of their differing approaches and appeals. Bernie is calling for universal Medicare, which Republicans, aided by the Dark Money billionaires, will vehemently oppose and use as an issue to destroy a Sanders presidency. Hillary, who was bruised badly in her own attempt to install universal health coverage in the 1990s, is right to want to improve the Affordable Care Act, as opposed to ripping it up and starting from square one. She wants to push the healthcare rock further to where it would be if the United States were a European social democracy. Sanders thinks he can pick up the rock and fling it down the road. Sanders statements on foreign affairs are similar: he states emphatically that we have to get rid of ISIS in a tone that suggests that he will do it. But we never hear the details of how. In a sense, Bernie creates a cult of the strong man who will get it done, just as Donald Trump has.
The appeal of this superman approach by Trump and Sanders may reflect the same cultural imperative as the spate of superhero movies that seem to have dominated the box office over the past 10 years. It would be lovely indeed if someone could solve the problems by virtue of her-his special powers—but that would also border on fascism. Interestingly enough, Democratic voters seem to be splitting by age. Younger voters who have grown up on superhero culture are gravitating towards Bernie, whereas older voters who have largely eschewed these comic-book-cum-video-game-cum-special effects extravaganzas are gravitating towards Hillary.
Sometimes when I look at Bernie Sanders, it’s like looking into a mirror (although he has more hair on the top of his head and no beard)…Jewish, an avowed socialist, a bit of a nudge when it comes to intellectual matters. Hey, that’s me. I can’t help but love the guy.
But when I look at Hillary Clinton, I see someone just as intelligent, quick-witted, progressive and caring as Bernie. Plus I see a list of accomplishments which make her perhaps the most qualified person ever to run for President of the United States, for these reasons:
· High intelligence: How can anyone deny that Hillary is both highly gifted intellectually and a lifetime learner? So is Bernie, BTW.
· Past experience: Only the rabid right would call her time in the Senate and as Secretary of State anything other than successful. Bernie has enjoyed success as the loyal opposition, for which he should have our undying gratitude. Hillary has actually been in charge and gotten things done.
· Lack of hypocrisy: Hillary has never said one thing and then hypocritically did something else, for example, rail against the Affordable Care Act and then sign up for Obamacare, as Ted Cruz has done, or advocate against gays all the while trolling public bathrooms for same-sex quickies, as Republican Senator Larry Craig did.
· She admits when she’s wrong (like Obama!): She admitted her mistake when she voted to allow Bush II to begin the ill-fated Iraq War and supported the harsh crime laws during her spouse’s presidency that led to the mass incarceration of minorities for victimless crimes. She also admitted that it was a mistake for her, like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell before her, to use her private email for government matters.
· She has a cross-cultural understanding of social cues, which means that she won’t embarrass herself by saying or doing the wrong thing, as Mitt Romney constantly did during the 2012 presidential campaign. Romney publicly revealed a secret briefing that many had undergone over the decades but that everyone else had the good sense to keep confidential. Romney also broke the cardinal sin of retired Chief Executive Officers, which is not to criticize the new administration unless involved in a hostile takeover; Mitt criticized the London Olympics (unfairly, too, as it turned out) even though he was a past CEO of the Olympic games. Far from making these “bull in a china shop” mistakes, Hillary seems to enjoy tremendous respect among the people of the world and world leaders. While Bernie may end up being too abrasive, I’m sure he will do a better job in representing us among the world’s countries than any of the Republican candidates would.
· She is competent running an organization: Hillary seemed to have done a good job of running the State Department, even during the Benghazi disaster. The differences between running a small city, as Bernie did, and the State Department are enormous.
· Science-based decision-making: Hillary has never said or written anything that tried to deny science. Contrast with the Republican candidates: all of them deny science in one way or another regarding a wide variety of issues, including global warming, science teaching, women’s fertility issues, gun safety and economics. I’m not saying Hillary is always right, but that she always reasons from the facts and not from what she wants the facts to be. So does Bernie.
There are certain issues on which I am closer to Bernie than Hillary, such as what the minimum wage should be, the abolition of capital punishment and the possibility of making public universities free to all. But on some other issues, I prefer Hillary’s stands, such as gun control and the way by which we will achieve universal healthcare. We’ve already detailed some of Hillary’s mistakes. As for Bernie, his neglect of whistle-blowers when he was chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee looks like a lesser version of Bush II’s approach to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war. His gun stands remind me of the triangulation of another former president, Hillary’s spouse. In short, both have made decisions they regret and compromises that make their true believers wince.
When elected, we can expect Hillary to hit the ground running because she has lived through the mistakes that young, first-time presidents like her spouse and Obama have made. She will not need a learning curve—she already knows the political process with all its pitfalls. Bernie’s oppositional politics may hamper him as he tries to scrounge up Republican votes to support needed legislation.
In a recent Facebook exchange, a Sanders supporter averred that Bernie would not be as large of target for Republican dirt during the fall campaign. That’s a very naïve statement. Anyone who thinks the Republicans won’t go after Bernie with a vengeance is living in a dream world. They will constantly bludgeon him with three large and spiky clubs: They’ll hammer him about being a godless, un-American socialist. At 75, they will say he’ll be too old to start a first term as president. They will figure out a dozen code phrases to remind the public that he’s Jewish. We in our progressive universe of cities and college campuses don’t care about his religion, but believe me, there is still a lot of hidden anti-Semitism in the country, especially in rural areas. Evangelicals will not find it inconsistent to support Israel, but hate “the Jew.”
Hillary has withstood 24 years of false accusations about Whitewater, the suicide of Vince Foster, her supposed role in a cover-up of her spouse’s affairs, Benghazi, her emails and her foundation. She is used to not melting in the heat of Republican lies. Additionally, many have grown tired of all the dirt thrown at Hillary that never hits or sticks. We have come to discount it. The dirt on Bernie will be fresh and therefore make more of an impact with independents. Finally—and this point is very subtle—the Republicans excoriate Hillary for what she did and does. They will excoriate Bernie about what he is—an aging Jewish socialist. You can change what you do, but not who you are. (For the record, I hope neither Bernie nor Hillary change either!)
Both Bernie and Hillary come off well in debates compared to the no-nothing liars running for the Republican nomination. But in town hall meetings and one-on-ones, when there is time to give a more nuanced presentation, Hillary soars. She thinks on her feet and she has command of the facts. Her explanations always make sense. She takes no leaps of logic, nor does she depend on widely-believed myths. She is definitely a progressive. Her style reminds me of a female Barack Obama—friendly, studied, compromising.
Finally there is the issue of sex. It’s about time we elected a woman president, years after England, Israel, Germany, India and many other nations have done so. If we were talking about Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina, the sex of the candidate wouldn’t be an issue at all, because both are incompetent liars. And really, it doesn’t matter in Hillary’s case either. Man or woman, black or white, gay or straight, Methodist or Muslim—Hillary Clinton is as qualified to be president by virtue of her abilities and accomplishments as anyone who has ever run for the office.
Thus, I’m going to continue to give the love to Bernie. But I’m going to support Hillary Clinton and vote for her in my state’s primary.