by Frank Thomas
I prefer a presidential candidate of exemplary integrity, keen problem-solving skills, a dedication to improving the common man's welfare and equitable sharing in society's progress (or breakdowns) - as opposed to the systemic marginalization and impoverishment of Main Street taking place the last 35-40 years.
As we have moved further and further to the right in past years, we've moved further away from our founding values of fair play, justice, and a rising tide for all. Result? A democracy that has morphed into a plutocracy under the heavy-handed influence of special money interests - serving narrow, greedy pursuits and to hell with everybody else and the environment. We have been invaded by the Tea Party, far-right paradigm of anti-everything-government, pro-individual and privatization-of-everything-government and Trump’s blustery populism – exploiting and stirring the general public’s insecurity and anger.
American “exceptionalism” is not working socially. Our rates of poverty and homeless people are the highest in the western world. Bernie's mission is to correct the social injustices and middle-class-race-to-the-bottom we are trapped in. Trump will typically call Bernie's revolutionary change Socialism – when in fact it's a return to a more balanced, uncorrupted-by-MONEY governance that equitably advances the interests and well-being of ordinary Americans and communities.
In this effort, Hillary's credibility has been contaminated by her long-standing neo-liberal flirtation with Wall Street MONEY powers. Since 2008, she and Bill have earned a stupendous fee income in excess of $150 million for speeches to the corporate rich and powerful – many in secret, e.g., Goldman Sachs from whom Hillary pocketed $675,000 for three speeches. Now, she is suddenly projecting a concern for the common folk. As Bernie said, "You are finally discovering the right religion."
But Hillary's small-step incremental change approach will NOT rectify the profound structural flaws in our political-economic model. Bernie’s movement for daring systemic change for systemic problems is right on. Trump, a remarkably non-ideological candidate, is also advocating bold reforms to better the lot of the common people while also “Making America Great Again.” His angry, insurgent followers are seeking an authoritative leader who mirrors their fears, frustrations and feelings of being disenfranchised.
So far, Trump is succeeding in persuading his electorate that he has the “Can Do” answers to their insecurities and fears of the changing threatening world around them. BUT, his xenophobia, egocentric overbearing, ethnically insulting communicative manner is on the edge of angrily dividing Americans and bringing our political system into discredit.
Trump presents himself as the “Strict Father, Self-Deified Populist Savior;” Bernie presents himself as “We, the Worker Movement for Real Change”; while Hillary presents herself as the “Working the System, Establishment Pragmatist”.
One commentator said, “Trump vs. Clinton will appear to most Americans as a choice between something new and risky, and something old and corrupt.” In my view, a Trump vs. Sanders contest will appear to most Americans as a choice between something new and risky (e.g., involving a reckless xenophobic playing with millions of peoples’ lives) vs. something bold and realistic in answer to systemic societal problems, e.g., decay of infrastructure and educational systems; threat of disastrous climate change; huge income inequality; and the insecure, downgraded, low-wage job generation; climate-warming threat.
A large number of Independent supporters now behind Sanders will very likely never vote for Hillary ... some may even vote for Trump as their second choice. Many people are simply not particularly enthusiastic about Hillary's candidacy - given her perceived dishonesty, super-cozy Wall Street relations, her changing positions and copying of Bernie’s ideas based on opportune expediency. For example, very early on Sanders said the Trans Pacific Partnership should be trashed (as has Trump said recently). Hillary initially favored TPP as she did the Keystone Pipeline, but much later changed her mind when she finally saw the bottom-up forces against both initiatives.
I think Bernie stands a far better chance of defeating Trump than Hillary does. He's authentic. And his winning chances would be supremely reinforced should he have Elizabeth Warren as his Vice President.
Trump can have a field day with Hillary's considerable weaknesses compared to Bernie strengths. Hillary provides a lot of material for Trump to run on – most notably her long ongoing neo-liberal flirt with money powers who have made her and Bill multi-millionaires; and her character trait of playing with the truth. Her false statement in the Michigan debate about Bernie’s refusal to support funds to save the Michigan auto industry is typical of her verbal chicanery.
Bernie won't be easily demeaned by Trump. Bernie is the original one who’s all about saving/strengthening the disappearing middle class and basic social nets. He's much closer to Mainstream America's pain and knows what’s necessary to ameliorate and remove that pain. Trump will try to characterize Bernie with the standard ultra-conservative demagogic epithets: Bernie is the “cradle-to-grave SOCIALIST”, the Government-Do-&-Tax-Everything Freedom Heretic, the National Debt Multiplier, etc. … all the usual propagandistic Republican ‘BS’.
Bernie is a refreshingly honest, pragmatic politician who speaks Harry Truman straight talk from the heart to ALL Americans. He’s not about to bankrupt or socialize America with his reforms of a system that’s broken in so many unfair and corrupt ways. His program is about freeing America from the money controls of special interests, and the marginalization and income-impoverishment of the middle/lower classes. I trust Bernie and his inspiring, uplifting vision of how to repair and renew our nation's course as a country "of, by and for the people." Unlike Trump, he will be a unifier, not a divider.
If Bernie is elected President, will he have a more difficult time getting his program passed than Obama had or Trump (or Hillary) might? I think the answer to that is NO. Bernie’s immense support by the below 30 generation as well as the middle age and diverse gender/ethnic groups and independents is a “Movement” that will give him a unique moral leverage to greatly mitigate Republican obstruction. Also, over half of Bernie’s program corresponds to that of Trump’s. But I would prefer Bernie at the helm unifying our country’s renewal and as the controlling finger on military adventures and the nuclear button. Hillary has shown herself to be a consistent hawkish proponent of regime change interventions and Drone actions where more innocents have been killed than the enemy.
Lastly, it would be an ‘eye-opener’ to see what the cost-benefit picture is of Bernie’s program compared to Trump’s program. In the Netherlands, it is standard practice to have an independent detailed cost-benefit analysis of each party’s policy program … BEFORE any election or major budget decisions.
Of course, this is all academic if Democrats don't get the vote out which they historically have been so egregiously poor at (also in recent Michigan contest yesterday). It's all academic if Bernie wins the popular delegate vote while Hillary wins the nomination by amassing most of the 712 super delegates - a flagrantly undemocratic process equivalent to the exceptional money-powered influence of corporations and billionaires in our political system. Bernie is forced to start wooing super delegates to divert their unpledged votes to him as the race for pledged votes progresses in his favor .
The vast majority of unpledged super delegates unfairly support Hillary. To date, she has 1238 votes - including 500 super delegates, a number the media often fails to exclude or highlight - vs. Bernie's remarkable 572 votes. This undemocratic super delegate anachronism, aimed at insuring that "grassroots activists" like Bernie don't undermine the established political elites, gives the ugly impression that the Democratic Party’s nomination process is rigged ... for Hillary.
March 12, 2016