As the presidential primary voting has progressed, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running neck-and-neck among Democrats. Although the two candidates are Democrats, they are ideologically opposed on many levels. Rolling out spoke with U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, who represents Georgia’s 4th District, about the presidential race and Clinton and Sanders.
As we go into this heated presidential race with a diverse group of voters, what are your thoughts on the differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders?
I think that Sanders believes in his work throughout his life and theory that if you improve economic inequality, then everything else is cured. But we know that the issues with African –Americans and other minorities, particularly dark-skinned people, by merely addressing the income inequalities. I think during the campaign Sanders has finally accepted the notion that Black lives matter, so he is a recent convert to the philosophy that he is now embracing — and I’m not mad at him for that. But I do understand also the appeal of his socialist leanings coming in a capitalist society. I think some of his ideas, like free college education as opposed to a debt-free college education, which is a much more realistic goal. I think the free college situation is unattainable and equally so is the notion that we are going to have a single payer health care system with no cost to the people. I think that at this time it is not a workable proposition. I believe that we should work on the foundation that President Obama has laid and build upon it. We must perfect it as opposed to discarding it to start a new system which has no chance of really getting passage. So you can campaign on it, and if you win the nomination the extremeness of your position is not palatable to the public and you’re not going to get elected.
So in my mind, Bernie Sanders is an extremist on the progressive side that moves it away from the mainstream. The same way that a Donald Trump or Ted Cruz on the political right becomes unpalatable to the more moderate mainstream of voters. To nominate Bernie to oppose a mainstream Republican would result in a mainstream Republican victory. On the other hand, to nominate and extreme left-wing candidate vs. and extreme right-wing candidate, neither one of which would be able to work with a mainstream legislature, to advance a very extreme position, just creates more gridlock for America. So I’m looking for the best candidate, the one who has a realistic and achievable domestic agenda and one who understands the dynamics of national security. I quite frankly have been astounded by the lack of national security awareness of Bernie Sanders. That’s very important; keeping our nation secure and safe and also forging 21st century partnerships with nations across the globe based on current realities; as opposed to 1960s Cold War thinking.
Have you officially endorsed a candidate?
Yes, I have endorsed Hillary Clinton for the presidency.