It’s rare to be 100% certain of anything, least of all, which veritable stranger will make a better president. Even with voting records, policy platforms and tax returns in hand, it’s impossible to prognosticate how a free-willed individual will perform one of the most volatile, inscrutable and unpredictable jobs on the planet. We are neither fortune tellers nor mind readers. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have excellent credentials, but as a card-carrying socialist, I lean towards Senator Sanders almost by default. I urge all New Yorkers to seriously consider his candidacy.
I don’t profess that he would make the best executive. I try and fail, for example, to picture him addressing a Boston Marathon-type situation. It’s not because he wouldn’t be horrified by mass murder, or would be incapable of grieving the loss of life. But the President isn’t simply the manager of a bureaucracy; he or she functions, in times of national mourning, as the embodiment of the collective conscience of the American people, a symbolic “emoter-in-chief.” Barack Obama is adept in that role. So was JFK and, some would say, Reagan. I cannot entirely dismiss the possibility, though, that the good senator from Vermont would fall short summoning the gravitas such an occasion would call for. I don’t doubt his moral rectitude or beliefs about the sanctity of life. But, absurd as this sounds, I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that the cost to taxpayers of a publicly financed display of grief would enter his mind and potentially jeopardize any official commemoration.
That is a relatively minor (and admittedly unlikely) example; there are others. I believe the contrasting examples weigh in his favor, though. He speaks to a fundamental imbalance in our society. An economic divide of such severity that not only overshadows, but sharply defines almost every other aspect of our lives. Education disparity, mass incarceration, troubled race relations – at their root, these problems are intertwined and exacerbated by the striking difference between the haves and have-nots in this country. An adjustment to the economy won't be a panacea, but it’s hard to dismiss the lasting, positive effect of a stable childhood, and there’s no better way to ensure one than by providing families a modicum of basic necessities. To free even a small portion of a parent’s attention from the all-encompassing need to earn a salary allows them instead to bestow upon their child the greatest gift one can give another: loving, human contact. There is no better way to provide a person an early and effective boost, and no government program can achieve the same results. I don’t advocate for his approach because it is pragmatically flawless, and I don’t pretend that his vision is shared by the many, many other players in our legislative process. I make my choice for President of the United States as I do for every position, in every election, and as I believe all members of a representative democracy are compelled to: by opting for the candidate who most closely mirrors my values. I firmly hold the notion that whatever else ails this country, no significant improvement – in foreign relations, environmental regulations, or any other area – can be made without first addressing this underlying inequality. Equal treatment under the law is not simply a noble goal. It is the definitive principle of our system of government. Without it, no other gains can be made, and any changes would be superficial. Because the economy is inextricably woven into the fabric of our lives, an equitable distribution of resources is the logical mechanism for ensuring that balance. I don’t think it would doom capitalism, creativity or free enterprise. I do not advocate a communist state. I recognize that a boss should make more than her secretary, and that the CEO will earn more than the mail room clerk. But not orders of magnitude more. I don’t think this will quell entrepreneurism. We need not stymie innovation. Those who are inspired to produce can do so (you’d be hard pressed to stop a motivated individual from pursuing their passions) but the result of industry need not be such grotesque sums of money that entire nations’ economies exist to conceal them. Surely not when children yet starve.
This may not be the proper role of government, and I respect those who do not believe it is. Truthfully, I wrestle with the question myself, and leave resolution on the matter to political philosophers. But whether or not it is appropriate for the state to do so, it is POSSIBLE. And if it is possible to make a positive difference, it seems obligatory to try. In an ideal world such corrective action would be unnecessary, but a gross inequality was engineered into this country at its founding, and only a drastic re-boot has any hope of salvaging our grand experiment. I’m not equipped to evaluate the efficacy of the Senator’s proposals, but I endorse him because, however flawed his method may be, his vision is one I strive for, too. We will not achieve our goals in the next four years; I doubt I will live to see that happen. But I fervently believe that he can help us take that next, incremental step in the right direction.
I like Hillary Clinton. I’ve voted for her, and have even marched alongside her. If she wins, I have no doubt she will competently execute the duties of her office. On abortion, gun control, civil liberties and many other arenas, I wholeheartedly share her views. But, in this particular election, I believe those issues are subservient to the larger, endemic problem I describe above. Thus, I’m deliberately forgoing the chance of an otherwise smart, qualified candidate winning the contest and bringing about the sort of policy change I yearn for because I feel that the greater well-being will be better served by focusing on more pressing concerns.
I don’t like Donald Trump. I don’t think he’s the worst person in the world, but that may be because I haven’t met them all. If you’re a Republican, please consider: his business, his reality show, his personal life – all have been for his glory. I don’t begrudge his conceit and hubris, but I don’t think it suitable in a public servant.