Op-Ed: An Evaluation of the 2016 Democratic Presidential Frontrunners

Theo Spohngellert, ’18

In June when the presidential race began truly taking place I was entirely impartial. In my home was my mother, who was a die-hard Hillary Clinton supporter. My best friend on the other hand (who happens to hold varying political views) was attempting to persuade me to support the “Democratic-Socialist” from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. So what I set out to do at the time was create a ‘pros and cons’ list for each candidate. Making a case for and against each “frontrunner.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Pros: When democrats see Hillary Clinton the first phrases that come to mind are “first female president,” and “experience.” These are two topics that are immensely important factors to voters, if Secretary Clinton were to be elected America would have a “Madam President.” While obviously this does not immediately solve the oppression of women in this country, if you look at Mrs. Clinton’s track record on women’s rights it is very strong. Mrs. Clinton has been an advocate for women around the world from the time that she was first lady, through her time in the senate, and then as Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton has also proven to be a great advocate of gun control throughout her career in politics.

When many democrats see Mrs. Clinton they see inevitability and electability. As an establishment democrat with the experience that she has many people see her as the democrats best bet to beat the republicans in 2016. Mrs. Clinton is indeed an electable candidate, and her record on guns and women’s rights is commendable.

Cons: Aside from gun control and women’s rights, Mrs. Clinton has a somewhat shaky history. Many progressives disapprove of Mrs. Clinton based on her ties to Wall Street, her inconsistency on key issues, and her advocacy of certain laws that are now seen as enabling mass incarceration and  people of color. Mrs. Clinton has been an advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership which she is now apprehensive about, she opposed gay marriage until very recently, and she claims to be a champion of the 99% while taking donations in the forms of Super PAC’s. This is a worthy analysis of her history. She advocated for the ‘3 strikes law’ as first lady, a law that is now seen as furthering mass incarceration and strengthening the private prisons. She supports the repeal of Glass Steagall, which took away regulations on Wall Street and big banks. She voted ‘yes’ on the Iraq War, which she now admits was a mistake. While Mrs. Clinton is a strong candidate, her background and history is flawed.

Senator Bernie Sanders:

Pros: Bernie is hailed as the “people’s champion.” His consistency on issues has been a huge plus for progressive voters. Although he is a “career politician,” Mr. Sanders is always seen as an ‘outsider’ for his so-called “radical” political views. But when one looks at his views none of them are substantially radical. In the 1960’s he supported the ‘radical’ cause of civil rights for African-Americans which he still holds today, in the 1970’s he supported the ‘radical’ cause of gay marriage which he also still holds today. When progressives see Mr. Sanders they see a proven track record of extreme consistency on key fiscal issues as well as on equally important social issues. Mr. Sanders really is a rarity in the political landscape, he is a politician that has been consistent throughout his 40 plus year tenure.

One issue that Mr. Sanders has made a central point of his campaign is campaign finance reform. Bernie has been a key advocate against obscene campaign contributions from the extremely wealthy which he claims has increased income inequality in America creating a rigged economy that solely works for the top 1% of wealthiest Americans.

Cons: While Bernie does have a very strong history on many social and economic issues, one topic that he has proven to be not as strong in is gun control. Mr. Sanders coming from the rural state of Vermont touted his D- NRA rating at the first democratic debate, but this rating does not cloud the fact that he voted against the “Brady Bill” five separate times. He is far from the strongest candidate on gun control.

Bernie also has had a hard time shaking the “socialist” label. The word socialism, even “democratic-socialism,” is still extremely taboo throughout America. Many establishment democrats fault Mr. Sanders for this, saying that with this label he won’t be able to defeat the republicans if he were to win the primary.

Final Verdict: As the progressive teen that I am, I have to side with Senator Sanders. The wide-spread corruption that is seen in the American political system, Mr. Sanders’ proposal of a single payer healthcare plan, his consistency on key issues, and his various proposals to fix America’s rigged economy were some deciding factors. This paired with Mrs. Clinton’s troubling history surrounding various important social and economic issues. I do believe that Mrs. Clinton would be a strong president, she does have proposals that would help weld some of America’s deep wounds, but her inconsistency and her less than progressive positions on some issues are what turned me away. Mr. Sanders is a strong and more progressive candidate, a Sanders presidency would be revolutionary for American politics.


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