If you are a Democrat – or if you are open to considering Democratic candidates – you have a choice among six candidates this election cycle: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb and Lawrence Lessig. Considering that O’Malley, Webb, Chafee and Lessig are all polling below 3 percent (and show no signs of improvement), this effectively leaves you with one decision: Bernie or Hillary?
Democrat, Independent or Republican, you are probably more familiar with Clinton. You grew up with her as First Lady, watched her campaign for president before, had her as a Secretary of State and, probably without even trying, followed her actions on the national stage. With the benefit of a famous last name, a highly controlled campaign and corporate-funded super-PACS, Clinton dominates the name-recognition battle. But we would like to give you just a few reasons why Sanders, although lacking celebrity status, would be far and away the better nominee.
First of all: experience. Everyone loves to reference how Clinton has “experience” in Washington, D.C. With all of the years that Clinton has been in the public eye, it is easy to mistake her for the more “seasoned” candidate who is better equipped to navigate policy and governing challenges. And while that’s true to a certain extent, Sanders has served more than 35 years in elected public office and has championed the same causes since the 1980s. In contrast, Clinton has only served eight years in elected public office. Sanders has had many more years of working on issues, debating, forming relationships within Congress and balancing the needs of constituents with the realities of Washington. He, more than anyone, understands that radical steps must be taken if we want to try to fix the gridlock that is our Congress.
But the real difference between Sanders and Clinton comes down to issues. Clinton and Sanders do share some of the same views (this election cycle, at least). It is without question that Clinton has consistently flip-flopped in her views and has too often been swayed by corporate backers and political connections. By contrast, Sanders has consistently taken a more progressive, unwavering stance. His message has been the same since he first ran for mayor of Burlington in the 1980s. He is like a broken record; if it weren’t so important, it would be boring!
Sanders’s current platform is based on 12 main goals: reducing income inequality, removing money’s influence from politics, racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, humane immigration reform, a higher federal minimum wage, reforming Wall Street and fighting against climate change. But don’t take our word for it. The facts speak for themselves.
While both Sanders and Clinton say they want campaign finance reform in order to reduce money’s influence in politics, only Sanders is actually acting on these values. He has accepted $0 from Super PACs while Clinton has already received more than $20 million. Sanders also voted against the Wall Street bailout and is in favor of reforming Wall Street. Nine out of his 10 biggest monetary supporters are workers’ unions. In contrast, six of Clinton’s 10 largest sources of funding are big banks. Sanders and Clinton both claim to be running as “champions of the middle class.” But Sanders’s net worth is about $330,000, while Clinton’s is over $10 million. Clinton has actually made more money from giving one speech than Sanders’s entire net worth.
Although many Democrats are quick to criticize the actions of the George W. Bush administration, Sanders actually voted against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act in 2001, 2006 and 2015. Clinton voted “yes” to all of these measures. Clinton now calls her Iraq vote, once cast with “conviction,” a “mistake.” Sanders is also opposed to the death penalty while Clinton still supports it.
Both candidates are calling for immigration reform; however, Sanders voted against the border fence in 2006 while Clinton supported it. Both candidates are also outspoken on the issue of climate change. But, when pressed for specifics, Sanders opposes offshore drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, while Clinton is in favor of both. Finally, while both candidates praised the recent Supreme Court ruling outlawing bans on gay marriage, Sanders has fought for gay rights since the 1970s. Clinton opposed gay marriage until 2013, when she changed her stance, claiming her views had “evolved.”
The facts make it clear: Clinton may have smooth rhetoric and an impressive campaign infrastructure, yet across the board, Sanders is the candidate who has truly stood up for progressive values. He has consistently been loyal to his constituents and to his principles, while Clinton’s views, actions and votes have been partly defined by the wealthy donors and supporters who have supported her political career. His sky-high approval rating (71 percent) in his home state of Vermont (which, unbeknownst to outsiders, has a huge Conservative and Independent base) is a testimony to the fact that his message and consistency appeals across party lines.
The collegiate age vote will be especially important this election season – especially for Democrats. As students at the College, we are taught to think critically about the world around us and we urge you to do so when you cast your vote in the primaries. It’s easy to get caught up in the purple bubble and not pay attention to the outside world, but let’s make an effort to not do that: this issue is too important. We have inherited a multitude of problems from our parents’ generation that we must solve. Sanders is the progressive leader our generation needs.
Caroline Atwood ’16 is a geoscience major from South Royalton, Vt. She lives on 23 Hoxsey St. Caroline White-Nockleby ’16 is a geoscience and environmental policy double major from Cambridge, Mass. She lives in Fitch.