OBSERVER NEWS

Continuing the Discussion: Sanders vs. Clinton

A Vote for Sanders is a Vote for the Working American’s Prosperous Future

BY ANDREW KOVTUN

The first ethnic Jew to be president.

The first president to disavow organized religion.

The first truly anti-war president of the post-Cold War era.

The first democratic-socialist president of the United States of America.

I never expected any of these milestones to be achieved in my lifetime when I was first elected to Congress as the United States’ only independent congressman. Or rather, when I was assigned to be Bernie Sanders in our high school AP Government class’ Mock Congress, years ago, as an attempt by my teacher to make light of my outspoken progressive beliefs. Which is why it is so incredible that, only six years later, these milestones are within sight of being achieved as the United States comes out in full force to support the revolution promised by the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Until this primary season, pure ignorance and taboo led the words “socialist” and “fascist” to be used interchangeably by political pundits, and consequently by many in the American public when talking about imagined far-left bogeymen intent on taking away their fellow citizens’ property and individual liberties. According to Gallup polls conducted as recently as 2015, adherence to atheist, socialist or Muslim beliefs continuously ranked as the most unelectable feature of a potential presidential candidate in the United States.

But that no longer appears to be the case. It seems that the United States’ diverse, young voters have realized that the immense and rising wealth of our country does not seem to correlate well with the standard of living of the average citizen. Moreover, the “rising tide” of American prosperity that used to justify income inequality has stagnated at the same time that inequality is expanding at an unprecedented speed. When the Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled out during President Barack Obama’s first term, I was disappointed that a lack of vision and direction had undermined grassroots progressivism while Tea Party activism was able to push the Republican Party further to the right of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, the centrism of the Democratic Party and the obstructionism of the Republican Party’s increasingly conservative membership forced Obama to govern as a right-of-center president after running as a left-of-center candidate.

Although I am deeply proud of President Obama’s accomplishments and global leadership during his two terms in office, Senator Sanders’ candidacy represents a new era for the Democratic Party and a just vision of the social contract needed for the United States. As the first presidential candidate to promise a government-run public healthcare option and taxpayer-funded public college tuition for the United States, Sanders is addressing the chief ills plaguing our society today by replacing the malfunctioning private sector with government-supported alternatives. While critics point to the cost of these plans, the public ignores the trillions spent on war and military expenditures and the amount it already spends out-of-pocket on health and education today. We must come to the realization that not every government program needs to make a profit; the question should be which programs deserve taxpayer contributions.

The United States is already a socialist country, given the mind-boggling sums it allocates to the military industrial complex and private healthcare providers. According to the Office of Management and Budget, 67% of the annual U.S. discretionary budget goes to defense-related expenditures. Moreover, the federal government spends 17% (and rising) of U.S. GDP on the undoubtedly socialist-oriented, but intentionally inefficient Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security entitlement programs that disproportionately benefit private insurers, pharmaceutical giants, and “nonprofit” hospital systems. Though it is an inconvenient truth for many who would like to pretend that the United States is a model of arm’s-length relationships between government and private enterprises, large sectors of the U.S. economy are very much dependent on an incestuous marriage of politics and business. Military socialism does not happen in a vacuum; in addition to the support that politicians garner from corporations for avoiding single-payer reform of the “third rail of politics,” national legislators can also expect to win support from their electorates by relying on a constant supply of defense-related pet projects loaded with pork barrel spending that will raise employment and incomes within their districts.

By voting for Bernie Sanders, I know that these vast sums will be redirected toward government-negotiated, lower-priced medicine and higher-quality public university facilities instead of wasteful fiscal authorizations for unusable F-35s and redundant Abrams tanks that are sent to rust in the desert. Healthcare and education should be viewed as rights, whereas weaponry, beyond what is necessary for defensive capabilities, should be viewed as a luxury deserving of strong skepticism. Bernie has presented the United States with an equitable vision of a society that taxes slightly more, but presents an outsized value to the taxpayer it is the same model that has successfully raised living standards in Europe to the highest in the world.

I want to live in a country that has bragging rights to the welfare of its average citizen, not the size of its arsenal or of its average student loan. For me, “smart power” means a focus on domestic prosperity rather than the imposition of American special interests abroad. A prosperous United States free of hypocrisy in its foreign policy will shine as an example of liberal democracy that other countries will seek to replicate. Sanders, the son of immigrants, who has adamantly supported the rights and demands of the workingman and woman throughout his career, represents the only return to the promise of the middle class American dream. It is with the conviction that Sanders will unite, rather than divide Americans towards pursuing the interests of Main Street, and not those of K street and their banking counterparts up north, that I urge you to vote in your state’s primary election for Sanders to be the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nominee.


