I’m a lifelong Democrat, and I plan to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary. Some of my fellow Democrats find this to be agreeable. Others, not so much. But one thing I’ve always been proud of is that Democrats are more open-minded than Republicans. We’re more accepting of varying points of view and more willing to hear out those with whom we disagree. And that’s why I’m openly encouraging Hillary Clinton’s supporters to explain to me why I should vote for her over Bernie Sanders.

I want to be clear about this right out of the gate: I’m absolutely not abandoning Bernie Sanders here. I’m not looking for excuses to vote for Hillary Clinton, either. There’s little chance anyone will woo me away from voting for Sanders. The point of this article isn’t to trash-talk Hillary or to further bolster Bernie. It’s to allow for an open, peaceful dialogue between two camps that haven’t been getting along much this year, and as Democrats, we need to be more willing to hear each other out.

So, in this article, I’ll explain what I like about Bernie Sanders, and what I dislike about Hillary Clinton. In the comments below or on Facebook, I openly encourage you to explain to me, as civilly as possible of course, why you believe I’m wrong about one or the other or both.

Why I Support Bernie Sanders

The media’s favorite new buzzword this political season is “Authenticity.” Pundits love throwing that word around. And they often use it to discredit Hillary Clinton; Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right are catching up with, or outright beating, Hillary Clinton because they seem more “authentic” than her. There are many reasons why I support Bernie Sanders… “authenticity” isn’t one of them.

Before making up my mind one way or the other, I do what I believe all Americans should do: I weigh not only the quality of a candidate’s character, but the ambition and pragmatism of their platform. I try to consider where America is today, and where it might be if that person were to be president. I’m no fortuneteller, but I’ve been writing about politics long enough to make a pretty good educated guess, and from my perspective, Bernie Sanders would be the better president.

Bernie Sanders is often written off by many as a pie-in-the-sky idealist. A man with big dreams and no foundation for them. But when you really take the time to examine his platform, Bernie Sanders is actually the most pragmatic candidate in the race, as far as I can tell. He identifies the many problems this country is facing and presents us with reasonable solutions for them. His message is one of populism and progressivism, and of getting things done. Of ushering in a new golden era of progressivism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Teddy Roosevelt.

Of course he won’t get everything done, but even if he can only fix one of America’s dire problems — our lack of true universal healthcare, our failed education system, our crumbling infrastructure, our horrible income inequality, our ruined, money-centric electoral system — he’ll have been a worthy president.

Why I’m Not Supporting Hillary Clinton

And now we turn toward Hillary Clinton, and in doing so, we circle back around to that exhausted news media meme of “authenticity.” It’s not authenticity that pushes me away from Hillary Clinton. That’s an oversimplification of why I can’t get behind her, and the word doesn’t really do my thoughts justice.

Hillary Clinton is, in my view anyway, a career politician in all of the wrong ways. To me, it seems like she cares more about being president than doing something positive once in office. She’s a candidate built by committee, driven entirely by public opinion polling, a woman who can’t even decide what to put in her morning coffee without a focus group determining the perfect amounts of milk and sugar.

I don’t know a single progressive who hadn’t made up their mind about gay marriage many, many years ago. I personally “evolved” on gay marriage as a teenager in the 1990’s, when family and friends of mine first started coming out as openly gay. These were people I loved, so supporting them and wanting the best for them was a no-brainer. Bernie Sanders has been openly advocating gay rights for forty years. So for Hillary to have only just recently come out in favor of gay rights, several months ago, just before she entered the 2016 presidential race… I have a very hard time believing that Hillary Clinton actually supports gay rights. As far as I can tell, this is something she says more than something she feels.

Okay, so that’s her character. But what about her vision for America’s future? Again, it seems like she’s building a platform by committee, one that the party establishment finds agreeable and with just enough progressive bullet-points that hardliner liberals like myself are placated just enough to not hate her.

When Bernie scores big with education, she comes out with a copycat college plan. When people get antsy because she won’t define her view on Keystone XL, she comes out against it. And when tugging the party line is making her look not quite liberal enough, she comes out against TPP with the hopes of silencing her leftward critics.

So that’s my problem with Hillary: it isn’t a matter of authenticity, so much as an issue of her candidacy coming across as more important to her than progress. I want a president who makes decisions based not only on their knowledge, but on the pulling of their heartstrings, and I’m not sure if Hillary has any heartstrings to tug. We’ll need to wait and see what the polls have to say about that.

I’m Convinced, But Still Open To Intellectual Debate

So here’s where I stand: I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary. If Hillary wins, I’ll vote for her in the general, but I want Bernie Sanders to win. But the primary isn’t happening here in New York for many, many months. If someone wanted to convince me to vote for Hillary, I’d be open to hearing why. And I’ll engage you in conversation and openly discuss this, so long as you aren’t throwing around personal insults at me or Senator Sanders. Because at the end of the day, Democrats are supposed to be the adults in the room. So let’s have an adult conversation about these candidates, shall we?

Photo by US Embassy New Zealand