Politics & Prejudices: Supporting Hillary

It's clear after last week's round of primaries that Hillary Clinton is all but certain to be the Democratic nominee.

She won everywhere. Her margin in Missouri was so small a recount might overturn it, but that wouldn't matter much. She won a surprisingly easy victory in Ohio and bigger-than-expected landslides in Florida and North Carolina.

Bernie Sanders did make it close in Illinois, but even the Clinton folks privately thought she might lose there. Overall, at the end of the day, she had 1,561 delegates to his 800.

To win the nomination, a candidate needs 2,382. The math isn't there for a late surge to allow him to score an upset.

To be truthful, whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she also has been the people's choice. The networks don't often add up the total votes cast in primaries and caucuses, but I did. After the Ides of March, Clinton had 8,648,249; Sanders, 5,994,654, which is roughly a 59 percent to 41 percent margin.

That's more one-sided than you might have thought, largely because so many of the states voting so far have been in the South, where most Democrats tend to be black and favor Clinton by overwhelming margins.

To be fair, however, Clinton also won Massachusetts, which was a surprise, and has won states in every region.

But the wonder is not that she has done so well; it is that her opponent has. Think about it: On paper, Bernie Sanders shouldn't be getting 41 percent of the vote; he should be getting about 3 percent. Hillary Clinton is, as she likes to say, supremely and uniquely qualified to be president.

She has been the most openly politically engaged first lady in American history. While still living in the White House, she was elected U.S. senator from New York. Following that, she had a stint as secretary of state, and was nearly nominated for president eight years ago. Nobody knows Washington better.

Bernie Sanders is the oldest guy (75 in September) ever to make a serious run for president. He looks older. He comes from one of the smallest states in the union. Vermont has less than half the population of Oakland County.

He has a thick Brooklyn accent and seems culturally as Jewish as a character out of a Yiddish theater. (I've talked to several women who think he is being sexist by the way he gestures, points, and talks to Clinton during the debates. They are wrong; that's how old guys like him talk to everyone.)

Worse, Sanders seems perpetually cranky, as if he really wants to tell us to get the hell off his lawn, and worst of all, he insists on calling himself a "socialist," which in American politics, is slightly worse than being a registered sex offender.

Sanders, in fact, is no more of a socialist than Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy were; he merely wants business and the ultra-rich to pay their fair share of the costs of maintaining a society that has allowed them to do so well.

Yet Grandpa Cranky is wildly popular with young voters, getting more than 80 percent of them. He wins majorities nearly everywhere among the one ethnic group Democrats have lost in every election since 1964 — white voters.

Why is this? Because for those not consumed by hatreds and fears, he has elevated reason, honesty, and decency to a level seldom seen in any modern presidential campaign.

He told the truth about what the immense concentration of wealth into the hands of the one-tenth of 1 percent is doing to our nation. He told the truth about the environment.

One of the most telling points in the debates came in Flint, where the candidates were asked about fracking. Clinton gave a long and predictably politically oily non-answer.

Sanders said something like, "I'm against fracking. Next question."

Some who agreed with Sanders on economics told me they worried that he didn't have the foreign policy experience Clinton has. Ironically, that's one of the areas where I found him most appealing. It was no fluke that while in the Senate, Hillary Clinton voted for George W. Bush's trumped-up and disastrous Iraq War.

Clinton has never seriously questioned our policy, repeatedly proven disastrous, of bombing and sometimes sending troops into various countries in the Middle East.

Bernie Sanders knows that doesn't work.

However, having said all that — Hillary Clinton, assuming she is the nominee, has to be elected in November.

You cannot underestimate the awfulness that is Donald Trump — except to observe that the man he calls "Lyin' Ted" Cruz, the only other conceivable nominee, may be worse.

Cruz is not lying; he is a brilliant, scary, unscrupulous, and unlovable ideologue who would turn this country into some form of right-wing theocratic oligarchy. The fact that he seems to be universally despised by his fellow senators is no accident.

Trump, however, is now nearly certain to be nominated, as is Clinton. All you need to know about today's Republican Party is that he won primaries in both Massachusetts and Alabama by landslide, plus most places in between.

There's no reason to believe he is the least bit sincere about any of his policy positions. What he is sincere about is his megalomania, unchecked narcissism, and utter unconcern about the vast number of things he knows nothing about.

Worse, he has revealed a streak of nastiness, sadism, and brutality that reminds me of nothing so much as Mussolini and his early Italian fascists. "I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell ya," he told one crowd when a protester showed up.

"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would ya? Seriously. Just knock the hell out of them," he bellowed, essentially inciting his followers to violence. If that doesn't scare you, it should.

Trump, who lies with far more ease than even most politicians, later claimed the violence at many of his rallies was really incited by supporters of Bernie Sanders, who he gratuitously and outrageously referred to as a "Communist."

What Sanders may be instead is the man who did the most to make Hillary Clinton electable, by forcing her to run as and remember that she was a Democrat. She began the campaign as if she expected it to be a coronation, and acted as if she were auditioning for the Goldman Sachs board.

It's hard to know whether she would do very much for the disadvantaged, or to help reduce the cost of college or the burden of student loans. What we do know is, at the very least, that the fall campaign slogan could be: "At least not the worst."

Her challenge — and that of everyone who cares about democracy, our future and America, will be to energize millions of disheartened Bernie supporters to show up to vote.

Who should Clinton pick as VP?

Don't expect it to be Bernie Sanders — nor should it be.

Politically, picking another woman, like the sainted Elizabeth Warren — or one of the dynamic Castro brothers — unfortunately might help reinforce Trump's message that the Democrats aren't the party for mainstream America.

The choice who I think would make the most sense is U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a principled populist and a proven vote-getter in what is perhaps the ultimate key state.

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