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To make a bold stand, vote Bernie


In the April 6 issue of City, Mary Anna Towler reluctantly endorsed Hillary Clinton for New York's April 19 Democratic presidential primary. The decision was difficult, she said, and if she made her choice solely on positions, the endorsement would go to Bernie Sanders. She cited Clinton's strengths, record, and current proposals.

Towler's biggest concern is electability in the general election. She believes that Clinton is the candidate with the best chance to defeat the Republican nominee. And that Clinton would, if elected, have the best chance at achieving her goals.

I, along with several City writers, disagree with her endorsement. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the presidential candidate that the Democratic Party and the country needs in order to move forward.

Sanders is a man of integrity, and progressives don't have to do mental gymnastics in order to support him. His "strong, commendable positions, not only on health care and public-college affordability, but also on climate change, the Middle East, defense spending, national security, infrastructure investment, and much more," as Towler wrote last week, are consistent, and not calibrated to win an election.

Clinton has the record of a moderate Democrat, at best. Liberals struggle to reconcile her hawkish tendencies, her support for Wall Street and its support of her, and her support for both the federal death penalty and past support for privatized prisons.

Clinton is arguably moving left due to pressure from Sanders, but some of those positions are still watered down: raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour isn't the same as boosting it to $15, nor is preserving the Affordable Care Act the same as transitioning to a single-payer health care system. Clinton's platform still skews the system in favor of the "haves" at the risk of the "have nots."

The country can't afford another four years of timid progress. A Sanders candidacy is a real opportunity for the Democratic Party to prove that it will take willful, powerful action to make politics honest, fight income inequality, reform the criminal justice system, and build the middle class.

During the general election, the Republican Party would undoubtedly attack Sanders as a "tax-loving extremist, a socialist, a communist in disguise," Towler writes. But they'll probably do something similar -- or worse -- to Clinton. The GOP was merciless toward President Barack Obama when he ran in 2008 and 2012, and Clinton's platform is even more liberal, albeit slightly.

While Republicans will mostly likely try to paint Sanders as a communist, Clinton faces potential attacks based on real or imagined scandals, including Benghazi and the FBI's investigation of her State Department e-mails. While most of it is bullshit, there's undeniably a lot of fodder for dirty attack ads. Republicans have been investigating and attacking the Clintons for decades, after all.

Fear is a powerful motivator and the prospect of any of the current Republican candidates becoming president is frightening: Cruz -- whose claim to fame is leading the effort that shut down the government in 2013 -- would be the most conservative candidate in generations; Kasich is only moderate compared to his fellow candidates; and Trump is ... Trump. All three are anti-abortion climate change deniers who have tax plans that give the biggest cuts to the wealthy. (The Trump and Cruz tax plans would also result in about $9.5 trillion and $8.6 trillion in lost revenue for the US government, respectively.)

When did the Democratic Party lose its idealism? To vote based on fear is to simply throw a vote away when faced with the possibility of a true progressive candidate who has already won over so many people seeking a genuine person to lead the country. Progressivism is based in the belief that we can always do better. Bernie Sanders is us doing better.

Antoinette Ena Johnson, Jeremy Moule, and Rebecca Rafferty contributed to this column.