An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders and His Supporters

Dear Bernie and passionate supporters,

First, let me thank you for joining the discussion and raising some very important issues as we begin the campaign to see who will be our next president.

These issues, including income inequality and the unequal playing field between Main Street and Wall Street, are relevant to everyday Americans. Climate change and tax policy are things that need to concern all of us. We must not allow Republicans to implement their policies of trickle-down economics with tax policies and regulations benefiting only the rich. I applaud you for talking about big banks and how we must regulate them more. Your standing up for our veterans is impressive, and we do need to guarantee them adequate health care, which we as a nation owe them for their service.

I am a progressive myself. My political career includes helping start a young reform Democratic club in upper Manhattan to defeat the regular Democrat and elect U.S. Rep. William Fitts Ryan (D-New York). When he passed away, I began supporting and worked on the staff of U.S. Rep. Bella S. Abzug (D-New York). So your passion for equality is something I share. I taught school in Harlem, New York, after graduating from college, and my first job in Washington, D.C., was as Executive Director of the White House Conference on Handicapped Individuals/Implementation Unit, fighting for the rights of those with different abilities and helping even the playing field for them.

In an effort to be transparent, I need to let you know that I am an unabashed and longtime supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton. My passionate support for Hillary Clinton is based on my belief that she is far and away the best-prepared person to run for president in decades. She has a distinguished and long record of fighting for progressive causes, including the rights of children and civil and human rights for all, and her election as the first woman president of the United States of America would make a dramatic difference for future generations here and around the world.

I have tried to look for areas in which you and she have real disagreements, and they are hard to find. It seems like you both support or oppose many of the same things. There are a few areas in which you differ. For example, in 1993 you voted for a National Rifle Association-supported bill to stop lawsuits against gun companies, and against the Brady Bill. Hillary was a vociferous supporter of the Brady Bill and still is.

Immigration is another area where you and Hillary have some difference. While she has made it a priority on the campaign trail and throughout her career, you haven't been as vocal on the issue. Unlike Hillary, you oppose guest-worker programs, which are essential to our legal immigration system.

Of course, you are a self-described socialist who has never been elected as a Democrat and has been highly critical of the Democratic Party. It was reported in the Rutland Herald that you said it would be "hypocritical" for you to run as a Democrat given your criticism of the party.

Despite that, you and Hillary have a lot in common, especially when compared with the Republican presidential contenders.

You both support the Affordable Care Act. You both want a better education for all our children. You both want to reduce the cost of college, and the cost of college loans. You both want a more peaceful world. You both want to level the playing field for hardworking Americans.

So what I hope you and your supporters do through the rest of the primary season is continue to focus on and speak out on the issues you care about. Direct your verbal attacks toward the clown car of Republican candidates looking for their party's nomination.

I am sure we agree that a Democrat in the White House is crucial if we are to continue the momentum of economic progress; the fight for civil and human rights for all Americans; the fight for a path to citizenship for immigrants; the fight to guarantee everyone's right to vote; and, maybe as important as anything else, ensuring that the next Supreme Court justices are ones who believe in the principles of the Democratic Party that we all stand for.

If every Democratic candidate and his or her supporters remember that goal, we will come through these primaries a stronger party with a great candidate who will go on to defeat a Republican Party that is currently controlled by those who would like to take us back to the 18th century.