My Case For Bernie Sanders In 2020
Speaking as a Canadian, the reach of United States politics has always been a frustrating thing to behold. Despite not living in the country, its large role in world affairs gives it a political gravity that mine is inextricably linked to. As our largest trading partner, geographic neighbour and long-standing ally, the United States of America has a number of indirect effects on the daily lives of Canadians. With that in mind, I have a lot of Strong Opintions™ on the forthcoming United States Presidental Election and I feel that it is crucial that Bernie Sanders is the winner.
Throughout most of my life, I have considered myself a liberal. These terms have very different meanings, depending on what side of the Canada / US border you're referring to. This is something that I only began to understand within the last decade. In the 90s, I just assumed President Bill Clinton was the good guy, because he wasn't a Republican. I didn't even understand the circumstances of his impeachment hearing, it just felt like a case of The Bad Guys persecuting The Good Guy. Since then, my opinion has shifted significantly, especially in light of the Clinton family's close association with Jeffrey Epstein and his consort Ghislaine Maxwell, as well as the numerous other allegations of sexual impropriety involving the former President.
But that's how maturation works, I guess. I went from "they got mad the President got a blowjob" to "hey, maybe this guy — who was the most powerful man on Earth at the time — abused a workplace power dynamic and has connections to loathesome sexual depravity." It took me quite a while to arrive at this conclusion, however; in 2000, I was mortified by the way George W. Bush and the Republican party effectively stole the election. But it was Al Gore's decision to halt the Florida recount that really opened my eyes to the world.
It's one thing to play dirty and steal an election, it's another thing altogether to forfeit the fight against such corruption. I can only suppose the motivations of Al Gore and the Democrats, when they essentially handed the presidency over to hostile forces. A little less-than a year later, 9/11 happened. I was 18 at the time, and it didn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out what would come next. Authoritarian policies were enacted, supported by both sides — the Republicans voted in favour of them because they genuinely wanted this, while Democrats voted for things like the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) out of fear of being criticised for a lack of patriotism and because they genuinely wanted this.
Still, it wasn't until the election of Barrack Obama and the subsequent disappointment — as he revealed himself to be not a new breed of progressive but rather a milquetoast centrist — that the veil was pierced. Obama's 2 terms in office afforded the world some measure of stability, but the consequences of his inaction and determination to compromise with a hostile modern Republican party was what truly opened my eyes to the world. The election of 2016 was a referendum on a great number of things, with a rejection of decades of policies that devastated the working class and the status quo that enabled them, Donald Trump — one of the most contemptible, stupid human beings in the history of the world — leveraged this populist anger and seized the presidency.
At first, I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. This sort of thing just isn't supposed to happen, right?
What followed was a lengthy introspection and the crystalisation of a lot of feelings and concerns that had previously been ignored. I didn't like Hillary Clinton — I don't think anyone actually does — but assumed that 'common sense' would prevail and she would preside over another 4 years of the status quo. There's a significant lag time between shifts in US administrations and Canada. Throughout the Obama's tenure, we endured the leadership of a Conservative government that recycled a lot of the worst ideas of the George W. Bush administration. Then, in 2015, we elected Justin Trudeau, the millionaire son of our own neoliberal icon Pierre Trudeau. It seemed like centrism was the new world order, with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the head of the European Union, Obama in the US — and preparing to hand the baton to Hillary Clinton — and we had finally toppled an entrenched Conservative leadership in favour of our own centre-left party.
Almost immediately after taking office, Donald Trump has laid waste to any conventional ideas of how politics are conducted. His crass, uneducated, blustering, intellectually incurious and, most dangerous of all, mercurial nature has lead to a worldwide destabilisation. The world's foremost powerbroker has been flailing like a dying, headless beast for 3 long years. Trade wars with Canada and Mexico, resulting in a series of dubious revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the form of the new US Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), have disrupted trade across the continent. Meanwhile a billion-dollar trade war with China shows only mild signs of abating.
