Thursday, April 30, 2015

How Bernie Sanders can change the terms of the debate as presidential candidate

Bernie Sanders is running for president. Even the Washington Post has noticed. The Post article makes a lot of hay about how Bernie doesn't have a chance in hell of winning. That part of the article is just a bit condescending, even if there is some truth to the point. The article also points out that Bernie is never going to be in Hilary's cabinet, or anywhere close to the White House if Hilary is nominated and elected so he has nothing to lose by changing the terms of the debate.

There is no question that Hilary has the money to run. But that doesn't make her a good candidate or a good president relative to Bernie. I will admit that I much prefer Hilary to anyone in the Republican Clown Car. If anyone in that car gets elected, and the Republican majorities remain in Congress, America will swing farther right, and perhaps bend to the will of those who would fashion America as a Christian Nation. That would be very uncomfortable for everyone else who is not Christian.

Where Hilary has offered very little in terms of her platform or agenda, Bernie offers a clear agenda:

• Supports reducing defense spending
• Supports tax increases on high-income earners
• Supports a balanced budget
• Supports a constitutional amendment stating that corporations do not have the same rights as individuals (overturning the Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court)
• Supports stimulus spending during economic downturns
• Opposes privatization of Social Security
• Supports state regulation of education over federal regulation
• Supports federal action to combat climate change
• Believes states rather than the federal government should regulate firearms
• Supports a single-payer system for health care
• Supports a path to citizenship for illegal/undocumented immigrants
• Pro-choice
• Supports same-sex marriage

Priority issues according to Project Vote Smart:
• A Strong Safety Net
• Getting Our Priorities Right
• National Healthcare
• Justice and Equality For All
• The Environment
• A National Energy Policy
• Worker's Rights
• Progressive Tax Reform

Bernie also makes a moral point: should all the gains in the economy in the last few years accrue to only the top 1% due to government intervention in the markets? There is a lot of talk about how the 1% have been running away with the economy. But few are willing to point to government intervention in the market as the source of the advantage enjoyed by the 1%, as Bernie and Elizabeth Warren have done.

More than a few economists will support Bernie's contentions about a rigged system funneling money up to the top. Paul Krugman, Dean Baker and Joseph Stiglitz to name a few. None of those esteemed economists will be on Hilary's economic team if she is elected. More likely, someone who has been steeped in Wall Street tradition will find a place in the cabinet or a position as an economic advisor. Bernie will have none of that. Bernie will find someone who is not beholden to Wall Street for economic advice, if elected.

The Post article mentioned above makes a strong point that Bernie has nothing to lose. He can afford to push the debate hard to the left and expand the scope of the debate to include how rigged the system really is. He can paint a picture of The Hunger Games in America on national TV and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. The major networks cannot shut him out of the debates, for that would raise a stink like we've never seen. Any attempt to silence Bernie would be like gas on a fire and raise the voter turnout - and we know how the GOP loves low voter turnouts.

I believe that with Bernie running for president, we will see an enormous response from those who are tired of seeing the same neoliberal ideas put to the test only to fail and fail again. Bernie has a clear shot at the presidency if the 20 somethings take notice and get out the vote. The young people know where they're going with the Clown Car. They also know that Hilary, with enormous corporate backing, will not betray that support unless someone else is there to expose her.

Bernie says, "Don't underestimate me." Don't worry, I won't. I support Bernie and his run for president. Won't you?
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