Bernie Sanders’ idealism is exactly what we need

As much as I admire economist Paul Krugman, I am disappointed that he has joined the camp of those who believe Americans are no longer capable of high-minded goals. In his January 22nd New York Times column, Krugman ridiculed Sen. Bernie Sanders bernie-sandersfor trying to “conjure up the better angels of America’s nature and persuade the broad public to support a radical overhaul of our institutions.”

It is precisely because of his appeal to our “better angels” that millions of American voters want Sanders to be our next president. The contrast with the other political party is painfully obvious. Their candidates appeal to the kind of animal instincts that human evolution should have left behind. Fear and selfishness may be necessary in a life and death situation, but they should not be the main drivers of decision making by intelligent members of a democratic republic.

Supporters of the Democratic presidential candidate who offers baby steps toward progressive goals have hammered into our heads that a President Sanders would be hamstrung in his goals by an obstructionist Republican Congress. Why are we assuming that Congress will always be controlled by corporate toadies and war hawks?

Imagine where we would be today if the American colonists believed they would never be able to defeat the British monarchy. Imagine if President Jefferson had thought it too expensive and difficult a task for Lewis and Clark to explore the land west of the Mississippi River.

Imagine how much longer women would have waited for the right to vote if Susan B. Anthony and other brave souls hadn’t sacrificed themselves for the cause.

There have been many comparisons of our economic situation today with that of the late 19th century “Gilded Age.” The similarities are striking. Massive wealth and power held by a few families and corporations. Desperate workers being mistreated by nameless, often foreign, company owners. Children growing up in poverty with no hope for a better future. That was the 1890’s, and who stepped up to bellow the need for reform? Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, the “trust buster.”

We need a trust buster today with the guts to call a spade a spade. Sadly, we don’t have muckraker journalists going after billionaire hedge fund managers today the way Ida Tarbell and others went after the oil and meat packing companies one hundred years ago.

Wall Street is off limits.The Walton and Koch families are off limits.The military-industrial complex is off limits.

Why is that? Look no further than how political campaigns are financed and how quickly our supposed “representatives” jump ship when offered a deal too good to pass up.
No wonder the power brokers hate and fear Bernie Sanders. He is forcing us to look behind the curtain and see who is pulling the levers that keep the majority of workers desperate for any crumbs that fall from the table of the filthy rich.

Americans traditionally set their sights on higher goals than “incremental improvements” or “minor adjustments” to existing programs. If previous generations could build massive projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority, the interstate highway system and the NASA space program, why can’t we?

Defeatism does not produce heroic leaders or great accomplishments. The choice is ours. What kind of future do we want for our children and grandchildren?

Think about that as you head to the voting booth this spring.

Susan Cunningham Susan Cunningham (52 Posts)

Susan Cunningham is a retired teacher of American history. She lives near St. Louis, Missouri.