In what remains of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, we see the culmination of its escalating drift to the right: the perfect time for the candidacy of Donald Trump, who through celebrity, wealth and amorality has captured not just the Tea Party constituency but millions of blue-collar Americans who live in fear for their future. His brownshirted remark “I would punch him in the mouth” when a protester disrupted a rally sums up the ultimate danger of a fascist-leaning Trump presidency. That is only bolstered by his stunning unwillingness to disavow at every opportunity the endorsement of former Klan leader David Duke.
Of those still standing going into Super Tuesday, only one Republican candidate is palatable: neighboring Gov. John Kasich. His experience in Ohio and Washington, his leadership on Medicaid in his home state, his ability to separate church and state over samesex marriage suggest that he could lead the nation. His thin hope depends on a brokered convention, but a decent showing in the Midwest would at least give him a base if Trump does not have the nomination locked up when the GOP goes to Cleveland in July.
The Democrats are a different story. The process has produced two candidates qualified to be president. Hillary Clinton’s nomination has begun to appear inevitable, but we stand with Bernie Sanders both for his positions and as the better of the two to stop Trump.
Critics say he doesn’t have a plan, but in fact he has a clear one that he outlines in every speech: a $1 trillion proposal to fix America’s infrastructure that would put people back to work; tuition-free public colleges and universities; expanded Social Security; a youth jobs program; paid family and medical leave; pension protection; Medicare for all; the breakup of the big banks, and more.
Critics say we cannot afford it, but of course we can if are willing to. It will require higher taxes, not just on Wall Street but throughout America. For liberal Democrats of means, who pay lip service to ending economic injustice, it will require a real commitment— by which we mean through their wallets. Critics say Americans will not support a democratic socialist. But in similarly difficult times, America elected a democratic socialist as president four times. History shows a parallel: FDR’s progressive economic policies stemmed the rush toward another dangerous populist, Huey Long.
Critics say Sanders cannot do what he says, and we agree he cannot accomplish most of it in eight years. Future generations, already inspired by him, will have to carry on the work. But if Clinton is elected, we see even more of the same gridlock in Washington. Congressional Republicans will not love Clinton any more than Obama, perhaps even less. In Sanders we have the beginning of a political revolution that offers a better hope for long-term change.
On the international front, Senator Clinton voted wrong and Sanders right on the single most important decision of our era: the war in Iraq. Further, evidence continues to mount that Secretary of State Clinton’s guidance on Libya led President Obama to his disastrous decision to back rebel forces there.
Clinton’s email debacle still hangs over this election. The FBI investigation could yet be a bombshell that explodes in the heart of the General Election campaign. Sanders carries no such baggage.
Sanders’ political biography is remarkable. He was already working on behalf underdogs when Hillary Rodham was volunteering for the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign. He put together a coalition that elected him mayor, then congressman, then senator, all the time hewing to his democratic socialistic principles. His money-rich presidential campaign is fueled by millions of small donations. Clinton’s main support comes from influence-hungry large donors. Moreover, her failure to release her speeches to Wall Street companies, for which she was paid obscene amounts, fuels suspicion that she will be in the pockets of the same special interests that all but brought down our economy in 2008.
The Clinton campaign has lumbered along, adjusting its message as it goes. Sanders knows what he believes in and says it forthrightly. She commands a large army, but Sanders is the guerrilla leader familiar with the hard slog without the benefit of fame and fortune. Sanders is better suited for what appears to lie ahead, which is trench warfare for the heart and soul of our nation.