Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why I would vote for Bernie Sanders for President

Why I would vote for Bernie Sanders for President

As I picked up my November 5, 2014 copy of The New York Times wrapped in a four-page glossy paper advertisement for Harry Winston diamonds, I  was greeted with this headline, “G.O.P Takes Senate” and its sub-head, “RidingVoter Anger to Gain Control of Congress.” As a consequence of this juxtaposition, I had been slapped in the face with the most crucial issue of the day - income inequality. Do any of the 2014 winners and losers ever mentioned this issue? No, they speak in political platitudes and unvarnished venom for their opponents via an unrelenting barrage of ads heavily financed by billionaire reactionaries.

I ask myself is there an American politician who speaks the truth and focuses on economic disparity,  the cancer of our society? Yes, there is one - Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont. Years before Nobelist Joseph Stiglitz wrote about it, and Occupy Wall Street elevated it to a global issue, Bernie stumped Vermont calling attention to it and its deleterious impact on his constituents.

As primary day elections across the country approached, my e-mail inbox was flooded with a deluge of fundraising requests for Democratic Party candidates whose spectrum of victory was widely varied. Time and again, I asked myself what is the essential difference between the Democratic and Republican candidates? I am more likely to vote for Democratic candidates out of habit rather than conviction. I have a track record of voting for alternative, nonparty presidential candidates. My list includes: Doctor Benjamin Spock, Ralph Nader and Dick Gregory among others. Hardly concerned with ideology, I saw my votes as a form of protest against a political system in which I have no faith. Is this heresy or realism? I would argue in favor of the later. What do I find missing from political dialogue in this country today? The truth!

For months, the rumor mill has spewed a delugeof speculations about a possible presidential candidacy for Bernie Sanders, an independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. One might ask if this is a joke being perpetrated by a politician from one of the country’s least populated states or is this a matter for serious consideration. Unquestionably, it is the later. Could he possibly win? Never in a million years. Why then, make the effort? Sanders has a penchant for telling the truth, a practice totally ignored by most American politicians. Sanders’ constituency does not embrace bankers,  corporate executives and their lackeys. He is more concerned with  boosting the minimum wage than following the stock markets’ endless gyrations. Throughout his entire political career, he has been aggressive in calling attention to Income disparity. It can be assumed that the two major political party candidates will drown in a sea of solipsism. Bernie would not. It can be assumed that he would bring realities and facts to voters that are never generated by highly paid public relations consultants.

Beyond that, he might compel the Democratic Party presidential candidate to become a more honest spokesperson. Regrettably, most politicians have very short term memories. In order to secure votes, they make promises which they know that they will never be able to effectuate. 

Although I do not know him personally, I did meet him on one occasion when he was conducting his first reelection campaign. At that time, we lived in Grafton,Vermont, a town of some 500 people in Windsor County which abuts Massachusetts to the south and New Hampshire to the east. Our encounter took place in the Newfane courthouse, a classic early19th century Federalist building that dominates a cluster of elegant painted white and green wooden structures inhabiting the Newfane town green. I was one of a group of about 15 campaign volunteers with whom he shared his campaign organizing strategy. He described it this way. First, he got a core of intellectuals involved and motivated. Although few in number, they represented an effective core. Next, labor unions;
 they could supply considerable numbers of volunteers and money. It is clearly a simple but very effective strategy.

When it came time to report his experiences in Washington, one thing stands out in my memory. He described his first banquet sitting down at a dinner table and finding two wine glasses in front of him: one for red and one for white. He had been accustomed to one - do it all - wine glass, 

He further described his strategy for building coalitions of like minded people. There is no question about the fact that he's been functionally affective in this practice exerting more influence than might have been imagined.  He is known as an Independent. (Sometimes, he describes himself as a Socialist.) He caucuses with Democrats, yet retains his separate status. In The Bernie Buzz, his online report, one can find these excerpts from a recent post based on an interview with Bill Moyers.

The Koch Brothers and other billionaires are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into negative campaigns. Corporate campaign cash, once outlawed in America, is tilting the playing field. In California, Chevron shelled out at least $3 million to buy friends at city hall in Richmond, a Bay Area city that’s home to a giant petroleum refinery. Untraceable “dark money” is being spent elsewhere. Voter ID laws are keeping people away from polling places. Are we going to let them get away with it? Experts say 60 percent of Americans will not vote on Nov. 4. Eighty percent of low-income workers won’t vote. “That's not democracy. That's oligarchy,” said Bernie. “We must educate, organize, overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections.

“ You see, this is the issue. I mean, I’ve been on a million of these shows. They say, ‘Here’s the story of the day. What do you think about the Secret Service? What do you think about this? What do you think about Ebola?’ All of those issues are important. But the issues that impact ordinary people, is they’re asking why, despite all of the productivity, people are working longer hours for lower wages. Have we had that discussion, Bill? Have you ever heard anybody talking about it? They’re asking how come we’ve had these unfettered free-trade policies that have resulted in the loss of millions of good-paying jobs and you got both parties still saying, well, that’s pretty good.

“And this issue of income and wealth inequality, wow. One percent owning 37 percent of the wealth in America. Bottom 60 percent owning 1.7 percent. One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owning more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. Do you think we should be talking about that issue? You can’t get the discussion going on TV.

“Moyers asked why” and Bernie replied," Because it’s not in the interest of the corporations who own the networks to actually be educating the American people so that they are debating the real issues. It’s much better to deflect attention away from those issues and get into the story of the day. “There was some guy who was a football fan who walked halfway across the country. Boy, that’s a really big story. Or, Chris Christie yelled at somebody. History will certainly remember this as one of the important issues of the 21st century.”

Clearly, Bernie is a man of principle who is dedicated to integrity and honesty. He gets my vote!