What's Wrong With Bernie Sanders?
|Bernie Sanders on CNN|
Bernie Sanders has seized on that willful inattention to roll out a sound bite campaign that's perfect for those who think watching the news on television is a great way to get their information.
Sanders pisses me off because he's appealing to the worst in Americans, coughing out slogans dreamed up in the shower, favored for their visceral appeal, giving our fellow citizens one more opportunity to think small and vote badly. While feeling self-righteous, just as Bernie does.
But there's something worse, something ugly and insidious. He tells audiences steeped in mass media cynicism that the system is "rigged" against them.
Did they need another reason not to become active, to dig deeper into the issues, to vote as so many already fail to do?
Sanders' negativity and cynical approach is bound to turn off a sizable number of voters who will see his inevitable defeat, not as a referendum, but as proof that he was right all along. It's rigged, even though each of us has an equal opportunity to pull the lever in the voting booth, according to Bernie. So why switch off the TV and get out of your chair? It's rigged!
Bernie Sanders on the Issues
For my money there is no more critical issue woven into our social fabric than our centuries long failure to deal humanely with race. Race, as any good biologist knows, is not real. It's an inflated distinction, skin deep, not anything significant in our DNA. But because Americans have never resolved our history of inequality toward minorities of any color, divisions are deep and raw.
Those divisions enflame conversations about the safety net, employment, crime and education.
Sanders is not silent on these issues. He takes the time to blow them off, acknowledging that minorities barely know who he is let alone support his campaign. His Twelve Steps Forward manifesto says nothing about the racial divide that has been so clearly exposed with our first black president.
You could say the same about gender. Let's assume that his asinine opinion articles written decades ago reflect ideas he outgrew. Let's not assume they've been replaced by any greater awareness of the problems of gender that tear at our social fabric as badly as those of race, until he shows us they have.
The Twelve Steps
As these make up Sanders' manifesto, let's look at them one at a time.
|Bernie Sanders on Twitter|
- Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure. Hooray! President Obama and others have been making this appeal for years. Sanders wants to spend $1 trillion on it. Anyone holding their breath as they cross one of our aging bridges would agree, but Sanders says nothing, as usual, about how. Where would the money come from? He contrasts it with the money wasted on the Bush wars a decade ago and their lingering costs. That aging burden does not resolve this one. And as he surely knows, the American public has recently voted into office representatives far more interested in pouring your tax dollars into the military than into upgrading our aging infrastructure. How will he fix that? Sanders doesn't say, but his polarizing rhetoric certainly makes the compromises necessary harder to obtain.
- Reversing Climate Change. Sanders says we should lead the world. Well, we do, but in the wrong direction. Voters have been convinced, according to their actions at the ballot box, that improving the environment will cost jobs and the tradeoff isn't worth it. How will he convince them otherwise and get them to elect partners willing to work with him? How will he respond to the Third World nations now demanding their right to pollute at will as we have in building their own economies? Here, as in so many other place, Sanders does not recognize much of a universe outside our borders.
- Creating Worker Co-ops. Here, Bernie strains to infuse the future with his Sixties hippie dreams. I was a hippie too. I love co-ops. I love them so much, I want the the government to keep as far away as possible. Talk about government overreach? Sheesh. Will Bernie get someone to launder my jeans too?
- Growing the Trade Union Movement. Wouldn't that be great? But are the workers really interested or should we just mandate it? Many people like me learned from hard experience that the labor unions were not going to help us. The unions lost membership as much from losing our faith as anything else. The monumental corruption was bad enough, but on the street, the self-serving disinterest in the real issues of members turned us off. We weren't forced out of unions. We left. Sanders needs to sell us on what the unions have to offer that will serve us better than we already do on our own.
- Raising the Minimum Wage. There are two issues here that Sanders' oversimplification ignores. First, the congressional budget office has reported that even a raise to a meager $10.10 would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. Are they wrong? If so, how? If not, what will Sanders suggest to counter the job loss? No answers, of course. The second issue is so obvious, it should be in bold: Don't Americans already support substandard wages every time they walk into Walmart or McDonald's. If this issue really mattered to most of us, why are we voting with our feet in favor of wages that force full time workers onto welfare? I listened hard but didn't hear Bernie chastising any of those liberals rallying around him for their spending habits? (I did hear my old hero Phil Ochs singing, "Love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal.)
