In conversations with liberal friends, discussing the choice between the two Democratic front runners, Bernie and Hillary, I have heard more than once the following argument:
"I love Bernie and what he stands for, but I think in the general elections Hillary stands more of a chance. Therefore I support her nomination."
To me this is a false argument for a number of different reasons.
The real difference between Hillary and Bernie are both in consistency and core motivation. While Hillary now says she is Progressive, she has described herself as Centrist and Moderate in the not too distant past, which was in fact consistent with her positions at the time, however, with the winds blowing in the populist direction those positions have now flipped along with her self-definition. Bernie, on the other hand, has remained consistent, regarding the majority of his positions, through decades in politics.
Hillary says that changing opinions is a healthy sign of an evolving, thoughtful leader. This may have been the case if a couple of her positions evolved over time, but do you really buy that argument, when it comes to a whole score of positions suddenly flipping in proximity to the primaries?! If you do, I have a tunnel to sell you (yep, the bridges have been all sold out for a while, sorry).
So, this brings me to the real core issue. Bernie derives his motivation for his political involvement out of hard conviction, not out of a more general desire to do good. Anyone I talk with is in agreement; Bernie's heart is pure when it comes to his motivations. He has taken the path of most resistance in many cases throughout his political career. In fact his trailblazing upfront positions were likely responsible for shaping Hillary's recent shift of positions, as she takes the path of least resistance to placate populist wind in her party. In fact Bernie has gone out on a limb against the odds, against a powerful opponent, who has the entire establishment and financial structure behind them, not because he believed it would be an easy walk in the park, but because he does not trust the other player's commitment to the main issues he sees at the center of everything:
1. Immediate Action on Climate Change - in order to reverse imminent destruction of the natural world we live in.
2. Campaign Financing Reform - in order to make politicians as responsive to the needs of people at large as they are to the needs of the wealthy.
3. Financial Protections - in order to prevent another meltdown of the economy due to gigantic financial institutions' misbehavior.
4. Restoring of balance in economic inequality - in order to provide a basic basket of conditions to all citizens including health care, living wages, opportunity to advance through higher education
These core essential issues are just a few among the many to Hillary. Because she lacks a clear set of urgent priorities, these key issues may be sacrificed, as was the case with Bill Clinton's presidency. Again, not to take away from the good Bill Clinton has done, but clearly some of the sacrifices he made in the process of wheeling and dealing with Republicans resulted in damage the current administration has worked hard to rectify.
Why does this matter? Because, while Hillary may do some good, her lack of focus is problematic. Her path will be the politician's path of cautious calculation, marred by the give and take that all but guarantees no real progress will be made on the most crucial issues. Bernie on the other hand has demonstrated leadership by running on an outside-the-establishment platform, as early as his run for office as Mayor of Burlington. Bernie is a politician who brings people with him, by conviction. He believes in changing the political climate itself, not just maneuvering politically within it to get things done. He has, however, shown the ability to do exactly that, as well; through bi-partisan bills he has passed in Senate, and through his collaboration with Republicans in his work in Vermont, in order to overcome abstractionists from within his own party.
The fact is that our situation in the U.S., and the world, is so acute we cannot count on working within the existing political landscape, but need leaders who will transform that landscape through the power of their conviction. It may be too late, but if we stand any chance of stopping Global Climate Change within the last window of opportunity scientists tell us we have, the next 10 years or so, we need to act drastically and build a broad consensus, as is the case in most of the world today. Doing so incrementally or half-heartedly, as has happened with more "pragmatic" politicians so far, will simply not do, and we might as well just give up.
The same is true of the growing economic disparity between the middle class and the wealthy, and the power that this inequality packs in the current political system. Which is also true of our current continuing vulnerability to another disastrous economic meltdown, lacking break-up of the larger institutions, or the protections that would be provided by the Glass-Steagall act.
So, this is my conclusion as to which party I support in the Democratic nomination. We are in such dire straits right now that a much bolder approach needs to be taken.
Aside from that, surprisingly, according to polls, Bernie is much more appealing to independents than any of the other candidates, Republican or Democrat. What is even more surprising is that a certain cross-section of conservatives is generally supportive of Bernie, as opposed to Hillary. These are conservatives who agree that economic burden has become too high on their own families, and they like Bernie's no-nonsense attitude and straightforwardness. After all Bernie did win elections for Senate in Vermont, where there's a conservative majority, thus he demonstrated this can be done.
So, in conclusion, I don't have any doubt in my mind that Bernie is the right candidate to lead the Democratic Party into victory in the Presidential elections of 2016. Do you?