Back in 2007, this writer was busy creating articles for Newsvine on the first Obama campaign for President. Here we are eight years later and the country is once again seeking a new leader for the Free World. I don't write about Republicans for POTUS, nor do I support any of the current Republican candidates. The reasons are not important. Everybody has an opinion, and mine happens to lean to the Democratic side of things. (Perhaps if they ran someone closer to Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, or Dwight Eisenhower, I would reconsider...but that hasn't happened yet.)
The country is presented with two main Democratic candidates for President, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. One is a liberal-leaning woman who has called the White House home before, and possesses a powerful political machine. The other is a take-the-fight-to-the-people guy from Brooklyn with progressive social leanings. Over the last few months, this writer has pondered on which one of these two would make a better President. The close vote in Iowa only proves that Democrats are split right down the middle on who is best for the job. Clinton won Iowa by a razor-thin margin. In fact, in a few precincts the vote was decided by a coin toss. (Clinton won all the tosses) On the other hand, Sanders is leading in the polls at the next stop in New Hampshire, and is only a single delegate behind Clinton. Which one of these two will end up as the final Democratic candidate may not be decided until the actual convention.
One fact is certain, though. The toughest job for either of these candidates will be uniting the party after all the dust settles. That job of unification will go to the winner.
Two candidates, two platforms. On some points they are similar, on others they differ greatly. Sanders appeals to the folks who believe gridlock in Washington is real, and that corporations and billionaires control much of what hard working people can provide their families for their hard work. In other words, many Sanders supporters believe the deck has been stacked against middle-class families. The evidence shows this is probably true. Clinton is heavily supported by women (no surprise there) and by people who just believe she would make a solid U.S. President based on her toughness and leadership. Her base consists of middle-of-the-road Democrats, a large number of minorities, and many senior folk. Sanders appeals to people who suspect they've been getting screwed for years by corporations, big banks, greedy fat cats, and purchased politicians who set policy favoring those entities. They want it to stop. He has much support among the far left of the Democratic Party, although he is rapidly making inroads toward the center-leaning Democrats as well. Middle-class support is running close for BOTH candidates, as was shown in the Iowa caucus results.
Choosing between these two is one of the most difficult decisions Democrats have ever had to make. Both candidates would probably make decent U.S. Presidents. Both voice similar opinions on the most popular issues, such as education, global warming, the economy, healthcare, and Social Security.
And that's exactly where the similarity ENDS.
For example, while Clinton talks about 'making Wall Street work for Main Street,' (from her official website) Sanders openly says he wants to rein in Wall Street, corporate banks, and billionaires. Clinton wants to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. Sanders wants health care either made free or affordable for everyone, as well as college. Clinton counters with better student loan terms and perhaps making SOME colleges free. The comparison list goes on and on.
However, there is a big difference between these two, and in Iowa it became apparent. Sanders is not afraid to tell voters exactly what needs to be done. In other words, he stands up there wherever he goes and gives specifics. These are specifics that should frighten anyone who is a fat cat, a CEO of a corporation that thinks enough money can buy policy, or who believes America was created simply to provide them ways to game the system into unlimited wealth...while the rest of the country goes down the tubes.
Clinton is a politician who could probably bridge the aisle with Republicans well enough, maybe enough to end gridlock. Bernie Sanders, should he be elected President, will shake the house and make changes. The main question is whether voters are ready for all that, or even want it.
So...one question for Democrats is which candidate is better suited to make true change happen? The OTHER question is which candidate can win the Presidency again for the Democrats? Each of them has strong and weak points.
The Pros and Cons for Hillary Clinton:
Pros: She has a well-funded political machine that gets the message out. She has experience both in the White House, and as Secretary of State, as well as being a former U.S. Senator. She is a slightly-left-of-center candidate. She's tough, and keeps coming back even when you think she's done. A good example of that was her 11-hour-or-so-grilling about Bengazi that actually helped her, rather than hurt her. People admired her for sitting up there and giving her inquisitors a Presidential-level 'what-for' right back at them:
'It’s very personally a painful accusation. (Hints by Republicans that she interfered in security measures at the embassy) I would imagine I've thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done, and so when I took responsibility, I took it as a challenge and an obligation to make sure before I left the State Department that what we could learn as I’m sure my predecessors did after Beirut and after Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and after all of the attacks on our facilities, I think all of them, Republican and Democrat alike ... said, 'OK, what must we do better?'
Cons: The situation with her emails is not good, although at this point it's hard to tell whether this hurts her chances or not. There is also a general feeling about her with many voters concerning the reasons she's running for President. Can she break gridlock? Can she actually end the destabilization of the Middle East? Barack Obama is slightly more to the left than Clinton, and even HE hasn't been able to accomplish that goal completely. On many of the issues, she does not give specifics on what direct actions she would take as President to solve certain problems. In other words, she voices support for this or that, but may not come down hard enough and tough enough on the most important issues. Some voters have voiced concern about sources for her campaign financing, especially anything from Wall Street. To her credit, she responds to these questions well, and points to her long record of positive public service. Still, this is a question she should address more closely. If Clinton really wanted to sway voters in a close campaign run, she might want to consider returning some money here and there. The question would disappear overnight, and as a result, contributions from working folk would probably roll in.
The Pros and Cons for Bernie Sanders:
Pros: Sanders doesn't hold back on what he plans to do as President. You ask, he will provide direct answers. You may not agree with the answers, but he certainly doesn't waffle on specifics. He also has avoided scandal over the years, and represents 'An American Life' about as well as any Presidential candidate ever has. He's well-versed in where the Federal dollars go, and about veterans, since he served on both the Budget and Veterans' Affairs committees. In some ways, he is the voice of disenfranchised Americans in general, who suspect that Obama, although he may be a decent President, failed to really shake the house down and bring about some of the changes he promised. Sanders, on the other hand, makes no bones about not only shaking the house in Washington, but making fundamental changes in America's current policies dealing with issues both domestic and worldwide. He is the Howard Beale among Democrats. You almost expect him to tell you to go to your window and shout out that famous phrase from the film Network.
'What the American people want to see in their President is somebody who not necessarily can win every fight, but they want to see him stand up and fight for what he believes, take his case to the American people...'
Cons: Sanders hasn't convinced older voters yet that he means business, although he HAS garnered more support from younger voters than Hillary Clinton. Until recently, his politics were unknown to a great deal of Americans west of the Mississippi River. He has been (somewhat unfairly) tagged as a 'socialist,' although many of the reforms he wants have already been in place for years in other industrialized countries. Some voters think his age is a negative factor, (he turns 75 in September) and that he might be too old to be President. Others wonder whether he will be too soft on foreign affairs, since he favors diplomacy over anything else and regards war as a last resort. (After fifteen years in Afghanistan and Iraq, this might not be a negative with voters, though.) There is also some question on how he will finance the programs he wants. Sanders should be more specific about this with a realistic plan he can sell to voters. Full health care and free college are not impossible, (it's already being done by other industrialized countries) but he must say HOW. It's a tall order.
Conclusions: It all comes down to playing 'Who Do You Trust'. Both candidates are suited to the office, and would make decent U.S. Presidents. One (Clinton) has more experience and would slip into the job with ease. The other (Sanders) would probably implement everything on his platform that he could manage. No wonder those precincts in Iowa had to decide on a coin flip.
The final candidate might be decided on just a whisper one way or another...from current U.S. President Barack Obama.
(Submitted by Robert Blevins, managing editor and co-founder, Adventure Books of Seattle)