Since 2007, I volunteered hundreds of hours for Barack Obama, first when he was a candidate and then as president. I spent even more time in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 working to pass and then to defend health reform. My personal super-pac even made two campaign commercials for President Obama.
This time around, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s gotten surprisingly close here in Illinois. If you agree with me, make sure to vote.
I have three basic reasons to support her. This isnâ€™t complicated.
MyÂ first reason is very practical: Senator Sanders is too big an electoral risk.
I admire and like Senator Sanders. He is running a classy and effective campaign that has inspired so many people, especially young Democratic primary voters. He has pushed everyone, including Hillary Clinton, to address key issues of economic inequality. Quite properly, he is forcing Democratic politicians to demonstrateÂ greater personal and political distance from Wall Street. Thatâ€™s important. He is improving the future of the Democratic Party.
Many of my friends on the left support Sanders in the hope of forcing Hillary Clinton to adopt more progressive positions. Thatâ€™s an understandable strategy. But it is a pretty transactional one, embraced by many on the left who donâ€™t actually want Sanders to win.
There are risks to this strategy, too. Sanders will lose. Yet the longer things drag on, the more Sanders will be tempted to pursue strategies that deepen divisions between liberals and the left or that otherwise damage the overall Democratic brand. The longer this goes on, the more the Clinton and the Sanders camps will begin to do the Republicans’ opposition work for them, alienating each others’ supporters and creating problems for the general election.
Sanders’ Chicago ads trying to tie Hillary Clinton to Mayor Emanuel exemplify these dangers. In the moment, these ads are drawing blood because of the Mayor’s political difficulties. Â These ads contain not a word about our state’s unpopular Republican Governor ,Bruce Rauner. Â nowÂ engaged in a knife fight with organized labor, recipients of social services, Rahm Emanuel, and pretty much every Democratic constituencyÂ in Illinois.
Ironically, a Sanders nomination might be the worst thing that could possibly happen to progressive Democrats. If he went on to lose, Sanders would be considered the new Ralph Nader, with obvious consequences. Those on the left who argued that Democrats should pin their hopes on a 74-year-old Jewish Vermont socialist would find themselves in exile within party politics for many years.
Letâ€™s be real. Once the Republican attack machine spends $100 million with clips of Sanders praising left-wing governments in Cuba and Nicaragua, not to mention whatever else they can uncover, thereâ€™s a big risk that Sanders would just be crushed in a general election campaign.
If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz accomplishes this victory, weâ€™ll have a mean-spirited conservative President signing laws passed by strong Republican House and Senate majorities. Republicans would repeal the Affordable Care Act, enact deeply regressive tax cuts, reverse President Obama’s efforts on climate change and immigration, do deep damage to a womanâ€™s right to choose, undermine voting rights, and more.
Republicans would then pick Justice Scaliaâ€™s replacement. Don’t forget that Justice Ginsberg is 82. Justice Breyer is 77. And I almost forgot: Justice Kennedy is 79. Republicans would thus be in a position to pack the Supreme Court for decades.
For reasons of sheer electability, Sanders is a non-starter for me and for many others. That’s one big reason why African-Americans and Latinos vote for Hillary Clinton in overwhelming numbers, and why very few Democratic office-holders support Sanders, even among progressive Democrats. They canâ€™t afford to take that chance.
My second reason is simpler and more positive.
Hillary Clinton has realistic ideas to protect President Obamaâ€™s main accomplishments, and to build on them. Look at her health care plan,Â her child care plan.She supports a public option in states willing to try that. She has many proposals to patch the holes in ACA while making health care more affordable. Look at her other policy proposals on hillaryclinton.com. She has spent the last forty years working to enact universal coverage, improve womenâ€™s health, expand efforts to help children.Â This is real stuff. Itâ€™s realistic, too.
Finally, I believe she has more depth and substance than any other Democrat or Republican running this year.
As Clinton herself admits, sheâ€™s not a natural, charismatic politician in the way of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. She is incredibly smart, informed, and substantive. She is far more knowledgeable than anyone else running. Just watch any debate or town hall in which she has participated. Listen to what she says about anything from the situation in Burma to the death penalty, to the dilemmas of health care reform.
If I may say, Clinton reminds me of many women of her generation with whom Iâ€™ve worked with in health and social service settings. They arenâ€™t flashy. They don’t have much bandwidth to shoot the breeze at the coffee machine. They show up early, and they get down to work. They eat lunch at their desks or on-the-run while theyâ€™re doing their work. They are the real workhorses who actually get stuff done.
I donâ€™t sense that same solidity in Senator Sanders. He offers an inspiring message, but when you get under the hood and examine what undergirds his sweeping promises to reduce mass incarceration, when you ask for a realistic political and administrative path to enact his single-payer plan, the details and the substance arenâ€™t really there.
If you–like meâ€”are looking for the best chance to win the 2016 election, itâ€™s time to support Hillary Clinton and close this thing out. Then Clinton, Sanders, and other Democrats can pursue a scientific war plan to defeat the Republicans.
Democrats can also focus on progressive candidates for many other offices. The real future of the Democratic Party will be found down-ticket, among progressive candidates for the Senate and House, and in state and local government.
These are the men and women who would provide immediate support for a progressive agenda, and who will provide the talent pool for 2020 and beyond. Bernie Sanders himself will never be president. I suspect one of the men and women he inspires someday will be. Sanders should build on his successful candidacy to work for that.
March 15th is the Illinois primary. I hope you vote for Hillary Clinton. Itâ€™s important.