Happy Iowa Caucus Day! Today is the day that the last six months have been building toward; the day some American voters actually render their judgement in the Presidential contest. Today is the first day where candidates get any hard results and will inevitably be where some campaigns are made and some fall apart.
For the first time I am glad I don’t live in an early state. As a Californian and a politico I am often bummed by just how rare Presidential candidates visit California except for fundraisers and consequently jealous of the voters in early states. But for once there is not a shred of jealousy in me as I get ready to watch the caucus results for the simple reason that I don’t know who to vote for.
I am, for the first time, an undecided voter. Well, undecided on whom to pick in the Democratic caucus. I think that there are compelling reasons to vote for all three choices. I will be focusing mainly on Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton for this piece. I mean no disrespect to Governor O’Malley, but his lack of traction in the polls puts his candidacy on the fact track to suspension, which is a shame since his environmental policy to get to 100% renewables is a worthy metric and deserves far more discussion than it is getting. And there can be no doubt that he would be better than any candidate on the Republican side.
Sanders and Clinton are both strong candidates that appeal to me on some level. Sanders is someone whom I have watched for awhile for whom I have tremendous respect. Sanders’s stances on issues of income inequality, Wall Street reform, same sex marriage, climate change, the minimum wage, healthcare, money in politics and voting rights are ones that I truly like and love. His brashness and his willingness to not play but the usual rules of politicians is also greatly appealing. The paradox of an experienced politician willing to break the rules of politics is something that is encouraging and is no doubt a factor in his popularity amongst younger voters like myself. Finally, Sanders is able to articulate his ideas and speaks with clarity on the issues.
Clinton oppositely has been in the political eye for a long time and doesn’t present herself as somehow not a normal politician. However her experience and the fact that she has been battle hardened in her time in politics is appealing. I get the sense that she can weather any storm thrown at her. She has moved her stances to more mirror some of the stances of Sanders and her rebuttal to his healthcare plan is convincing. There can be no doubt that she is a policy wonk and is incredibly knowledgeable on the issues. I can also say that it would indeed be nice to have a woman president in the White House.
However, though both have great merits, they also have detracting factors. Sander’s position on guns, while most likely right for the state of Vermont, is wrong for the nation. Most glaringly is his vote to exempt gun manufacturers from liability. The fact that the is a socialist (while not a problem for me) could also be a detractor for voters in a general election as well as his agnostic to atheist faith and his Jewish background. Clinton has by no doubt a definite trust deficit with many voters. Her email scandal seems not to be pestering out, but growing which could spell electoral disaster. Her ties to Wall Street also seem problematic as well. The fact that she was for TPP and Keystone before flipping doesn’t help her image and makes her look like a politicians willing to take any stance to get elected. The fact that it looks as though she was colluding with the DNC to limit debates is also unflattering.
For me the ultimate issue is electability. I do not think that either candidate will be able to do much without the Democratic party accepting their proposals. This would act as a normalizing force in the candidate. For example, there would be no way Sander’s wouldn’t feel the pressure politically to embrace gun reform and the party would keep most likely counter some of his most socialistic reforms in healthcare. And Clinton would feel more constrained in terms of accepting free trade agreements and would have to bow to the party on a $15 minimum wage as opposed to the $12 she has proposed.
Furthermore, more important that the Presidency itself in my view is regaining the Senate, making inroads towards a House majority and potentially flipping the Supreme Court. While these three things require a Democratic nominee, they require on that can be elected and help the down-ballot races. Clinton is undoubtedly the pragmatic candidate while Sanders is more visionary. And this is the very split that has me undecided. In 2008 in the primary I went with Clinton, convinced she was more experienced and in my fantasyland, would select Obama as her Vice President and set him up for the 2016 race. But this time I feel different. I feel a deeper kindred with the positions of Sanders (except guns) but also don’t mind Clinton if that means a Democratic Senate and Supreme Court.
Is this election going to be like 2008, when the outsider candidate becomes the nominee and changes the game; winning the general in a convincing win? Or is this an election when the establishment is needed to firm up the center in the face of a likely Trump nomination on the GOP side? I am truly conflicted about which way to go. For the first time I am thankful I have more time to see how the race shakes out to see if it creates a clearer picture for me come the California Primary.