First off, let me be clear. I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary and I hope he wins the nomination. If he doesn’t I will vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m choosing Bernie not just because my political views are closer to his, they are, but because I think he has the best chance of winning in November.
That said, I have some problems with Bernie Sanders. My greatest criticism is that he’s a faux Democratic Socialist. No real Democratic Socialist would vote, as he has time and again, to continue the U.S. imperialist wars in the Middle East and the Ukraine. His foreign policy views are slightly better than Clinton’s, and he is less of an outright warmonger, but he is a huge disappointment to me on that front. Bernie can’t call for a “revolution” and ignore the link between our vast imperialist military/intelligence state and the problems we are facing at home. They are profoundly connected. Even though this is a big issue for me, I’m still voting for him, and I will explain the many reasons why. Before I get to them, there are other things about Bernie that I’m not thrilled about.
Bernie’s deals with the Devil
As an Independent from Vermont, Bernie’s deals with the Democratic Party have somewhat muzzled his progressive voice. I’ll give you an example. Although to his credit, he did, rather brilliantly, force Republicans to add funding for community health centers to the Affordable Care Act, he did not push hard enough for the “public option.” Bernie had a lot of influence because he sat on the committee that wrote the bill.
He’s been terrible on guns, primarily to garner votes from gun-owning Democrats, Independents and Republicans in his home state of Vermont.
Because of his deal with the Democratic Party to not run candidates against him in exchange for his caucusing with Democrats, he has diminished his ability to be critical of the Party.
Countering Bernie criticism from the Left
There’s no shortage of criticism of Bernie by writers on the Left. People I admire, like Paul Street and Chris Hedges, consider Bernie a socialist sellout. They support Green Party candidate Jill Stein. I too would prefer to vote for her, but the stakes are too high. I don’t want a Republican in the White House.
For better or worse, Bernie’s imperfect deals with Democrats, which the Left despises and considers a deep character flaw, have allowed him to “get shit done” as Hillary supporters like to claim. In fact, Bernie has way more legislative success to his credit than Hillary, precisely because he’s a very skilled dealmaker. When he was in the House, he was called the “Amendment King,” because he improved not-so-great bills by introducing progressive amendments. Bernie is not as ideologically or politically “pure” as the Left or I would like, but he has been consistently effective, nonetheless, in passing bills that help ordinary Americans.
It’s the money, stupid
Bernie is remarkably clean when it comes to special interest money. He takes campaign donations from unions, but not banks and big corporations. And he has not benefited personally from holding elected office. After being in public office for 34 years (including time as mayor of Burlington, VT), his net worth is around $400,000. The Clintons left the White House broke, but managed to make $230 million over the next 14 years from speaking engagements, book deals, and consulting gigs.
If Hillary is nominated and elected president, her indebtedness to powerful special interests will leave her hamstrung when it comes to “getting shit done” for the American people. Hillary is very “experienced” at simultaneously dog-whistling to her donors as she tells voters she is “fighting for them.” She did that very artfully during the last debate when talking about the TPP trade agreement.
My point is that the influence of Big Money is devastating. This is the main reason Bernie keeps harping on it. Big Money produces watered down bills like the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank that are touted as the best thing since sliced bread—or the Depression—take your pick. Worse, Big Money siphons off trillions for wars that benefit its interests. For good reason, people feel shafted. No wonder they are looking for a non-establishment candidate—someone who is not drowning in campaign donations and speaking fees from banks and corporations. Those who are looking for a scapegoat choose fascist candidate Donald Trump, Those who want a government more responsive to their needs choose Bernie Sanders.
If elected president, Bernie will not be afraid to mobilize the electorate behind initiatives that challenge big money, because he has no skin in the game. He has no one to appease on Wall Street. He doesn’t have to suck up to Lloyd Blankfein to get reelected. That’s precisely why Blankfein called him “dangerous.”
Bernie can flip the House and Senate, Hillary can’t
If Bernie keeps winning the primaries, he will continue to energize and turn out a previously disaffected voter base—a broad spectrum of young Democrats, Independents and some Republicans. Unlike Hillary, he will insure a huge voter turnout in November, giving him the possibility of flipping the House and Senate.
