The Choice Between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

If you put aside all the rhetoric, its springtime for liberals: we have a choice between two excellent candidates, both of which are polling well to win the presidency.

There’s a strong case to be made for Bernie Sanders. He’s right that biased tax policy has been driving income inequality, and that many of our institutions are biased in favor of the wealthy; and that it will be challenging to ensure a more fair democracy without first addressing influence of money in the electoral process. Mr. Sanders’s has been a consistent advocate for more democratic electoral processes for decades. By contrast, Hillary Clinton is a relative newcomer to income inequality, but — almost certainly as a result of Bernie Sander’s surprising popularity — she has quietly put together a platform that promises to be even more effective than Mr Sanders’ on progressive issues. The question often raised of Mrs. Clinton is whether she will follow through on her progressive platform, or if its just lip-service to a surprising progressive ‘uprising’.

As Mrs. Clinton has shifted left, Mr. Sanders has gone even further, in particular on trade. The data supports Sanders’ long held position that that free trade deals hurt blue collar Americans. But he goes too far with his proposals for tariff’s and and other protectionist measures, and his position of no-trade with poor countries is at best shortsighted; while many workers are hurt by free trade, far more benefit, and more open trade has lead to dramatic reductions in poverty in the US and around the world. Clinton has taken a more measured approach, recognizing that the rules of free trade need to be adjusted protect the most vulnerable, but not eliminated entirely. Again, however, this amounts to a relatively new position for Mrs. Clinton, and the same questions about whether these are legitimate platforms or empty campaign promises linger.

I believe Mrs. Clinton has earned our trust. As a Senator, she showed a pragmatic willingness to compromise, but consistently advocated for her base and her platform (while, sensibly, being able to adjust with new information). In fact, Mr. Sander’s consistency is also a liability. His dogmatic adherence to LBJ/FDR new deal economics seems to ignore the fact the world, and thus the economy, has changed considerably since the 1920’s, and what worked then will certainly not apply as easily today.

At the same time, Mrs. Clinton was outstanding as The Secretary of State. Her 2011 speech to Arab nations that they risk ‘sinking into the sand’ unless they start to reform set the tone for a calm, effective American policy, but also a commitment to American values. By contrast Mr. Sander’s bruising, uncompromising style might work well at home, but would probably face a backlash internationally. We would be far better off with Mrs. Clinton on the opposite side of the table to Vladamir Putin.

All of this adds up to the principal question of this primary for Democrats: Trust. On paper Mrs. Clinton would be the most qualified candidate for the presidency in a generation. Her platform addresses the pillars of the progressive movement — trade, income inequality, campaign finance, police brutality, race and gender equality — but with a deeper understanding of the global economy than Mr Sanders. But Mrs. Clinton has struggled to convince many liberals that she will follow through on her platform.

This mistrust is misguided. In a decade in politics, Mrs Clinton has been an effective advocate for her constituents, and has done nothing significant to suggest she would fail to represent them as President. And as a woman and the favorite target of Republicans, no candidate in recent history has had to defend that trust under as much scrutiny as Hillary Clinton. Its time to put the mistrust behind us; and as the most qualified candidate by far, she should be our next president.

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