Equal Time: Why I support Bernie Sanders and you should too

On Tuesday, local Democrats and Republicans can vote to pick our presidential candidates. Every eligible voter should vote and be heard. 

I am a Democrat, and the rest of this column is aimed at voters in that primary election.

Every Democrat’s vote matters a lot. Delegates are proportionately awarded, which means a few thousand votes will determine how many Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton receives.

Moreover, this election is a pivot point: Should Mr. Sanders win decisively, his path to the nomination becomes much clearer; should Ms. Clinton win by a large margin, the contest is pretty much over, even if Mr. Sanders stays in the race until the convention.

Mr. Sanders, a Senator from Vermont, is the clear underdog. The entire New York Democratic establishment supports Ms. Clinton, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer.

Still, Mr. Sanders can win if the primary electorate expands from its normal, narrow base: if new voters, young people and those who normally only vote in a presidential general show up at the polls.

While I firmly believe everyone should vote their conscience, given that guest columnist John Henry made the case for Ms. Clinton in this week’s paper, I’m writing to make the case for Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Henry said Mr. Sanders has changed the terms of political debate for the better, but urged Democrats to vote for Ms. Clinton because he believes she would get more done than her primary opponent would and that he’s afraid Mr. Sanders hurts Ms. Clinton’s general election chances.

The idea that Ms. Clinton can “get things done” in a way that Mr. Sanders can’t is absurd, given the Republican-controlled Senate that won’t even consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Ms. Clinton is a deeply polarizing figure, and the idea that she can do more with this Congress than the president is a statement of faith, not an empirical claim.

The only way a Democratic president can enact progressive policy after the 2016 election is by changing Congress. Given Ms. Clinton’s high unfavorability ratings and Mr. Sanders’ high favorability, plus his appeal to independents as the primary and caucus processes have shown, it is hard to see Ms. Clinton as having the longer coattails in the general election. It’s been striking in this primary how much enthusiasm and loyalty Mr. Sanders has inspired. Will the young people he inspires turn out to vote for Ms. Clinton should she be the nominee?

Although it’s impossible to prove, I strongly believe we get a more Democratic Congress in 2016 with Mr. Sanders on the ballot than we do with Ms. Clinton.

Beyond that, Mr. Sanders has a path to a better Congress in 2018. He is building a movement, and could continue building it after being elected, helping Democrats win more Congressional seats in his first mid-term election.

Ms. Clinton has not articulated a real way she would get a Democratic Congress. So how would she ‘get things done’?

As to her often-made assertion that she’s fundraising to help other Democrats through the Hillary Victory Fund, please read Politico’s reporting from Saturday. The article makes clear that the fund has used the campaign finance limits of Ms. Clinton’s campaign, the national Democratic party and 32 state parties to raise as much as $358,000 from a single individual, but most of the money is spent on her campaign, not on down-ticket races. In short, despite decrying Citizens United, Ms. Clinton has taken full advantage of the big money system. (Most recently with George Clooney’s embarrassed help.)

Not only does Mr. Sanders denounce Citizens United, he’s got the courage of his convictions. He’s not taking the big money, and it hasn’t hurt him. It turns out people can run financially powerful campaigns on small dollar contributions.

Of course, Mr. Sanders is about more than getting big money out of politics and breaking the corporate grip on public policy. He wants to restore wages to living levels, make a free public education a viable path to a good job, and assure everyone can see a doctor when they need to. These are not pie-in-the-sky ambitions; western Europe and Scandinavia have offered their citizens these benefits in various ways for years. Canada, too.

In November 2016, America can do better than simply changing the terms of acceptable political debate. We can also change our policies — if we get Mr. Sanders on the ballot.

The author is an attorney from Cutchogue. She is running to be a delegate for Mr. Sanders. If he gets sufficient primary votes, she may be one of six people going to the Democratic National Convention from Congressional District 1.