One of the key reasons Trump was able to defeat Hillary Clinton was his recongition of the damaging effects of NAFTA. His solutions were crude and idiotic, wielding tarrifs like a man with a hammer who incorrectly assumed all of his enemies were nails. All his interventions did was further harm American interests, passing along tarrif fees to consumers while failing to acknowledge that manufacturing was not coming back to the United States. Useful idiots like disgraced Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker posed for fancy photo-ops, breaking ground on a FoxConn factory that ended up being a massive scam at the expense of taxpayers, to the surprise of no one who paid any real attention.
Going into the Trump presidency, there was an empty seat on the United States Supreme Court (USSC). Justice Antonin Scalia had died, suddenly, in mid-February of 2016, and President Obama's attempt to appoint Merrick Garland to the USSC was blocked by Mitch McConnell. The decision to leave this unchallenged would come back to haunt the Democrats as Donald Trump took office and elected Federalist Society member and extreme conservative Neil Gorsuch to the court. Then Justice Anthony Kennedy abruptly retired in July 2018, albeit admid muted controversy over the timing — which allowed President Trump to appoint another Federalist Society member, the controversial Brett Kavanagh. And by controversial, I mean there were credible — and summarily disregarded — allegations of sexual impropriety surrounding Kavanagh that were not so much covered up as loudly ignored by the Republican controlled Senate.
Everything that resulted from the Trump presidency was a combination of the Republican party's horrifying ability to wield power and years of neoliberal rot. The status quo, while beneficial to the upper classes had yielded nothing but continual decline and hardship for everyone else. Donald Trump was able to harness the growing anger over this and turn it into an electoral victory, and the Democrats have seemingly learned all the wrong lessons from 2016.
Bernie Sanders wasn't even supposed to run for President in 2015. As the story goes, he had been encouraging Elizabeth Warren to run as early as 2013. When she opted not to oppose Hillary Clinton, Sanders campaigned for the Democratic nomination with the intention of running a messaging campaign. He figured he would do his best to shift the Democratic party to the left by advocating for social policy that would benefit the working class, forcing the party to adopt his rhetoric to attract votes. He ended up being the bearer of a very popular message, provoking a bitter and angry reaction from the Hillary campaign — who felt they were owed a prefunctory primary season en route to a coronation.
The Democratic National Convention (DNC) had to use a lot of dirty tactics, but they were able to successfully steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. Despite all of this, the Senator from Vermont was gracious in defeat and even lead 40 rallies in support of Hillary Clinton's bid for President. Sanders was also completely dismissive of attempts to bring up the long-running email server scandal that had plagued Clinton even before the primary season began. If one wants to criticise Sanders' approach to Clinton it would be that he was far too polite, if anything.
So, after stacking the deck and expecting to coast into the White House, on November 9th, 2016, the world's jaw collectively dropped. A humiliated Hillary Clinton sent perennial lackey John Podesta out to deliver the bad news to a crowd expecting 4 more years of brunch and not giving a shit that, well, uhhh, it looks like the alleged rapist, game show host is actually going to be President instead. The glass ceiling would remain unbroken, instead providing a window into the Hellscape that would ensue.
Donald Trump became President, did almost nothing worth celebrating — save for a misguided attempt at negotiating an end to the Korean War — and the forces behind Hillary's failed 2016 campaign both failed to learn anything from their defeat and spent the last 3-plus years relitigating the 2015 primaries. This is what really informed my awakening to world politics, as I saw the proponents of a failed neoliberal experiment — the socially liberal, fiscally conservative types — for what they truly were. The hostility to the left, from even the centre / centre-left was incredibly visceral and boundless.
History had already born it out — I mean, Donald fucking Trump was President — but the adherents to this failed neoliberal order really drove their irrelevance home in the intervening years. The Mueller probe yielded a voluminous document that affected precisely nothing. The impeachment trial was absurdly constrained to just Donald Trump's attempts to force the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden — despite the insultingly high number of crimes Trump has committed while in office — and will likewise yield no tangible result. Empty posturing and appeals to the Republican party's demonstrably nonexistent concern for the good of the country have served no purpose except to highlight how utterly the Democrats misunderstand the rules of engagement.
