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Feeling the Bern

Updated on March 3, 2016
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Aside from his being a self-described democratic socialist - if elected, Bernie Sanders would be, at 75, the oldest president in US history. Though non-practicing (and widely believed to be atheist), he would also be the first Jewish executive.

Conventional political wisdom suggests that a septuagenarian socialist Jew promising a political revolution – and to amend the US Constitution along the way - has zero chance of being elected president of the United States. The attack ads practically write themselves. He’s too old! He’s promising free stuff! Big government! National debt! He’s going to raise your taxes! Socialist! He’s not Christian! He hates Israel! ISIS!!!

Hillary Clinton is the most front-running, and most qualified, presidential candidate in memory, perhaps in US history. Bill will always be the first black president to some - contributing to Hillary’s fabled & impenetrable Super Tuesday Southern firewall, long thought to represent the demise of Sanders’ upstart campaign. Hillary is running as the caretaker of Barack Obama’s legacy, and he’s essentially endorsed her candidacy. She has the endorsement of Civil Rights legend John Lewis, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Rev Al Sharpton, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Lena Dunham, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Planned Parenthood, Angie’s List, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, and many of the nation’s largest labor unions.

Hillary enjoys a near-5/1 advantage among super-delegates. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz changed the DNC rules to funnel funds to Hillary’s campaign, limited the number of debates to limit Bernie’s free media coverage, and briefly cut off access to Sanders’ own voter data.

Once debates began, Hillary was proclaimed triumphant by corporate media, seemingly before the questions began. While not busily ignoring Bernie Sanders (giving Trump up to 90x more free air time), establishment media treated him as a quaint curmudgeon - a curious little old man who was for some strange reason pointing his fingers & shouting about seemingly any & everything, as though a soap box-hopping loon in the town square.

After all, gas prices are incredibly low. In the midst of 80+ months of job growth, the unemployment rate is sub-5%.The stock market has more than doubled since the crash. The budget deficit has been halved since 2009. Millions of people now have health insurance, as healthcare spending has risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Weed is now legal in four states; gay marriage is legal nationwide. We elected our first black president, and we now have the opportunity to elect our first female president.

So why is this Bernie guy rocking the boat? How does he keep rising the polls? He’s promising to raise taxes! He’s a socialist, for fuck’s sake! Can’t you see?!?

We do see. We’ve been lied to, we’ve rightly lost faith in our institutions, and it’s been decades in the making. From systematic child-rape & cover-up of pedophile priests, to cops killing our kids in the streets without consequence. Lies about Vietnam & Watergate, to lies about WMDs & al-Qaeda in Iraq. Lies about Hope & Change, to lies about pragmatism & incrementalism. Lies in our history books, to lies in the media.

Our eyes are wide open, and Bernie Sanders is the only candidate painting an accurate picture.

Our homes were foreclosed. The ones we kept depreciated to the point we’re underwater on our mortgages. We lost our jobs, and the ones we have now don’t pay as well. We owe trillions in student and credit card debts. Our fathers are being locked away in prison. Our sons are being shot in the streets. Our brave men & women in the armed forces are sent to war zones again and again. Our mentally ill often wind up homeless, in prison, and committing suicide. The air we breathe and the water we drink are being poisoned.

Ocean temperatures have risen 4 degrees while seemingly every month & year set new heat records. Oceans & urban waterways are filthy; we’ve overfished sea life to near extinction. The bees and butterflies which pollinate our food are dying off. Increasingly extreme natural disasters & weather patterns leading to global food & water shortages will cause conflict over dwindling resources, which means increased displacement/refugee/humanitarian crises. Growing middle classes in China & India will want to have their turn at burning more & more relatively cheap fossil fuels. Unstable nations such as North Korea & Pakistan have access to nuclear weapons. Down-trodden Muslims are lashing out in anger, causing terrible anguish & suffering (largely among their own faith community).

