Endorsement for Bernie : An Old White Guy is Dragging a Shrieking Establishment into the Twenty First Century

Since the moment Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the all-too-slowly approaching quadrennial hoo-haw, I’ve observed, to my utter astonishment, how hell bent the establishment media and Washington beltway are in torching the democratic socialist.  In fact, and you’ll please have to pardon my cynicism, the collective establishment frenzy betrays profound ageism and greed.  In short, old people can’t be useful, and power-mongering among the supposed good guys (anti-Trump power brokers of the Democratic party) demands subservience to the finance and technology sectors of the economy.

Bernie is No Media Darling

Below is a sampling of elite and establishment opinion, remarkably across the narrow political spectrum permitted in everyday discourse :

What I wrote above exposes my own frustration with the lone voice of near reason in Washington, the Democratic party.  The Republican party long ago abandoned any pretense of being taken seriously, demonstrated by their slavish, totalitarian policy positions, along with their near unanimous defense of quite possibly the most immoral person to every occupy the White House.  The opposition party, by contrast, complains heavily but does little to nothing.  What I wrote above may make me sound very much like these charlatans, and perhaps I am.  Yet I understand that it isn’t enough to disagree and complain–it’s important to sketch a winning strategy, and try implementing it.  I believe that strategy can be Bernie.

Why Bernie in 2016?

During the early primary season ahead of the 2016 election, I learned more and more about Bernie, even attending, albeit reluctantly, my first (and so far only) political rally.  In August 2015, ten thousand people squeezed into a large sports arena on the campus of the University of Washington.  Though the rally itself underscored why I don’t care for them (uncomfortable seating, eternal waiting times, and a long parade of characters in the introduction component of the program), I nonetheless perceived a clear-eyed candidate, one articulating positions very near to my own; this normally wouldn’t be enough, as Obama had nice things to say but succumbed to frustrating policy dependencies on the big banks and other corporate sectors.  Bernie, by contrast, refused to take PAC and corporate money, relying solely on small individual contributions.  For the first time in my life, I donated the maximum amount of money to a candidate, noting that finally we might have an electoral prospect ready to upend Mark Hanna’s inviolable postulate that any serious candidate must rely on corporations to win.  Bernie not only came within whiskers of nabbing the nomination, he did so without media support.  In fact, had the DNC not sabotaged his campaign, we might have President Sanders today.  The DNC won’t have so easy a go this time.

Why Bernie in 2020?

Suffice it to say, when Bernie tossed his hat into the ring some weeks ago, I was instantly elated.  He’s now nationally known, he’s consistently polled, as of late 2018, to be the most trusted politician in America.  He understands clearly, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt recognized during the Great Depression, that popular pressure is the only means of asserting democratic control in the state sector.  That is to say, no president, senator, or representative will give us, the population, anything without a fight.  FDR was sympathetic to the working class, but he still had to press the labor movements to demand action.  I really believe that this feature, above all, can lead to political victory.  Nothing is a gift from on high.  For instance, when I’m asked about the pitfalls of nationalized health insurance, arguing with flaws in Britain and Canada’s respective programs, I remind folks, as did FDR with respect to economic justice, that no positive policy outcome is free; we have to work at it, and that means demanding justice of all kinds, asserting real citizenship.  That’s ours for the taking.  America’s is a remarkably free society.  Though there are costs to fighting injustice, we probably won’t be beheaded.

Labels versus Commonsense

As mentioned in the above exhaust(ive/ing) list of editorials (if you can dignify them with such an esteemed name), Bernie’s age, whiteness, and stridently conferred labels comes up frequently; even the so-called liberal media apparently believes old people ought be tossed on a desolate iceberg to die.  He’s too white, too male, too straight, despite the fact that he, a septuagenarian, single-handedly dragged the policy centroid of the Democratic party closer to that terrifying, scorched-earth leftist extreme of, woe be to us, every other industrial nation on earth.  Wonks for Hillary and Obama, following the black man and the white woman, decried Bernie as too far left in demanding infeasible policy objectives, despite Medicare for All polling well, fitting comfortably into infrastructure readiness, and benefiting from serious scholarship on how to implement it while protecting medical professionals; one need only skim the PNHP FAQ for details.  Hence, my title for this opinion piece–Bernie is the reason that Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg mostly agree on nationalized health insurance and free higher education.  Why, after greatly broadening the party platform, ought he step aside?  The Week seems to agree with me on this.   The New York Times carried an opinion piece comparing Bernie to Reagan with respect to historical examples; though I would prefer not comparing Bernie to a president responsible for mass murder in Central America, I understand his aim in describing possible public perception.

