Editor's Note: Earlier this week, Cog columnist Steve Almond penned his wife, a Hillary Clinton supporter, this open letter. His aim was to explain to her, and us, the reason he is backing Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton. In turn, we invited Erin Almond to respond. Herewith, her letter:
Dearest Love Muffin,
I hear everything you’re saying about Bernie Sanders, and the crazy thing is — although I stand firm in my support of Hillary Clinton — I agree with much of it. When I look at Bernie Sanders’ agenda on paper I, too, begin to “feel the Bern.” But then I come back to my senses, usually by remembering the 2004 election.
You remember 2004, right? When John Kerry was supposed to stop George W. Bush — arguably one of the worst U.S. presidents in history -- from winning a second term? On paper, Kerry looked good too. He was a decorated war veteran up against a draft dodger who’d taken advantage of the tragedy of 9/11 to launch the ill-fated Iraq War. Sure, Kerry was a richy-rich, but so was Bush, so that made them even, right? So what if Bush was more handsome and charismatic — the kind of guy regular folks could feel comfortable having a beer with — we’d had four years in which to learn where voting based on those reasons got us, right?
We don’t just need a candidate who represents our values, we need a candidate who represents our values <em>and</em> who can win in the general election.
When it came down to it, Kerry wasn’t able to convince unaffiliated voters to choose him. We can blame it on the Swift Boaters all we want, I believe it came down to a charismatic (if idiotic) candidate coming up against a well-meaning but ultimately more awkward one. And if you think I’m being superficial to focus on such things, don’t take it from me — both the New Yorker and Scientific American have published articles about how most people can successfully predict election outcomes just by seeing the candidates’ faces for less than a second. In other words: appearance matters.
We don’t just need a candidate who represents our values, we need a candidate who represents our values and who can win in the general election. Sure, Robert Reich might think Sanders would win with a bigger margin than Clinton over the current batch of GOP front-runners, but that’s only because Sanders hasn’t been taken seriously enough by the mainstream media — and the GOP — yet, for them to craft the Swift Boat-esque campaign of 2016. Progressives will of course vote for Sanders but what about those undecided, unaffiliated voters scattered across key states like Ohio and Florida? How are they going to vote when they hear that a Socialist (read: commie) from Vermont wants to raise their taxes?
There’s been a tendency on the left — especially among Sanders supporters — to frame Clinton as “Republican Lite” (my own phrase, which I’m using because I think it captures the sentiment) but the truth is, she’s a lot more progressive than her detractors would have you believe. Yes, we all know that Clinton initially voted for the Iraq War –for the record, she’s admitted that was a mistake -- but the truth is that her Senate voting record was more liberal than Obama’s. She is pro-choice, pro-gun control, and she opposes using “religious freedom” to restrict access to health care.
Sure, a political revolution sounds great, in theory, but the next president will still have to face, and work within, the existing system when she arrives in office on day one. Clinton has both the intelligence and experience to do this. And, at the risk of sounding ageist, she’s got a more realistic shot at being there for two terms.
Sure, a political revolution sounds great, in theory, but the next president will still have to face, and work within, the existing system when she arrives in office on day one.
Although Sanders has a lot of great, idealistic notions about how to improve our country, we also need a president who can interact in a meaningful way with other world leaders. I’m much more comfortable imagining Clinton on the international stage, especially given her track record as secretary of state.
Finally, I truly don’t want to make this about voting for a woman, because if Clinton were a man I’d still want to vote for her based on her fierce intelligence, progressive voting record and experience as secretary of state. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a big part of her foreign policy work involved improving conditions for women and girls around the globe. More than any other candidate, she understands that “women’s rights are human rights.” A willingness to stand up for women is especially important, now, when women’s rights even in our own country are under attack. Bottom line: Hillary Clinton isn’t just the best available female candidate, she’s the best candidate, period.
P.S. Thanks for making the veggie meatballs for dinner last night!