New York Democrats,
You are in the enviable position to help determine the trajectory of the Democratic nomination process (focus is on the Democrats because Trump appears to have the Republican race in New York locked-up, so no drama there). If Bernie wins, he gains significant momentum and energy, even though his campaign is unlikely to win enough pledged delegates. But momentum and energy do matter, because with enough of a surge, those undemocratic superdelegates could bow to pressure and switch sides.
Bernie and Hillary represent two different versions of the same Democratic philosophy: economic protectionism combined with social liberalism. As outlined in a prior article, Hillary is a 1990s Democrat (or, a "New Democrat" as they called it back then), which had her starting out her candidacy as a neo-libertarian candidate, combining moderate economic liberalism with moderate social liberalism.
Hillary is a moderate at heart, primarily because she grew up in politics at a time when Democrats were still licking their wounds from the Reagan rout in the 1980s. Bernie is a true Democrat at heart, bringing the verve and moral justice argument back from the dead and showing "New Democrats" that they don't have to continue to bow down to the altar of the Reagan Revolution anymore.
Which version of Democrat makes sense in a post-Reagan, post-Bush and post-Obama world? Let's break it down into pros and cons for the iconoclastic insurgent Bernie Sanders:
Reasons to vote for Bernie:
- Authenticity: He truly believes in his message and does not appear to be a traditional, modern politician that bobs and weaves to make voters like him.
- Problem identification: He has shown an ability to identify problems that people feel need to be addressed urgently.
- Empathy: He appears to have a lifestyle much more like the average American.
- Leadership: He does not self-identify as a natural people leader, which could mean he's actually a highly-effective leader.
- Accessibility: His language and framing of issues speak to citizens of all educational backgrounds.
- Honesty: Bernie has shown an penchant for straight-talk. Compared to his competition in the race, this provides him with a significant political advantage.
- Government-based solutions: For people who have lost all trust in non-Government institutions (Wall Street, Corporate America, lobbying firms, SuperPACs), Bernie's prescriptions rely heavily on government to ensure a more fair and equitable environment for citizens from all walks of life.
Reasons not to vote for Bernie:
- Problem-solving: He has not shown an ability to define solutions that will work in a non-idealistic political universe. "Breaking up the banks," "Free college tuition," and "Single-payer healthcare" solutions are the policy equivalent to cotton candy as a prescription for the flu.
- Navigating complexity: His simplified versions of the problems and solutions speak to a lack of interest in things like differences in opinions and unintended consequences of policy decisions.
- Integrity: While most Bernie supporters feel he is brimming with integrity, I would suggest that his battle-cry of "How can Hillary take money from Wall Street and not be beholden to Wall Street?" rings hollow. Case in point: President Obama took money from Wall Street in both of his campaigns, and yet he pushed incredibly hard to enable Wall Street reform. If you recall, Dodd-Frank was passed under Obama's leadership, and Dodd-Frank was significantly watered down by Congress. Wall-Street-funded Obama wanted the reforms to go much deeper.
- Over-reliance on government: The vast majority of Americans do not think the government is competent enough to manage large programs. To suddenly trust government with even more responsibility may not pass the sniff test for a general electorate if Bernie makes it into the general election. It's a real toss-up, though: plenty of Americans also do not trust non-governmental institutions either. But the benefit of non-government institutions is that there are a diversity of them, and they can change over time. Once the government manages something, it's a rare occurrence to change management to a non-governmental entity.
Bernie Sanders is an incredibly disciplined candidate. His message discipline enables him to connect with voters who share his concerns about the problems our nation faces. But for every benefit in a candidate, there is usually an equal and opposite drawback.
Knowing this, New York Democrats, you should not base your vote purely on your feelings from the last rally or television commercial -- your vote should take into account the real pros and the true cons of your preferred candidate.