Tomorrow, at long last, is the New Hampshire primary. Most years, at this point, I'd still be undecided, making pro-con lists, maybe deciding that if a certain candidate was ahead of a certain other candidate by a certain margin in a certain polling average at a certain time on the morning of the primary, a protest vote for a candidate who wouldn't win would be okay. (No, seriously, that's how I decided in 2008. It was a terrible decision.) In 2004 and 2008, I paid a lot of attention, saw candidates, and was still undecided to the very end.
This year, I decided early, and have only grown more confident in that decision: I'm voting for Hillary Clinton.
I don't think that will come as a surprise to anyone who reads my blog or tweets or Facebook posts, but it occurred to me that I hadn't really written out my reasons in one place, and this seems like the right time for that.
First: both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders espouse beliefs close to my own. I like them both. And virtually all current Democrats are so much better than any current Republicans that I will support pretty much whatever Democrat is chosen for any race in which I can vote. But Clinton's and Sanders' basic positions on most issues are so similar, especially when compared to any of the alternatives, that I don't find seeking distinctions between them particularly meaningful for the purpose of deciding how to vote.
What I do think is important to consider: their methods and their plans. I'm a pragmatist. Sanders' calls for revolution don't do much for me. I want the charts and the numbers and the step-by-step lists, and Clinton has that. What Sanders says sounds great in a vacuum, but we don't live in an ideal world. Clinton's specific plans for incremental progress make more sense to me. Leaving aside the question of whether someone who has been an elected official for longer than I've been alive can be considered an "outsider" in any meaningful way - I don't want to elect an outsider! I want to elect the person who has the most experience and connections and knowledge of how to work the system. Sanders wants to tear down the system. Clinton wants to work within it to improve things. That's less exciting, sure, but more realistic. More feasible.
I'm also increasingly troubled by the fact that Bernie Sanders isn't a Democrat and that, more importantly, since deciding he was going to run for the Democratic Party's nomination he has shown no particular interest in helping get down-ballot Democrats elected. I do believe, as a general principle, that anyone who is not a member of a party should not get to run in that party's primary without joining, but that's more of an academic point. They gave him an exception. Fine. Why I think this actually matters here: Sanders' "revolution," unless it is literally magic, is dependent on sweeping in a ton of Democrats all down the ballot. But he seems to have zero interest in that. He is the candidate whose platform relies most on other elected people being of his party, and he talks about it the least. Instead, he talks about how the Democratic establishment is part of the problem; he's making himself look better to his demographic by driving them away from other liberal candidates.
This was clarified for me at a New Hampshire Democratic Party dinner the other night at which both Sanders and Clinton spoke, along with the governor, former governor, legislators, etc. Sanders did his regular stump speech. Clinton did a completely different speech and spent about half her time talking up Democrats in general and specific candidates in New Hampshire in particular. Sanders didn't even say "whoever you're voting for in the primary, it's important to vote for Democrats in the general." And his supporters reacted the way you'd expect - they booed anyone who mentioned Clinton and most of them walked out as soon as Sanders finished speaking. How is this revolution going to work if his supporters don't care about electing anyone but Sanders himself?
Some other factors: Domestically, I agree that income inequality and Wall Street are important issues, but I don't agree with Sanders that they are the sole most important issues on which we should focus. I like that Clinton is more engaged with issues of racism and sexism, LGBT issues, etc. I prefer her policies and records on abortion rights and gun control. I prefer her education policies. I think college should be way more affordable but don't agree with Sanders that making it free is a good or practical idea.
Internationally, I am just not confident that Sanders knows or cares enough about foreign policy, especially since the people he's citing as foreign policy advisors are often disavowing that. I do not find Iraq War votes to be a particularly compelling argument for or against anyone at this point. Yes, Clinton (and many others) messed up there. I just don't think that that outweighs all the other issues in the world now. And she's shown that she can recognize and learn from mistakes. The way he pivots on virtually any foreign policy question to "Well, I opposed the war" does not, again, give me confidence that he has much to say about foreign policy other than that.
And to electability: I do not trust any of the current general head-to-head polling, because the Republicans have not started attacking Sanders, since they want him to win the primary. I think once they start yelling "Socialist" and "atheist" and "Jew" his numbers will plummet. Very few people don't know how they feel about Hillary Clinton. (Same for Trump, really.) There's lots of space for people to realize they hate Sanders. I don't think electability is the most important factor, by any means, but it is a factor. Because I'm not voting for the person I like the most. I'm voting for the person I think is most likely to bring about outcomes that I want.
But in this case? That is also the candidate I like the most. When it comes down to it: Hillary Clinton really seems like the smartest, most well-rounded, best informed, hardest working option, and I would be delighted to call her Madam President.