Bernie’s Lasting Victory

Bernie Sanders Lasting Victory

After losing a string of primaries, a lot is being said and written about how Bernie Sanders and his campaign blew it.

He comes across too doctrinaire, calling for a revolution, referring to himself as a “democratic socialist”, and in the process alienating moderate voters.

At the same time, Bernie’s doctrinaire approach may also be his greatest strength.

Unlike many other politicians, including his chief rival, Joe Biden, Sanders has never relied on paid consultants to script his positions based on focus groups and polling data.  When he speaks, you know you are hearing what he actually believes in and is willing to fight for.

In refusing to hold big-dollar fund raisers, Sanders has led the way by example on campaign finance reform.  Taking excessive money out of politics is not revolutionary; it is simply restoring power to the people which is the founding principle of our democracy.

Sanders has been clear and consistent: Health care administered by the insurance industry is a disaster, with the highest costs and worst outcomes of any major industrialized country.  Income inequality is hammering the poor and working class.

Climate change is an existential threat, and the energy industry, with its army of lobbyists, must be held to account.

Many of the positions Sanders has advocated for were not even on the agenda five years ago.  Today, his advocacy for a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and Medicare expansion have gone mainstream, having been endorsed by most of the Democratic establishment.

He has consistently spoken truth to power; called out our dysfunctional political system, and stood for truth and justice for all Americans.

Bernie Sanders may not win the Democratic nomination, but his ideas and his advocacy for those left behind have changed the course of American politics, and that will prove a lasting victory.

The Democratic View Endorses Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders for President!

Income and wealth inequality are major problems in the US.  The real wages of working people have barely risen in decades.  Our political system is awash in money.  The government is dysfunctional.  Lobbyists increasingly write the rules in the shadows.  Our tax system is regressive and riddled with loopholes that benefit big corporations and the wealthy.

Tax cuts for the rich now pass for fiscal policy.  This has put our economy is on a sugar high while the need for investment in infrastructure and people to stimulate real, long-term economic growth is ignored.

Today, our system of governance more closely resembles an oligarchy rather than a true democracy.   Trump, in our view, is a symptom of a much larger malaise that has infected our entire body politic.  To those who argue that it is sufficient to kick Trump from office and everything will return to “normal,” we say: Normal is no longer good enough.  Elizabeth Warren has a point: we need “Big Structural Change.”

Only two candidates have seriously addressed the need for major reforms to our political and economic systems.   Those candidates are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth Warren has just ended her campaign, having failed to win a major primary, including her home state of Massachusetts.

The Democratic campaign for President is now down to two major candidates, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.   Sanders is the only candidate who has consistently fought for the rights of the poor and working people his entire career, and he continues to do so.  Without Bernie Sanders, workers’ rights, raising the minimum wage, fighting climate change and the need for universal access to quality affordable health care would not even be on the agenda.   For bringing these issues to the fore, and leading the fight over decades, Bernie Sanders is a “True American Hero.”

Joe Biden’s record is checkered at best.  As Sanders has pointed out, Biden voted for major trade deals, such as NAFTA, that failed to protect workers’ rights and outsourced American jobs.  He supported cuts to Social Security and Medicare and voted for the war in Iraq.  He sided with the credit card companies against consumers.  Remember Anita Hill?

After decades in politics, it is still hard to tell what Biden actually believes in.  He seems to be one of those politicians always hewing to the center, telling voters what he thinks they want to hear, and trying to please his donor base, rather than championing policies that improve the lives of the working people who are the soul of the Democratic Party.  It is no accident that Biden launched his campaign in Philadelphia back in May, then made a bee-line that same afternoon for a big dollar fund raiser hosted by a senior Comcast executive.

Of course, Bernie Sanders is not perfect.  At 78, he is a little old to be elected president.  His approach to politics often comes across as dogmatic, as if he is unwilling to compromise. We very much hope that Sanders works hard over the coming months to reach out to moderate Democrats, including suburban woman and African Americans, to build the broad coalition that will be needed to defeat Donald Trump.

It won’t be easy.  We will hear constant attacks by the Democratic establishment, the mainstream media and Republican SuperPacs branding him a Marxist bent on upheaval and revolution – rather than the FDR Democrat he really is.

If supporting a decent wage for working people, affordable universal health care, free tuition as public colleges and universities and addressing climate change is revolutionary, then the fight is on:

BERNIE SANDERS FOR PRESIDENT!

Flyer Endorsing Bernie Sanders for President

Medicare for All – Or Progressive Overreach?

Bernie Sanders Medicare for All

Elizabeth Warren is right: “We must be willing to fight.”  Politics in this country is totally dysfunctional.  The economy isn’t much better.

