Heart v. Head

by Isaiah Webster III


It’s not that liberals don’t realize Sen. Bernie Sanders is too extreme to be elected president, it’s that they just don’t care. The emerging battle between Sanders and former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has turned into a classic head versus heart decision.

At her core, Clinton is an incrementalist. She’s a pragmatic leader, who has little interest in “changing the system” in Washington. I believe that Clinton has already come to the conclusion that Washington can’t be fixed or changed. The next best thing is to work within the system as best you can to affect change. In words and deeds, Clinton has demonstrated that this is her approach. It’s worth noting that Clinton’s political philosophy has been significantly shaped by the battles she’s waged since 1992. From health care to Travelgate to the Lewinsky matter to the U.S. Senate to serving in the Obama administration, she’s learned the hard way that politics is truly the art of the possible.

Sanders is an idealist; he is summoning a “political revolution.” Never mind that a single-payer health care bill has zero chance of passing through the Congress, Sanders promotes it anyway. And his supporters stress that it’s more important to seek what you truly want, rather than conform to political realities.

Though Sanders is the latest presidential candidate to run on a platform of “changing Washington,” he is by no means the first. In fact, Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008, by promising to “turn the page” on politics as usual. He promised a transformational presidency that would be devoid of petty politics. Before Obama’s presidency was even 48 hours old, the Republicans hatched their master plan of obstruction. Seven years later, Barack Obama’s presidency has been one of the most divisive in history. Much of this is not his fault; certainly racism has played a role and even non-racist Republicans have been completely unwilling to be partners in governing. But the bottom line remains the same — President Obama’s grand idea of transforming Washington failed.

No matter how genuine Sanders and his followers are — they can’t change Washington. If Barack Obama — with all his political gifts — could not do it, then it’s safe to say it can’t be done.

This leaves the Democratic Party with a critical choice: the safe and pragmatic Clinton? Or the wild card socialist, who promises the moon? Once again, it’s the choice that makes sense versus the choice the heart wants. In 2008, Democrats went with their heart — falling head over heels for a charismatic young Black senator. His words were soaring; his story inspirational. He wasn’t the most experienced option; nor was he the option better prepared to step into the presidency. But, Democrats didn’t care. The heart won.

In 2016, Democrats face this reality: If they lose the presidential election, the Republicans will likely control the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and a majority of state legislatures. Only a Democratic president would prevent total GOP control of government. Now is not the time to chase idealism. Now is not the time for picking high-risk nominees. This choice should be one of the head — and truly, it’s not even close.