It can be difficult to talk about politics these days. It’s especially hard to talk about politics on social media. And having a meaningful conversation via text message is not much easier. Too often, misunderstandings and conflict arise – not from radical differences of opinion or belief – but from the limitations imposed by technology. We make hasty, lazy arguments because we can only type so fast on our touchscreens, and we have to keep things moving before another reply comes in. We don’t always take the time to think about how others might interpret our words. In person, we have the benefits of facial expression and body language to augment our imperfect language. But, still, it’s not always much better. We all carry the baggage of our relationships, our preconceptions about the other side, and the last thing we heard on our media channels of choice. We’re all sick and tired of carrying on imaginary arguments in our heads, long after the conversation has ended.
So in the interest of keeping things civil, while still sharing my opinion, I’m putting it down in writing. If I sent you a link to this post, it’s my way of saying, I care what you think and how you vote, but want to give you the room to think about my opinion on your own terms and in your own time, or maybe just altogether ignore me if that’s where you’re at.
If you know me well, you know this doesn’t preclude also having a personal conversation. I’m always down to talk tofurkey. But if you want a preview of my take, read on, friend.
Who is Bernie Sanders?
The defining characteristic of Bernie Sanders is consistency. I know who Bernie Sanders is, and so do you. He has spent his entire adult life fighting for social and economic justice. He was deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement during the 1960s and 70s. He worked as a union organizer, a teacher, and a carpenter, among other jobs, before going into politics. Bernie first made a name for himself in 1980 when he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont on the strength of his campaign for fair housing. He beat a Republican incumbent in 1990 to become a member of the House of Representatives, where he became one of the most productive members of the GOP-controlled House (Rolling Stone called him “the amendment king” in a 2005 article), and co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He has served as a US Senator since 2007, and he took on the Democratic establishment during the 2016 primaries, fighting for – and achieving – “the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.” Throughout his career, his basic positions have not changed one bit. Don’t believe me? Check out this 1981 interview with Phil Donahue.
It sounds pretty similar to his 2016 and 2020 presidential runs. He identifies what he is fighting against (control of our electoral and economic systems by corporations and the ultra-rich) and who he is fighting for (unions, workers, poor and middle class people). This, in itself, may not be all that unique. After all, these are recurring talking points for many Democratic politicians. But no politician has talked the talk and walked the walk more consistently, forcefully, and effectively than Bernie Sanders – not in my lifetime, at least.
The Case Against Politics as Usual
If Bernie Sanders was only running on his past achievements and his words of solidarity with workers, he would probably still win my vote. But there is much more to it. The fact that Bernie has a meaningful critique of capitalism cannot – and should not – be understated. The fact is, for all the marvels that capitalism has brought us (arguable, but I’ll let you have it), it has also brought us to the brink of global catastrophe. And, moreover, the benefits of capitalism are not at all equitably-distributed. The richest, most powerful people in this country – the ones who control our democracy and economy – did not earn it; they stole it. They stole it by breaking up unions, by exploiting low-wage workers, by forming monopolies and anti-competitive markets, by spreading lies though the media companies they own, by demanding tax cuts that kill social programs, by privatizing the public sphere, and, in the ultimate coup, by winning the legal right to buy elections. As a result, voting rights, consumer rights, and workers’ rights are under constant attack; our infrastructure is crumbling; our democratic system – such that it exists – is being weakened with every passing day; and the planet we live on is dying – not for lack of plausible solutions, but because fixing the problem means changing the very foundation of our economic and political life. While that may sound scary, it is nonetheless necessary.
Some Democratic candidates think that a few technocratic pieces of legislation will be sufficient to save us. And hey, at least it’s something. But, in my view, the time for “at least it’s something” is long-over. We’ve been settling for “at least it’s something” from the Democratic Party since before Ronald Reagan showed up and said, “how about fucking nothing?” (to much applause). In fact, the Democratic Party has met the GOP in the middle at nearly every turn over the past thirty years: voting for wars that are both pointless and endless, signing off on “free trade deals” (which are actually investor rights agreements) that send jobs overseas, enthusiastically embracing mass incarceration through overtly-racist “tough on crime” legislation, enabling media consolidation, and feebly addressing the healthcare crisis with the ACA, an overly-complicated private-sector plan designed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and including nearly 200 GOP amendments (in exchange for zero votes). The radical right-wing nature of the GOP may be at the root of our national problem, but the Democratic Party establishment doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that they can be the solution.