As Bernie’s campaign manager confirmed in a recent interview, the plan is to bring progressive candidates on board to challenge Republicans down ticket. If Elizabeth Warren is his running mate, he will not only win, he could shut down Republicans for a decade. If she isn’t on the ticket, he still has a very good chance of winning the presidency and achieving a Democratic victory in the House and Senate—an advantage he will not squander. The road will be steep to take back the House and Senate, but only Bernie has a chance to achieve this.
Clinton campaign dated and out-of-touch
Bernie Sander’s record-breaking victory in New Hampshire exposed how out-of-sync the Clinton machine is with the times. Hillary lost because she based her campaign on the playbook of a fading, and out-of-touch Democratic establishment—one that has fought to deny Democratic voters a choice, and make her nomination a coronation.
Hillary figured women would vote for her simply because she was a woman. She figured college grads and wealthier Democrats would vote for her because her more “pragmatic” policies wouldn’t seriously challenge the status quo. She figured Bernie Sanders was not a real threat, and that she was the inevitable candidate—all fatal assumptions by an out-of-touch campaign.
Not surprising, in New Hampshire she won those 65 or older with incomes over $200,000, but she lost everyone else—women, men, people under 30, college grads, blue-collar workers. She lost both liberals and moderates. Hillary and the Democratic establishment backing her were so focused on big money and power players they missed the seismic shift happening under their feet. They ignored, for example, the public’s enthusiasm for populist icon Elizabeth Warren, the only woman senator yet to endorse Hillary Clinton.
In a speech from the senate floor on the sixth anniversary of Citizens United, Warren said:
A new presidential election is upon us. The first votes will be cast in Iowa in just eleven days. Anyone who shrugs and claims that change is just too hard has crawled into bed with the billionaires who want to run this country like some private club.
Wonder who she was talking about?
If Hillary wins the nomination, she won’t bring the party together
If Hillary wins the nomination, even with Bernie’s promised endorsement, she doesn’t have the skills to reunite the party. That said, because of a GOP in disarray, Hillary could still win in November, but not by much, because voter turnout could be diminished. Therein lies the danger. Throw in that her unfavorable rating is quite high, and Democrats could lose. And, because turnout will be lackluster, she will not be able to change the Republican grip on the House and Senate.
Bernie has the wisdom and judgment to be president
A good way to judge a president is by the people he or she chooses as advisors and cabinet members. If Hillary gets elected, she will bring into her administration the same old corporate/Wall Street cronies that were there under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. In contrast, Bernie has suggested people like Robert Reich, Elizabeth Warren and progressive economist Joseph Stiglitz. He has said on CNN’s State of the Union that his administration would include “great public servants who, for years, have been standing up for the middle class and the working families of this country.”
Hillary may have more “experience” in holding powerful positions, but her judgment in her various roles has been deeply flawed and compromised, and at times, atrocious. I don’t expect her judgment to be any better as president. I also cringe at the idea of Bill and Hillary being back in the White House. Something about this feels terribly wrong. A democracy should not have ruling dynasties, backed by massive amounts of corporate/oligarch money, moving in and out of the White House.
You may imagine the president as a solitary figure, making big decisions on his or her own, but in reality the president is a leader of a team. The president we need now is someone who can put together and lead an extraordinary team of public servants who will craft and enact policies that will benefit the majority of the American people. We need someone who is willing to confront and break the grip of money in politics. That person is not Hillary Clinton. It’s Bernie Sanders.
Matt Taibbi on “The Case for Bernie Sanders”
Sanders is a clear outlier in a generation that has forgotten what it means to be a public servant. The Times remarks upon his “grumpy demeanor.” But Bernie is grumpy because he’s thinking about vets who need surgeries, guest workers who’ve had their wages ripped off, kids without access to dentists or some other godforsaken problem that most of us normal people can care about for maybe a few minutes on a good day, but Bernie worries about more or less all the time.
I first met Bernie Sanders ten years ago, and I don’t believe there’s anything else he really thinks about. There’s no other endgame for him. He’s not looking for a book deal or a membership in a Martha’s Vineyard golf club or a cameo in a Guy Ritchie movie. This election isn’t a game to him; it’s not the awesomely repulsive dark joke it is to me and many others.
And the only reason this attention-averse, sometimes socially uncomfortable person is subjecting himself to this asinine process is because he genuinely believes the system is not beyond repair.
Not all of us can say that. But that doesn’t make us right, and him “unrealistic.” More than any other politician in recent memory, Bernie Sanders is focused on reality. It’s the rest of us who are lost.