Who has the edge? Bernie or Hillary?

Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Op-Ed piece “2 Questions for Bernie Sanders” asks:

Can you translate your bold vision into reality?

Can you get elected? Or would your nomination make a President Cruz more likely?

Both good questions. Serious questions raised by a journalist who first talked with Bernie after Bernie had been elected Mayor of Burlington, VT. It was a phone conversation with someone in the Mayor’s Office. Mr. Kristof, an intern with the New York Times, ended the conversation by asking the aide for his name. “Oh, I’m Bernie Sanders.” That was 1981.

Kristof’s editorial cites a Gallop Poll from a year ago that seems to give the edge to someone else: to Hillary in the Democratic primary, and to a Republican opponent in the general election. Why? According to the Gallop Poll one year ago, Americans show the most negative bias toward socialists (50%) and atheists (40%) when asked how various factors would affect their vote for a presidential candidate.

As a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I have supported Bernie Sanders from the day he announced his candidacy for President. I support him because he boldly proclaims a social vision that is consistent with my faith. Democratic Socialism is not, as often supposed, an oxymoron. Democracy is a political form of government in which the people rule. Not corporations. Not big money. Not oligarchs. The people.  Socialism is a form of economics that places emphasis on a fair standard of living, quality of life for all, and that narrows the gap in the distribution of wealth. A Democratic Socialist is someone who promotes 1) the return of the integrity of the electoral system to the general population (big money out of politics), and 2) the general wellbeing of everyone in the society rather than leaving it to be settled by the vicissitudes of the free market.

My religious tradition puts the public square front and center as a matter of faith and ethics. The first question of any candidate is what s/he would do if elected. It is not whether they profess my religious faith. “Would the world be a better place?” is the most important question. As I listened to Bernie speaking at Liberty University, I was struck again by how deeply he represents the best of the Jewish-Christian tradition and how respectful he was of the evangelical audience he was addressing. Both his demeanor and his thoughtful engagement of common ground with his audience’s Christian faith and practice defined the meaning of civility and respectful discussion. The atheistic Jewish Democratic Socialist was the opposite of the fears that paint any socialist as an anti-religious demagogue. His message could have been delivered from the pulpits of many churches and synagogues in America.

Then there’s Hillary Clinton, who by the measures of the Gallop Poll, is much more electable than Bernie. Hillary’s not a self-proclaimed socialist, not Jewish, and not an atheist. She’s a Christian heavily influenced by the United Methodist youth group she credits with turning her from right-wing politics into a social gospel progressive. On that question of electability, Hillary holds the edge.

But there’s another edge to Hillary that people are reticent to address. Although she has the edge on Bernie by the Gallop Poll measures, she has “an edge” to her that is off-putting, an air of self-righteousness that reduces her likability.

Remember the 2007 presidential primary debate in which Obama quipped “You’re plenty likable, Hillary”? Candidate Obama was criticized at the time, and rightly so, for being condescending. Nevertheless, his sarcastic quip exposed a truth about Hillary’s likability.  She’s not. Too often her facial expression is smug and condescending. Research in the communications field reminds speakers that 90% of what people take away comes from the speaker’s body language.  That’s a problem. It’s a thing she does with her eyes and mouth that seems to disdain those who disagree or ask a hard question. Hillary’s “edge” gives Bernie the edge on likability.

Bernie also gets the edge for his consistency over 35 years in public office. People are seeing in him a quality nearly absent from ordinary politics. What you see is what you get. When you believe that what you’re seeing is what they’re going to get, you’re much more likely to trust that person. Whether or not you like such a candidate, you view him or her as trustworthy. Hillary not so much. Edge to Bernie.

Turning from the question of electability to the question of Bernie’s and Hillary’s respective abilities to get things done, the edge tends toward Hillary.

Both she and Bernie are experienced politicians, but their experiences are different. Bernie’s only executive experience was years ago as Mayor of Burlington, VT. Congresspeople and Senators are legislators, not executives. The transition to the Oval Office from the Senate Office Building is a steep climb into another set of skills, power, and authority. Hillary is familiar with the Oval Office and executive responsibility. She occupied the White House for eight years, watching the patterns, discussing the most vexing problems with her husband and the press, and she served as Secretary of State managing the Department of State. On the level of executive experience, the edge goes to Hillary.

Although a fighter like Bernie, Hillary is connected by history and experience with congressional Representatives, Senators, Governors, party operatives, and leaders in the private sector on Wall Street and beyond. People owe her – even the most unlikely supporters like Senator Al Franken (D-MN), as close to Bernie’s democratic socialism as they come – because she came to their sides in hard-fought campaigns. Bernie, the Democratic Socialist, on the other hand, has always maintained his partisan independence while allying himself with the Democratic Caucus. Bernie would bring few IOUs to the White House. Edge to Hillary.

If politics is the art of the possible and the do-able, Hillary seems to have the edge. In the current oligarchic world of un-democratic American politics and capitalist economics, a more likable and trustworthy Democratic Socialist will have a tough time hold his edge. And that’s a crying shame.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 11, 2016.







Last Night’s Iowa Caucus Results

What a difference a year makes. Last night, Senator Bernie Sanders virtually tied Secretary Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses. In April 2015 a Views from the Edge post began:

Ted Cruz, Ron Paul, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton are taking their places in the starting gates for the horse race to the White House in 2016. Smiles and frowns all around, emails asking “Are you IN?“ with requests for money from the partisan Yea-Sayers and Nay-Sayers. But the fact is that every horse they ride – conservative and liberal – is owned by Wall Street.