In short, we need a candidate who shares – and will fight for – our values. And we need one that is willing to take that fight to both the Republican and Democratic machines. Bernie has been doing just that for forty years. And despite what at least one widely-loathed narcissist might tell you, he has done so successfully, all while becoming one of the most trusted and well-liked politicians in recent memory. I like Bernie. I trust Bernie. And I’m confident we can win.
As much as I would love to run through Bernie’s entire platform, I think I’ll leave that for the official campaign website. Below are some links to his policies, along with quoted bullet points for each. I encourage you to read through the full details by clicking the links. Or, feel free to scroll down to my FAQ, which follows.
- A Welcoming and Safe America for All
- Institute a moratorium on deportations until a thorough audit of past practices and policies is complete.
- Reinstate and expand DACA and develop a humane policy for those seeking asylum.
- Completely reshape and reform our immigration enforcement system, including breaking up ICE and CBP and redistributing their functions to their proper authorities.
- Dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers and reunite families who have been separated.
- Live up to our ideals as a nation and welcome refugees and those seeking asylum, including those displaced by climate change.
- Medicare for All
- Create a Medicare for All, single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.
- No networks, no premiums, no deductibles, no copays, no surprise bills.
- Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include: include dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care, in-patient and out-patient services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, reproductive and maternity care, prescription drugs, and more.
- Stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people by making sure that no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine they need by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs under Medicare for All.
- Green New Deal
- Transform our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.
- Ensure a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
- Ensure justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
- Save American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
- Commit to reducing emissions throughout the world, including providing $200 billion to the Green Climate Fund, rejoining the Paris Agreement, and reasserting the United States’ leadership in the global fight against climate change.
- Invest in conservation and public lands to heal our soils, forests, and prairie lands.
- End the greed of the fossil fuel industry and hold them accountable.
- College for All
- Guarantee tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, HBCUs, Minority Serving Institutions and trade-schools to all.
- Cancel all student loan debt for the some 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.
- Invest $1.3 billion every year in private, non-profit historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions
- End equity gaps in higher education attainment. And ensure students are able to cover non-tuition costs of attending school by: expanding Pell Grants to cover non-tuition and fee costs, tripling funding for the Work-Study Program, and more.
- Workplace Democracy
- Double union membership within Bernie’s first term.
- Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”
- Provide unions the ability to organize through a majority sign up process and enact “first contract” provisions to ensure companies cannot prevent a union from forming by denying a first contract.
- Deny federal contracts to companies that pay poverty wages, outsource jobs overseas, engage in union busting, deny good benefits, and pay CEOs outrageous compensation packages
- Eliminate “Right to Work for Less” laws and guarantees the right to unionize for workers historically excluded from labor protections, like farm workers and domestic workers.
- Housing for All
- End the housing crisis by investing $2.5 trillion to build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.
- Protect tenants by implementing a national rent control standard, a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, and ensuring the right to counsel in housing disputes.
- Make rent affordable by making Section 8 vouchers available to all eligible families without a waitlist and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.
- Combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and speculation.
- End homelessness and ensure fair housing for all
- Revitalize public housing by investing $70 billion to repair, decarbonize, and build new public housing.
- Expand Social Security
- Expand Social Security benefits for all recipients and protect pensions.
- Guarantee home and community based long-term care services.
- Protect our most vulnerable seniors by quadrupling funding for the Older Americans Act and expanding other programs seniors rely on.
- Expand and train the direct care workforce we need.
- Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans
- Eliminate the VA benefits backlog, fully fund and resource the VA, and reverse the disastrous privatization of services for veterans.
- Fill the nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA in Bernie’s first year.
- Provide at least $62 billion in new funding to repair, modernize and rebuild VA infrastructure.
