The Undecided Voter

For the first time ever, I am truly conflicted on who to endorse

Next Tuesday, New York will hold their primaries for the Presidential election. I will be voting in the Democratic contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. In 2008 and 2012, I voted for President Obama. I was very excited to do so. To do this day, I am proud of those votes and still look up to Mr. Obama.

The 2016 election is an entire different situation. One week out from the election here in New York, I still am undecided. At one point I thought I knew but as the contest has gone on, I have become more and more conflicted. I have done plenty of research and read tons of articles on both candidates. I’ve thought about economic implications from each of the candidate’s policies. On an even grander scale, this race has made me question all of my political beliefs.

Am I as liberal as I thought I was?

Do I care strongly about the Democratic party?

Do I want a “political revolution”?

If there is one positive from this campaign season, it’s that it’s made me think about problems in a much deeper manner. Bernie Sanders entrance into the race immediately forced me to look at the differences within the left in America. Democrats seem no longer afraid to label themselves as progressive or liberal. I believe the successes of President Obama are to thank for that.

From Bernie Backer to Skeptic

When this race began, I was not excited nor inspired. It felt like Hillary Clinton was waiting to become President for eight years and it was inevitable. I also felt down because Obama’s term was nearing an end.

Rumors of Joe Biden entering the race were intriguing. I would’ve loved for Biden to run on the legacy of President Obama. I was in the “Run Joe Run” camp. I just wasn’t a huge fan of Hillary. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders was starting to get a little exposure on the campaign trail. I knew of Bernie from cable news as he appeared quite frequently on MSNBC. I also agreed with a lot of what he said on those appearances.

After listening to a few Sanders speeches and thinking about what were important issues facing our country, I bought in. I was a Sanders supporter through and through. The promise of a positive campaign built on helping those in need and proving health care to all sounded perfect. I even slapped on a “Bernie 2016” sticker on the back of my Honda Civic. Like many other supporters, I took to social media to promote his campaign and I would defend his vision any chance I could.

As the campaign progressed through the fall and winter, Bernie did pretty well in the debates and had really grabbed the attention of a lot of voters. But, there were a few things bothering me. Mainly, he continued to point out a bunch of problems but failed to articulate plans in detail on how to solve these problems (As a side note, I think the Clinton campaign has done a brilliant job hitting Bernie on this). I also thought about my own job security. I work at a large bank and have only been there just under a year. Would my job be safe under a Sanders presidency? “Wall Street” isn’t just a bunch of guys in New York City ripping off ordinary Americans. There are over 1500 employees here in Buffalo, NY. We do a wide range of jobs and we have a chance to build a career.

What truly made me an undecided voter was when Sanders called his opponent “unqualified” to be President. That was a big mistake in that it didn’t help his campaign and it hurt the more likely nominee of the party. Sanders was replying to Hillary’s criticism of an interview that Bernie had with the New York Daily News. That interview was disastrous for him. I read it in disbelief. I started to think that maybe he didn’t have all the answers since he was having such difficulty explaining his plans for the financial sector and how he would break up the big banks.

The Sanders campaign has gotten off track over the last month or so. Yes, they have won seven states in a row but he has barely cut into the delegate lead that Clinton has built. Bernie supporters are relentless in calling the process “rigged”. It’s not.

So far, Bernie Sanders has only received 42% of all votes cast in the primary process. Clinton is ahead by almost 2.5 million votes. Despite these numbers, Sanders actually has received 1,095 of 2,404 of the pledged delegates. That is 45% of delegates. The system is actually benefiting Bernie at this point.

A campaign that started out as hopeful and positive has turned into the complete opposite. Sanders pledged to not run a negative campaign when he entered the race. Now it seems every other line at his rallies is an attack on his opponent. From inferring that she gave speeches to banks in exchange for kickbacks to claiming she is receiving donations from fossil fuel companies, Wall Street, and gun lobbies.

Ready for Hillary?

My stance on Hillary has changed over this campaign cycle. I never thought I was consider voting for her in the Democratic primary. I didn’t like the way she ran her campaign in 2008 and she has always felt less than genuine when speaking on certain issues. The response to Benghazi was mishandled, as were her emails.

Then why did I change my mind? Some of it has to do with my reservations about Senator Sanders. Also, the fact that she is more likely to continue a lot of the same policies as President Obama. Her policy proposals are detailed and are based in reality. I happen to think her plans for Wall Street are more sensible than Bernie’s. She knows policy in and out and can answer any question that comes her way on any issue.