- Pay Equity for Women Workers. We already have a law that requires it. It fails. Women earn nearly 25% less for the same work as men. What's he going to do about it besides sloganeering that's already been done a thousand times? This issue has sickened me for a long time. I want solutions, don't you? As they say, even the generals claim to hate war. But who does anything to change it? In the war for fair wages, not Bernie Sanders.
- Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers. Here, Sanders exposes his naiveté and his isolationism. He rails against international trade agreements without nodding to the fact, demonstrated in studies, that they have been the single most beneficial influence in improving world poverty levels. He also ignores the fact that these agreements have made American companies more competitive. Does he prefer to see workers lose jobs because of declining revenues instead? Apple is the most highly valued company in the world and America's greatest taxpayer. That would not be so, were it not for trade agreements that make it feasible to operate outside our country, but since Apple sells tons of products to China, shouldn't they be allowed to employ workers there on a competitive basis too? Join the rest of the world, Bernie. American can't hog it all under false pretenses anymore. Those days are over.
- Making College Affordable for All. The simplemindedness of this slogan is dizzying as much as it is disingenuous. Of course college should be affordable for all and probably free. How does he propose to pay for it? He actually does have a plan here, a subtle set of fees on stock transactions. Will it be enough, and what are the real costs anyway? Bernie fails to note that the primary forces driving the skyrocketing cost of education are 1) expanding administration and compensation for it; 2) too many programs offered than make sense or can be paid for; and most subtly 3) the education lobby's success in convincing Americans that they must go to college, no matter the cost. By the way, a small chunk out of the so-called defense budget would cover it easily, even more easily if anyone clamped down on administrative excesses.
- Taking on Wall Street. The liberals' favorite whipping boy or a straw man masking the greed of Americans in general that have led to excesses. It's a standard with this candidate to blame the big dogs while treating the rabble as made up of innocents. Sanders whines that six Wall Street financial institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in American and issue two-thirds of the credit cards. Well, so what? Somebody has to. Where specifically is the harm? How would we be better off with others providing these services? Financing homeownership and offering credit to working families used to be considered a service. Sanders fails utterly to explain why it is now an evil. He seems to be attacking success, unless proven otherwise.
- Healthcare as a Right for All. I couldn't agree more. He wants a single-payer, Medicare-style system. So do I? But a huge chunk of my fellow citizens disagree and elect representatives who want to repeal what we have, not improve on it. How will he make that happen? President Obama got the best he could, fighting his own party much of the way. How will a polarizing slogan-generator do better? My guess is, he'd do worse because he turns too many key segments of the voting public off with his airy rhetoric.
- Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans. He's talking my language when he says he wants to strengthen the safety net. Many disagree. How do we overcome the obstacles, like the belief that help weakens, rather than strengthens the disadvantaged? Here is where Sanders' failure to understand the issue of race becomes most apparent. It should be clear to anyone that the reason we don't have the strong safety net of the Scandinavian countries he adores is the tensions created by our diversity. A huge segment of the voting public does not support increasing the safety net because, from Reagan, "the great communicator," on, they have been convinced that the benefits all go to "those people," the "takers" who are undermining our values and stealing from the "makers." It's baloney, but Reagan and the Republicans who followed have sold it effectively. How do we get around the hump of embedded racism and class discrimination? How would Sanders do that when he's barely aware of its existence?
- Real Tax Reform. Here's something we've heard about for a long time. The tax system needs to be more fair. Sadly, Sanders defaults to the standard liberal line of bagging corporations "and their CEOs," stimulating class warfare without so much as a nod at the vast complexity of the problem and what a fair system might look like - except the standard, liberal "tax the rich" mantra. Once you've sown distrust in government, as Bernie Sanders has: "It's rigged." - you've polluted the conversation about fairness. If it's all rigged, how can anyone trust the government to use whatever they pay wisely?
Bernie Sanders can't and shouldn't be elected president. Just among Democrats, Martin O'Malley and Hilary Clinton far exceed him in experience, savvy and effectiveness in office.
What he can do is continue to damage the process with his cynical sloganeering and empty suit approach to solutions. This pisses me off. My generation and our values are badly represented by this man. We can do better, and the last thing we need at the head of the pack is deliberate polarizer.
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