You gotta love Bernie Sanders. He came from nowhere, a socialist, of all things, and managed to give Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president since Obama assumed office in 2008, a run for her money—literally. He succeeded because he spoke frankly and directly to the leading issues challenging our nation—unacceptable poverty amid unprecedented wealth, and the anxiety of those who can’t find jobs that pay a living wage. He addressed the need to reform campaign spending, halt global warming, advance racial justice, and rein in Wall Street. He had bold ideas and refused to trim his sails. In comparison to Hillary Clinton’s more cautious approach, Bernie was a breath of fresh air for many readers of this magazine, young voters, and progressives of all ages.
But now that Hillary has clinched the Democratic nomination, the many voters who have been inspired by Bernie need to turn their attention and enthusiasm to the next, critical battle—electing Hillary and defeating Donald Trump. And while many will understandably feel disappointed that Bernie is not the Democratic candidate, there’s a strong progressive case for supporting Hillary.
It starts, of course, with the need to trounce Trump. Never before in our history has such a demagogic, unqualified, divisive candidate been this close to leading the most powerful country in the world. Trump has no experience governing, little apparent knowledge of the many complex issues facing the nation, and a temperament wholly unsuited to the office. He has built his candidacy on the politics of division: specifically, in his commitment to build a wall at the US-Mexican border, and more generally, through his denigration of women, Muslims, Latinos, and the disabled. Paul Ryan conceded on Tuesday that Trump’s criticism of the judge hearing the lawsuit against Trump University was “textbook” racism—but Ryan nonetheless continues to endorse him. The prospect of Donald Trump leading this country should be more than enough reason for progressives to back Hillary, and to do so as if the future of the nation depends on it—because it does.
And it’s not just about beating Trump. If progressives come out in force for Hillary, there is a real possibility that Trump will be so decisively rejected that the Republicans could lose their hold on the Senate and even the House of Representatives—outcomes that are essential to making progressive reform possible on a wide range of issues. Trump’s negative coattails could also play out in the states, allowing Democrats to regain control of some state governments. But this will only be possible if progressives strongly back Hillary.
The progressive case for Hillary doesn’t end with opposing Trump. Primary campaigns tend to emphasize the differences between candidates—and there are undeniably differences between Sanders and Clinton. But on virtually all the issues progressives care about most—economic inequality, racial justice, global warming, an economy that works for all, criminal-justice reform, healthcare, and women’s rights—Hillary’s values are largely in keeping with ours. She wants to reduce inequality, overturn Citizens United, end mass incarceration and racial profiling, reform our broken immigration system, advance healthcare for all, address climate change responsibly, and protect women’s right to choose.