- Expand the VA’s Caregivers Program as well as mental health services for veterans.
- Reform harmful VA regulations that restrict access to care and benefits based on character of discharge.
- Justice and Safety for All
- End for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom by: by banning for-profit prisons and detention centers, ending cash bail, and making prison and jail communications, re-entry, diversion and treatment programs fee-free.
- Ensure due process and right to counsel by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders to meet their needs.
- Cut the national prison population in half and end mass incarceration by abolishing the death penalty, three strikes laws, and mandatory minimum sentences, as well as expanding the use of alternatives to detention
- Transform the way we police communities by end the War on Drugs by legalizing marijuana and expunging past convictions, treating children who interact with the justice system as children, reversing the criminalization of addiction, and ending the reliance on police forces to handle mental health emergencies, homelessness, maintenance violations, and other low-level situations.
- Reform our decrepit prison system, guarantee a “Prisoners Bill of Rights,” and ensure a just transition for incarcerated individuals upon their release.
- Reverse the criminalization of communities, end cycles of violence, provide support to survivors of crime, and invest in our communities.
- Ensure law enforcement accountability and robust oversight, including banning the use of facial recognition software for policing.
- Eliminating Medical Debt
- Eliminate all of the $81 billion in past-due medical debt held by 79 million Americans —one in every six Americans.
- Reform bankruptcy laws to use the existing bankruptcy court system to provide relief for those with burdensome medical debt.
- Create a secure public credit registry to replace for-profit credit reporting agencies.
- Reinvest in Public Education
- Combat racial discrimination and school segregation
- End the unaccountable profit-motive of charter schools
- Provide equitable funding for public schools
- Give teachers a much-deserved raise by setting a starting salary for teachers at no less than $60,000, expanding collective bargaining rights and teacher tenure, and funding out-of-pocket expenses for classroom materials.
- Strengthens the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) by ensuring that the federal government provides at least 50 percent of the funding for special education and giving special education teachers the support they need.
- Provide year-round, free universal school meals, and incentivizes locally sourced food.
- Make schools safe and inclusive by protecting the rights of all students from harassment, discrimination, and violence and enacting comprehensive gun violence prevention laws.
- Rebuild, modernize, and green our nation’s schools.
- Tax on Extreme Wealth
- Establish an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households.
- Only apply to net worth of over $32 million and anyone who has a net worth of less than $32 million, would not see their taxes go up at all under this plan.
- Will raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade and cut the wealth of billionaires in half over 15 years, which would substantially break up the concentration of wealth and power of this small privileged class.
- Ensure that the wealthy are not able to evade the tax by implementing strong enforcement policies.
- Fair Banking for All
- Cap consumer loans and credit cards rates at 15 percent across all financial institutions and allow states to go even further.
- Allow every post office to offer basic and affordable banking services and end lending discrimination.
- Supporting HBCUs and MSIs
- Make all public and private HBCUs, tribal colleges, and many MSIs tuition-free
- Invest $10 billion to create and expand HBCU medical, dental, and teacher training graduate programs
- Invest $5 billion in HBCU infrastructure grants and cancel all institutional HBCU loan debt from the Capital Financing Program
- Double Title III and Title V funds to decrease the funding gap between HBCUs and MSIs and predominantly white institutions
- Issue an Executive Order that strengthens the White House Initiative on HBCUs to eliminate racial disparities in our college education system
Frequently Asked Questions
(Okay, just to be clear, these are my words again… )
I will add to this FAQ as needed – if you have a Q, A me!
Isn’t it time for a female president?
Yes, absolutely, and there is indeed one progressive female candidate in this race (Elizabeth Warren). Rather than tell you what I think is missing from Warren’s campaign, I’ll simply suggest you read this article, written by women who make a very strong case that supporting Bernie is feminist and in the interest of women’s progress more broadly. Here’s a preview:
Feminists should consider who among the candidates can be counted on to fight for women — and indeed for all of the 99 percent […] Only his campaign is committed to building a movement for the sort of big structural change that women need. The Sanders campaign understands, too, that such a movement requires expanding our sense of solidarity. By asking us “to fight for people we don’t know,” it challenges feminists to join in antiracist, ecological, immigrant rights, labor, and other pro-working-class struggles, even as we also fight against sexism.Nancy Fraser & Liza Featherstone, Why Bernie is the True Feminist Choice
“Something… something… DEMOCRATIC PARTY!”
