What is it about Bernie Sanders?
“And now let me tell you something that no other candidate for president will tell you. And that is no matter who is elected to be president, that person will not be able to address the enormous problems facing the working families of our country. They will not be able to succeed because the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of campaign donors, is so great that no president alone can stand up to them. That is the truth. People may be uncomfortable about hearing it, but that is the reality.”
— Bernie Sanders, Friday, Aug. 14, Clear Lake, Iowa
Shane Ryan, Salon, Sept. 20, 2015
When you think about him, the thing about Bernie Sanders isn't that he's revolutionary or radical or an Independent (the largest political affiliation in the country) or far out of step with Americans. The most obvious thing about Bernie is that he is familiar. He is familiar because he is a politician that has been around for years and his views are a helluva lot more mainstream, we are finding, than the corporate state wants them to be.
Sanders' views are more familiar to Americans than the so-called "neo-con" views. While his views are comfortably modern and reasonable, the views of the rightwing nuts are authoritarian, imperialist, and are becoming more openly totalitarian as this presidential campaign runs on -- much like the CEO's and managers of transnational corporations. But they don't appeal to any more of the people than they always have. They appeal to the ignorant, the cowardly and mean, and those whose self-pity grows with the plutocrats' lust for other peoples' wealth.
To anyone who has ever protested a government policy, Sanders is as familiar as the old, comfortable walking shoes you put on before the march. He's like the guy walking beside you.
He has some progressive views, which he puts forward honestly and articulately and these views aren't new to voters of modest means watching their jobs, futures, and incomes stagnate and melt.
He's Jewish and not as hard on Israel as many self-proclaimed progressives and socialists -- not to mention the indigenous anti-Semites -- want him to be. But his position is shifting at about the same speed as Hillary's on the Keystone Pipeline.
But Sanders is not insolent the way the Clintons and the rest of the professional Democratic Party hackocracy is. That insolence and insularity hides laziness, incompetence, thievery, and knuckleheaded ignorance of American social reality behind obscene salaries, benefits and job security.
When Sanders' chops the air to emphasize his point, he looks like a speaker at a protest rally; when Hillary speaks and mechanically points with her finger to the memorized script, she looks like she's been taking speech lessons from Al Gore.
Sanders doesn't have to worry much about "campaign narratives," because 1) he has something to say; and 2) people are listening.
Every chance he gets, Sanders states to growing crowds that income distribution in the United States is horribly warped and getting worse. People benefiting from the warping resent this critique and call him a red, a commie, a socialist, whatever moldy old sneer they can drum up. But people taking the brunt of this income warp don't care what the big shots say because they know that big shots, by and large, don't have the truth in them. Congress has earned its 78-percent disapproval rate.
But this public prejudice neglects the few members of Congress who aren't bought and sold. Those few come from both major parties and agree, as matters of common sense, on a lot of issues. Sanders speaks out of that dwindling caucus. It's hard to know who the 14-percent of the people are who approve of Congress. Perhaps some of them live in districts represented by honest members. We spare ourselves grimmer theories.
The political hackocracy and pundits of corporate media, despite the large fees levied from the corporate oligarchs, plutocrats and kleptocrats, cannot seem to stop or divert the growth of the Sanders campaign.
Whatever is happening this political season, maybe is a good word. Beneath the stink of sulfur in the air, there is an upsurge of courageous political questions. -- blj
The politicians, plutocrats and pundits of the Democratic Party establishment have no answer to Bernie Sanders' blistering critique of their failure to defend the interests of the voters who have kept them in power. Neither have they a substantive case against his policy agenda, which would shift government from working for the rich to working for the rest of us. Nor has it been easy for them to mount a personal attack on someone who says what he believes and acts on what he says. -- Jeff Faux, CommonDreams, Sept. 20, 2015
Time to Break the Class Ceiling – Elect Bernie Sanders
Let’s make history. The 2016 election offers a rare moment to crack a barrier that can truly transform our nation – the opportunity to shatter the Class Ceiling.
As an organization of nurses, 90 percent of them women, we’d love to break the glass ceiling as well. But with declining social mobility, our children for the first time in history facing less opportunity and a lower standard of living than their parents, and a rapidly shrinking promise of the American dream, smashing the Class Ceiling is our most pressing priority.
