By Ben Tanosborn
Seriously… a Democratic alternative to Hillary Clinton for the US presidency, are you nuts? Crazier yet… from a carpetbagger Vermonter with Brooklynese Jewish roots; are you puffing on still federally-outlawed sweet cannabis?
Senator Bernie Sanders is a true anomaly in American politics, equally disliked by all shades of the political Right, and most shades of the lukewarm political Left. Bernie is the conscience most Americans prefer to keep locked up in a closet; a lamp of reality which must never be turned on, allowing us to continue living in the midst of a deceitful, and dark, political fantasyland.
Coincidentally amazing that the least two populated states, Vermont (49th) and Wyoming (50th), have given us two contemporary politicians so diametrically opposed in their humanity: A compassionate senator, Bernie Sanders, and a cruel, malevolent vice president, Dick Cheney… curiously two modern day reincarnations of those celebrated historical figures in both states: Ethan Allen from patriotic and placid Vermont; and Buffalo Bill from the wild and wooly West of Wyoming. [Somewhat ironic, we must add, that Cheney would be the one swearing in Sanders in 2006 as the newly elected Junior Senator from Vermont.]
America’s corporate press would much prefer not to have to contend with the likes of this Bernie Sanders fellow, a self-identified “democratic socialist” – socialism possessing a taint impossible to overcome in the pigheaded confines of a politically-monolithic and faux democratic America. But, whether out of journalistic courtesy or an opportune show-of-disdain, Candidate Sanders was given a few television rounds, a coverage which allowed him to display a cool and collected political temperament in an often glacial interview climate, Katie Couric (YAHOO) likely offering the best journalistic demeanor and Wolf Blitzer (CNN) the worst among the non-confrontational segment of the media. [An unexpected “treatment” from Blitzer if we consider their backgrounds; both also experiencing the loss of family during the Holocaust…]
It’s only reasonable, and expected, for Fox News or CNBC to be antagonistic to someone like Senator Sanders whose views are anathema to the political Right and Wall Street but, shouldn’t 80 to 90 percent of Americans be more receptive to views advocating a better life for them? Not just economically championing what Bernie identifies as the disappearing middle class, but also at the vanguard of privacy and civil rights, his voice dating back to his nay vote in Congress in 2001 during the initial passage of the Patriot Act. He, together with 62 Democrats and 3 Republicans were soundly defeated (5 to 1 vote) in the House; Feingold, the sole nay in the Senate in that October 2001 vote.
Bernie is the epitome of a squeaky-clean politician standing for all progressive, popular causes that would deliver him the populist vote most anywhere in the world… except in this America of ours. Restraining an anarchical economic globalization, substantially raising the minimum wage, adequately funding Social Security, bringing infrastructure spending to an appropriate standard in line with other first-world nations, narrowing the incredible gap which exists between haves and have-nots, are top issues that the good senator from Vermont would eagerly tackle in debate with anyone, Democrat or Republican. Unfortunately, his candidacy, unlike those of fairly successful independents (Anderson and Perot come to mind during the last 35 years), has little or no appeal to an electorate in the puppetry hands of a wealthy, powerful elite.
I have discussed at length with journalists and academics, both American and foreign, the impossibility for a third-party or independent candidate to make headway in any significant way in American elections, whether local, state or federal. Most interesting, however, is the view from an old peer of mine in graduate school who is in his twilight professorial years at a European university… and I say most interesting because he has followed Bernie Sanders’ political career since first elected as sole congressman for Vermont in 1990; my professor-friend’s curiosity aroused by Sanders’ ascendancy to Congress from the left side of the political spectrum.
“Mr. Sanders,” my friend tells me, “will not be politically undone because of the stigma ‘water-boardingly’ forced on socialism in the US; nor for his friendship with Castro’s friend, Noriega; nor for Stone’s [I.F. Stone] political endorsement; nor for his solidarity with the working man and fiery attacks against his nemesis one-percenters. Even those he is trying to help will turn against him for one simple reason: his constant remarks using European countries as models (economically, socially and politically) for America. That is a sin no American, whether rich or destitute, is willing to forgive.”
Apparently, my friend from graduate school not only took back home a PhD diploma from an American institution, but also an intimate knowledge of how the American mind thinks, or is taught to think. Obviously, Bernie Sanders was not as fortunate in getting that same knowledge while a student in Political Science at the University of Chicago.
Still, Vermont should take pride in its adopted son, a mild-mannered politician, honest and courageous like few others ever elected to serve in congress.