John Judis weighs the merits of the Clinton and Sanders campaigns on Talking Points Memo.
“He’s not going to get the nomination, is he?” my wife asks anxiously as she gazes out of the kitchen window at the Bernie for President sign on our front lawn. No, I assure her, and he certainly won’t win Maryland on April 26. I’m voting for Bernie, and my wife may, too, but we’re doing so on the condition that we don’t think he will get the nomination. If he were poised to win, I don’t know whether I’d vote for him, because I fear he would be enormously vulnerable in a general election, even against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, and I’m also not sure whether he is really ready for the job of president.
Why, then, vote for him at all? For me, it’s entirely about the issues he is raising, which I believe are important for the country’s future. Hillary Clinton and her various boosters in the media have made the argument that it’s impractical and even irresponsible to raise a demand like “Medicare for all” and “free public college” that could not possibly get through the next Congress, even if Democrats eke out a majority in the Senate. They presumably want a candidate to offer programs that could be the result of protracted negotiations between a Democratic president and Speaker Paul Ryan – like a two percent increase in infrastructure spending in exchange for a two percent reduction in Medicaid block grants. I disagree with this approach to politics.
What Sanders is proposing are political guideposts – ideals, if you like – according to which we can judge whether incremental reforms make sense. He is describing, whether you like them or not, objectives toward which we Americans should be aspiring. That’s a central activity in politics. Should it be confined to issues of Democracy or National Affairs? Or is it the kind of activity that is entirely appropriate for a nominating contest? Ronald Reagan and the conservatives thought so during the 1970s. And I think Democrats should be thinking this way now. So I applaud Bernie Sanders for not limiting his proposals to what might appear on a President’s often-ignored budget requests.
Does the country really need turning around? Sanders has been derided for holding up Denmark and other Scandinavian countries as examples. They are far different from the US, and they are also beginning to experience problems sustaining their own social democracies. But I think in comparing life there with life in the United States, there is one useful point to be made. What people in these countries enjoy is not assured lifetime employment or control over their workplaces, but a degree of basic security about their lives that is missing in the United States. Americans endure needless anxiety about access to education and healthcare and about being left penniless or homeless. Our social safety net doesn’t just need mending, but replacement. It’s worn out. And Sanders provides a set of guidelines in his proposals that will move exactly in that direction That’s why he gets my vote on April 26 – even if I hope Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.
The irony here is that Sanders’ proposals may have a better chance of being implemented sooner in this country if his campaign fails. That implementation probably requires a Democratic majority in Congress and a more liberal Supreme Court. I agree with Judis that those are more likely if Clinton is the 2016 Democratic nominee.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center