Warming Up To The Bern

By D. Allan Kerr

Damn kids. You try to make a logical, cold-minded decision and then they infuse you with ideology and principle.

Meddling KidsAs I imagine is the case with millions of other families right now, ours is engaged in an intergenerational debate about which 2020 candidate represents the Democrats’ best chance to reclaim the White House.

For many, it’s become a decision between the candidate the voter wants and the one the voter thinks will win.

The New York Times perfectly illustrated the dilemma this week with their rather wishy-washy decision to endorse not one but two Dem candidates – Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobacher.

For me, Joe Biden has seemed like the Democrat who can best appeal to Middle America. He’s capable of connecting with working-class voters, and doesn’t come across as a pre-programmed politician. I don’t know yet if Biden is a great man but I know he’s a good one, and our country needs that right now.

Two of my sons, however, are pressing the case for Bernie Sanders.

No surprise – they’re both artsy hippie-types. One of them even graduated from the University of Vermont in Burlington, where Bernie started out as mayor. People accuse me of being a liberal because of my occasional diatribes on Donald Trump but trust me, these kids are genuine lefties.

I consider myself an independent, as is Bernie.

But I was concerned he could wind up being another George McGovern or Eugene McCarthy – a candidate who can fire up youthful voters yet lacks much range beyond that demographic. Bernie, I’m told, has far wider appeal.

BernieOne stance beyond dispute is his genuine, almost-fervent commitment to working-class people.

Others can claim to be a champion of the working man (and woman), but Bernie has actually lived what he preaches.

For years he’s advocated for improved health care and wage increases, and attacked corporate tax loopholes and outsized influence in policy.

When fellow candidate Pete Buttigieg was just 18 years old, he won a national Profile in Courage essay contest conducted by the John F. Kennedy Library. His subject was a Vermont congressman named Bernie Sanders.

“Sanders’ positions on many difficult issues are commendable, but his real impact has been as a reaction to the cynical climate which threatens the effectiveness of the democratic system,” Buttigieg wrote of his current rival 20 years ago.

“His energy, candor, conviction, and ability to bring people together stand against the current of opportunism, moral compromise, and partisanship which runs rampant on the American political scene,” Buttigieg wrote.

I tell my boys some voters may be scared off by the “socialist” label applied to Bernie, but they say folks who take the time to actually examine his policies will realize he’s the best representative for the blue-collar crowd.

Capitalist System 2 editSome voters simply need to shed their ingrained, almost serf-like worship of a capitalist system so overwhelmingly skewed in favor of their employers.

Personally, I’ve never been big on socialism, but I’ll sure as hell consider that before I follow a fascist.

An ongoing media “Bernie blackout” has underplayed his successes in both this campaign and 2016, which shouldn’t be a surprise – major news outlets are owned by some of the huge corporations he calls out daily. So it’s a good idea to do your own research not only on Bernie, but any candidate you are considering.

I don’t agree with all of Bernie’s positions. I don’t see how a mandatory $15 minimum wage helps a small business struggling to survive. I don’t know if the entire Medicare system needs to be overhauled, but it’d be nice if more people had access to affordable health care.

I do appreciate his longstanding support of veterans, which seems to be another underreported issue. He formerly chaired the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and in 2014 he and the late John McCain pushed thru a bill to expand VA hospitals and clinics and hire more doctors and nurses in the wake of that agency’s scandal.

My sons shared a remarkable Youtube clip of Bernie arguing with Republican senators on behalf of former military members for another bill he sponsored that year, which would have expanded veterans health care, education and job training.

Republicans complained the programs were too costly in the face of our national debt at the time.

“If you think it’s too expensive to take care of veterans, don’t send them to war,” Bernie retorted.

And just a couple years later these Republicans were all in on Trump’s tax cuts. Go figure.

I still think Biden’s a good candidate, but if it’s going to take a revolution to reclaim this country for the “99 percent” then perhaps Bernie’s the fire-and-brimstone torchbearer who can get it done.

Imagine an election campaign where Trump, the wealthy pampered daddy’s boy, has to convince voters he has a deeper understanding and concern for the working man than Bernie Sanders.

Or as a brilliant recent Jacobin magazine article put it, “a contest between Sanders and Trump would present American voters with a stark choice: the populist who wants to win you health care and cancel your debt, or the rich prick who doesn’t care if you live or you die so long as your boss gets paid.”

Trump is the billionaire who figured voters wouldn’t mind rich people and corporations pocketing millions of dollars from his tax cuts if working-class folks got back a few hundred.

Trump promised to protect Medicare and Social Security, but just this week admitted he’s open to cutting those programs.

Woodcutter and AxeMakes me think of the Asian fable a friend recently posted on Facebook:

“The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe. For the axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was wood he was one of them.”

Whatever you think of Bernie, he is what he says he is.

D. Allan Kerr would love to see four more years of Larry David portraying Bernie.

(Jan. 29, 2020)

Follow D. Allan Kerr on Twitter @Sloth_Blog and on Facebook

He can also be found on www.seacoastonline.com

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