Over the next couple of weeks, caucus-goers and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have their opportunity to pick whom they think should be the presidential candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties. If I could speak to Democrats in those two states, I would tell them this: Choose Bernie Sanders.
My endorsement is not based primarily on policy. Sanders and Hillary Clinton have differences, but not in any earth-shattering way. On domestic issues, they really are both fairly straightforward progressives – or can be pressured to be. On foreign policy, Clinton is more hawkish, but Sanders would continue some key military policies, like the drone war. And let’s be honest: any Democratic policy proposals don’t have much meaning in a world where at least one house of Congress will be controlled by Republicans. They have been famously unwilling to compromise in the slightest, even when offered golden chances to get exactly what they want.
No, policy is not the central issue in the Democratic primary. It is, instead, perspective.
Only Bernie Sanders correctly diagnoses – and relentlessly attacks – the fundamental sickness of our republic today: the overbearing power of great wealth.
For decades now – under both Republican and Democratic administrations – our republic has been run by a simple rule: take care of the rich first, then they’ll take care of everyone else. Our political and economic systems have been re-crafted to be infinitely more responsive to the wealthy. The end result is the vast majority of Americans have not benefited from the real gains our society has made.
This breaks the American democratic promise of a nation by and for the people. Instead, we have become a plutocratic republic – run by and for the rich. For my part, I don’t care if you’re rich. I don’t get too exercised by the existence income and wealth inequality in and of itself. However, great wealth does not give you the right to rule. It does not give you the right use our government to further enrich yourself at the expense of a stagnating future for most Americans. And beyond certain levels, inequality begins to tear apart our social fabric, as fewer people see why such a society is worth supporting.
Sanders has made these propositions the centerpiece of this campaign. It is these propositions – and the passion Sanders has for them – that he would truly bring to the presidency. The power of the bully pulpit is still power, and although it might have little effect in policy without a similarly dedicated Congress, it could begin to change the minds of, and turn the tide for, the American people.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, seems to have made peace with the plutocracy. Again, she has broadly progressive policy goals. I’m not concerned about that. But I find it difficult to fully trust her in the fight to bring the plutocracy to heel when she is so beholden to it. I find it difficult to believe that Clinton will bring the same passion to the struggle as Sanders.
So, I ask you – Democratic voters of Iowa and New Hampshire – to caucus and vote for Sanders.
That said, you can’t stop there. A Sanders candidacy certainly won’t be a cakewalk. In my next post, I want to address what I see as some serious difficulties in the general election should Sanders win the nomination.