AN OUT-OF-LEFTFIELD candidate arrives and with a combination of charisma, message, and promise of a populist movement, captures something in the national psyche that, beyond all reason, propels that candidate to victory.
In 2008, that candidate, Barack Obama, won the White House.
In 2016, one of those candidates, Donald Trump, is the Republican front-runner. Another is Bernie Sanders.
This phenomenon is not new; one could argue it's at the heart of all presidential elections. The process of picking our leaders is a not just an exercise in democracy, after all. It's a national psychological test that gets administered every four years, when candidates become canvases onto which we project our fears, desires, anger . . . and sometimes, our magical thinking.
Despite being polar opposites politically, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin; noisy, radical curmudgeons who embody many people's disaffection with the political status quo. In both cases, their followers project far more on to them than they offer or could ever deliver.
And then there's Hillary Clinton. She's is a canvas, too, but many project either far less on to her than what she might deliver - or they project their negative feelings about her husband, or her power. She's the anti-Bernie; called by many a "bad candidate," "unlikeable," even "unqualified."
A key fact is that people have described her this way for decades: When she attempted the massive job of reforming health care - as first lady. When she ran for and won the U.S. Senate, where she was more effective in eight years than Sanders has been in his 26 years in Congress. When she first ran for president against Obama. When she became Obama's secretary of state, logging in nearly a million miles of travel and restoring the credibility of the U.S. foreign policy. And again as presidential candidate . . . one who, by the way, has won nearly 700 more delegates toward the nomination than her rival.
Today, she's more accomplished than any other candidate and, in our view, most qualified to lead the country with tenacity and intelligence.
Her time on the national and international stages has given her stature and authority, especially among other world leaders. Her deep knowledge of policy is informed by homework, just as her pragmatism has been shaped by consistent opposition.
She's not without flaws, but if we're grading against the curve of her political rivals, she still gets high marks.
She also has been consistent and explicit in her message that women's rights are human rights.
While we're on the subject of gender . . . Being a woman doesn't make Hillary more qualified. But it makes her candidacy more compelling at a time when the battles over women's health and women's rights are still being played out as if Congress and other leaders were living in another century. In a world fraught with dangers – terroristic, environmental and economic - men in power in this country still spend far too much time obsessing over control of women's bodies and their health choices. And we're not talking only about abortion, but about contraception – contraception - and proper access to health care.
Sen. Bernie Sanders holds many progressive views that we share, especially on income inequality, minimum wage, and use of military force as a last resort. His passion and idealism have connected with young people. But his ideas come without practical plans, and he lacks a track record of being effective and productive with who don't share those ideas.
Voters have their pick of noisy curmudgeons this cycle.