Widgets Magazine


Who should you vote for?

The primary elections for California will be June 7, 2016, so the time is coming for citizens associated with the Democratic Party to choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Many Democratic voters in California are still undecided, so it is becoming increasingly important to question our values and the values we wish to be represented in our government.

What kind of society is just and fair? What society provides a maximally benefits all citizens? Have we achieved this society, and if not, which candidate can lead us closer to said society?

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders represent very different visions for America. I hope to demonstrate that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who can drastically advance equality of opportunity in America because of both his policy stances and his grassroots method of generating public support for change.

Let us first investigate the values we hold as Democratic voters. In particular, let us consider the original proposition (OP) developed by philosopher John Rawls. Rawls presents a scenario where we have the power to craft a society from scratch, in which we will enter without knowledge of our ethnicity, social status, gender or religion. Since, in reality, we have no control over the environmental (i.e., inherited wealth, culture, religion) and genetic (i.e., gender, race) characteristics we are born with, Rawls’ hypothetical is actually a sound way to think about an ideal society.

Rawls argues that because people are “ignorant” of what position they will occupy, it will always be best to maximize outcomes for the least well-off members of society in order to provide an equal playing field for all entering into society. For example, by this rationale, a marginalized group such as people born into poverty would require quality public education and healthcare systems in order to provide an equality of opportunity equivalent to those who inherited wealth.

The United States is far from the equality of opportunity that Rawls’ moral experiment requires of us. Income inequality in America is the highest it has been since 1928, with the top 1 percent receiving 22.5 percent of pre-tax income and the bottom 90 percent receiving 49.6 percent. Inequalities persist heavily along racial, gender and ethnic lines as well. The median household income of white families is $27,000 higher than that of black households. Housing laws de facto segregate neighborhoods and schools by income and race with 90 percent of intensely segregated, black and Latino schools also containing a student body that is predominantly economically disadvantaged. Such schools often have less experienced teachers, fewer resources and advanced placement courses, and lower test scores. Finally, despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate is still 11.4 percent (or 36 million citizens) due to a variety of factors, including the refusal of certain states to expand Medicare sufficiently and a high cost of insurance despite assistance.

These problems in the United States have persisted for decades without real meaningful change towards equality; change will only come from a dramatic policy agenda. Sanders and Clinton differ on a litany of issues, but mostly in degree than in kind. Both Sanders and Clinton want to expand healthcare, but Sanders proposes a single payer system, while Clinton wishes to stick with the ACA; Sanders wants to eliminate corporate donations, while Clinton wishes only that donations are disclosed; Sanders wishes to make public colleges tuition free by taxing Wall Street speculation, while Clinton wishes to provide more student grants.

If we were to refer back again to Rawls’ thought experiment, we would find that the candidate of choice is Sanders. Clinton’s policy proposals provide temporary fixes that do not adequately address inequality for the worst-off populations; only Sanders’ plan provides the dramatic, uncompromising stances that will create a more egalitarian society.

Moreover, the kind of change supported by both candidates will only come from a campaign that mobilizes the public and refuses to compromise in the face of moneyed interests. Robert Reich describes Obama and Clinton as “deal-maker[s]-in-chief[s]” in that their method of creating change is to satisfy a multiplicity of interests, including moneyed and lobbying interests, often to the detriment of the public welfare as a whole.

For example, Obama initially advocated and supported a single-payer health system, but to accommodate vested interests, transitioned to the current health plan, which promises the pharmaceutical industry lucrative business and prevents Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. Clinton, likewise, has embraced her status as a dealmaker and negotiator as proof that she “gets things done” even if these “things” are not in the best interest of the public.

Sanders’ method of social change is radically different and the only effective way to create a meaningful departure from the status quo. Rather than negotiating watered down legislation, Bernie’s method of change is to mobilize the public to demand change and punish politicians who stand in the way – what he calls a “political revolution.”

His reliance on grassroots methods of organizing rather than corporate donations allows Sanders to advocate for change without being beholden to special interests. Instead, he has created a movement that has energized traditionally politically inactive sectors of the population, such as the young and poor.

Bernie is not alone in history in using this method to create political change. Teddy Roosevelt nurtured public demand for change to pass progressive income tax, limit campaign donations, regulate food and drugs, and prevent monopolistic collusion. Likewise, the validation Bernie’s campaign receives through public mandate is the only real way to create change on issues entrenched in conflicting interests, such as gun control legislation and healthcare.

It’s precisely because Sanders’ policies are dramatic that his movement is gaining momentum and strength. And it’s precisely due to the growing public demand for what Sanders represents that he will be able to create change where others have failed in gridlock.