We absolutely need “Big Structural Change,” starting with reforming a political system awash in money. A system where wealthy individuals and big corporations write the rules, while middle class wages stagnate; where the rich get richer, not by investing, but off of inflated stock prices and asset values that somehow passes for economic policy.

The thing is – if we are going to fight – let’s make sure it is the right fight.  Medicare for All isn’t going to happen in four years, as Bernie Sander’s Senate bill stipulates.  The health care and insurance industries are a huge part of our economy.  You can’t just upend the system overnight.  You risk major political and economic disruption.

Medicare for All is absolutely the right approach, in our view.  But we have to figure out a way to do it without scaring the hell out of more moderate voters, and handing Republicans a cudgel to beat us with.

How about we keep it simple – a public option that expands Medicare to include prescription drugs, vision and dental.  One that is administered by the Federal government and that anyone can buy into at cost with no insurance companies in the middle making money by denying health services to people in need.

Just to be clear.  It is not Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All who Want it,” or Joe Biden’s “Medicare-like” plan, code language for insurance-company administered “Medicare Advantage” plans.

It is a government-administered, nation-wide public option.  Full-stop.  It allows Medicare for All to be phased in over time as more and more people become aware of its benefits vis-a-vis private insurance including lower costs and higher quality services.

Yes, taxes will still have to go up to cover the additional services, but not nearly as much, at least in the early years, as Elizabeth Warren has advocated in her proposal to pay for Medicare for All.  And, of course, total costs go down because you have a more efficient, nation-wide network without insurance company profits adding to costs.

We can still raise taxes on the wealthy and big corporations, to make our regressive tax system fairer and more progressive.  Let’s just use some of the proceeds to pay for other priorities including education, job training and infrastructure investment.

A true Medicare public option is still a heavy lift.  Just being willing to fight won’t cut it;  we are going to have to fight like hell.  Just as it did during the Obama Administration, the insurance industry is going to attack a public option with everything it has – and it has a lot of money and paid-in-full political influence.

But at the end of the day – or make that the election cycle – we have a lot better chance to bring about real change if we don’t get carried away with over the top rhetoric and set unrealistic goals and timeframes.

Let’s fight to make our system fairer and more progressive, and ensure everyone has access to quality health care.

But let’s do it in a way that brings people along and doesn’t scare the hell out of moderate voters who may need more time to get their head around the idea, despite an onslaught of Republican propaganda, that “We are Not Socialists; We are Progressives” who care about people; who prioritize quality health care over insurance industry profits.

On the Need for Big Structural Change

Big Structural Change

Elizabeth Warren has staked her campaign on the need for “Big Structural Change” and her point is well taken.

Our government has been captured by major corporations and the wealthy.  They exert huge influence behind the scenes, on everything from government regulations, to writing legislation, to the make-up of the court system.

Moderates argue, in effect, we just need to defeat Donald Trump, tweak some policies here and there, and everything will be OK.

Except that long before Trump took office, everything was far from OK.  Trump is merely the latest manifestation of a larger structural issue that undermines the foundation of our democracy – the undue influence of money in politics and a consequent tilt toward Oligarchy.

Joe Biden has it right in this sense – it would be nice to go back to some bygone era when legislators were willing to compromise, to reach across the aisle and come to agreement even on highly contentious issues like busing.

Memo to Joe: bi-partisanship and collegiality in Congress disappeared decades ago as politics grew from a public service vocation into big business: When money and lobbyists started flooding Washington in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  When actors like Newt Gingrich and, more recently Mitch McConnell, began setting a much more partisan agenda effectively dictated by big money interests.

The other problem is that once big corporations and the wealthy take control it is extremely difficult to regain control and restore democratic processes that truly represent the will of a majority of people and not just special interests.

Bernie Sanders has a point:  It will take something akin to a “political revolution” to bring about real change and to pry the Oligarchs from the levers of power.

So how do we fix it?  As Democrats we need to stop arguing incessantly about the minutia of public policy and start talking much more about the overriding issues of our time including the outsized influence of money in politics.

That starts with full disclosure of all political contributions to candidates, labor unions, Super PACs or any organization engaged in political activity.  Full transparency is an absolute cornerstone of democracy.

Then, we should tighten laws so that Federal officials and legislators, after leaving government service, are prohibited from going to work for the very people they are charged with regulating.

And we should fix the electoral system so all people have an equal vote, starting with abolishing the electoral college and fair and non-partisan re-apportionment of congressional districts after each census.

And let’s acknowledge that bringing about real structural change is challenging and stop pretending that all we really need to do is defeat Donald Trump and everything will return to the way it was in the good old days.

It is not going to be that easy; we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.

Bernie Sanders: A True American Hero

Truckers For Bernie

I was filling my car with gas the other day when a truck driver saw the “Bernie 2016” sticker prominently displayed on my back windshield and yelled out, “Will Bernie win?”

