There is more to leadership than just saying the right things. The ability to capture an audience through passionate speeches about a narrow range of issues does not qualify someone for the presidency. Nor should stubborn, unwavering ideological purity overrule the necessity of compromise.
Bernie Sanders is great at saying the right thing. He is great at capturing an audience through passionate speeches about income inequality, healthcare and free education. He has retained ideological purity, which, contrary to popular belief, is not the same as integrity, both during his campaign and throughout his career.
But none of these things qualify Senator Sanders to be President of the United States. His speaking ability has been undermined by frequent gaffes on important foreign policy issues, especially when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as by a basic lack of understanding of his own proposals, as revealed during an interview with the New York Daily News. His ideological purity has alienated his co-workers, and as a result the junior Senator from Vermont has experienced difficulty gaining endorsements even from Congress’ most progressive members.
Yes, there are many things Bernie Sanders and I agree upon. I admit that he appeals to my sense of progressive idealism. But there’s more to the presidency than holding the right views. In 1976, Jimmy Carter held the right views. But four years later, foreign and domestic debacles, some of which were beyond his control and some of which were a direct result of his lack of preparation for the position, led to 12 years of Republican rule under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. The presidency requires not only great ideas but knowhow to implement those ideas while simultaneously balancing whatever unforeseeable crisis is challenging the nation.
Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who can walk that thin line between idealism and pragmatism. Like Bernie Sanders, she has been a loud voice for progressivism in America, passionately pursuing health care and education reform. Unlike Bernie Sanders, she has a record of getting things done.
While Bernie Sanders has talked about health care reform, Hillary Clinton has worked tirelessly to get it passed through Congress, not only with Hillarycare, but with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which currently provides healthcare to over 8 million children across the country.
While Bernie Sanders has talked about LGBT rights, Hillary Clinton lobbied for them abroad at a time when it was not popular to do so. While Bernie Sanders has voted against the Brady Bill five times, Hillary Clinton has been an active supporter of gun control. While Bernie Sanders has consistently been called out by the Anti-Defamation League for getting facts wrong on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hillary Clinton, during her time as Secretary of State, negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that established relative quiet in the region for an entire year.
Hillary Clinton, while obviously not a native New Yorker, has done a great deal for the state. As Senator, she helped secure $21 billion in federal funding to help rebuild after the events of Sept. 11. She prevented Corning, one of the largest employers in northern New York state, from going out of business. She played a large role in restoring the Long Island Sound. She helped guarantee federal funding for agricultural development in the region.
Of course, Bernie Sanders has not been without his passions in the Senate. There was, for example, the time he fought against legislation that would have allowed the Department of Homeland Security money to allocate money based on risk of a terrorist attack. After all, doesn’t Vermont have just as much a need to defend the Brattleboro Farmer’s Market from the threats on global terror as New York has need to defend one of the most populated cities on the planet? Does it not make sense to allocate homeland security funding in a way that’s completely equal regardless of need or population size?
Among his other shining moments was his flip flop on moving prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to civilian courts. In 2007 he voted against a bill barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to America, only to vote for a bill barring it in 2009 when Obama was in office. Not to mention that Bernie Sanders voted in favor of the 1994 Crime Bill he often attacks Secretary Clinton for, one that he justified by later lying about his reasons for voting for it. Not to mention his vote in favor of easing regulations on Wall Street with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.
As for his revolutionary ideas—free healthcare, free education, campaign finance reform—Bernie Sanders’ tenure has been relatively uneventful. I have yet to see many examples of his supposedly extraordinary efforts to change this country, far less any successes. No, Bernie Sanders doesn’t do. He talks.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand is arguably the most qualified candidate for president in the history of the United States. She revolutionized the role of first lady, writing and attempting to push through comprehensive health care reform that, although it didn’t pass, paved the way for Obamacare. As Secretary of State, she received praise from members of both parties, many of whom would later run against her in 2016.
Of course, Hillary Clinton is not the perfect candidate. I, along with many Americans, was disappointed with her vote in favor of the Iraq War. Although she later regretted it, and she was misled by an administration that lied both to the public and Congress, it was an error in judgment on her part. I was disappointed with her vote on that issue, just as I imagine Bernie’s supporters were disappointed with his five votes against the Brady Bill and other gun control legislation.
There’s also been accusations that she’s not honest. I believe that she is. It bothers me, however, when people claim that Bernie Sanders is completely honest about everything while Hillary isn’t. I don’t remember Hillary Clinton frequently claiming she didn’t have a super PAC even though that wasn’t true. I don’t remember Hillary Clinton claiming Bernie Sanders received considerably more money from oil companies than he actually did while receiving money from them herself.
There’s accusations that she changes her position too often. I suppose by that logic we’d be better off with President George W. Bush, who, according to Stephen Colbert, “Believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will.”
Yes, Hillary Clinton has changed her position. In 2008, she supported civil unions for same-sex couples, not marriage. By 2016, she supports marriage equality. It’s not like Bernie Sanders said he supported civil unions in 2006 and then changed his position later on. Inconsistencies in your statements don’t matter when you’re a man and a cult figure.
Regardless, Secretary Clinton is not perfect. But we can’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is a progressive. But, as she said in the first Democratic Presidential Debate, she’s “a progressive who likes to get things done”.
And that is crucial. I don’t believe that Bernie Sanders will be able to do much as President, not just because it’s unlikely that the Democrats are going to take back the House, but because he’s too much of an ideologue and seems to believe that, as President, he gets more authority than he actually has. He can’t do everything by himself. He can’t overturn Citizens United without the Supreme Court and he can’t pass healthcare reform without Congress.
Hillary Clinton has worked with Republicans on meaningful legislation in the past and, I believe, will find a way to work with Republicans as President. She has the right balance between idealism and pragmatism, and her qualifications outshine any of her opponents. I believe, truly, that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for President of the United States.