This is part of a series I’m running on the Democratic candidates for 2016. Yesterday I scraped the bottom of the barrel with Hillary Clinton, and today I’ll look at Bernie Sanders.
Normally I’m going to assess the candidates as they enter the race, but I’m making an exception for Bernie, who won’t decide until April 30. I want to cover him whether he runs for president or not, because he’s exactly what this country needs. He gets a perfect rating when I filter him through my presidential litmus test:
1. Free Speech
2. The Middle Class
4. The Drug War
5. Renewable Energy/The Environment
7. Marriage Equality
I’ve never felt this positive about a presidential candidate, or potential candidate, in my entire lifetime.
1. Free Speech: Pass
It sounds crazy that we need to interrogate people in this category, but just look at the example of Hillary to see far we’ve come in efforts to make (yes) opinions illegal. No matter how politically correct the American climate gets, Bernie won’t go there. The First Amendment is inviolate.
2. The Middle Class: Pass (with an A+)
If Elizabeth Warren is a radical reformer, Bernie is a thundering revolutionary. He would take all necessary measures to abolish the ruling 1% — the segment of our population that has come to resemble the elites of ancient agrarian empires — and gods help those who stand in his way. You would think more voters would be on board with such a revolution. The problem is that it involves questioning our entire system of banking and trade deals, which at first blush seems to go against the capitalist spirit. Bernie isn’t anti-capitalist. He simply wants capitalism to work for American families, and not just the corporate execs.
What would his dramatic overhaul look like? Investing more in education — and stopping the government from making huge profits by taxing student loans in order to keep tax loopholes open for millionaires and billionaires. Investing more in medicine, science, engineering, nanotechnology, touch screens, vaccines, gene therapies, GPS — and letting brilliant minds flourish. Raising the minimum wage — and getting the working poor out from having to rely on additional public subsidies. Helping unions. Improving health care. Expanding social security and medicare. The astonishing thing is that this is all what people really want, even when they insist they don’t because it would makes us socialists at best, communists at worst.
When over 99% of the economy’s generated income goes to 1% of the population, and when most working families can’t support themselves decently as they could decades ago, then it’s time to rebuild.
3. Islam: Pass
I have never heard Bernie parrot the absurd myths that “Islam is a religion of peace” (as Bush did) and that jihad groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS “have nothing to do with Islam” (as Obama has). That’s encouraging.
By the same token, he does not use Islamic war-mongering to justify our own. He insists that our involvement against ISIS, for example, be kept to a minimum. Air strikes and the use of special operations forces, yes, when essential. “But,” he continues, “I do not want to see a never-ending quagmire in the Middle East where our troops die, come back with terrible illnesses and we end up spending trillions of dollars. This war is a battle for the soul of Islam and it’s going to have to be the Muslim countries who are stepping up. These are billionaire families all over that region. Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest defense budget in the world. You’ve got billionaire families in Qatar, in the UAE. They have got to be increasingly involved in providing security in their region. They’ve got to get their hands dirty. They’ve got to get their troops on the ground. They’ve got to win that war with our support. We cannot be leading the effort.” That’s right. We can’t keep policing the world.
Bernie’s stance on Israel and Palestine is the right one, and he doesn’t suffer fools from the far left who think that being pro-Israel equates with Zionism or genocide. Both he and Elizabeth Warren have been risibly criticized for being imperialist war-mongers, when they should be praised for their moderate pro-Israel stance favoring a two-state solution.
4. The Drug War: Pass
Bernie has voted against the war on drugs and has pushed strongly for legalizing marijuana. I’m encouraged that he will see the decriminalization of all drugs to be the only humane solution.
5. Renewable Energy/The Environment: Pass (with an A)
Bernie has gone after climate-change deniers like a junkyard dog. He has introduced solar-power plans, which have been shot down by his colleagues. He’s as green as they come.
6. Choice: Pass
7. Marriage Equality: Pass
“I am proud,” Bernie says, “to represent the first state in the country [Vermont] to allow civil unions and the first state where the legislature allowed same-sex marriage without a court order.” Enough said.
In Short —
Bernie is a presidential messiah. Like most messiahs, he will call forth hordes of enemies to drown the voices of his fervent followers. In other words, he doesn’t stand a snowflake’s chance in the deepest recesses of hell. My hope is that at the very least, his thundering persona will catch the attention of enough citizens and start a grass-roots movement to take America back.
Overall rating: 10/10.
NEXT UP: Martin O’Malley.