This AJT column is part of a series giving a supporter of each of the remaining presidential candidates a chance to pitch the Jewish community on that candidate. Read the others here.
By Matthew Weiss
I am proudly supporting Hillary Clinton for president because she is uniquely suited among the remaining candidates in both political parties to address the challenges that our nation is likely to face the next four years.
Clinton is the single candidate in this year’s race who can build upon and enhance the legacy of President Barack Obama. Her greatest “weakness” is really her greatest strength. Accusations that she is part of the political “establishment” (whatever that means) are an indication that she has been in positions of power and been involved in major domestic and foreign policy decisions for the past quarter-century.
As the first lady for eight years, a senator from New York for eight years and secretary of state for four years, Clinton would enter the White House better prepared to handle the challenges of the office than any president since George H.W. Bush.
The types of challenges the next president is likely to face will be immense: economic stagnation and growing income inequality in the United States, the Syrian refugee crisis, the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the ongoing struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, to name just a few. Clinton’s experience and her close access to two of the past three presidents position her extremely well to address these challenges.
Clinton is also someone committed to mainstream Democratic positions on important issues in domestic and foreign affairs. She has spent her entire career advocating on behalf of women, children and minorities. She is also a consistent supporter of women’s rights, LGBT rights, common-sense gun control, the protection of the environment and greater economic equality.
This stands in stark contrast to the Republican field, whose leading candidates are running on platforms of, among other things, building a wall with Mexico that will cost billions of dollars, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, repealing the Affordable Care Act without articulating any alternative for the millions of Americans who would lose their health insurance, and blocking any effort to impose moderate regulations on the sale of guns. The significance of Clinton’s contrasts with the Republican field is all the greater in light of the recent opening on the Supreme Court.
For the reasons listed above, the stakes of this election are extremely high. This is precisely the reason that I’m backing Clinton in the Democratic primary instead of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Conservative icon William F. Buckley once famously noted that he would support the “rightwardmost viable candidate.” In this election, I would urge follow Democrats to support the “leftwardmost viable candidate.”
While Sanders comes across as a very honest and authentic politician, and he should be credited for bringing attention to income inequality and the corrosive effect of money in politics, the likelihood of him ever accomplishing any of his stated policy objectives is slim.
First, Sanders is simply too liberal to win a general election. The average American is not likely to support an openly Socialist candidate. Sanders has already admitted that he intends to raise taxes on the middle class. When Democrats previously nominated extremely liberal candidates who ran on a platform of tax increases, as in 1972 and 1984, the outcomes were Republican landslides.
Second, Sanders’ positions on Israel should be particularly troubling to the Jewish community. Although I respect Sanders for being the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary in New Hampshire, the senator has stated that to the extent he focuses on foreign policy, he has received advice from J Street and James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, two sources that are not known for their strong support of Israel in its ongoing conflict with its neighbors.
Finally, even if elected, Sanders could not implement his agenda. Obama spent nearly all of his political capital to pass the Affordable Care Act by a single vote in the Senate when both houses of Congress had solid Democratic majorities. It is unclear how Sanders would persuade what is likely to be a Republican-controlled Congress to pass an even more radical health care plan.
Because what matters at the end of the day is a president’s ability to get things done, I have faith that Clinton can utilize her relationships in Washington to put forward a strong, realistic agenda that moves our country in a progressive direction.