Bernie Sanders confounds the naysayers
Perceptions by Gerry Warner
I have to admit that until six months or so ago, I hadn’t heard of Bernie Sanders. Maybe you hadn’t either. Now, Bernie has a realistic chance of becoming president of the US and is inspiring people around the world, especially young people.
What’s going on here?
To answer the above, I think you have to take a very close look at “here” By here, I mean 2016 and I mean everywhere, not just the US. The wars in the Middle East have been grinding on for almost 20 years with no end in sight and setting off a migration of Biblical proportions that’s even flooding into Canada not to mention most of Europe and parts of the US.
And who was one of the few American Congressmen to vote against the invasion of Iraq in 2002? Bernie Sanders.
Let’s go even further back to 1962 when Sanders was a student at the University of Chicago and took part in the first civil rights sit-in in Chicago’s history against the university’s segregated housing policy that didn’t allow blacks to live in dorms on campus.
As Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Sanders was the first mayor in the city’s history to fund public housing. He also balanced the budget and engaged the city in several downtown revitalization projects and overturned a developer’s plan to build an expensive condo development on the city’s waterfront and turned the land into a downtown park.
After serving four terms as mayor, Sanders got elected to Congress as an independent, the first independent elected to Congress in 40 years. And if this wasn’t enough, he was elected as a socialist, one of the most vilified terms in American politics and not exactly a compliment in Canada either. But this didn’t stop him nor the fact that he was a Brooklyn-born New York Jew.
As an independent Congressman for 16 years, Sanders attacked the policies of both Republicans and Democrats alike and accused both of working primarily for the wealthy. He voted against the Patriot Act and was a vocal critic of Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, who he accused of being “way out of touch” with ordinary Americans and blamed his economic policies for helping to trigger the Great Recession of 2008 – 2009.
As a Senator elected in 2012 with 71 per cent of the vote, Sanders maintained his independent standing but supported Democratic legislation regularly and bitterly opposed George Bush era tax cuts in a filibuster that was later published as “A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class.” In the 2012 election, he was encouraged to run for president against Obama but declined. However, on April 30, 2015, Sanders, now ranked as the most popular Senator in the country, announced his quixotic crusade to seek the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton, at which point most of the political pundits in North America laughed including this one. But the laughing ceased after the Iowa caucuses when Sanders came within a hair of upsetting the powerful former First Lady, whose power is only exceeded by the baggage she carries after a long and checkered political career.
So where does this leave us now?
Perhaps the famous soliloquy in the Oscar-winning movie Network sums it up best – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” In many ways Bernie Sanders is a real life version of Howard Beale, the charismatic TV host who rightly sensed the anger so many people hold against all politicians be they presidential, federal or local. What do you think Donald Trump has been feeding on the past six months? Everyone is pissed off with politicians! The same on this side of the border, which saw Stephen Harper suffer such an ignominious defeat.
People know they’re being lied to. They know the economic “recovery” is only happening on Wall Street and Bay Street and sending our young men to war only pleases ISIS and the international arms dealers.
They want someone truly different and not someone “different” like a billionaire who wants to build walls, or an evangelical who claims he’s on a mission from God or the wife of a former president who feels she’s owed the presidency.
They want someone “different,” who can feel their pain and is not going to B.S. them that their prospects are improving when they know they’re not. And someone who has enough guts to be a socialist in the most un-socialistic country in the world.
Watch Sanders in this presidential race. Like Justin Trudeau, he might come from the back of the pack to win.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who admits he was once a politician too.