After taking two weeks off to correct the proofs of my new book one question is still the same: Bernie or Hillary? It should never have been a question, because during my twenty five years in the US so far I would have considered it unimaginable that a declared socialist would run for the presidency on an agenda of universal healthcare and tuition-free college, promising to get corporate money out of politics and to break up the big banks, and I would have supported that candidate without any second thoughts. So why cannot I commit to Bernie? Undoubtedly he has the ‘purest’ positions on most issues, national and international. The problem is that positions alone are not enough and have to be supported by policies, and that’s where Bernie is lacking. In a recent interview with the editorial board of the Daily News he was unable to give any details about the way he wants to achieve his goals, and displayed at best shaky ‘knowledge’ of the tools he would need, such as the Dodd/Frank Act. Questions about international politics were limited to the Middle East, and here too Bernie remained vague most of the time.
Bernie’s strengths are Hillary’s weaknesses and vice versa. She is also opposed to Citizens United but her agenda for the big banks is less ambitious than his, although she has a much better idea how to implement it with the help of Dodd/Frank. While Bernie wants to establish a $15/hour minimum wage nationally in short order Hillary’s approach is more incremental and takes local conditions into account. Where Bernie applauds Obama’s reluctance to have the US military more involved in the Middle East Hillary appears to be more hawkish, for instance by arguing for a no-fly zone in Syria to protect the large number of refugees still in that country. Women’s health issues are more prominent on Hillary’s agenda, in part because of her supporting cast, as well as police violence against minorities, although Bernie doesn’t have significantly different positions. The one issue on which Hillary is clearly ‘better’ than Bernie is gun control. Inexplicably Bernie has not disavowed his past support for legal protections for the gun-industry and his opposition to the Brady-bill, while he keeps blasting Hillary for her alleged ties to the financial industry.
Lately the competition for the Democratic nomination has become less cordial and more aggressive, especially on the part of Bernie’s campaign. It is the product of frustration, because Bernie’s people realize that he could possibly have won the nomination if he had campaigned harder from the beginning. Bernie’s complaint that many of Hillary’s votes were earned in the Deep South has racist undertones, and he would be wise to cease making those remarks immediately.
The US President is both the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the administration’s Chief Executive. Bernie has the ideas to be the latter, but not the tools, while Hillary has the tools but not always the ideas. In a time when national security is just about as important as social equality it is relevant that Hillary is much better prepared for the Commander in Chief role than Bernie.
In my view, ideally Hillary becomes the Democratic nominee and wins the general election, but all through her presidency she is pushed to the left by Bernie’s movement. Today the citizens of New York have to make that choice, in New Jersey we fortunately have until June 7th, when it may not matter anymore.