Sen. Bernie Sanders presents our best opportunity to bust through that bar. He offers the most comprehensive solutions – and understands it will take all of us, a “political revolution,” to stand up to the power of Wall Street, big corporations and the billionaires who have corrupted our political and economic system.
Here’s a few reasons why lifting the Class Ceiling must be our first target.
The wealth and income gap. As Sen. Sanders notes, since 1985, the share of wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent in the U.S. has plummeted from 36 percent to 23 percent, a loss that equates to over $10 trillion, nearly all of it going to a tiny sliver of the wealthiest. Over the last 30 years, the top one-tenth of one percent have seen its share of our nation’s wealth more than double from 10 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile real median family income is almost $5,000 less than in 1999. Wages have flat lined for many workers; since 1973, worker productivity has climbed 72 percent but hourly compensation increased just 9 percent.
Poverty. Today, 46.7 million Americans live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. has far greater childhood poverty than any major industrialized country. Nearly 50 million Americans live in food insecurity households. Some 11 million tenants spend half their income on rent and as many as 39 percent of households have housing insecurity.
Health care. Even with gains made under the Affordable Care Act, 33 million Americans remain without health coverage. Last year, 35 million Americans could not get their prescriptions filled because they could not afford it. A Commonwealth Fund study documented that the U.S. ranks last among 11 developed countries on the quality of our health system, including shorter life spans than comparable countries.
Education. Students who live in wealthier communities had lower-student teacher ratios, more up to date computer and science equipment, better libraries, more current textbooks, and more guidance counselors. A result, affluent students have higher high school graduation rates, higher test scores, and more job opportunities when out of school. College student debt totals more than $1.2 trillion leaving many in debt for much of their life.
Racial disparities. African-Americans and Latinos have higher rates of unemployment, infant mortality, chronic illnesses, shorter lifespans, and are far more likely to be turned down for home loans than whites. African-Americans and Latinos, one-fourth of the population, comprise 58 percent of those incarcerated, and the loss of life of unarmed African-Americans in police shootings and while in custody has become a national scandal.
Women’s equality. The gender gap bridges the economic and social landscape. Women earn less than men, and female-headed households experience a poverty rate 6.9 percentage points higher than men. The U.S. is among the very few industrialized countries that fails to offer paid maternity leave, spends far less on child care, and provides less sick time or flexible work schedules which affect women in greater numbers.
Pollution and climate change. Due in part to where power plants and refineries are placed, environmental pollution has more exposure in low-income communities and among people of color. One study found people of color breathe air with 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide, one reason for a growing asthma epidemic. The climate crisis in the form of droughts, which cut crop yields and add to hunger, and extreme weather events also have a more deadly impact on low income communities in the U.S. and globally.
Reversing these disastrous trends is a tall order, but Sen. Sanders’ program is a good place to start.
His agenda includes boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pay equity for women, a $1 trillion jobs program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure that would create millions of jobs, sweeping criminal justice reform, expanding Medicare to cover everyone, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and robust action on climate change. Needed revenue would come by putting people to work, improving health outcomes, making the wealthy pay their fair share, and taxing Wall Street speculation.
For our children and our future, there’s no time to waste.
RoseAnn DeMoro is executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses, and a national vice president of the AFL-CIO. Follow Rose Ann DeMoro on Twitter:
Bernie Sanders: A Moment of Truth for Democrats
The politicians, plutocrats and pundits of the Democratic Party establishment have no answer to Bernie Sanders' blistering critique of their failure to defend the interests of the voters who have kept them in power. Neither have they a substantive case against his policy agenda, which would shift government from working for the rich to working for the rest of us. Nor has it been easy for them to mount a personal attack on someone who says what he believes and acts on what he says.
They have one argument: he can't win. Why? Well... he's too radical, he lacks charisma, he doesn't connect with minorities, he's a secular Jew, etc. Don't waste your vote, they say; the risks of electing a Republican are too high.
But prematurely presumed losers have won enough elections in our history to make this glib conventional wisdom suspect, especially this year when voter anger at the Washington-Wall Street axis that dominates American politics is so widespread. Even Republicans are, rhetorically at least, trying to distance themselves from being associated with welfare for the rich. In this environment, Sanders' rivals, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden -- whom the Wall Street Democrats are keeping in reserve in case Hillary implodes -- carry a lot of negative baggage. Hillary's recent drop in the polls, driven by a dramatic decline in the support of women, has already undercut her claim to be the Democrats' strongest champion in next year's election.