And what of nationalization of industry?  Is that a policy extreme?  Though vilified by analysts above, it has been an economic reality literally for decades.  Gigantic multinationals simply would cease to exist were it not for extensive government intervention in the economy.   Is economic and healthcare justice far left, whatever that means?  Noam Chomsky, referenced by Alternet, has repeatedly argued that Bernie’s policy positions are really mainstream, as Eisenhower himself suggested that any opposition to the New Deal would be so extreme as having no place in political discourse.  The Atlantic argues similarly.

And often I read that Bernie having not been a Democrat for most of his career ought disqualify him from the nomination.  I’m uncertain whether I’ve ever heard a claim so indescribably stupid when it comes to our political ecosystem, and therefore will only comment that even religions, mostly, admit outsiders who want to join.  The point is that political labels are completely vacuous.

Objective : Electability and Commonsense

Bernie is well-liked, unconstrained by private power, and capable of incredible fundraising thanks to his now international recognition.  He also has courted fans of Fox News, appearing in a town hall hosted by them and on many of their news programs.  This spells electability.  Does Bernie offer commonsense solutions to today’s problems? Well, commonsense knows no political philosophy.  Catastrophic ecological disaster and nuclear omnicide (something I’ll discuss in my book review of Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine) are the greatest threats to the species since we emerged some three hundred thousand years ago.  Trump places brown children in cages, declaring a national emergency at the border.  Despite his own departments acknowledging the dangers of climate change, he catapults us closer to the cliff.  This should be the national emergency, one Bernie understands.    We can salvage our future by selecting a sane, compassionate person for the most powerful office of the world.  How? Start talking.  Citizenship is not a status–it’s a job.

A Perfect Storm : The Rise of Donald Trump Part One

Donald Trump’s apparent electoral victory two weeks ago stunned both supporters and opponents, as the preponderance of pundits and analysts assumed that even the much maligned, frustratingly incremental, uncharismatic, scandal-dogged Hillary Clinton couldn’t lose the election to an anti-science, narcissistic, vengeful, vulgar, greedy billionaire with a penchant for fomenting hate for immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, even if he offered a phony message of hopeful populism.  I, by contrast, was somewhat more skeptical of the polling numbers, as errors in likely voter modeling or the influence of the social desirability phenomenon could easily push results over the margin of error. Nonetheless, I shared the shock and frankly the fear as swing state after state fell to a candidate I’d considered to be more of a carnival attraction than a serious statesperson. How could this happen, what does it mean, and what can we do? These are critical questions both his supporters and opponents need be asking; reasonable answers may not be the knee jerk ones. We begin with investigating the context in which a person such as Trump could be elected, deferring the second and third questions for subsequent articles.  This post also defers deeper, more detailed discussions on a host of important issues so that we may cover more of the highlights.

Despite Clinton carrying the lead in the popular vote by perhaps two million, a little less than half of those who voted, a substantial fraction, seem to believe Trump can actually improve their lives. Peppered amongst scattershot claims he’s made on the campaign trail, he correctly depicted so-called free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the TPP as destructive; he correctly observed the plight of American workers through deindustrialization; he correctly derided the governing elite as nepotistic, disingenuous, petty, and heretofore incapable of meeting the needs of the working class in a populist appeal. The Democratic leadership faltered easily, ignoring highly suggestive evidence that Clinton simply didn’t cut it against the Republican contenders and more seriously marginalizing a populist candidate in Bernie Sanders who represented one of the largest grassroots movements in history; his favorability and electability, along with his fervent young supporters, were ridiculed early on by party insiders, yet many analysts and strategists concede an easy victory for him against Trump. Sanders offered genuine populism and helped energize a new generation of young voters with promises of universal healthcare and tuition-free college, proposals the American media condemn as fantasy and pie-in-the-sky, despite many proofs-of-concept in other western democracies.

