Published in The Star Herald, February 24, 2016
Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, argues that all people have a right to basic needs (health care, education, a healthy environment, food, shelter, and more) and that government has to play a major role in seeing that those needs are provided for. These rights are not un-American: the constitution itself says that government has a responsibility to “provide for the common welfare.”
As a Democrat, he wants to protect the power of all the people to influence government. He argues that money power of the richest 1 % has rigged the system through huge campaign contributions and other benefits such as speaking fees to political candidates, lobbying of those candidates once they are in office, advertising to the public in all the major media outlets, most of which they own, sponsoring and even writing legislation that benefits the wealthiest and affects the welfare, voting choices, and voting rights of certain groups of its citizens whose numbers are increasing. This rigging has led to obscene income inequality, a middle class disappearing into poverty, the poorest health outcomes of any developed nation, climate change that threatens the whole earth, intensified legislation attacking civil rights, and increasingly dangerous international tensions as nations compete for a fair share of the wealth.
Sanders is definitely not a one-issue candidate. The power of money in politics affects every other major problem that we have. Advocating a political revolution as a solution, Sanders wants to change this rigged system by harnessing the power of the people through the simple democratic exercise of the vote by masses of people who become aware and inspired to do the right thing by voting for the right people. In this election primary, he has already changed the dynamics of the Democratic Party establishment which lost its moral ground for social justice in attention to the seductive appeal of riches before he became a presidential candidate.
Sanders’ Democratic critics do not argue with his goals. They only argue that his plans are too radical to be possible, that the US will not elect a declared Socialist, and that at best we can only hope to make incremental progress toward the goals. Republicans, so far, don’t argue with his goals either. So focused on Clinton, Obama, and each other, they barely mention him so far. Hillary Clinton claims that money she has received in campaign contributions and speaking fees has no influence on her goals, values or votes. I will leave it to readers to judge for themselves how possible you think that is, and how much you think money already influences both parties in their claims about solutions to problems.
As for those claims, think what kinds of socialist progress was made in the mid 20th century. In the 30s & 40s, President Roosevelt’s government invested in a host of socialist programs, including social security and public works programs to create jobs and improve the quality of life. His accomplishments were more radical than what Sanders proposes. In the 50s, President Eisenhower’s government imposed an income tax of 90 % on the richest to pay for common-good programs, including veterans’ college education and infrastructure construction that included the Interstate Highway System, “the Greatest Public Works Project in History.” As Sanders says, he is not as big a socialist as Eisenhower was; he plans only 52% tax on the richest. In the 60s, President Johnson passed Medicare and the most important civil rights legislation in history, civil rights that are now being eroded by the power of money in politics. Sanders proposes expanding Medicare to all and paying for it with a modest tax that will be much less expensive for the poor and the middle class than they now pay in insurance premiums. His proposals to remedy inequality include the social-justice issues of gender, racial, and ethnic equality. These presidents achievements demonstrate that socialist programs advancing the common good are an important part of the American character and are not a deterrent to electability. Roosevelt was elected 4 times.
As Sanders says, no president can accomplish such proposals by him- or her- self. He needs the vote of all citizens who care about reducing the power of money in politics, promoting social justice, and restoring our democracy. He not only needs our vote for him but also our vote to change the congressional balance of power. We have waited too long for common-sense solutions to the most pressing problems we face. Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate from either party who proposes these solutions and who has a workable plan to pay for them according to many top economists. Many of the polls now suggest his electability, and his record demonstrates a life-long commitment to “provide for the common welfare.” Maine Caucuses are March 6. Please go and vote for the common good.