More important, those who are Democrats because they believe the Party should be an instrument for building a better country- rather than just a personal career ladder -- need to think through the larger probabilities. Whatever the odds are for Bernie Sanders becoming president, the odds that Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden would, as president, seriously address the issues that the Democratic rank-and-file care about are much longer.
Both Clinton and Biden have been leaders of the crony network of Democratic Party enablers who have colluded with the GOP on the domestic policies that have relentlessly eroded economic security and opportunity for the vast majority of our people. They both are also major promoters of the reckless foreign interventions that have cost thousands of American lives, trillions of dollars and generated fierce hatred of us throughout the world.
"Not our fault," shrug the Democratic elite. "The country has moved to the right." True. Yet these same people have controlled the White House for 15 of the last 23 years. The problem is not that the Republican Party has moved to the right; that has always been its natural tendency. It's that the Democratic Party has willingly moved with them. The signature self-proclaimed "successes" of both the Clinton and Obama administrations - criminal justice and welfare "reforms," deregulation of trade and privatization of government, Wall Street bailouts and a health care program whose major beneficiaries are insurance and drug companies - are all Republican ideas.
Democrats, of course, have been much better at expressing compassion for the people left behind. Thus, Hillary and Bill Clinton are said to be so beloved by African-Americans that Sanders has no chance with this critical Democratic constituency. But thus far about 80 percent of black voters have not even heard of Sanders. They will, and when they compare his actual record on civil rights and combating racism with the Clintons', Bernie will not come up short.
Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign was marked by two transparent appeals to white racism -- the gratuitous public denunciation of an obscure black pop singer whom he made a symbol of black hatred of whites, and, as governor of Arkansas, the execution of a mentally impaired black man.
As president, Clinton signed the 1994 Crime Bill that massively increased the incarceration of African Americans. His welfare reform - administered by the states -- was much harsher on poor blacks than on poor whites. And his trade policies and promotion of privatization undercut the two most important ladders of upward mobility for African-Americans - jobs in manufacturing and government service.
As senators, both Hillary and Sanders received high ratings for their voting record from the NAACP. But Sanders has not just talked-the-talk. He was an activist in the Civil Rights movement - a member of the Congress for Racial Equality and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he fought discrimination as a college student, and was even arrested in a civil rights demonstration in Chicago.
Nowhere does the record show that either of the Clintons ever took a personal risk for their proclaimed liberal beliefs about race relations. Or seriously inconvenienced themselves; for example, while Governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, Bill Clinton regularly played golf at a segregated all-white golf club.
Democrats concerned about the future can apply a similar reality test to foreign policy. Hillary voted for the Iraq War. As Secretary of State, she facilitated its expansion to the rest of the Middle East, pursued a hawkish foreign policy to the right of Obama, and oversaw the inexcusable betrayal of the elected President of Honduras in the interests of the thuggish oligopoly that engineered a military coup. Sanders opposed the war, has long argued against military adventurism and has consistently worked to stop US support of corrupt and brutal Latin American governments.
Unlike Sanders, Clinton and Biden are comfortably nestled with most of the other Democratic Party leadership in the left hand pocket of the country's military-financial complex. Would either be better for the country than one of the crowd of reactionary clowns running for the Republican nomination? Most probably. But given our experience with them, can we seriously think that Hillary or Biden would stand up to Wall Street? Clean the neo-con networks out of the Pentagon and State Department? Reverse the relentless march to inequality? Most probably, no.
Thus, Bernie Sanders' candidacy has created a moment of truth for Democratic voters, testing how serious they are about changing the country's direction. We cannot be certain, of course, that even a President Bernie Sanders could loosen Big Money's stranglehold on our democracy. But we can be certain that neither of his rivals would even try.
As Pope Francis Arrives in DC, Federal Workers Strike Against Poverty Wages
Bernie Sanders joined those who "cook and clean" for nation's lawmakers as they demanded dignity—and a living wage—from those they serve
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was among those who joined federal workers in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as they rallied to leverage the much-anticipated arrival of Pope Francis as a way to lift their ongoing campaign for better wages and treatment.
