In an interview which aired last week on Good Morning America, Vice President Joe Biden claimed that he would have been a better president than any candidate still in the race. On April 22, he voted in the Delaware primary but pointedly snubbed Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton by keeping his vote a secret. Though Mr. Biden’s relatively moderate voting record in the Senate aligns more closely with Mrs. Clinton’s than that of her rival Bernie Sanders, the vice president has spoken well of Mr. Sanders in recent months. In January, Biden praised the Vermont senator for speaking to “a yearning that is deep and real” among the American people for change in their government. And in a thinly veiled criticism of Mrs. Clinton’s relatively unambitious policy platform, the vice president remarked in an April interview with the New York Times that he would like to see a bolder approach from his party’s front-runner. “I don’t think any Democrat’s ever won saying, ‘We can’t think that big — we ought to really downsize here because it’s not realistic,” he stated. “I’m not part of the party, that says ‘Well, we can’t do it.’”
Mr. Biden’s comments appear to reflect a dissatisfaction among many in the Democratic Party who, though viewing Mrs. Clinton as an ideologically compatible choice, see the party’s front-runner as uninspiring and relatively illiberal. Her opponent, on the other hand, is an inspiring figure within the party who may be too radical for many moderate voters and conservative Democrats. Who is the better choice for the Democratic Party?
Bernie Sanders is the most successful populist candidate that the left has seen in decades. He has energized young people to an astonishing degree and has built a deep base of progressive voters who want to see a drastic change in our nation’s political trajectory. For these voters, socialism is not a dirty word. They want to break up the big banks, legalize marijuana, preserve and expand Social Security, and make a public college education free. Most of these policy proposals would die in a Congress controlled by conservatives, but the fact that Mr. Sanders has managed to amass a sizable political movement behind these policies in less than a year is impressive and speaks to the growing acceptance of his ideas among a major contingent of the Democratic Party.
Hillary Clinton is a decidedly less inspiring choice – but a far better one. Yes, her wonky speeches have too few memorable one-liners and too many sleep-inducing details about the Export-Import Bank. Her sometimes wooden demeanor reveals that she is not a natural campaigner. But for every criticism aimed at her during this campaign, she has presented a thoughtful policy proposal in return. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has endorsed her ideas on healthcare and financial reform. Former Secretary of Defense and Republican Robert Gates. who worked closely with Clinton during the early years of the Obama administration, wrote in his memoir that she was “smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.” Hillary may be a mediocre candidate, but she would make an excellent president.
But back to Joe Biden. It is often said that had he run, he would have swept the nomination and become an excellent president.But I don’t think that that this would have occurred. Though each has his or her own weaknesses, this year’s Democratic candidates are not uniquely terrible; in fact, each would be a formidable adversary to the Republican nominee and would pursue liberal policy goals as president. But Mrs. Clinton’s extensive experience and pragmatic approach to public policy make her a better choice than Mr. Sanders. Mr. Biden, as well as other prominent Democratic Party leaders, should do their part and endorse Hillary Clinton as their preferred candidate for President of the United States.