The April 26 Democratic Presidential Primary


Much to the surprise of almost everyone, this year’s April 26 Primary actually matters. Both parties structured their nominating processes in the hope that a candidate would be determined by no later than March. Not this year.

The Republicans seem to be barreling toward a convention in which the outcome won’t be decided until multiple ballots have been cast. It would be hard to call it a “brokered” convention, however, since there really are no brokers any more.

Assessing the horrors of having to choose between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz will have to wait for another day. Today’s blog is focused on the Democratic Party contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
There is widespread amazement that the Socialist from Vermont is drawing huge crowds, winning state contests and still actively contesting the nomination.

However, if you think about it, a similar dynamic occurred in 2008. Barack Obama jumped out to an early lead and did a good job of organizing and understanding the rules of the process, but didn’t wrap up the nomination until June. Some critics would like to attribute the protracted contest to Hillary Clinton’s flaws as a candidate, but there’s really much more going on than that.

To be clear, Clinton, like all the candidates seeking the presidency, is imperfect. That’s always been the reality of presidential elections. As much as we yearn for a savior, we never get flawless candidates.
Clinton has made some serious errors of judgment–including deciding to use a private email server while Secretary of State and accepting enormous speaking fees from Wall Street even knowing she was going to run for president. She also gets tarred by some of Bill Clinton’s transgressions.

At the same time, she has been the victim of numerous attacks that have no basis in reality. Just as many of the allegations made while Bill Clinton was president did not hold up under careful examination, the unending efforts of Congressional Republicans to find a scandal concerning Benghazi have tarnished them more than her. Among the only allegations that have not been thrown at her so far are that she was born in Kenya and is secretly a Muslim.

To argue, as Bernie Sanders has recently, that Clinton is not qualified to be president is utter and complete nonsense. She has one of the strongest sets of credentials of any candidates in modern electoral history. Clinton, with eight years as Senator from New York, four years as Secretary of State, and eight years as the nation’s First Lady, has more experience than any candidate since George H.W Bush.

Let’s also acknowledge that she faces the unprecedented challenge of seeking to be the first female president. No one else is critiqued about what they wear, what their hair style is, and how their voice sounds.
Part of her dilemma is that Clinton is the establishment candidate in a year in which there is incredible unrest and anger. She’s been on the national stage for more than two decades and is hardly in a position to run as an outsider.

And give Sanders a lot of credit for tapping into the anger so effectively. I absolutely understand what many people find appealing about him. Sanders is right about the growing inequality in this country that arises in significant measure from a system that disproportionately benefits those with the most financial resources. He is, in many ways, the logical successor to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Unfortunately, Sanders has the same fundamental problem that Occupy Wall Street did. He has lots to say about the flaws in the current system, but little to offer in terms of remedies.

Even before his disastrous interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders was always short on details and specifics. In that interview, he wasn’t able to offer any insights into how he would break up the big banks despite having that mantra as the core of his campaign from the very start.

Sanders, in promising Medicare for all and free college, may be addressing important public policy issues, but he totally disregards any political or fiscal realities. You don’t have to be a deficit hawk to be concerned with the gigantic impact his proposals would have on the federal deficit. Of course, that’s not really a worry since his agenda would be dead on arrival even if Democrats regain control of Congress after the November election.

Sanders has made a real contribution to the nominating process in raising important issues and forcing Hillary Clinton to respond to them. I think that was his original objective in running, but his unexpected success thus far has led him to move to more of an attack mode. There’s little chance that he can actually win the nomination and, frankly, even less chance that he could translate his campaign themes into effective governance.

That gets us back to Clinton. I would much rather have her making appointments to the Supreme Court, defending the Affordable Care Act, working to get sensible gun laws, trying to wake the country up to the dangers of climate change, and being a voice for diplomatic solutions as a first resort than any of the other candidates in the race.

While I am less than comfortable with some of her foreign policy positions, which strike me as perilously close to those of Republican neocons, all of the Republicans are much scarier and prone to impulsive, even irrational, actions. Sanders, meanwhile, seems totally over his head in foreign affairs and really isn’t prepared to be Commander-in-Chief.

Electing Clinton just because she would be the first women president is not enough of a reason, but, given how much better she is than all of the others who are running, it’s definitely a bonus.

Having a voice in a process that’s usually over by now is a great opportunity to impact an election that really may be the most important any of us can remember.