“No”, I responded. “I think he’s a little too old.”

To which the truck driver shot back, “Bernie has already won. His ideas have won.”
And, of course, the truck driver is spot-on.

Whether Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination in 2020 or not, he is a genuine American hero whose willingness to fight for progressive ideals over decades has completely upended the political debate: Medicare for all, free college tuition, a $15 minimum wage – we wouldn’t even be talking about these issues today if it weren’t for Bernie Sanders.

The wages of working people in this country have stagnated over decades. Poverty levels in the U.S. are among the highest in the industrialized world. Our politics has descended into chaos. And we have hugely regressive tax system and a federal budget that prioritizes defense spending over the needs of real people.

Bottom line: we need more people, like Bernie, willing to stand up and fight for the right of all people in this country to a decent job, a livable wage, debt-free education, and quality health care.

To so-called “moderate” Democrats, like Joe Biden, “here’s the deal, man”: cozying up to radical right-wing Republicans, holding big-dollar fund-raisers with the very monopolists you are supposed to be regulating, and tinkering around the edges of public policies that are heavily skewed in favor of the wealthy and big corporations may have been acceptable in decades past, but it is no longer good enough.

We need to fix our broken economy and dysfunctional political system, and to do that you have to get down in the trenches, as Bernie has done for his entire career.

So fight on Bernie (along with other progressive Democrats such as Elizabeth Warren) for truckers like the one I talked to, and working people everywhere.

Joe Biden and the Need For Unity

Joe Biden held a campaign rally yesterday at Eakins Oval near the Philadelphia Art Museum and the iconic “Rocky” statue. It was a glorious day. The sun was shining brightly while the Triumph Baptist Church Choir kicked off the rally with a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” among other gospel classics.

People of color, African Americans in particular, were out in force. Working people, including union members, wore blue Biden T-shirts and helped stoke the crowd with chants of “We Want Joe.”

The rally started with a inclusive, optimistic vibe. That is until Joe mounted the podium.  His message of unity in opposition to Trump came across as a bit scripted – long on campaign rhetoric, short on specific policy proposals and the fervor needed to bring about real change.

Progressives want more. Among other things, we want someone who will stand up to the moneyed interests and restore some fairness to an economy that favors the rich while hammering the poor and working class.  

It was telling that the Comcast building in downtown Philadelphia (see photo as left) was a towering backdrop to the event. On the very day he announced his campaign a week ago, Joe attended a big dollar fundraiser at the home of a senior Comcast executive in Philadelphia. It is going to be hard to push a progressive agenda when you take large contributions from the very people you are supposed to regulate.

Joe Biden says he believes in standing on principle, but also in working across the aisle, with Republicans, to get something done. Then he talked about free “community” college. Memo to Joe: the principle at issue is free college tuition so students are not strapped with huge debt to get an education that is increasingly essential to making a decent living.  By limiting your proposal to community college, It sounds a lot like you have compromised on that basic principle before the debate has even begun in earnest.

But there is reason for optimism.  Three years ago, Hillary Clinton preached “Stronger Together” while she and her campaign organization relentlessly attacked Bernie Sanders and the Progressive wing of the party.   Rather than bring the party together, she tore it apart, tragically paving the way for the election of Donald Trump.

Joe Biden has his flaws, but he is unlikely to make that same mistake. Nor is he totally out-of-touch with working people as was Hillary Clinton. Even if he does lean a little too “centrist” for many Progressives, he has strong support, as the Philadelphia rally demonstrated, among minorities and working people.  These are the very folks Democrats need to win the 2020 election and restore American democracy to some semblance of decency.

Joe Biden may not be perfect, but he is likely someone Progressives and others can work with. Regardless of who eventually gets the nomination, we need candidates who will help unify the Democratic Party, and the country, not tear them apart. 

Note to Joe Biden – Please Don’t Run; It Will Only Tarnish Your Legacy

Joe,

You have been an icon of the Democratic Party for decades. Plain spoken and straight shooting. A man of the people.

So what’s not to love?

Answer – Candidate Joe Biden for the Democratic Nomination for President in 2016.  Someone who:

  • At 72 years old, should be passing the baton, not running with it,
  • Has already had a shot, back in ’08, and didn’t fare very well,
  • Is barely indistinguishable in policy positions from another major candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Joe, today, there are too many people in this country living at or near the poverty line;  too many people whose wages are stagnating;  too many people barely treading water to get by day-to-day.

The Democratic Party needs to tackle these issues head on. The Party needs new faces, bold and creative ideas, and people willing to challenge the established order to make things happen and bring about change.

Joe, that is not you, not at this point in you career anyway, and to run now would only tarnish your legacy.