Editorial: Sanders our choice for Democrats

Last modified: 2/26/2016 6:02:48 PM
Massachusetts and other states involved in Super Tuesday have a critical vote ahead, one that pits the party establishment against a candidate driven by dissatisfaction with the current Washington power structure.

No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump and his Republican opponents. Today’s topic is the choice many Democratic voters are grappling with between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Although the two candidates share a broad philosophy and agree on many issues, each offers a distinctly different vision for the party and the nation.

In our view, Sanders’ vision holds the greatest promise — one that is both radical and realistic.

In endorsing the U.S. senator from Vermont, The Recorder recognizes that many Americans feel disenfranchised from their government and are frustrated by the lack of movement toward addressing issues such as income inequality, climate change and the taint of money in politics.

Of the two Democrats, Sanders offers the clearest break from the status quo, with a record of working to narrow the gap between rich and poor, to treat climate change as a dire threat to future generations and to end the days of “the billionaire class” subverting the common good.

Underpinning all this is nearly a half-century of public life in which Sanders has held firmly to his principles and refused to take donations from powerful, moneyed interests. Sanders doesn’t kiss many babies. But with him, voters sense — correctly — that what you see is what you get.

A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders began at the fringes of American politics and hasn’t moved much to the ideological right. But as mayor of Vermont’s biggest city, Sanders was able to build pragmatic partnerships that energized the downtown business district while empowering the less fortunate. And in a quarter-century as U.S. congressman and senator, Sanders has shown himself capable of building coalitions as well as issuing calls to conscience.

While some initially dismissed his presidential ambitions, Sanders’ call for “political revolution” has galvanized voters and presented a serious challenge to Clinton, the presumptive front-runner. At the center of Sanders’ bid are his plans to take on the corporate interests that he says have bankrupted the U.S. and created a loss of jobs, shrinking middle class and crushing burden of student debt.

That is a message that resonates not only in predominantly liberal enclaves like the Pioneer Valley but also in more politically moderate regions. And it stands in contrast to Clinton, who as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state has positioned herself firmly in the centrist camp, accepted financial support from the standard big donors and taken a hawkish stand on some questions of national defense.

To be clear: Clinton possesses qualities that could make her a strong nominee and effective president. In a long public career, she has proven a tough and pragmatic figure, someone willing to roll up her sleeves, master the details and do the hard work. She made an early effort to bring about health care reform and proved a forceful voice on gun control. And she notes correctly that becoming our nation’s first woman president would represent a revolution in its own right.

When asked whether they would vote for Clinton, many of the hesitant say it comes down to a question of “trust.” To some degree, this is an unfair charge, rooted in sexism and conservative smear campaigns (such as Whitewater and Benghazi) that have little foundation in fact. But Clinton has only herself to blame for some of the doubts; why else would she resist calls to release the transcripts of the talks she was paid to give to Wall Street bankers?

Clinton would offer more direct experience in foreign policy, a vital area in this era of complex and delicate crises around the globe. But Sanders, by virtue of his decades in Washington, has more experience in these areas than his Republican opponents. And he would do what all presidents must, surrounding himself with capable foreign policy operatives — much as President Barack Obama did in bringing aboard Clinton and, later, former U.S. Sen. John Kerry from Massachusetts.

In choosing a candidate, Democratic voters must concern themselves with electability. Given the ascendancy of Donald Trump, which Democrat could offer a more thoughtful appeal to voters fed-up with the status quo?

While Clinton continues to be a divisive figure among the electorate (if not among the party elite), Sanders has proven surprisingly popular. A recent poll done by Quinnipiac University concluded: “Sanders has the highest favorability rating of any candidate and the highest scores for honesty and integrity, for caring about voters’ needs and problems and for sharing voters’ values.”

In order for Sanders to succeed on a national stage, he must address legitimate questions about how he will pay for his ambitious programs and get them through a potentially resistant Congress. Taxes on billionaires aren’t the answer to every funding question, and Sanders may need to moderate some of his goals (such as his call for free college tuition for all) to make others a reality.

But of the two candidates, Sanders stands the greatest chance of tapping voter discontent and converting it into a broad political will. Restoring the nation’s faith in its government and politics has been a driving force in Sanders’ revolution. We urge voters to give him the chance to try.


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