I’m not “IN” until a candidate rides a different horse into the starting gate. Until someone acts and sounds like Floyd B. Olson….

“I am not a liberal. I am what I want to be — a radical,” said Governor Olson to the 1934 Farmer-Labor party convention. A radical is not an ideologue. It’s a person who insists on going to the root of things. Olson was the nemesis of Wall Street, a champion of the people.

Most Americans have never heard of Floyd B. Olson, the popular Minnesota Governor regarded at the time as President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s successor before his untimely death. The Views from the Edge piece concluded:

“If and when someone like Floyd B. Olson rides a different horse into the starting gate for the 2016 White House horse race, I’ll be IN with both feet. Until then, I’m not IN.

That was before Bernie Sanders came on the scene.

Last night’s Iowa Democratic Caucuses resulted in a dead heat between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. Unlike all other candidates, Senator Sanders is not funded by Wall Street. He’s supported by over 3,000,000 small donations by people drawn to his clear message, unwavering consistency on the issues, integrity, courage, and a populism like that of Floyd B. Olson.

In Minnesota many people ask, “What would Wellstone do?” referring to Sen. Paul Wellstone who demonstrated the same straight-talking as Floyd B. Olson, and who, like his progressive predecessor, died too early to run for President.

What would Wellstone do? What would Floyd B. Olson do? Ask Bernie Sanders.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 2, 2016

The Presidential Debate

The pundits focused on Hillary and Bernie. They ignored a third candidate on the stage who fared well. His name is Martin O’Malley. He didn’t hit the home run the gurus said was required to bring him into the race, but he represented his record clearly with poise and with the dignity the American people have a right to expect of the person in the Oval Office. He had the stature of a President.

The Bernie-Hillary show was a media creation, a script which, to his great credit, Moderator Anderson Cooper did not follow. Cooper asked hard questions to every candidate with the first questions of the evening. Cooper was a professional journalist, working for the American people to flush out the inconsistencies and push for the truth of what a candidate really stands for. Bernie danced a jig on his poor record on gun control and his votes on the Brady Bill; Hillary danced on the email controversy, her Iraq War vote, and her change of opinion on the TPP trade agreement. Cooper was the consummate moderator, insisting that candidates answer the question they were asked, but respectful and fair.

Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were like minor leaguers on a Major League field in the early playoffs. There were five candidates on stage but only three major leaguers.

Webb performed poorly as the most conservative candidate who suffered from a shirt collar that made him look tight as a tic. He looked like the kid whose parents dressed him in a tux for the senior prom – very unnatural, ill at ease, unable to be his winsome self.  Chafee  stood by his progressive voting record and admirable credentials as a former U.S. Senator and Governor of Rhode Island, but his facial eccentricities and persona do not help his candidacy. Although he might make a great president, he’d be very hard to watch for four full years.

O’Malley, on the other hand, looked and sounded the part of a presidential candidate. Or, perhaps, Vice-Presidential. Like Joe Biden, O’Malley is both smart and tough, seasoned and fresh, just the kind of running mate Hillary or Bernie might choose, if either of them wins the Democratic Party nomination. The problem, of course, is that O’Malley is another Easterner, which all but eliminates him according to the prevailing wisdom that the best ticket is geographically balanced.

But, if in the debates ahead, Bernie and Hillary should falter, Martin O’Malley is someone to watch. If I were Bernie or Hillary, I’d sleep with one eye open. Remember the tortoise and the hare.

  • Gordon C. Stewart (Bernie supporter), Chaska, MN, October 14, 2015.



I’m Sorry

Remember Love Story’s line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”?

It was mistaken then, and it’s mistaken now. Love often means saying your sorry. Repeatedly. It means some sadness. It means taking responsibility.

Watching and listening to Hillary Clinton over these last weeks and months leads me to another version of the Love Story line, created by the increasing perception of entitlement.

“Haughtiness means never having to say you’re sorry”… except when it becomes necessary to rescue one’s own ambitions. The smirk, the tilt of the head, the rolling of the eyes speak louder than “I’m sorry”.


Sorry (kinda/sorta) for being so political!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 10, 2015

Washington Post Story on Climate Change

A Washington Post story on Climate Change reports this breaking news:

“With global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions stalled, the United States and five other countries are starting a new program to cut other pollutants — including methane, soot and hydrofluorocarbons — that contribute to global warming.

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is set to announce the five-year initiative Thursday morning. Canada, Sweden, Mexico, Ghana and Bangladesh are also participating. The plan will be administered by the United Nations Environment Program, with a $12 million contribution from the United States for the first two years. Canada will add $3 million; contributions from the other countries are not known.”

It goes on to report, “Paul Bledsoe of the Bipartisan Policy Center noted that, in the United States, efforts to reduce methane and soot are far less politicized than efforts to reduce carbon dioxide. Even one of the most vehement congressional opponents of limiting carbon dioxide emissions, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), supports cutting soot emissions. Senator James Inhofe (R, OK), supports cutting soot emissions.”

I have to remind myself to celebrate small steps. This is one of them. My hope and prayer is that Senator Inhofe’s acceptance of scientific evidence supporting action on methane and soot will be one small step toward a saner discussion of global warming. I just asked the question of the Washington Post whether they know why Senator Inhofe is convinced by the scientific evidence re: methane and soot, and, likewise, what scientific evidence convinces him that we do not need to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Anybody know?