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For Bernie Sanders

16 Feb 2016
Bernie Sanders I am writing today to declare my support for Bernie Sanders as the Democratic presidential nominee. Income inequality in America is approaching a tipping point. If we do not reverse the trend soon we will find ourselves faced with a permanent oligarchy, similar to but far worse than the royals and nobles of England and other medieval states of the past.

Bernie Sanders wants to end that oligarchy. Hillary Clinton wants to join it. To a considerable extent she and her husband are already part of the oligarchic establishment, which transcends party affiliation: just ask Donald Trump.

The contrast between Sen. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton could not be starker. To pretend they are not far apart on most issues is to pretend we really know what position Clinton will support tomorrow or the next day. When you have no moral center you will do whatever you think necessary to protect yourself, such as her efforts to ruin the women whose charms husband Bill preferred to her own. This is the position Clinton finds herself in: the Democrats’ answer to Richard Nixon, but without the charisma. And even Richard Nixon, creator of the EPA by executive order, argued in favor of a “socialistic” guaranteed minimum income. But while Bernie Sanders marched for civil rights, young Hillary Rodham campaigned for right-wing icon Barry Goldwater.

Bernie Sanders is no socialist. In the classic definition of socialism, workers control the means of production. The workers replace stockholders, which is what makes socialism an actual alternative to capitalism. Why does Sanders insist on calling himself a socialist? Who knows? Maybe he’s a political romantic with misplaced aesthetics; I don’t really care. Neither is he a democratic socialist, which is merely a socialist who advocates the institution of socialism via democratic means.

Bernie is a classic social democrat, with roots deep in the New Deal. Historians of that time say that Franklin Roosevelt did not hate capitalism. No, Roosevelt saved capitalism from true communists who threatened our political stability in the mid-1930s, during FDR’s first term. Much of the craziness of that time is depicted in Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 classic It Can’t Happen Here, wherein the fascist Democrat President Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, an apparent role model for Trump, advocates a guaranteed minimum income at the same time as outlawing communism and socialism.

Like FDR, Bernie Sanders does not oppose capitalism. He opposes the depredations of unrestrained capitalism, and the inequities that result. Hence he supports regulation to protect the water, the air, the climate, workplace safety, automotive safety, and more.

Most noteworthy, Sanders advocates strengthening and expanding the social insurance policies that keep our country stable. He proposes a national pension system based on the expansion of social security; a new system for distributing the availability and funding of higher public education; and a new national healthcare administrative system that removes the middle man – the health insurance companies – so that patients can work directly with their doctors without outside interference or wasteful profits. None of this is socialism. Sanders has been advocating such measures for years, but Clinton’s interest in these subjects has been in short supply until her campaign consultants wrote a platform for her; and even so, she opposes much of the progress so sorely needed.

Democrats watching the Republican election meltdown marvel at that party’s internal fractures, but in truth The Democracy, as Democrats once called the party, is equally fractured. This election may well turn out to be one of political scientist Walter Dean Burnham’s realigning elections. The past realignments occurred, by his model, in 1800 (creation of the first Republican party, of Jefferson), 1828 (creation of the Democratic party), 1860 (creation of the second Republican party, of Lincoln), 1896 (redefinition of the Republican majority), 1932 (the Depression), and 1980, a revolt against an accumulation of excesses from the New Deal era. We’re about due for another realignment, and the signs are all there. But whether it is a decisive realignment or merely a shuffling as we had in 1896 and 1980, remains to be seen. After the election our hindsight will be twenty-twenty, but for now we cannot even divine which way the realignment will go; it may be up for grabs until the last minute.

We need to keep in mind that the Republican nominee is almost certain to be Donald Trump. Who will be most vulnerable to Trump’s tirades – the woman whose presence he demanded at his wedding after paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to her family, or the man who will stand tall against the economic lifestyle of the rich and famous that that woman pursues?

Mrs. Clinton’s primary accomplishment in life has been to marry well. Without that decision, we would never have heard of her. She has held two offices for twelve years, but the accomplishments were minimal. Her votes for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act prove that her judgment is unreliable and her militaristic tendencies undeniable. The Hillarycare initiative during her Good Wife years was a massive, embarrassing failure that caused a Republican takeover of Congress. For people like me, who see guaranteed health care as one of the most important promises our government has yet to deliver, this was a significant let down that the (un)Affordable Care Act has done nothing to ameliorate. Sanders has held three offices, with much foreign policy exposure, for almost three times that long, which is why it is absurd to hear Clinton supporters claim she is the most experienced.

My 28-year-old daughter is one of those millennial feminists who oppose Clinton. Does she want to see a female president? Of course she does, but she believes “if she’s elected we probably won’t see another female president in my lifetime.” Like many in her cohort, she is an independent registering as a Democrat only for the purposes of supporting Sanders. If Hillary gets the nomination, the party could lose a lot of the recent party registrants who came out of the woodwork to support Bernie. In that event, Trump will be in a position no Democrat would have thought possible only a few months ago, and the realignment might well be his.

Postscript: We are seeing signs that if Sanders prevails over Clinton, former New York mayor and Wall Street plutocrat Michael Bloomberg will jump into the fray as an independent. Bloomberg is worth maybe $37 billion versus Trump’s $4 billion (source for both: Forbes). What could be a better contrast – a social democrat of modest means running against two billionaires worth 80,000 and 740,000 times as much as he. Their money would turn into a liability and Sanders would gain the edge.

Even in a two-way race, Sanders has far fewer vulnerabilities than Clinton. All signs point to a Sanders candidacy far stronger than a Clinton candidacy, with wider and deeper coattails. If any of Clinton’s scandals further erupt during the middle of the fall campaign, it could be a death knell for down ballot candidates in tough races. I’ll vote for Sanders at the Nevada caucus and conventions, and if Clinton gets the nod, hope the fallout in the fall won’t be too bad. Sanders will turn the state blue. With Clinton’s shallow support and deep collection of enemies we could be saddled with a red Nevada until the middle of the next decade.

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