A year ago, Hillary Clinton seemed to be on her way to a serene, obstacle-free coronation as the 2016 Democratic nominee for president. In an April 14, 2015, editorial, The Times bemoaned the fact that the Democratic race consisted of “exactly one candidate with a truly national profile” — the former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York. The editorial did mention Sen. Bernie Sanders, but only as one of a group of second-tier figures that also included former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former U.S. Sen Jim Webb of Virginia (remember them?).
Today, as California prepares for its primary on June 7, Clinton is again on the verge of victory. But what a difference a year has made. In the intervening months, so many Democrats and independents have felt the Bern that the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont acquired the national stature that seemed improbable a year ago. His passionate excoriation of a “rigged economy” and his call for a sweeping political revolution energized millions of Americans, especially young voters, and he put Clinton on the defensive about her ties to Wall Street, her support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the trade policies of her husband Bill Clinton’s administration.
Yet even though he has proved a far more formidable challenger than we — or Clinton — expected, Sanders lacks the experience and broad understanding of domestic and (especially) foreign policy that the former secretary of state would bring to the presidency. Although Sanders has tapped into very real and widespread anxieties about economic inequality, deindustrialization and stagnant economic growth, his prescriptions are too often simplistic, more costly than he would have us believe and unlikely to come to pass.
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