Bernin’ Up the Race
Sanders may be the nominee—what then?
There was a poll that hit the news the other day, which claimed that 45% of Bernie supporters wouldn’t support any other Democrat who was nominated. The poll was misreported: 31% didn’t know who they would support if Bernie wasn’t the nominee, and 14% said they wouldn’t support anyone else.
Given the general level of mistrust the left has for Democratic party leaders, that is actually a pretty accommodating stance. Party leaders have been demanding that voters support their nominee, no matter who it is, and leftists know that if they make such a guarantee, party leaders will smugly assume they’ve got the leftists herded into a pen, and nominate whoever the hell they want. And they don’t have a great track record there—while none of their nominees in recent decades have been bad, few have been inspiring, and none have really mounted a full-throated advocacy for working people and the poor. So leftists are entirely justified in making no promises beforehand.
Ever notice that the question doesn’t get turned around? Few if any polls ask, “If Bernie is the nominee, will you still support the Democratic ticket?” It’s an interesting omission, especially since Bernie is the front runner right now. He won the Iowa debacle by a sliver, and he’ll probably win New Hampshire this week. His first real test will be in South Carolina. If he does well there—finishes first or second, say, then he will be the front runner.
The DLC will fight that, of course. They’re not supposed to, but money has had the same corrupting effect that it has on the Republicans; the difference is that they aren’t anywhere near as corrupt and ethically bankrupt. Wall Street and the Russian Mafia don’t own them outright the way they do the GOP, but they are sliding down that same path. Goldman Sachs does not want Bernie. Putin doesn’t want what he doubtlessly considers to be a clever Jew. Bernie does make the very best enemies, don’t you think?
How the Democratic leadership opposes Bernie, and the level of unfairness and viciousness voters see in that opposition will determine if the left fights for their choice or not.
Put it simply: if the party is in such a frenzy to keep the left away from power, and willing to behave like Republicans in order to defeat the left, then they have no reasonable expectation of enlisting the support of the left in November, and nor should they. You don’t win followers by spitting on them.
Parenthetically, it’s well-known that some 10% of Bernie supporters in 2016 wound up voting for Trump. I figure that was motivated by stupidity and / or spite, but a lot were seriously alienated by Democratic efforts to keep thumbs firmly on the scales against Sanders. I would hope that most of that 10% have figured out by now that that was one of the stupidest decisions they ever made, although I still come across some Trotskyite who declares that Hillary would have started World War III by now and Trump is better. Well, not all conservatives are stupid, and now we know that not all stupid people are conservatives.
Now, for 50 years, Sanders has referred to himself as a “democratic socialist.” In a nutshell, it means he supports a society where the people are sovereign, and that has a strong safety net, not just against need and want, but against the authoritarian depredations of corporations, the aristocracy, churches and fascists. Nothing Thomas Jefferson would have taken great issue with at the time the Constitution was written. (Jefferson suggested to Madison that the Constitution include a 100% estate tax, something far, far to the left of anything Sanders has ever proposed!). Much of the developed nations of Europe, along with Japan and Canada, have systems that fall under the umbrella of democratic socialism.
Sanders isn’t a wild-eyed radical even if he does sometimes look like Big Bird on bath salts in debate. Ninety percent of his platform can be found in any of Eisenhower’s campaign speeches.
Most of Sanders’ platform is as American as cliché pie. Jefferson wanted to tax the gentry in order to avoid the rise of an aristocratic class. Mason and Madison wanted public schools, from childhood through college. Eisenhower recognized the need to not make the country a cash cow for the military, and recognized the need for a strong safety net. Lincoln realized that people must get equal treatment under the law, and equal opportunity in life.
There’s nothing in Sanders’ platform that hasn’t been a part of the Democratic Party platform going back to 1936, and even some Republican platforms back when they were still respectable. If the Overton Window was where it was in 1960, Sanders would be considered a slightly-left-of-center moderate.