Who do I stand with on the Issues?

Campaign Finance Reform

Both candidates have very similar stance on this issue. They both want to overturn Citizens United and will only appoint Supreme Court judges who will oppose that decision. I have to go with Sanders here since this is a central issue for him and has not accepted Super PAC money. Winner: Sanders

Climate Change

Bernie has a very extensive plan for combating climate change. Although, the below lines are a bit frightening:

Bring climate deniers to justice so we can aggressively tackle climate change. It is an embarrassment that Republican politicians, with few exceptions, refuse to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone are prepared to do anything about it.

Hillary is not weak on this issue either but Bernie goes into much greater detail. I think the Sanders campaign should bring up his plans on climate change more often. Winner: Sanders

Economy

The use of the word “economy” here is pretty broad. Bernie wants to raise the minimum was to $15 an hour while Hillary wants $12 an hour nationally but supports movements in certain areas that have higher costs of living.

As for infrastructure, both want to invest quite a bit. Bernie’s website seems to be a bit more detailed in where the money is going. Both candidates want Infrastructure banks created which will provide loans and federal support to those investing in energy, water, broadband, and more.

Clinton also talks about small businesses on her website and proposes cutting taxes on lower to middle income Americans. This is not the case for Bernie as he has proposed tax increases across the board to pay for his health plan.

As for trade, Bernie and Hillary are against the TPP. Bernie also wants to roll back NAFTA and other free trade deals. This is where I differ with him. I believe free trade has a lot of upside and helps not only our country but many poorer nations across the world.

The economy is doing quite well currently so I don’t believe a big shakeup is necessary. However, we do need to invest a lot more on infrastructure across the country. Now is the time. We do not need to restrict trade. That is the deal-breaker for me on this issue. Winner: Clinton

Health Care

This is the most difficult issue to examine personally. I am 100% in favor of a single payer system. Bernie has proposed this but this comes down to practicality. Yes, I know lots of other countries have universal coverage. However, the difficulty of Bernie getting any traction in congress on either side of the aisle is less than zero. His plan relies on a lot of tax hikes to fund it and costs are estimated to be a lot higher than what his campaign says they will be. I wrote about his health plan a few months back.

To achieve single payer and/or universal coverage, we may need to make incremental changes in the current system. Obamacare has been mildly successful and can be improved upon. Clinton wants to explore the public option again and also provide incentives to states that still have yet to offer medicaid expansion. Additionally, she wants to extend a tax credit to families who have trouble covering expenses for premiums and look for ways to reduce cost of plans.

This is a tough issue because I want a single payer system in an ideal world but it just seems impossible. I like the progress that the ACA has made so far as well. Winner: Push

Wall Street Reform

This issue is a case of dismantling the entire system or improving current regulation. As an employee of a big bank who understands how a bit of how things actually operate within, I tend to side with improving regulation.

“Breaking up the big banks” is not a solution. Banks do not become more secure because they are smaller. Oddly enough, Bernie’s Reforming Wall Street page is one of the smallest on his campaign website. There will be a lot of displaced workers if he were to break them all up. He also supports reinstating Glass-Steagall. This is not necessary and is outdated legislation.

Hillary does not support reinstating the Glass-Steagall act. She has proposed a “risk fee” on large financial institutions which requires them to pay a fee based on their size and risk of contributing to another financial crisis. She has extensive plans to improve Dodd-Frank, close loopholes, and take on the shadow banking sector.

Compare Hillary’s wall street plans with Bernie’s and notice the difference in details and knowledge of how capital markets work. Winner: Clinton

The Verdict

This coming Thursday, the candidates will be debating in New York. I will be watching intently to make my final decision. I didn’t list all of the issues here but there are more. On immigration, I tend to side with Clinton a bit more. Foreign policy, I lean towards the values of Sanders. I’m sure I could split the rest of the issues right down the middle.

This debate will be very telling. Bernie has a choice to continue to attack Secretary Clinton’s character or he can get back to speaking about the issues. I’m afraid he may come out in attack mode and it could backfire. Clinton needs to remain steady and have no major gaffes or incidents.

Hopefully, my mind will be made up Thursday night. I will try to write again announcing my all-important endorsement!

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