Endorsement: Hillary Clinton as Democrat for U.S. president.

As prelude to our endorsements for Tuesday's presidential primaries in Illinois, we must confess disappointment in the choices the voters will find.

The challenges facing the nation - the economy, runaway government spending, terrorism, nuclear threats, immigration, the ethnic and racial divides, the shrinking middle class, social issues, intractable partisanship, you name it - loom so large that they beg for the best in our national politics.

Instead, what do we get? Candidates in both parties running to the extremes. A crude brawl in one party. A cynical competition in the other party to further divide the nation.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect candidate. But there are clearly superior alternatives. We recommend Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Clinton, a native of the Northwest suburbs, has gone a long way since Maine South High School, and we would hope even critics recognize a lifelong commitment to social justice that had its roots at First United Methodist Church in Park Ridge.

Now, after more than a quarter century as a national figure - as first lady, then U.S. senator and finally secretary of state - Clinton stands at the edge of history, within sight of becoming the first woman in the 240 years of the republic to be elected president.

The significance of that gender breakthrough would be impossible to overstate, and while we don't believe anyone should vote for Clinton solely because she is a woman, we do find it puzzling that her campaign has failed so far to attract the votes of millennial women to any significant degree.

Despite decades of public service, she is, we concede, an imperfect candidate. Her unguarded use of email as secretary of state raises serious questions. And her old-school oratorical cadence fails to inspire; she struggles to articulate the passions for service that we believe lie in her heart.

She has long been an advocate for health care reform, women's rights, child welfare and civil rights. Fundamentally, she is a centrist who believes in government but also believes in government accountability.

Her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has galvanized seas of supporters across the country with a feverish campaign focused on the flaws - some real, but some exaggerated - of capitalism. Unfortunately, Sanders does so without ever recognizing capitalism's many great virtues. Even worse, his radical solutions in most cases either don't add up or wouldn't get enacted.

As a source of inspiration, Sanders is surprisingly effective and worthy of credit. But as a president, he would be an obstinate disaster.

Realistically, there is only one choice in this race. Sanders is too extreme. Clinton offers hope of practical solutions to real problems.

Slusher: How to use our endorsements

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