But that word “socialism” scares the piss out of people, since the American right has been vilifying it since about 1915. I was genuinely startled when a putatively educated libertarian told me he couldn’t support Sanders because “socialists killed millions of people.” I expect that from the MAGAts and the Q conspiracy-nut crowd. You know, the morons who think Hitler was a socialist because he was in the National Socialist Worker’s Party. Chris Matthews, an MSNBC commentator well past his sell-by date, made the startling statement the other night, “I believe if Castro and the reds had won the Cold War there would have been executions in Central Park and I might have been one of the ones getting executed. I don’t know who Bernie Sanders supports over these years, I don’t know what he means by socialism.” For fuck’s sake, Matthews has only been covering Sanders for 40 years. Didn’t he ever bother to ask? Or does he prefer to just red-bait?
So lesson #1 in supporting Sanders: He is not, and never has been a communist. Being Jewish, he probably takes a dim view of genocide. He doesn’t believe “everyone should get paid the same” or “the state must own industry” that many people, including a quite a few who should know better, say about socialism. He doesn’t believe everyone is entitled to a college degree; he knows many people could never earn such a degree. He’s a millionaire—barely, when you factor in the two homes he and his wife have. That doesn’t make him a hypocrite—in fact, it makes him the second poorest member of the Senate, a body disposed toward vast seas of hypocrisy and corruption.
Sanders does think everyone should have the same opportunity if they have the abilities, and for those that don’t, good training programs for necessary professions like maintenance and construction. He isn’t out to create a dystopian Vonnegutian fantasy land where everyone is equal; he just wants to make certain nobody is cheated, and everyone has a right, in the world’s richest land, to a comfortable life without hunger or want. To Amy Klobuchar, standing up for the poor and the dispossessed is bad, and she falsely called Sanders a ‘billionaire,’ in hopes of discrediting him.
One acquaintance of mine bemoaned the fact that Sanders uses the term “socialist” to describe himself, and wished he used something like “Rooseveltian.” Well, he’s been a democratic socialist all these years, and that bell has done rung, and they’s ain’t no unringing it. If he used it just once, fifty years ago, the Republicans would be harping on it endlessly to this day.
Surprisingly, though, I don’t think it much matters. No matter who the Democrats nominate, the Party of Trump will queue up to declare him or her a socialist, a communist, a genocidal maniac who wants to sell your daughters to large Negroes. (Yeah, that’s about how Trumpkins think. Don’t waste time promoting Sanders or any other Democrat to them. They are cultists, lost.) I know this because the Republicans have been doing this going back to the days of Joe McCarthy, where they cheerfully tried to smear General Eisenhower as a commie sympathizer.
It is independents and moderate Democrats that you have to persuade that not only is Sanders within the Democratic mainstream, but he’s the least likely to be corrupted by Wall Street, the evangelicals, or Russia. A century of propaganda have conditioned Americans to have a knee-jerk aversion to the word ‘socialist’ and even Democrats shiver when Sanders espouses the very policies that made the Democratic Party—and America—great.
So what policies does Sanders espouse?
Here’s a list, cribbed from his website, and paragraphs following “Note:” are my own thoughts:
- Institute a moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of past practices and policies is complete.
- Reinstate and expand DACA and develop a humane policy for those seeking asylum.
- Completely reshape and reform our immigration enforcement system, including breaking up ICE and CBP and redistributing their functions to their proper authorities.
- Dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers and reunite families who have been separated.
- Live up to our ideals as a nation and welcome refugees and those seeking asylum, including those displaced by climate change.
Note: Immigration, as a percentage of the population of America, is the lowest it’s been since 1870. Crime rate amongst immigrants is lower. Poverty is lower. Stop listening to the haters on the right!
Create a Medicare for All, single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.
- No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills.
- Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include: include dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs, and more.
- Stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people by making sure that no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine they need by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs under Medicare for All.
Note: estimates on the tax increase needed to implement this range from $900 billion a year up to $4.5 trillion. However, the US will save at least 20% by eliminating overhead and the inefficiencies of competing insurance schemes.
Transform our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.
- Ensure a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
- Ensure justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
- Save American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
- Commit to reducing emissions throughout the world, including providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund, rejoining the Paris Agreement, and reasserting the United States’ leadership in the global fight against climate change.