As Ned Resnikoff reports for Al-Jazeera:
Hundreds of striking low-wage workers in Washington, D.C. want Pope Francis to join their cause. Members of Good Jobs Nation, the labor-backed campaign to win higher pay and union recognition for service employees at federal sites in the capital, [halted] work on Tuesday morning as part of a labor protest timed to coincide with the pope’s U.S. visit.
Roughly 1,000 workers from privately managed, federally owned workplaces, such as the Smithsonian museum food courts, [joined] religious leaders for a march to Capitol Hill. Most, but not all, of the workers will be on strike. Several religious leaders are planning to march alongside them, including Rev. Michael Livingston of Riverside Church of New York City, which has a long history of Christian civil rights activism.
The strike is part of a broader effort by U.S. labor unions to make common cause with Pope Francis. Labor leaders have praised Francis for his remarks on global wealth inequality and dignity of labor, and unions see an opportunity to cement their ties with one of the most powerful civic institutions in the world.
Sanders attended the rally and offerd his continued support to the workers' campaign.
"In my view, when we talk about morality and when we talk about justice we have to understand that there is no justice when so few have so much, while so many have so little," Sanders told the workers. "The time has come for President Obama and the U.S. Senate to end this injustice by requiring all contract workers to be paid at least $15 an hour with the right to form a union. The time has come to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour."
In a letter (pdf) addressed to Pope Francis, who arrives Tuesday for a five-day U.S. visit, the workers invited the head of the Catholic Church to meet with them so he could better understand the plight of workers who may "cook and clean at the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings," but remain trapped in "utter poverty" due to their low-wages and inability to form a union.
"We may be invisible to the wealthy and powerful we serve everyday—but we know we are worthy of a more abundant life as children of God," the letter stated. "That’s why we are joining with other low-wage workers across America who are fighting to provide a decent life for ourselves and our families. As you prepare to meet with the Congress and President, we hope that you will also take a little time to meet with us and listen to our stories."
Charles Gladden, a 63-year-old worker who signed the letter and spoke with Resnikoff, explained the workers' call for a "$15 minimum wage and a union" is just a start and expressed optimism that if the Pope—who has voiced his compassion for the world's poor workers and contempt for income inequality—takes up their concerns with lawmakers and Obama, it could give the ongoing fight a needed breakthrough.
"For [Pope Francis] to speak and mention Good Jobs Nation and the Senate workers directly to Congress, that would be an even bigger plus," Gladden said. "Because we're all fighting for the same thing."
In an op-ed that appeared in the Guardian on Monday evening, James Powell, another federal worker involved in the effort, explained how difficult his life has become even though he is gainfully employed by the federal government at the U.S. Capitol:
I've worked as a Senate chef for 5 years, but I only make $13 dollars an hour. I’m a single father and it’s hard to support my son on a poverty wage. The cost of living in Washington is so expensive that I recently ended up homeless. I lived in an abandoned house for nearly two months. That’s how long it took me to save up enough money to rent a bedroom in an apartment. I often had to skip meals to save money.
Perhaps the lavish lifestyle of our politicians makes it hard for them to understand the challenges of the working poor. The senators I cook for select their dishes and wine pairings from a black leather bound menu, with the seal of the Senate embossed in gold on the cover. Senator Marco Rubio is a fan of the “Poached Salmon Nicoise Salad” with haricot verts, capers, egg, tomato, potato, and thyme vinaigrette ($19 dollars). Senator Lindsey Graham likes to order the “Stacked Cesar Salad” with grilled chicken, baby romaine lettuce and petit romaine hearts ($18 dollars). I’d have to work about two hours to any of these dishes, which I cooked myself.
When the pope comes to Congress, I hope he tells the senators that the workers who serve them are their equals in the eyes of God and that we should be able to afford food and shelter just as politicians are able to do.
Though not all lawmakers in Congress are Catholics, Powell acknowledged, many of them are and many others identify as Christians or people of faith.
Perhaps, he said, Pope Francis will take the opportunity to remind U.S. lawmakers of the "their moral obligation to help the 'least of these'" in society.
"The truth," Powell concluded, "is that the pope may be the only person who can broker a bipartisan solution to inequality at the US Capitol and help low-wage workers. That’s why the pope may be our only hope."