My California vote-by-mail ballot arrived early this week (I expected it earlier, but apparently so many people are now voting by mail that the Post Office is a bit overwhelmed). And with the California primary only a few days away, it was time to make my decision.
I was undecided for much of the primary season. For a while, I contemplated leaving the ballot blank on the Presidential nominee line as the vitriol of the primary season grew – but I realized that my decision needs to be not a reaction to poor behavior (which was on both sides), but on both the issues and the ability to govern and be a strong executive. And on issues, I am most aligned with Bernie Sanders, and I was thrilled when his campaign grew beyond what many believed possible, and several weeks ago I resolved to support him. I was even polled a few days ago (Marist) and indicated that I’d be voting for Bernie.
I don’t dislike Hillary Clinton – certainly I don’t despise her with the burning hatred of a thousand suns, as seems to be de rigeur for many around here -- but I do have some reservations (primarily around her relative hawkishness). I should add that I have been and continue to be extremely impressed by her intelligence and command of the issues, even down to the fine details (something that actually seems to evade Bernie).
I gazed at the ballot, and it gazed back.
And when it came time to choose, I voted for Hillary.
The issues raised by the Sanders campaign are important, and the excitement generated by Bernie’s rallies is invigorating – together, they will hopefully serve as a foundational element as the Democratic party grows and changes in the future. This is a good thing. I do hope that as much as possible of his platform is heard and incorporated into the party platform, and that his voice is one of the strongest ones at the convention.
But in the end, as I looked at my ballot, I realized that Bernie is not the leader this movement, this party – or, most important, this country – needs. His campaign has shown little or no interest in supporting – or even being supported by – candidates and grass-roots political organizations working downballot to pursue progressive causes. Its sole aim seemed to be … Bernie.
I spend most of my political time volunteering for local and state candidates and progressive initiatives; it’s what I believe in… and I’ve been doing it for a fairly long time. So many of us ignore the importance of local races, but really, it’s the only way to play the long game. The grass-roots volunteer group with which I am involved is part of a “Democratic Party” effort, but one that is very much locally-based and not all that much connected with the state party or the DNC. Historically, we’ve worked with national campaigns in Presidential election years (both Obama’s and Clinton’s in 2008, for example), because our local GOTV is more organized than what they can put in place in a short period of time. But we also ask that the campaigns work with us on behalf of our local/state candidates. This year, Hillary’s campaign is helping out (as they did in 2008) — but Bernie’s campaign essentially said, “sorry, no, we’re busy and we have more important things to do.” Which is annoying, because I wasn’t planning to vote for Hillary – I dearly wanted the Sanders campaign to get involved… but alas, not to be. So Bernie’s campaign is really doing itself no favors with local GOTV efforts, and that’s on them. And it doesn’t bode well for building a broader coalition of support in future.
And then: every single recent loss encountered by the Sanders campaign has been met with excuses and finger-pointing rather than ownership. Even yesterday, in Puerto Rico, the communication from the campaign was complaints about process, and no (even pro forma) nod to Clinton’s victory. I find the gracelessness of this incredible. No one can win everywhere, and when you do lose, at least acknowledge your opponent’s effort. There’s not some vast array of evil forces gathered to deny Bernie. It may be fashionable to cast blame for failure (and by doing so provide a pretext to solicit more funds), but I don’t subscribe to conspiracy cosplay and tin foil hattery. To this rise to the surface of his efforts has been unsettling.
Look, his campaign wasn’t even on most people’s radar until a few months ago. And that campaign, while impressive by many standards, is questionable in its leadership and has been rough and ragged in its approach to any issue beyond the core economic one. Bernie, who started his campaign diplomatically but firmly, now seems to be in the grip of advisors who are steering him into ugly waters. I’m not at all certain that he’s really the one in charge of his campaign at this point. Which, though disappointing, wouldn’t be a surprise – Bernie has never worked at this scale before, has never had the broad exposure that he now enjoys. I don’t feel it speaks well to his capability as a chief executive that his campaign has lost its crusading spirit and has veered into accusatory territory. A campaign unwilling to admit or confront its own faults is problematic. When a campaign itself is ungoverned, it doesn’t speak well to the prospect of actually governing.
Meanwhile, as I reflect, I see a Clinton campaign that is focused and empathetic. Hillary connects with people; Bernie connects with ideas and ideals. Hillary is detailed and thoughtful in her proposals; she seems well-prepared to cope with the vicissitudes of the campaign and the demands of the office. Her breadth of knowledge is confidence-inspiring. Sure, it was undoubtedly surprising to her that Bernie did as well as he has; but she has learned and embraced the voices and values emerging from Bernie’s run.
And then there’s Trump. To my mind, it’s reached the point where we can’t screw around any more. He has to be taken down, hard, and as soon as possible. I do feel that Hillary is likely best suited for this task.
I know, I know, the polls say… But at the same time, the polls also say that President Obama is enjoying high approval ratings (even the conservative-oriented polls have him well into positive territory). And it’s Hillary, not Bernie, who is best poised to build upon the wonderful work he has begun.
And the whole “she has huge unfavorables” thing? Doesn’t bother me. If you look at historical data, you’ll see that the candidate with the best net favorability over the opponent tends to be the winner. So accordingly, either Hillary or Bernie would be the winner against Trump. She’s not any greater risk than Bernie. The actual headline here is that it’s Trump who has the real record-breaking unfavorability rating… and he’s not doing anything to improve that.
And the funny thing? When I admitted (cautiously) to several Bernie-oriented friends that I had not, in fact, voted for him but rather changed my mind… turns out they had done the same. So I don’t believe that my change of heart is rare at all.
I have confidence that the ideas and ideals championed by Bernie will carry forward; indeed, that many of them will become part of the Democratic party platform and eventually, will come to fruition in a Hillary Clinton administration. I do think that Bernie should carry his campaign of ideas (though not necessarily his candidacy) through to the convention. It’s just that I no longer have the confidence that Bernie Sanders can sit comfortably and successfully in the Oval Office.
So I voted for Hillary Clinton. And sealed and mailed in my ballot. I look forward to tomorrow, and November… and especially January.
UPDATE: Never been on the rec list before. Thanks! (I thought there was supposed to be an open bar here, or at least cookies. But it’s all good.)