- Invest in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands.
- End the greed of the fossil fuel industry and hold them accountable.
Note: Solar already employs more than coal and nuclear combined. Continuing to transition to a safe, clean, efficient economy will create millions of jobs.
Guarantee tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and trade-schools to all.
- Cancel all student loan debt for the some 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
- Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
- End equity gaps in higher education attainment. And ensure students are able to cover non-tuition costs of attending school by: expanding Pell Grants to cover non-tuition and fee costs, tripling funding for the Work-Study Program, and more.
Note: One need only look at the buffoons who graduate from elite colleges on the legacy program to know higher education in America is badly broken. The system doesn’t produce ‘very stable geniuses’; it merely produces silver-spoon whelps good only at preserving their class wealth and power.
Double union membership within Bernie’s first term.
- Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”
- Provide unions the ability to organize through a majority sign up process and enact “first contract” provisions to ensure companies cannot prevent a union from forming by denying a first contract.
- Deny federal contracts to companies that pay poverty wages, outsource jobs overseas, engage in union busting, deny good benefits, and pay CEOs outrageous compensation packages
- Eliminate “Right to Work for Less” laws and guarantee the right to unionize for workers historically excluded from labor protections, like farm workers and domestic workers.
Note: American workers receive the worst treatment of all workers in the developed world. The federal minimum wage is an utter disgrace, as are most state minimums. There’s no paid vacation minimum, no maternal leave minimum, and between the gig economy and “fire-at-will” laws, there is absolutely no job security. I personally know two people who were fired from their jobs after 29 years and 11 months, because the employer didn’t want to pay their pensions. Those employers would be in prison in most parts of the world for pulling a stunt like that. Instead, they support the GOP, which wants to wipe out Social Security. Speaking of which:
Expand Social Security benefits for all recipients and protect pensions.
- Guarantee home and community based long-term care services.
- Protect our most vulnerable seniors by quadrupling funding for the Older Americans Act and expanding other programs seniors rely on.
- Expand and train the direct care workforce we need.
One in three private pension plans fail, usually through legalized corporate malfeasance. Administrative costs average 25-30% (Social Security is less than 1%). People in the world’s richest country shouldn’t have to work 30 years, only to face hunger and possible homelessness because corporate CEOs have taken it all. Productivity in the US has risen 280% since 1978; wages only 5% (both adjusted for inflation). So where did all those tens of trillions of dollars go? (Hint: they own the GOP, and are trying to buy up the Democrats).
David Brin, the SF/Futurist writer, maintains a list of 29 “consensus goals” that he says all Democrats share. ( https://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/07/debate-special-shall-we-let-them-divide.html ) They all surely command overwhelming support amongst Democrats, and all of this year’s candidates for President.
But here’s the thing: none of Sanders’ policies are alien to that list, and he shares all the items on that list. If we accept Brin’s list as a criteria for mainstream Democratic beliefs, then Sanders is comfortably in that range. Brin himself has remarked that he likes Sanders a lot, but doesn’t believe a “socialist” can be elected. On the other hand, Doctor, a democratic socialist who shares all of Brin’s beliefs might work…
In 2016, we were told a woman couldn’t win the presidency. She didn’t, but she did get three million more votes than her opponent. In 2008, we were told an African-American could win the presidency. One did. In 1960, we were told a Catholic couldn’t win the Presidency. One did. In 1860, we were told a moderate who wanted to stop the spread of slavery couldn’t win. One did. And the country, always, was the richer for it in the long run. Except 2016, where the actual winner didn’t win.
In the end, most Democrats will support the party’s candidate because if we don’t get rid of the Republicans, they will destroy America. It’s that simple. But if the nominee is Sanders, let’s rid ourselves of the silly nonsense that he’s the next Stalin who wants to throw everyone in Gulags. If you can’t support him, at least have sane reasons why you don’t. You don’t like his views on guns; he’s inconsistent on military spending, whatever. But if you oppose him because you misunderstand a label, then Trump and his evil henchmen will win.