If you buy into Sanders’ vision, I encourage you to vote for him in the upcoming primaries. If you are skeptical he will be able to accomplish his goals, I encourage you to read Robert Reich’s response to Sanders skeptics. There is a movement of change coming. If you believe in it, don’t stand in the way. Feel the Bern.


Contact Neil Chaudhary at neilaman ‘at’ stanford.edu 

  • Student of History

    Your implicit assumption that Socialism actually achieves the goals you ascribe to it has been demonstrated time and time again throughout the world and throughout history to be entirely false in every single attempt without exception, thus completely undermining your conclusion.

  • Candid One

    NC, polemics in op-ed are always expected but your expository attempt at illumination of options needs less hyperbolé and more research. Among the other salients, this tidbit may give away your youth…
    “For example, Obama initially advocated and supported a single-payer health system, but to accommodate vested interests, transitioned to the current health plan, which promises the pharmaceutical industry lucrative business and prevents Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices.”

    You weren’t attentive in 2009, when PPACA proponents noted the lack of Congressional votes for Single Payer. Your glib homage to stunted dogma is not the kind of foundation that your spiel needs. How about investigating what the transition to Single Payer would do to the US business world–and to the US economy as well? Single Payer removes the current “middle agent” infrastructure that pervades US business–that’s jobs and people displaced…that other “vested interest”. With serious bipartisan support, a transition to Single Payer would take more than a decade…at the risk of another Great Depression if not managed carefully. Since its bipartisan support is a pipe dream, so is Single Payer–in your lifetime. Glibness is easy–at a keyboard.

  • Kim

    I’m going to vote for Rubio or Bush!

  • You Are Not So Candid

    Actually, several studies estimate that the amount of jobs created by transitioning to a Single Payer system in fact outnumber those that would be lost by the removal of the health insurance industries (http://www.thenation.com/article/single-payer-health-care-would-stimulate-economy/)

    Moreover, the “middle agent” infrastructure is actually one of the fundamental causes for lack of coverage and extremely high medical costs in America. If there was a single payer system, prices of medical procedures could be correctly set. But, as it is now, prices are negotiated by the relative strength of insurance and provider (i.e, hospital) networks which can cause huge price fluctuations. Further, the insurance system incentivizes doctors to provide unnecessary tests because insurance will cover the cost. A single payer system does not recompense hospitals on a per procedure basis like insurance does, which significantly lowers costs.

    If we comparatively look at developed nations with single payer systems (UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Cuba), health outcomes are consistently higher and costs significantly lower. Clearly, this is a desirable end goal. If your argument is that the transition will be messy, then I have two responses to you. First, the transition actually creates more jobs and provides an economic stimulus (see link above). Second, any transition worth the effort will have significant push back from vested interests, but that does not mean we let those interests win out at the expense of the public. Democracy isn’t about waiting for the right time to change things. As MLK says, there will never be an “opportune” time to change the status quo and change can not wait. That’s why I will vote for Bernie Sanders

  • You Are Not So Candid Again
  • Reread your textbook

    The association of socialism with the communism of the Soviet Union and Cuba needs to end. Socialism and capitalism are on a spectrum. Bernie Sanders will bring us closer to Democratic Socialism that exists in all Western European nations (UK, Nordic nations) which has produced positive economic and social outcomes for them. Your claim that “every single attempt without exception” if contradicted by the existence of these examples.

  • KimmyK

    The robot or the turtle? Good choices

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    “Referring to Jeb Bush as a turtle, is a major affront, an insult to the world of turtles. Please desist.” — Timothy Turtle, Turtle World Ink.

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    Your criticisms of NC are invalid, frequently degenerating into vacuous projection, especially in the last sentence.. and..:
    “Your glib homage to stunted dogma…” —- mirror mirror on the wall..
    But most significantly your notions of “Single Payer” health care are distorted and grossly inaccurate, as Not-So-Candid has succinctly pointed out below.. irregardless of corporate sponsors and their bought off legislatures.
    On a personal note, i grew up in a family environment of doctors and nurses, i worked during college at 2 different hospitals located at the edges of grinding ghetto-based poverty… The capitalist-tainted ObamaCare, as well as purer capitalist health care provision in previous regimes, are fundamentally flawed in that profit margin and motive inevitably inflates cost beyond ability (for too many) to pay… ie your poorer fellow humans in this country can’t afford health care.
    I’ve also lived for 5 years in Canada and a former wife is a citizen. Despite our differences, and based on our extensive experience of both systems, neither of us would ever dream of choosing this country’s system of health care, over Canada’s Single Payer system.

  • Jay

    The Bern is opportunistic. 27 years in the senate and nothing to show for. Free college is akin to Trumps Great wall of Mexico, all fiction and not to happen in our life time. He is like the Pied Piper, who plays the music to attract the young generations only to take them to a horrible end