We have huge (yooge!) problems which need to be addressed, yet our political system - as currently constructed - seems incapable of meeting our increasingly troublesome needs. To be clear, simply voting for Bernie in the primaries and/or November won't suffice. We don't elect a dictator. The president needs the cooperation of congress, and divided government just won't do. Bernie needs a majority in congress, sustained pressure on those elected to remove the corrupting influence from politics by amending the constitution, and to actually show up for the mid-terms. We must take an active role if we are to rescue our nation from the clutches of our corporate masters.

Thirty-six years of supply-side Reaganomics have gutted the middle class - have curb-stomped the American Dream. The productivity of American workers keeps rising and rising, yet wages haven’t budged since the late Seventies.

Bought politicians used tax-payer money to bail out the fraudulent & criminal banksters who brought the world economy to its knees. The DoJ & the AG labeled the banks too big to fail & too big to jail. The Fed is still lavishing Wall Street $80b/mo at near-0% (quantative easing). Literally all of the economic gains since the Great Recession have gone to the wealthiest 1%.

Those with the top incomes pay less than half what they did when we built the American Dream. Corporate executives, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street speculators pay much lower tax rates than wage earners. GE, Verizon, Time Warner, CBS, GM, Boeing, Mattel, Prudential, PG & E - pay no federal income taxes whatsoever. Big Oil – the most profitable corporations in the history of the world – receive tax subsidies for drilling/exploration. A handful of Big Ag corporations collect 90% of farm subsidies. Trust fund kids inherit the first $5m tax-free. Depreciation of private jets can be written off. The cost of outsourcing American jobs to countries with slave wages can be written off.

We are the only country without paid maternity leave (save Papua New Guinea); only industrial nation without paid sick leave. We rank last (or next to last) in infant mortality rate, child poverty rate, overall healthcare, and financial mobility among Western nations.

That’s not liberty. Not freedom. Not exceptional. Not even sustainable.

Defense contractors, news media, and right-wing politicians want perpetual war. Our military budget is more than the next eight countries combined. Bernie wants to audit defense spending, and put an end to our adopted roll as the world police. Pharmaceutical companies, police unions, private prisons, treatment agencies, legal firms – all want to continue the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

We are told that we can’t afford universal healthcare – that it would explode the national debt - when we know that our current system is the most expensive in the world, and that our Western allies with far smaller economies somehow manage. Private health insurance companies don’t want to become obsolete with single-payer. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to negotiate prescription drug prices with Medicare; or faster-expiring patents. Hospitals don’t want us to see how much they are charging us for Kleenex.

We are told that Social Security must be scaled back in order to be saved. Bernie calls bullshit. He would eliminate the $113k tax cap. The federal government has borrowed over $3 trillion from the SS retirement fund, and disability has decades of solvency with full benefits.

Social Security is our most popular government program, and it’s completely socialist. Medicare is socialist, so is Medicaid, as are SNAP benefits, WIC, public schools, buses, parks, libraries, roads & bridges… all socialist.

The American people agree with Bernie on subject after subject. We are opposed to perpetual war, we want to expand SSI, we want Wall Street reform, criminal justice reform, public funding of elections, universal healthcare, free college...

We’re not stupid. We’re not caught up on labels. We don’t live in the same old world of ensconced social circles & stale cable media with their ivory tower, corporate-sponsored logic. The truth, and people who think like we do, are at our fingertips. We know that billionaires and multinational corporations have bribed our politicians to rig the system in their favor. They’ve rigged the tax code to hoard their wealth. They’ve rigged regulatory agencies to freely pollute our planet & gamble with our retirements – to socialize the losses & privatize the gains. They’ve rigged the media to distract us & to lie to us.

Herein lies our biggest problem, the problem which stands between us and much of what we require: Money in politics. Money in politics affects every other issue. Political bribery has essentially been legalized by the SCOTUS, resulting in ever more-costly elections. (Which goes to corporate media for ad buys, so telling the truth would be very costly.) Politicians have little choice but to bow and kiss the rings of the donor class – and that ain’t you or me. That’s Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag. Every one of them claim that if we just eliminate one more regulation, one more tax, that they will finally unleash the economic beast and trickle down on us all.