Many of the grievances of the white working class, perhaps Trump’s biggest constituency, are legitimate yet have been long ignored by both political parties. Predating this election is a decades-long decline in income mobility and the standard of living; the postwar boom generated historically unprecedented wealth and security for working class people, precipitating a true middle class and birthing the so-called American dream. Anecdotally, my grandfather, descendant of poor farmers in Indiana, managed a decent job in a purchasing supply company in the late 1940s with no more than a high school diploma; he could buy a house, cars, and send his children to college. This simply isn’t the case now, and American workers know it. Fueled by scornful elitism from the ruling class and an utter lack of articulate response to their genuine cries for help, they’ve abandoned trust in fundamental public institutions such as schools, governments, and the media, not all of which is unjustified.  Analysts in 1994 predicted that NAFTA would perpetuate the offshoring of manufacturing jobs largely begun in the 1970s with the financialization of the economy. The media’s concentration into just a few multinational companies corresponds with little airing of the problems plaguing middle America.  Even Clinton herself snubbed Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”  A vacuum generally won’t remain as such for long: Trump and many who preceded him have offered easy explanations for their woes; these answers are crazy, but coherent, fanning flames of hatred and further mobilizing a lightly-sleeping, subsurface deeply nativist ultra-nationalist sector of the population extant since the founding and forever awaiting a deliverer who can save white America. Part of my family fits the bill, I’m sorry to say; I’m all too familiar with the rhetoric and the mindset.

In short, he’s stated explicitly, or sometimes intimated, that illegal immigrants imperil our families and steal our jobs, that Obama is a non-citizen illegitimate president sympathetic to Islamic terrorists, that people of color are destroying their own communities and stealing elections, and that he can bring back the good old days when our economy was driven more by honest industry and production than corrupt financial institutions. Indeed, Trump’s ascent has emboldened this nativist sector, paralleling a cascade of hate-crime related incidents across the country according to the Southern Law Poverty Center. Hate and white supremacy groups brag that Trump is their guy, and though most people who support Trump for his promised populism probably aren’t among them, they’ve nonetheless tolerated his hate speech in the hopes that this populism is genuine. As a result, the baseless allegations of voter fraud against people of color which are deeply rooted in historical efforts at disenfranchisement incited violence at the polls and voter intimidation of poor minorities. The historical record should be clear on many of Trump’s wild claims; voting fraud is almost impossible to execute successfully, and Trump’s repeated utterances of having evidence simply must be intentional falsehoods, a handy trick any politician or sleazy salesman can brandish quickly. Obama’s citizenship is simply public record; his record on atrocities and crackdown on whistleblowers should easily demonstrate no support for Islamic terrorists or alleged sympathizers.  Illegal immigration, largely a feature of deleterious effects of our disastrous free trade policy, interventionism, and climate change on Central and South America, is nothing more than a wedge issue cravenly designed to fan flames of hatred among workers whose share of mutual interests dwarf those with the masters.

Media coverage also appears to have played a role in Trump’s ascent, as the months leading into the primary season and campaign featured heavy, disproportionate coverage by major American news outlets of the spectacle that is Trump; one measure indicates that the empty podium awaiting Trump’s arrival received more airtime than did all of Sanders’ rallies during the summer and fall of 2015.  Similar patterns emerge among other media giants.  Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, bragged at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference in San Francisco early this year that though disproportionate coverage of Trump “may not be good for America, […] it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.” Trump’s showmanship, bellicosity, and willingness to say on air the unthinkable seem to have generated heavy ratings, moving us perilously closer to virtually substance-free political debates and campaigning.

In short, a perfect storm of economic uncertainty, remarkably unfavorable opposition, a fundamental, immoral failure of the political class to meet the needs of the citizenry, and a sharp decline in the public trust has led to the rise of a fascist-lite kleptocrat celebrated by hate groups, anti-science zealots, and Christian supremacists for his selection of a myopic fundamentalist running mate, cabinet choices whose competencies for their respective jobs-to-be are inversely proportionate to their bottom lines, and profound disdain for immigrants and climate science.  Our next article will focus on what these critical choices mean.