Like many registered Democrats I have been going back and forth on the question whether I should support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, and the Iowa caucus hasn’t helped me one bit in making that decision. My battle is between sentiments and instincts, between feelings and rationality, between heart and mind, and possibly also between past and future. Based on my sentiments, my feelings, my heart and my past, I should support Bernie Sanders. I’ve been a socialist all my adult life, ever since I gave up the idea of joining Che Guevara in Bolivia as a teenager and the subsequent ambition of leading the Dutch working class to a proletarian revolution as a college student, so there is an almost natural affinity with Sanders. I feel strongly that the time for his message that the super-rich have shamelessly gamed a system that has left many Americans impoverished and is destroying the middle class has come, and I support all his policies, from substantially raising the marginal tax rate for the rich and taxing Wall Street gambling through making public colleges tuition-free to single payer health care.
But then doubt sets in. Bernie is a blank slate when it comes to foreign politics. The only achievements he touts are his vote against the Iraq war and his opposition to trade agreements, but a US President should preferably have a longer resume. Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that voting for that war was a mistake, and since then has gained foreign policy experience that no other candidate can match. Since Leon Trotsky’s failed world revolution socialist principles have not been very effective in foreign politics, but experience can be invaluable. Hillary is called too hawkish by some Democrats, but by the same token it can be said that Obama’s policies have been too timid, especially where it comes to supporting the Kurds and Sunni tribes against ISIS. And then there is the question what impact about seventy years of anti-socialist propaganda have had on the American psyche. Bernie’s college age supporters appear not to have been indoctrinated, but he would need the votes of some of their parents too, and the fear for anti-Bernie ads with a hammer and sickle is all too real among Democratic dignitaries.
With Hillary, I cannot help but always have the association with Emma Thompson in ‘Primary Colors,’ and I’ve written about her shifting between two personalities earlier in this blog, but maybe that is an ability you need to have as occupant of the White House. One of her main strengths is that she beats Bernie in support from both the African-American and the Hispanic community, and as long as he campaigns with an idiot like Cornel West it will stay that way.
My fear is that if Bernie is nominated and loses the general election or wins but cannot deliver, the left wing movement in the US will be set back significantly, but equal is my fear that if Hillary is nominated and loses or wins but subsequently compromises too much, frustration and distrust in politics will only grow beyond the current, already frightening, levels.
But fear is a bad advisor, and in the end it’s all about electability, because a Republican in the White House would be the worst thing that can happen to the US next year. Fortunately the New Jersey primary is not until June 7th, so I’ll have some time to gauge who’s more electable.