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Memo to Hillary Clinton: What’s not to like about Denmark?

Instead of having one gun per every citizen, as we do in the United States, Denmark has nearly one bicycle per person.Derrick Z. Jackson/Globe staff

Dear Hillary Clinton,

You looked so proud of yourself when you threw Denmark under the bus at last week's presidential debate. You couldn't wait to jump all over Bernie Sanders' suggestion that the United States should look to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway as models of free health care, free education, and paid family leave. You responded with:

"What Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have. But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America."

Your true believers applauded at your red-white-and-blue counterpunch. But given the fact that Americans are struggling with crushing student debt, high drug prices, and lousy family leave polices, perhaps it's time to look to Denmark for some solutions. It seems you already have.


Your website has semi-Scandinavian claims that affordable health care is a "basic human right," and you will be a "fighter" for paid family leave. When your husband, President Clinton, visited Denmark in 1997, he proclaimed it a "pioneer" for creating "a strong economy and a good society that provides opportunity for all."

Sounds a bit like Sanders, eh? But instead, to position yourself to the right of Sanders, you channeled the man your husband ousted from the White House — George H.W. Bush.

Bush tattooed Michael Dukakis into oblivion in the 1988 presidential race by painting the Massachusetts governor as a socialist who would infect America with the "European disease" of high taxation and economic stagnation.

In too many ways, America did just that in comparison to Denmark. The Danes pay high taxes, but they get back some of the world's top rankings for happiness, well-being, and work-life balance.

Denmark is first in the global race to 100-percent clean energy by 2050. Pictured: Anholt Offshore Wind Farm.Derrick Z. Jackson/Globe staff

According to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, an American is five times more likely to work long hours than a Dane, leaving enough time for things like — voting! While voter turnout in the US presidential elections is 68 percent, it is 88 percent in Denmark. Civic engagement is at such a high level over there that voting among the poorest 20 percent in Denmark is still 86 percent


Hillary, why boast "We are not Denmark'' when that nation, instead of having one gun per every citizen, as we do in the United States, has nearly one bike per person? What is your point when Copenhagen's subways and trains leave America's public transit and Amtrak in the dust? What's not to like about a nation (unless you're the Koch Brothers) that has more than 500 offshore wind turbines spinning and is first in the global race to 100-percent clean energy by 2050?

And given your unabashed reminders that you would be America's first woman president, don't you feel the least bit silly since Denmark's gender pay gap is half that of the US?

So good for you, Hillary, to burnish your centrist credentials by dissing what your own husband said is a "pioneer" nation that inspires a "great new age of possibility." It makes for a great line for those who've never been to Denmark. For those who have, it suggests that perhaps you will not be quite the fighting pioneer in the White House than you seem to promise.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.