 

Bernie Rocks, But Hillary Should Rule:

Why Democrats Should Elect Hillary as their Presidential Candidate

BY KATHERINE HOSELTON

There are many reasons to like Bernie Sanders. He’s old (74), from Brooklyn, pacifistic, he dodged the Vietnam draft, he participated in the March on Washington in 1963, has grandkids and probably plays bridge (just a guess). These are all reasons why I want to get a beer with Sanders, but not reasons why he should be elected president of the United States. Hillary is without a doubt more qualified, prepared and experienced to lead our country in the next four turbulent years. We should all grab a drink with Sanders, but elect Clinton to run our country.

There are two dominant reasons why Clinton is above and beyond the better presidential candidate in this primary election. The first is her very impressive résumé. Clinton’s experience in lawmaking and diplomacy is arguably unparalleled by anyone in Washington, let alone by a representative from Vermont. As senator from New York, Clinton worked to draft and implement federal policy, and as secretary of state she visited 112 countries, traveling nearly a million miles during her four-year term. She met countless leaders and is known for having reestablished many ties with nations that had developed ill-will toward the United States under the George W. Bush administration. Even as First Lady, Clinton worked tirelessly to initiate healthcare reform, and her efforts brought the nation closer to universal healthcare than anyone had managed before. She has been holding various posts in Washington for the last 24 years. Put simply, her political résumé cannot be beat.

The second reason why Clinton is the better Democratic candidate is her extensive foreign policy experience. Clinton is so much more qualified than Sanders in this department, it almost seems unfair. There is no amount of research or self-study that one could do that would match the knowledge, experience, and comprehension of the global system gained from serving as the U.S. secretary of state for four years. Clinton has a profound understanding of the way in which specific regions and nations perceive the United States; this knowledge is a huge attribute going forward in political and economic issues. Having personally met more than 100 different heads of state, Clinton has a personal global diplomatic network larger than the Vermont state senate. In 2012, she negotiated a ceasefire in the Gaza strip, preventing a rain of rockets from launching into Israel. When it comes to diplomacy, particularly as difficult negotiations with Iran, Russia and the Islamic State group loom in the future, Clinton is the person you want in charge.

With certain Republican candidates labeling Mexicans as “rapists” and deeming all Muslims “terrorists,” the United States needs a leader who can not only speak eloquently and articulately about other nations, cultures and peoples, but who is also widely respected in the international community.

At a campaign stop in Iowa last year, Clinton was unexpectedly asked a question about unexploded bombs in Laos from a concerned audience member. She not only knew about the particular issue he was referring to, but also was able to cite specific legislation dealing with undetonated landmines in Southeast Asia, recalling statistics about Laos and the damage that the United States caused there during the Vietnam War. Clinton knows her world history, and has proven it time and time again.

While mainstream media outlets label Sanders “trustworthy and honest” and look for ways to smear Clinton, the truth is that the two don’t differ all that much when it comes to the big issues. They largely agree when it comes to immigration, higher education, gun control and social issues. Sanders is slightly more socialist in his policy proposals, but also not yet wizened by the political realities of drafting and implementing policies in Washington. I like the idea of completely overhauling Wall Street, as proposed by Sanders in his grand plan to break up major financial institutions – but at the same time, I find this proposal naively unrealistic, and I fear what will happen to our financial sector if this is attempted.

Hillary’s vision for Wall Street is a calculated plan to curb risky trading behavior and crack down on financial wrongdoers, while maintaining the makeup of our current financial system.

I have the same reservations about Sanders’ approach to healthcare reform. I love the idea of ensuring that all Americans have healthcare. No debate there. But the way in which Sanders plans on implementing this vision – by replacing Obamacare in its entirety with a new single-payer system – seems quixotic and misguided. Clinton has been around the metaphorical healthcare block too many times to think she can overhaul the system in a presidential term – especially after the Obamacare rigmarole.

Sanders is ardent, hopeful, and idealistic – all qualities that I love, but Clinton is seasoned, focused, and pragmatic. Do I want to grab a beer with Sanders? Absolutely. Do I want him to lead my country into the throes of 2020 United States? Absolutely not. Clinton is the leader we need going into the next four years. The presidential election is not a popularity contest, where we vote for who has the most stylish merchandise or the wittiest slogan. It is about selecting the human being who is the best equipped with the skillset necessary to lead our complex nation ahead on the turbulent seas. Clinton is this person. #FeeltheBern is catchy, I have to admit, but at the end of the day, on every issue, and in every situation, #I’mWithHer.

 

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