A Case for Bernie Sanders

Bernie (2)

“All Bernie Sanders wants to do is give lazy people free stuff!”

I don’t know if those are the exact words, but they’re close enough. In the past few months, I’ve seen a veritable shit-ton of comments like that from folks on social media, many of whom I consider to be well-educated and -informed. (At least they seem to be to me.) As a tried-and-true Bernie Sanders fan, I often want to react with, “Bullshit! He’s just trying to level the playing field!” But…then I realize I don’t really have much more to offer, and I’m just parroting what every other Bern-Feeler is saying. And it seems like that’s exactly what all those Bernie opponents are doing too – simply repeating what they’ve heard.

I’m a recovering alcoholic. Just celebrated four years of sobriety last week. And as part of my recovery, one thing I’m trying to learn to do is to respond rather than react. So that’s what this post is: an informed, non-lazy, non-free-stuff-wanting response to people who think President Bernie Sanders is a terrible idea.

I’ll tell you that I’ll try my damnedest to be fair, and represent both sides of the arguments I put forth. I’m sure I won’t cover all the issues, but I’ll do my best. (Remember the “I’ll do my best” part while you’re trashing this post in your Facebook comments, okay?) And hey, I may not like what I find out—you may not either. But I gotta try. And hopefully, we’ll all learn a little something. Deal? All right, let’s do it.

Robin Hood, or Sheriff of Nottingham?

A big part of Bernie’s platform is wealth inequality—you’ve heard the “the top one percent has more wealth than…” sound bytes, I’m sure. Here I’ll go straight to the source: Bernie says on his website that “there is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages, and we have the highest childhood poverty rate of nearly any developed country on earth.” On its face, that sounds pretty genuine, right? Haha. This is a political argument, folks. It ain’t never that easy.

As president, Bernie would raise taxes on a sliding scale – a little on low-income earners, a lot on the wealthy. He’d break up the big banks, reform Wall Street, and regulate how political campaigns are financed. He’d also raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2020, work on reversing international trade policies (thereby keeping manufacturing jobs in the U.S.), and make—or at least attempt to make, and I’m staring right at ya, Congress—healthcare and public colleges free (or next to it, anyway). And how, you ask, will we pay for all that? Wow, that answer would take up more time than you (or I!) are willing to invest. But here’s a great example: when I wrote that “Robin Hood” sub-headline up there, I was just trying to be clever. Lo and behold…I just Googled “bernie sanders robin hood”, and found out that he’s proposing something called the friggin Robin Hood Tax! In a nutshell, the Robin Hood Tax would be an extra tax of 0.5 percent on Wall Street transactions, and those bucks—many billions, according to the site—would go towards funding (among many other things) education, healthcare, and the climate change battle. (And yes, that shit’s real, guy. If you don’t agree, stop reading this immediately and go stick your head in the oven.)

That at least covers the tip of the iceberg of his proposed policies. And to me, of course, they sound better than any other candidate’s, if for no other reason than this: they represent everyday people like me. But as per usual, there are many, many folks who wholeheartedly disagree. So let’s look at both sides:

PROS:
–He represents average Americans. Like I said in the beginning, Bernie wants to level the playing field. His policies benefit Main Street, not Wall Street, to use the parlance of our times. Oh, what’s that? ‘He’s a Socialist,’ you say? Correction: he’s a Democratic Socialist, fool. That’s all kinds of different than a pure Socialist. See, a Democratic…shit. I’m not explaining again. Read the dictionary definition and/or the Wikipedia entry for the true, unbiased meaning.
–His policies, if implemented, would cause some radical changes in our nation. I don’t know about you, but I think we need some. And to me, President Bernie Sanders would be a giant leap in the right direction. As far as the Blue candidates go, my wife put it most succinctly when she said something to the effect of, “Hillary would be better at dealing with things the way they are now…but Bernie would make more changes – and changes we need.” I couldn’t agree more.

CONS:
–His presidency would cost us all more. Even conservative estimates (and yes, I chose that adjective on purpose) put the cost of his proposals in the trillions. A Wall Street Journal article, for example, says his proposals would cost an estimated $1.8 trillion annually, with only roughly half that coming in from tax increases. On his website, Bernie says he plans to pay for everything by slightly increasing taxes across the board, but…it makes even me, an out-and-out numbskull when it comes to financial matters, wonder if it’s doable.
–His policies, if implemented, would cause some radical changes in our nation. Yeah, I listed this as a Pro too. But I think that, if elected, his presidency might be too much for some people to handle. I don’t think there’d be a true revolt, but I think some people’s idea of patriotism might just make them so scared of the word “Socialist” that they’d be afraid the U.S. was turning into Russia in the 1950s.

