Bernie Sanders and the political realityBaltimore Post-Examiner

Bernie Sanders and the reality of the political landscape

 (Top picture drawn by Jeff Worman)

How do you explain Bernie Sanders? He draws the largest crowds of any presidential candidates, tens of thousands everywhere he goes — 28,000 in Portland, Oregon and 27,000 in Los Angeles, CA — but he doesn’t have the backing of any big money donors.

Hillary Clinton during her official campaign announcement. (YouTube)

Hillary Clinton during her official campaign announcement. (YouTube)

Sure, Hillary Clinton leads the polls for Democratic candidates, a 49 to 27 percent difference, but, Sanders’ numbers have been growing while Clinton’s have been dropping.

And some people on the right believe Bernie Sanders will be a more formidable opponent to any candidate the GOP produces than Hillary Clinton. Seriously. Ann Coulter, the extreme right wing pundit says that if Sanders gets the Democratic nomination, the GOP will lose.

Call me partisan, but I’m not one to put much faith in anything Ann Coulter says, but she could be on to something, if you compare Sanders’ popularity to any of the Republican candidates. On that point even I have to admit Ann Coulter is correct … hold on a moment, my stomach just started turning.

If you live on the nut bag fringe of the so-called conservative movement — what used to be Ann Coulter’s turf — you emphasize Senator Sanders being a socialist and all Democratic voters are to one degree or another, commies. So, Bernie, being the first commie Socialist candidate for president in many years, he’s bringing out all the commies in America.

Just for the record: not all of us commies are going to his rallies — but we’d like to be there.

Bernie Sanders in Portland, Oregon, where he drew a crowd of 28,000. (YouTube)

Bernie Sanders in Portland, Oregon, where he drew a crowd of 28,000. (YouTube)

The pundits like to say he’s tapping into that populist angst that is sweeping the nation. But they say that about Donald Trump too, although now they are beginning to admit Trump is actually tapping into that anger and hatred felt by the GOP’s far right wing fringe, the people who want their country back from the likes of Barack Hussein Obama.

He’s not one of us, don’tcha know.

Where Donald Trump is drawing record crowds and eye-popping poll results with anger and hostility, Bernie Sanders is doing it with common American themes that are nothing remotely like left wing radical socialism. Bernie Sanders’ platform is as mainstream as it gets: he opposes the TPP — The Trans Pacific Partnership — that is supposedly a free trade agreement that most people view as a big give away to Asian nations and American Big Pharma.

Bernie is a trade protectionist who wants trade deals that protect American jobs, the environment and economy. Seventy-five percent of Americans agree with him.

One of Bernie’s biggest platforms, most widely talked about by the pundit class is his plan to make college free for all who go to public colleges and universities. Seventy-one percent of America agrees with Bernie on that.

In 1991 Bernie Sanders, then a representative from Vermont, was one of the few legislators to oppose the first Gulf War. His words were prophetic: “… a war in the Persian Gulf now, an absolutely unnecessary war would be a terrible mistake our nation would regret for decades to come.” (YouTube)

In 1991 Bernie Sanders, then a representative from Vermont, was one of the few legislators to oppose the first Gulf War. His words were prophetic: “… a war in the Persian Gulf now, an absolutely unnecessary war would be a terrible mistake our nation would regret for decades to come.” (YouTube)

Bernie wants a massive spending bill to fix our infrastructure — roads, bridges, tunnels, disaster preparedness, a topic near and dear to Americans as we near the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast — 71 percent agree with Bernie on that.

Not as many are convinced we should invest in a high-speed rail system, like so many other industrialized nations have, but support is growing and it’s already started in California. Still, Bernie is on the same page with 71 percent of Americans when it comes to rebuilding and repairing our infrastructure.

Another big platform issue with Bernie is expanding Social Security and Medicare. Seventy percent agree with Bernie. He says Medicare for all. And not entirely the same as Medicare — he wants it to be free, as in no co-pays for anything. Yep, single-payer and 70 percent of America agrees with him.

Fifty-nine percent support raising taxes on the wealthiest so billionaires and millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did when Ronald Reagan was president. That’s one of Bernie’s big platforms. In a related platform: over 50 percent of Americans agree with Bernie on breaking up the big Wall Street banks and having tighter regulations on them.

