Ready for Hillary. Voting for Bernie.

The North Carolina primaries have always been an overlooked and inconsequential event. Held in May of every election year for as long as I can remember, the votes rarely make a difference in the process of choosing a presidential candidate for either party. That's why, this year, the powers that be in NC made the decision to push the voting date by almost two months, to March 15th — all the better to get in on some of the nominating action and help influence a decision.

It hasn't worked.

On the GOP side, there’s still no presumptive nominee, and all indications are that there won’t be one until the convention in June.

On the Democrat side, it seems more and more obvious that Secretary Hillary Clinton is on track to claim a nomination that many deemed inevitable as long as two years ago. The math doesn’t look good for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and in all likelihood North Carolina’s earlier primary won't do anything to upend the equation. Yet, he soldiers on. Sen. Sanders has stood firm in the face of what has seemed like certain defeat many times before -- from protesting for civil rights to the filibustering Bush tax cut extension -- because he recognizes that sometimes the first step toward making a difference is making a point.

That’s one of the many reasons I’ll cast my vote in the North Carolina primary for Bernie Sanders.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m ready for Hillary. I like Secretary Clinton. I anticipate her selection the Democrat nominee, she will be a formidable candidate in the general election, and I believe she’ll make a very effective president. I think she's more qualified than anyone who has run for president in decades, and I agree with her on most issues. I just wish she could embrace some more of the progressive ideals that Sen. Sanders talks so enthusiastically about. She needs to be better. She needs to learn from the Bern!

Bernie Sanders draws tens of thousands of supporters to his rallies because he excites voters. He speaks to their hopes and dreams, while Hillary speaks to their heads.  Let’s be frank, as much as I would love to believe that the next president could make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students, we all know that’s very unlikely to happen with a Republican House and a closely divided Senate. Voters know and understand that too. We’ve watched absolutely nothing get done for years now. We aren't naïve. But by talking about it, Bernie Sanders not only engages voters who desperately need to believe that progress is possible, he shows us all where his heart is. Sure, he may not succeed at getting these things passed, but I know that those lofty goals are his “North Star” and that shows me that he’s headed in a direction I believe we need to follow.

Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton has hewed to telling us all what is possible and what’s realistic. She is already acting as if she has the job. But she is forgetting that to actually win the position, it takes more than feasibility. It takes inspiration.

I appreciate Sec. Clinton's discipline. But man does it bore me to tears in a campaign. If pragmatism excited people, there would be a line wrapped around the block at every cardiologist’s office in the country. And when Secretary Clinton tells us what's sensible and what the baby steps are, not only does it not stir me, it makes me worried that she’s not even going to reach for the brass rings when they are in sight.

Secretary Clinton, please don’t just tell us what you think; tell us what you dream! Learn from the Bern.

Bernie Sanders is also the answer to many a prayer from voters of all political persuasions this year in that he is sort of the “anti-politician”. Sure, Donald Trump is also an anti-politician in this year’s presidential race, but Bernie Sanders is the qualified and intelligent anti-politician.

When I ran for Congress in 2014, we framed part of our campaign around the incredible disdain that voters have for typical politicians. But I am the first to admit any everyman quality I may have brought pales in comparison to Bernie's candor and accessibility. He is perhaps the most real and relatable candidate since the first Clinton. And unlike Bill, Bernie doesn’t play political games.

Secretary Clinton attacked Bernie as not being present and supportive during the Civil RIghts movement of the 1960s and 70s. Never mind the photographic evidence of him being arrested in Chicago while protesting in support of equal rights. She has also accused him of wanting to take away everyone’s Obamacare — a scare tactic that, while technically accurate, conveniently leaves out the part about Sanders' intention to replace Obamacare with free universal healthcare instead. Secretary Clinton was even quoted by the New York Times last week as saying, “I don’t know where he was when I was trying to get health care in ’93 and ’94.” Of course, now the internet has blown up with memes of Sanders standing next to her while she spoke on the topic and images of her handwritten note thanking him for his “commitment to real health care access for all.” Oops! 

Of course, these are typical political tactics that politicians have used for decades, and in any other election season they probably wouldn’t matter. But this year they do. This is the year of the non-politician. And when Secretary Clinton and her team try to shame Bernie by using textbook political maneuvers, it’s as if they are trying to fight a fire by smothering it in matchsticks. Bernie Sanders is supported and loved by millions precisely because he doesn’t use tactics like those. Secretary Clinton could learn from Bernie here.

Sure, Bernie is unpolished. He is your grumpy old uncle who isn’t worried that his hair is messy or that he’s not wearing the right clothes. He’s doesn’t use a focus group to decide on the color of his ties. His speeches are written down on crumpled notebook paper which he keeps in his pocket or a binder. He barely uses the notes anyway. He just says what he thinks without poll-testing every sentence. That’s a large part of why national polls show that he is considered more trustworthy than almost every other candidate. Because Bernie's not questioning everything he says himself, I don’t question him either.

I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton is dishonest. I don’t think she lies. Actually, I think she’s pretty damn good at not lying. That can that be worse sometimes. She’s trying her best to combat this perception that she’s dishonest and inauthentic — and I actually feel sorry for her for having to do so — but, boy, it’s an uphill battle for her to change that perception. She can do it! I believe in her. I sat in awe of her testimony in front of the Benghazi Committee, and the nation did too. No talking points. No notes. Just direct answers. In fact, most of her best moments have been the unscripted ones.

Her series of ads that candidly show her answering questions in town halls was inspired. (I cheered out loud when I heard her answer the little girl who asked her if President Hillary Clinton would get paid as much as the male presidents did!) In televised town halls, her most powerful answers always seem to be to the questions she didn’t expect, the ones she wasn’t as prepared for. Why is that? It’s because Hillary Clinton is the smartest, most capable, most knowledgable, most experienced person in nearly every room she's in. When she shoots from the hip, Bernie-style, she soars! 

Secretary Clinton, learn from the Bern. Please, please ditch the TelePrompTer!

I want the nominee of the Democratic Party to be the strongest candidate come November. For me, this election is very much about the balance of the Supreme Court, so I’ll happily be voting for the candidate who supports equal rights, who supports women’s choice, who supports voting rights, and who will appoint justices who will overturn Citizen’s United and get corruptive money out of politics. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both fit that bill. And they both have many other positives:

Hillary Clinton would be the most prepared and capable commander in chief that this country has seen in my lifetime.

Bernie Sanders is not a typical politician. He's authentic, and he speaks from the heart. He inspires people and I think he’d be a formidable and victorious candidate in the general election for those reasons, and a great president too.

But, if NC’s votes (and the votes to come) don’t make that possible, I hope Hillary watches him and picks up some of his great qualities, too.

Sometimes the first step toward making a difference is making a point.

I’m ready for Hillary, but I’m voting for Bernie.