Not Me, US

I have to say that for me, probably like many others, Bernie Sanders is the first presidential candidate ever with whom I feel a personal connection. Also like tons of others (most importantly, younger voters), he’s gotten me genuinely interested in the political process. Here’s why: a grassroots campaign, baby. According to a website called OpenSecrets.org, which tracks candidates’ financial contributions, The Bern has raised just shy of $140 million…with 99.98 percent of it from individual donors. (I myself have contributed twice—twenty bucks each time.) And if you divide 140 million by twenty, that’s…hang on. Okay, it’s seven million. That’s an ass-load of individual donors, my friend. There’s just something…I don’t know, momentous, I guess, about a guy who earns—yeah, earns—all his money from individual people, instead of taking donations from the corporations he’s pledged so vehemently to fight.

And Bernie, much more than any other candidate, it seems, values the American people as individuals. Something I didn’t mention in the previous section is that Bernie’s proposals would give massively expanded rights to women, immigrants, disabled people, Native Americans, HIV/AIDS sufferers, veterans, the LGBT community, and minorities in general—you know, everybody in America besides the healthy white male. And for the most part, he’s run his campaign with absolute respect for his other candidates, and has chosen to speak about the actual issues we face instead of trashing his opponents. That’s huge to me. Though I haven’t always been successful, it’s encouraged me—and a lot of others, I bet—to play nicer when political arguments arise. In this piece in particular, I’m trying to stick to positive attributes about my guy, rather than sling mud at Hillary or any of the passengers in the GOP clown car. (I actually had to grit my teeth when writing that last sentence.)

But of course, I’m sure a majority of you folks reading this already have a running list of things in this piece about which I’m completely wrong. (If so, good. That means you’re thinking about them.) So let’s take another look at both sides:

PROS:
–He’s a rarity among candidates: an honest politician. I truly feel like what you get is what you see with this guy. If he’s asked a question, he answers with what’s actually on his mind, instead of what he thinks people want him to say. It’s unbelievably refreshing, and incredibly appealing to me. And most of what he says, to me at least, is—GASP!—based on common sense and logic. Socialized healthcare, for example, is something a lot of nations in the world already have. And they’re the same countries that scientists determine are happier and more prosperous than any others. Sounds pretty ding-dang logical to me that a socialized healthcare system will work for us, too.
–He makes money the old-fashioned way—he eeaaarns it. (Sorry to paraphrase John Houseman in a thirty-year-old Smith Barney commercial, but it’s what was in my head just now.) Here’s the way I see it: the four other viable candidates—Hillary, Cruz, Kasich, and…Tr…ahem. Drum…uhhh. Shit. I can’t say it. The guy with the fake tan and fake orange hair, whose name rhymes with “I’m a giant asshole,” okay? That guy. (Sorry.) Those four have had many, many millions of dollars spent on their campaigns by outside interest groups, corporations, super PACS, etc., so that those big money donors can influence election results, thereby protecting their own interests. (I don’t know how you can argue that that is not attempting to buy the election.) My man Bernie? A grand total of $46,081 from outside interests. The other $140 MILLION? From millions of U.S. citizens—rich, poor, all races, all…shit, all everything. Though I already know the reasons why, it still boggles my mind that more working-class citizens don’t support him…because he’s running his campaign the same way many of us run our lives: in the immortal words of the Good Times theme song, scratchin’ and sur-viiivin’, baby.

CONS:
–He’s an idealist. I gotta admit, I love, love, love Bernie’s proposed policies, but I wonder how in the hell he will put any of them into practice. Not even considering the immaculate shit-show that he’d likely have with Congress (which is a total shit-show unto itself), he hasn’t really backed up his proposals with practical, roll-up-his-sleeves methods of implementing them. Not that I’m keeping score, but in reference to what my wife said up there about Hillary vs. Bernie, I gotta go with Hillary on this one.
–He’s old. I’ve heard Bernie say more than once that the greatest joy of his life is his seven grandchildren. And…shit, he’s 74. If he wins, he’d be the oldest person ever elected president. (For that matter, so would Old Orange-Hair—he’d be 70—but I’m just sayin’.) And though it’s interesting that his most successful demographic is with young voters, and while he’s in great health for his age, a 75-year-old taking the oath of office probably frightens some people. But hey—stranger things have happened.

*****

And that’s all I’ve got. (If you’ve actually read this far, thank you for doing so.) Now let me say this: while I certainly won’t be changing my allegiance to another candidate, I no longer have my head in the clouds about Bernie Sanders. He’s human, with flaws, just like all the others. But I’ll also say that, as a result of my interest in his campaign, I’ll be voting this November for the first time ever. And here’s why: all my life (well, ever since I’ve been old enough to vote), I’ve had a severe case of My-One-Vote-Won’t-Count-itis. Sure, I’ve had tons of interest in seeing certain candidates win, but it wasn’t enough to get me out to the polls—or even register, for that matter.

Bernie Sanders, and he alone, has totally changed that. If it’s done nothing else, his self-described “Political Revolution” has made me realize that my vote does count. My one vote won’t decide the election, but it’ll help. My voice will be heard. And hopefully, millions of others will feel the same way, and will cast their ballot for whichever candidate they support. To me, that’s a revolution in itself.

See you at the polling place on November 6th.