Anybody paying close attention to democratic politics lately has probably noticed that Bernie Sanders is making a lot of ambitious statements about how he thinks the United States can be in the future. The claims are so ambitious, in fact, that some people think that he’s just making things up. They wonder how he could possibly accomplish all the things he’s described, like universal healthcare and higher education for all, in just eight years with a solidly obstructionist Republican Congress. It has gotten so bad, that for a while my girlfriend would fly into a rage whenever I brought Bernie Sanders up because she was worried that it would break my poor little heart when all of the things he supposedly was claiming would happen shortly after he was elected to office failed to materialize.
Now, maybe I missed the part where he promised he was going to make all these things happen himself and in short order. Assuming, though, that what I have seen of his stump speeches is representative of his claims in general, what he’s saying is this is where our country should be, not that he’s going to take us there in four years on a magical socialism train. Bernie Sanders is in fact one of few politicians vying for the office of president who freely admits that the president himself has much less power than people ascribe to him. He’s more than happy to tell people what they want to hear because it turns out people want to hear the way that America should be. This radical notion of thinking about how things could be better rather than assuming that things will never be better and starting from there is, to say the least, inspiring.
This is not to say that Bernie Sanders would unequivocally be the better president. Bernie Sanders hasn’t been on the national political stage as long as Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton, at least based on her voting records in the Senate, is comparable to Bernie Sanders in her policy preferences. Hillary would be a good president. Anyone voting for Bernie Sanders should vote for Hillary in the election if she wins the nomination. Hillary has more experience in foreign policy than Bernie Sanders, yes, and she may be better at fending off the bizarre assaults that come at her from the right, if only because she has had to deal with more than Bernie Sanders has had to. Hillary’s previous experience in the White House could very well help to get policy through that otherwise would not. According to conventional thinking, Hillary Clinton is more electable than Bernie Sanders. However, according to conventional thinking Bernie Sanders would never have gotten as far as he has, either.
In a nation living in the smog of corruption for so long that it doesn’t even know what it’s like to live without it, Bernie Sanders a breath of air so fresh it is literally hard for people to believe it could be real. Hillary Clinton described politics as poetry and policy as prose, with her being better at the latter than the former. Perhaps counterintuitively, I argue that we need poetry right now. If Bernie Sanders can’t make any of the things he talks about in his stump speeches happen during his tenure as president, our nation will only be better for him trying. Because when the president tries, when the president steps up in front of America and says that he agrees with the American people that this should be a country where influence is voted on rather than bought, when the president speaks at his inaugural address or his State of the Union and says that access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege, when the president cites the science and says that global climate change causes more terrorism, when the president makes an address and says that the top 1/10 of 1% should not own as much as the bottom 90%, when the president speaks to what is best for Americans rather than what is in an arbitrary center between the right and left wings of US politics, people listen, and people talk, and people act. We need people listening, talking, and acting on what’s best for this country. We need to change the dialogue, and amid all the things that he could not do, that is something that president Bernie Sanders could do, and should do, and will.
Or if he loses the nomination, it’s what we should keep pressure on Hillary to do. Bernie Sanders doesn’t have to win to help change this country.