They own the politicians. They love the status quo. And they hate Bernie Sanders. Bernie has a forty-year populist record of speaking truth to power. He has no interest in super PAC money from billionaires and special interests. Bernie doesn’t care about Hillary’s emails; doesn’t bother with name-calling or dishonest negative attacks. Bernie Sanders is so uninterested in the superfluous that he once released a political spoken-word folk rock album, and seems to have only recently purchased a comb.

Bernie says what we all know to be true – we’ve lost control of our government. In a true democracy, the will of the people is reflected in public policy. A Princeton study of opinion polls (including incomes) going back to the 1970s showed that the opinions of the American people have zero correlation with public policy (unless the 1% agrees with the rabble). Such is the description of an oligarchy, a plutocracy, a corporatocracy - anything but a representative democracy.

Eighty-plus percent of Americans (including 80%+ of both Dems & GOPers) believe that there is rampant corruption due to money in politics. Fifty-four percent of Americans (including 51% of Tea Partiers) think we will need a political revolution in the next decade in order to redistribute wealth from the wealthy to the poor, working, & middle-classes. Millennials (under-30) - who’ve grown up in a world of inequity & immobility, of student debt & foreclosures - view Socialism favorably to Capitalism (43% to 32%).

We’re on to them now. The more the corporate media mischaracterize & misrepresent Bernie, the more he is beloved by progressives and independents alike. Their slights & slings only enrage & embolden the believers in this rascally revolutionary. Every super-delegate endorsement sharpens Hillary’s image as the candidate of establishment. Every union & organizational endorsement of Hillary made without first holding a vote of the membership serves to echo Bernie’s message of a stacked deck against the every-man.

Radical? Polls consistently show that Bernie is by far the most concerned with our needs, most authentic, and most trustworthy candidate. Electability? In head-to-head polls, Bernie beats possible GOP opponents by much wider margins than Hillary – across the board. Hillary has 55% unfavorable ratings. She could easily be indicted during the general election.

Bernie was at the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, and was arrested as a student for protesting with the Movement. He was for marriage equality in the 1970s, while Hillary was publicly opposed until 2013. He voted against the Iraq War, she as in support. He was against the Trans Pacific Partnership when Hillary was calling it the gold standard of trade deals. Bernie picketed against NAFTA when Hillary supported it. Bernie has always been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary only recently adopted Bernie’s position. As has often been the case, Hillary was opposed to progressive values when it was convenient, and eventually for progressive values only when convenient.

Bernie says we must fight for what we believe in - Hillary says we must be pragmatic & preserve the status quo. Bernie says we must break up the big banks which are bigger now than before the crash - Hillary says the big banks are just fine as is and have already been reformed by Obama (both authors of the toothless Dodd-Frank now sit on the board of big banks). She brags that she represented Wall Street after 9/11, and told them to cut it out in paid speeches. When Bernie says we need to fight for universal single-payer healthcare, Hillary says we should be pragmatic and surrender to conservatives. When Bernie says we must remove the corrupting influence of money in politics, Hillary scoffs at the very notion of political corruption.

Let Hillary scoff. Let the corporate media establishment scoff. Let them all scoff.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mahatma Gandhi

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    • Justin Earick profile image
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      Justin Earick 21 months ago from Tacoma, WA

      Thanks! I appreciate your taking the time.

      We'll see how March 15 goes in Florida and Ohio, then we wait to see whether the super delegates have the gumption to try and steal the nomination from the voters.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana ZK 21 months ago from California

      You've done a great job here describing the current state of affairs and pointing out the differences between Hillary and Bernie. I don't know if voters decide which candidate becomes the president, I've become skeptical of that. But if they do, I hope Bernie gets the job. Fantastic hub!