Bernie is the anti-establishment candidate within the Democratic race. Technically, he’s an Independent who caucuses with the Democratic Party. If you don’t like Democrats, take heart in the fact that Bernie isn’t one. If you do like Democrats, know that Bernie is trying to save the Party from itself (and/or trying to save us from its worst inclinations). If he were trying to destroy the Democratic Party, he wouldn’t have endorsed (and campaigned hard for) Hillary Clinton in 2016; he would have run as a third-party candidate. If he loses this primary, he will almost certainly take the same course in 2020. For better or worse (it’s worse), we have a two-party system and an anti-democratic electoral college. So you work with what you’ve got.
Doesn’t Bernie want to take away my private health insurance?
Well, sort of. But that’s good. Bernie wants to create a universal, taxpayer-supported healthcare system. This is how almost every developed country does it, so we have plenty of evidence that it works and has many advantages. Not only does it create better health outcomes, it does so at a lower cost by removing the insurance companies’ profit motive and bargaining with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies for the most reasonable rate. No more co-pays, no more (constantly-rising) monthly premiums, no more prescriptions that cost more than a house, no more medical debt. In a nutshell, no more of this nightmarish bullshit. So instead of paying too much for insurance (or fighting to have your employer pay too much for your insurance, rather than fighting your employer for, I dunno, better pay or workplace safety), you pay a tax that is actually less than private insurance. In return, you get better healthcare. And so does everyone else.
Aren’t taxes on the rich bad for the economy?
The short answer is no, they’re not. Nearly all economists agree that lowering taxes on the richest minority does nothing to stimulate the economy. We’ve been lowering taxes on the rich for several decades with the promise that the wealth would “trickle down” in the form of new investment. But the reality is that real wages for American workers is lower than ever, even as American workers have become vastly more productive. Since the 1970s, we’ve work harder and produced more wealth than our parents’ generation while getting paid less for the value we create. During the most prosperous period in American history – the 1950s and 1960s, when the American middle class expanded and thrived – the top tax rate was around 90%. Bernie’s slogan is Billionaires should not exist. Period. It is not only immoral, it is economically- and politically-unhealthy to allow that much wealth and power to be held by so few.
But won’t it be impossible for Bernie to get anything done?
Without a doubt, any Democrat who enters the White House will need to contend with an uncooperative Republican Congress, as well as courts that have been packed with unqualified goons by the Trump administration. The main advantage Bernie has over other candidates is that he is building a movement and, unlike President Obama, will not be afraid to use it to push the culture forward. When Obama was elected in 2008, he did so by building up a huge grassroots movement. Tragically, he shut down that movement as soon as he entered office. Bernie’s movement is here to stay, win or lose. And it won’t end when he leaves office. The kind of change we need will take longer than a presidential term. It could take an entire generation. But we have to start now.
Aren’t Bernie’s supporters a bunch of angry white dudes?
Not even close. Bernie’s base is more diverse than any other candidate in the field. Current polling indicates he has a larger percentage of women, a larger percentage of non-white voters, a larger percentage of voters under 45, and generally a larger percentage of all American voters. So making generalizations about his supporters as a whole is ridiculous. Nothing Bernie or his campaign staff have ever said could be construed as encouraging divisiveness or incivility. Nonetheless, the corporate media have invented a narrative about toxic “Bernie Bros” harassing people online. Of course, the internet – like the world – is full of jerks. I am sure that some of those jerks voice their support of Bernie in ways that are counterproductive and rude, to say the very least. But that’s hardly representative of the Sanders campaign or Bernie’s supporters in general.
The system is rigged. Why should I care?
The system is rigged. That’s precisely why you should care. This may be our last, best chance to un-rig it. Get over yourself and get involved.