Who is Bernie Sanders?
What is he proposing to do? Can he do it?
Presidential election circus episode 4
Two weeks ago in Michigan, a state that used to make America’s cars, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the state’s presidential primary -- which should have been huge news. As usual, the TV and print media led with the more hairy news – that Trump won Michigan’s Republican primary.
In fact, the US media (and even our own ABC) have gone to ludicrous extremes to shun Sanders like a plague, even though he’s a way more important story than Trump is.
The media are not just slaves to the big bad corporate bosses, they are also conventional thinkers, and no one saw Bernie coming as a real contender to be the Democratic candidate -- even Bernie didn’t! In Michigan, all the polls said he’d lose, and the nation’s hottest prediction website, Five Thirty Eight, said Clinton had a 37 percentage point lead. More than a million people showed up on the day and 595,222 of them voted for Bernie.
Why? Nate Silver, America’s top pollster, says he’d assumed that people under 50 would make up less than a quarter of all voters in this primary; they made up more than half instead, and Sanders won 81 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds. And he won most of the surprisingly large number of independent voters who turned out on the day. (America now has more registered independents than either Democrats or Republicans.) And he got more African-Americans’ support than pollsters said he would.
Even though the Clintons have long “won the black vote,” some in northern states like Michigan now see Sanders as more in their interests than Hillary would be. In the 11 states of the old Confederacy, where African-Americans now dominate the Democratic Party, Clinton has won about 68 percent of primary votes, but all the remaining primaries are in non-Southern states where Sanders has so far scored 57 percent, which bodes well for the old civil rights campaigner.
So, who is Sanders?
Just a few months ago a hot-shot Democratic Party consultant told my mate Jim Hightower, who’s a former Dem politician from Texas himself, to forget about Bernie: “Who’s gonna vote for an old senator from a tiny state of Birkenstock-wearers damn near in Canada? [Vermont] And for chrissake, Hightower, he's Jewish. Plus, he's some sort of socialist, right?"
Actually, Sanders, born in 1943, was raised in a low-income Brooklyn family, became a student activist and civil rights protestor at the University of Chicago in the '60s, then moved to Vermont with his girlfriend. He worked there as a carpenter, filmmaker, and writer, but his heart was in grassroots politics, and in 1980 he stunned the Democratic old guard in Burlington by being elected mayor in what he gleefully called a “10-vote landslide”. He served three terms as mayor, then was elected to the US Congress, next a US senator, and … to be continued.
Why is he running?
Last November Sanders told Rolling Stone: " I am running for one simple reason: This country today is facing extraordinary crises [from] climate change, income and wealth inequality…a corrupt political system which is leading us toward oligarchy…the collapse of the middle class… more people in jail than any other country on Earth …an immigration policy which is clearly completely broken. I just do not believe that establishment politics are going to address these issues. We need millions of people to stand up and fight back."
That’s why Bernie is appealing to the young, the poor, and the seriously disillusioned middle class -- but just last week, Asher Edelman, the man who inspired the greedhead character of Gordon Gekko in the film Wall St praised the Sanders’ plan for the economy: “When you have the top one percent getting money, they spend five to ten percent of what they earn. When you have the lower end of the economy getting money, they spend a hundred, or a hundred and ten percent of what they earn. As you’ve had a transfer of wealth to the top, and a transfer of income to the top, you have a shrinking consumer base, basically, and you have a shrinking velocity of money.”
“Bernie is the only person out there who I think is talking at all about both fiscal stimulation and banking rules that will get the banks to generate lending again as opposed to speculation.”
Bernie has shared the Congressional corridors with Wall St types, but he also understands that many Trump supporters are infuriated and scared because they've lost jobs, homes, and hope to greed, personified by the earlier version of Edelman. "You have a right to be angry," Sanders tells the Trumpeteers, so let's work together "to create an agenda and a political movement that will make your life better, not just other people's lives worse."
Bernie has already changed the debate inside the Democratic party. These days Clinton is forced to talk about real people’s issues such as Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, the job-destroying effects of Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership, whether Wall Street's control of America's money should be busted up, pay equity for women, free higher education for all (paid for with a "Robin Hood Tax" on stock speculators), getting corporate money out of politics, the expansion of Social Security, rebuilding America's infrastructure, and more.
Bernie’s secret money strategy
Clinton’s still getting the huge checks from Wall Streeters. Sanders’ main fat cat donors are Ben and Jerry, founders of the Vermont-based ice-cream biz. Most of the phenomenal $100 million plus his campaign has raised so far has come from more than four million enthusiasts who’ve pitched in less than $30 each.
Ever since the Supreme Court’s inaptly-named “Citizens United” decision allowed a tsunami of billionaires’ bucks to buy elections, liberal Americans have demanded the Court overturn that decision, and bolder progressive are demanding that elections be publically funded, as some state contests already are.
Bernie’s secret strategy, which just might make him President, was to take Obama’s small-donors/social media campaigns, but with an uncompromised message -- not “HOPE” but LET’S DO THIS -- and he has raised more than twice what Obama’s small donors gave, and he’s still raising more every week than the previous week. Who knows, by Nov 8th this people’s candidate could beat the multi-billionaire’s puppet candidates (Trump being his own puppet) with old-fashioned plans to put people back in charge, and, equally extraordinarily, a moral context of right and wrong.
Could Bernie win?
At first, the biggest argument against Sanders was that he couldn't win the general election, but polls have been showing for months that if the November election were held today, Sanders would defeat any of the potential Republican nominees--winning by margins greater than Clinton could.
The media, still blindsided by reality, continues to ignore him.