If you were to ask me this question, my answer would be “I have no clue.” How does one begin to compare and contrast two drastically different people? On the one hand, Bernie Sanders is the outspoken liberal/socialist-in-name-only candidate who reflects my ideals perfectly; on the other hand, Hillary Clinton is the powerful, passionate, and successful woman that I have always wanted to see as president. So what are the pros and cons of the two candidates? How will he or she win the presidency? And, even more importantly, what would be his or her most debilitating shortcoming?
First, let’s start with Bernie Sanders. Currently the junior Senator from Vermont, Sanders is known as a “Democratic socialist” whose priorities include addressing America’s most salient economic challenges (i.e. stagnant wages, declining unionism, and college debt). He is most renowned for his fight against “big money” in politics, and is especially critical of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case (In this case, the Supreme Court decided that corporations could “spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate” on the grounds that they are “an association of individuals” and therefore protected by the First Amendment). He is also a fighter for basically all forms of rights, equality, and justice in the world: he has taken strong progressive stances to the problems of racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, veteran’s rights, and immigrant’s rights, just to name a few.
With all of these beautifully progressive ideals, why wouldn’t one vote for Sanders? The answer is in the question itself: Sanders is just too liberal for the rest of America. There are parts of the American electorate that will be opposed to Sanders no matter what, due to his supportive stances on gay marriage, on civil rights, and women’s equality.
Within the Democratic Party however, there is an even more critical problem: there are more moderate democrats who may find Sanders too radical for their own taste. Many Democratic voters have their reservations when it comes to Sanders; some worry that if he were to win the Democratic primary, many of the centrists or more traditionally fiscally conservative “Blue Dog Democrats” who helped propel President Obama into office may indeed cross over to the Republican side during next year’s general election.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is experiencing quite a different situation. Having served as Secretary of State, a Senator of New York, and, of course, as former First Lady, Hillary Clinton has the powerful campaign weapon of experience under her belt. Her priorities include fighting income inequality, boosting the middle class, and promoting women’s rights. In one of the most famous speeches of her storied political career, delivered when she was First Lady in 1995 at the United Nations Fourth Conference on Women, she proudly declared that “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.” There is no question that Hillary is a fierce and passionate candidate who refuses to let gender inequality get the best of her, and as a woman myself, I find this aspect of her campaign extremely empowering.
Like most Democrats, however, I too have doubts about Clinton. For one, her recent email scandal has led many to question her ability to be trustworthy and professional; certainly, the president cannot use his or her own email server when discussing sensitive national and international issues. Furthermore, Clinton’s campaign so far has been primarily financed by corporate donations, while the Sanders campaign has refused to accept corporate donations or utilize a super PAC. On top of that, Clinton is currently struggling to win the support of white-working class men (who have increasingly shifted towards the Republican party) and young people, who have drifted towards Sanders. It is true that Clinton is motivating and inspirational, but those qualities can only take one so far. If Clinton plans on winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency, then she also needs to prove that she is consistent in her ideals, dedicated to her constituents, and not another byproduct of corrupt politics.
Both Democratic candidates have their strengths and, unfortunately, weaknesses, but at the end of the day, only one of them can be the nominee (assuming that Vice President Joe Biden decides not to run, which is becoming increasingly likely with each passing day). So who should the Democratic party nominate as their next presidential candidate? I still do not have an answer. Only time can tell under whom Democrats will choose to unite.