(Below: Bernie Sanders’ August 10, 2015 speech in Los Angeles
where he drew a crowd of 27,000. He was introduced by Sarah Silverman.
)

One thing most Americans agree with Sanders on: the criminals that instigated the crash of 2008 got off Scott free. People still wonder why no bank officials went to prison for what happened.

And no one is more passionate about getting money out of politics than Bernie Sanders, a position held by nearly every American. He wants to legislate away the Citizen United decision.

Sanders also wants to undo what the Supreme Court did to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to once again make it illegal to put up barriers to voting that effect predominantly minority communities and students — young people.

Bernie Sanders is so deeply in tune with the American population on all these key, “bread and butter” issues, even Republicans worry about him being the Democratic nominee. And you can bet the Clinton campaign is worried too.

But not too much, and here’s why: Bernie Sanders’ campaign constituency is primarily white liberals.

Bernie Sanders organizing for Civil Rights in the early 1960s. (YouTube)

Bernie Sanders organizing for Civil Rights in the early 1960s. (YouTube)

His glaring lack of support from, and understanding of, non-white communities was awkwardly on display in Seattle, WA when members of the Black Lives Matter Seattle group took over the stage and forced Sanders to cancel his event, which was supposed to be about expanding Social Security.

Which is an odd thing for Sanders, who worked and demonstrated with the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. If anyone running for president right now has civil rights bona fides, it’s Bernie Sanders. But his message has been all about the bread and butter issues that affect all Americans not making a quarter million a year or more and he really hadn’t had any major policy statements on race until recently.

After the Black Lives Matter moment in Seattle the Sanders Campaign hired Symone Sanders, a criminal justice advocate. Her interviews for a position in the campaign were going on before Seattle, but Symone’s hire dovetailed with the Black Lives Matter encounter.

Bernie has always been against having privately run prisons and he’s been against mandatory minimums and the death penalty. All policies that disproportionally effect minority communities. And his message about economic justice for African-Americans has been relatively the same as that of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: economic justice for minorities is tied to economic justice for all.

But that message is lost on most pundits talking about Bernie Sanders. They want to talk about his hair, or, gosh, he’s a Socialist.

Sanders is the first one to tell people he doesn’t have as much name recognition in minority communities as Hillary Clinton, or Vice President Joe Biden, who is now contemplating a run for the presidency, not to mention Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland and mayor of that state’s biggest — and largely African-American — city: Baltimore.

“Today, we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world but that reality means very little for most of us because almost all of that wealth is owned and controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. In America we now have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone is wider than at any time since the 1920s. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time. And we will address it..” — Bernie Sanders, from his speech declaring his presidential candidacy.  (YouTube)

“Today, we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world but that reality means very little for most of us because almost all of that wealth is owned and controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. In America we now have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone is wider than at any time since the 1920s. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time. And we will address it..” — Bernie Sanders, from his speech declaring his presidential candidacy. (YouTube)

Then there’s immigration. Many people think Sanders is for open borders and unlimited immigration. But the reality is Sanders has never been for those positions, but he’s always been for comprehensive immigration reform and giving all undocumented residents legal status and a pathway to citizenship. But that’s a policy position held by all the Democratic candidates, so it doesn’t really distinguish Sanders from the others.

Unless Sanders can bridge that gap between his candidacy and minority communities, he doesn’t have much chance of beating Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He might win a few states, especially New Hampshire, but he will fall way short of taking the nomination.

And then there’s this: in polls when Democratic voters are asked who they think has a better chance of winning the general election on November 8, 2016, they choose Hillary Clinton.

Difficult news for the millions of Democratic voters who look upon the Bernie Sanders campaign as the answer to everything that is wrong with America. And when you look at his platforms, he clearly is the antidote for the extreme, right wing hysteria and the policies of the Reagan era that are crushing the American Middle Class.

If Bernie Sanders is going to have any kind of chance to make Ann Coulter really, really afraid a year from now when the final political campaigns are getting set in the national conventions, much has to change for the Senator from Vermont.

We can just accept that Hillary Clinton will win — the email/server scandal will prove to be nothing before the Iowa Caucuses roll around — or the legions of Sanders supporters can work harder to make him a viable candidate in minority communities and for that, they need the candidate to do it as well.

For many of us Bernie Sanders is the candidate we’ve been waiting for these past 25 years.

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Bernie Sanders opposing the first Gulf War in 1991. Very prophetic words at about the one minute mark.


About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.
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