Have you watched any or all of the Democratic Debates and Forums? There have been lively exchanges between Clinton and Sanders on substantive issues. The Republican debates featuring Trump, Cruz, Carson , Rubio, Bush, Christie and Kasich present a free wheeling, insult laden two hour exchange with very little discussion of important issues to voters. It’s mostly personal invective with The Donald positioned at center stage. Only John Kasich stays on a positive message about the state of the country and his accomplishments as Governor of Ohio.
Today’s blog is about the Democratic candidates for President of The United States. We are in the midst of Primary season to decide which of the two in the race will be the party’s nominee. First, let’s set the stage in a time frame. The 2016 Presidential election may be the most significant election in the country’s history. The Republicans are always looking back to the New Deal, hoping to roll back the Safety Net that has been in place since Franklin Roosevelt was president in the 1930’s. Their aim for decades has been to privatize Social Security and change Medicare/Medicaid into a voucher program. They have stated these goals in many presidential races in their party platforms and speeches. It would be a safe bet to ask if most young people today –eligible to vote at eighteen,- know this history. What’s your guess?
When Barack Obama campaigned for president in 2007, he was a young Black senator from Illinois with an exciting message of “ Hope and Change.” Young and old voters flocked to him. He stressed that “We are not Red States and Blue States. We are the United States of America!” Obama went on to win two terms in office with large electoral margins against a fierce Republican opposition that had vowed to make him a one term president on the very night of his first victory. Barack Obama did bring significant change. He led the country back from the Great Recession with the Stimulus Program, rescue of the auto industry and successive months of job growth from 2008 to 2015. His greatest legislative accomplishment, The Affordable Care Act, brought health care to over seventeen million men, women and children who had no health insurance. However, The Republican controlled House has voted to repeal it sixty times. And one third of Republicans are Birthers, still insisting he was born in Kenya. Most Republican candidates vow to repeal Obamacare their first day in office.
Our next president will encounter the deep partisanship that exists now in Congress and the country. He or she may have the responsibility of nominating two or three justices to the Supreme Court. She or he will also be Commander in Chief, making crucial decisions to keep the United States safe from Isis and other terrorist groups in the Middle East. Which Democratic candidate is better equipped to meet these significant challenges? Bernie Sanders has stated that his aim is “radical, revolutionary change.” Hillary Clinton has stressed that her aim is “to get progressive goals done and to preserve Obama’s legacy.”
Let’s consider their accomplishments and promises in the framework of how change has actually happened in this country. 1776 is the date of the one and only revolution in our history. We fought the Revolutionary War against Britain and formed the United States of America. Since that time, all the major changes that have occurred have been evolutionary, most over decades and some over centuries. If one were to ask Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, , Asian Americans…..mature women, gay people or poor people how change happens and how long it takes, what do you think they would answer? If they know their history, they would say a long, long time. White men wrote The Constitution that established our form of federal government during the long hot summer of l787. It has been described as “elastic” since the Courts can interpret the laws passed by Congress. The President as the Executive, is charged with putting the laws into effect. He or she also has the responsibility to set the goals and priorities for the nation in the annual State of The Union message.
Bernie Sanders, 74, was the Mayor of Burlington and has served in the House and Senate representing Vermont for 35 years.. He describes himself politically as a “Democratic Socialist” and has always supported progressive laws to better the lives of the middle and working classes. He is part of the Democratic Caucus and served as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for two years. After scandals broke in the Veterans Affairs Department, he did not start hearings as the House VA committee did. When he finally introduced comprehensive and costly legislation, it failed to get Republican votes to pass. His emphasis in the current campaign is on “income inequality, breaking up the big banks on Wall Street, taxing the one percent of billionaires at the top, free college tuition for all” and replacing Obama care with “ single payer health care universal system.” His rhetorical style and charged enthusiasm have captured thousands of admirers at rallies throughout the country. Many are young college students who are his most vociferous admirers. They have “the Bern”!
Hillary Clinton, 68, has been an activist in political life since earning her Yale law degree. She served as First Lady of Arkansas when Bill Clinton was Governor, followed by First Lady of the United States when he was President for two terms. She led the health care program during his first term, but it did not succeed in Congress. She made history in China when as First Lady, she said, “Women’s rights are human rights!” Hillary entered politics herself when she ran and served as Senator from New York State for two terms. During that time, she worked closely with Senator Ted Kennedy to create the CHIP health program for nine million children. She ran for president in 2008 but lost to Barack Obama, who then chose her to become Secretary of State. In that crucial position, she traveled to 112 countries across the globe, rebuilding our image that had been damaged by the Bush administration Wars. She held that position through Obama’s first term as a trusted advisor in the decision to hunt and kill Bin Laden. She then led the complex diplomacy that led to sanctions and the final Iran Nuclear Deal Her emphasis in the current campaign is on “getting things done to improve the lives of middle and working class Americans.” Her programs include: “free college tuition, but not for rich families, controlling not only big banks, but shadow banks and pharmaceutical companies, free pre-K education, and gun control measures nation wide. ” Most important, she will “build on the Affordable Care Act to achieve universal coverage for all Americans” She is strongly against starting all over as Sanders proposes with a national debate about health care.
When one reviews the accomplishments and promises of both candidates, what stands out clearly is that Bernie Sanders is an idealist, setting forth dramatic goals that can inspire and draw fierce loyalty. Hillary Clinton is an experienced pragmatist , setting forth achievable goals that will better the lives for all Americans.
One observer described Bernie as the “cheer leader whipping up the enthusiasm” and Hillary as the “quarterback scoring the points and winning the game.”