Which brings me back to Bernie Sanders — the only 2020 Presidential contender who has demonstrated that they understand both what is at stake and why we are in this position to begin with. Sanders understand the precarity of the average American's daily life, the effects that stagnating wages, medical debt — and the fear thereof — have had on a huge class of people. Transcending racial and other boundaries, Sanders truly seems to understand the frustations of the everyday American. In sharp contrast to Bernie Sanders' overwhelming aura of authenticity is the doddering, incompetent Joe Biden, the duplicitous and instinctually bereft Elizabeth Warren and the cynical and wholly disingenuous Pete Buttegieg.
Furthermore, the fact that the DNC is contemplating rules changes to accommodate the demands of billionaire — and former Republican — Mike Bloomberg lays bare their anti-Sanders bias. The mainstream media has waged a sustained campaign against Sanders: first refusing to acknowledge his very existence, then participating in smear campaigns including various dubious allegations of sexism on the part of Sanders and his supporters. This tired narrative has been recycled over-and-over since it was unsuccessfully used against Barrack Obama, when he was the one in the role of doey-eyed progressive with the temerity to campaign against Hillary Clinton.
Bernie Sanders has had a consistent, 40-plus-year history of being on the right side of politics. From opposing the Vietnam war, and correctly understanding the gravity of the war crimes the United States committed during that conflict, to providing safe haven to homosexuals and transgender people in the 80s — the fucking 80s for crying out loud — long before such positions were anything but a death sentence to political aspirations. Bernie Sanders has made a career legacy out of fighting against unethical, unjust policy, and is one of a very small number of Senators who voted against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The reason I feel so strongly for Bernie Sanders and his campaign is because the global left has certainly seen better days. The defeat of Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom was a difficult setback, and the rise of hard-right governments throughout the world has been a consistent cause for concern. The neoliberal centre is ceding ground everywhere, and even European democratic socialists are losing elections that were traditionally impossible to lose. The far left has seen gains among youth but has failed to capture much real power, largely due to the centre's ability to suppress the left despite their unwillingness and inability to counter attacks from the right.
Sanders' ideas aren't even that radical, they only seem that way due to decades of sustained media campaigns against anything even remotely ressembling socialism. Sanders is largely advocating for a return to New Deal era policy, albeit with considerations for modern issues such as globalisation and climate change. Where fossils and prevaricators like Biden, Warren and Buttegieg long for a return to 2008, Sanders is less revolutionary than one would initially think. It is truly an indictment of a certain mentality that a position like "I don't believe people should go bankrupt because they got cancer" is viewed as a controversial opinion.
Every assshole and hack lobbyist who asks "how are you going to pay for that?" in reference to universal healthcare is eliding not only the fact that health should be a human right in the most prosperous nation on Earth, but also the fact that the US government already pays more towards healthcare than any other country and has significantly worse outcomes. You're paying more for far less. Meanwhile people are rationing insulin, deferring seeking medical attention due to cost, using medications meant for their pets, and life expectancy is on the decline due to a myriad of factors including deaths during childbirth and opiate addiction.
The election of anyone short of Bernie Sanders means at best another 4 years of centrist failure, as they too will be hamstrung by a Republican party that, while representing a minority of the country currently have outsized control over the levers of government. At worst, Trump continues the hollowing-out of government and the destruction of what remains of the social safety net. Obama's decision to forego battles over federal judgeships is another cricial blunder, as Mitch McConnell has architected a deep-seeded takeover of the judiciary, appointing slews of hardcore conservative judges — many who have F ratings from the American Bar Association — to lifetime positions. At this point, the Republicans could lose the general election, and even the Senate, and still affect policy by virtue of their lopsided control of federal courts and the USSC.
I don't even know if Sanders is willing to go as far as impeaching Trump's Supreme Court picks, but he should. The fact that Bret Kavanagh received substantial financial remuneration — of entirely unknown provenance — shortly before his USSC appointment is extremely suspicious and criminally underexplored. The circumstances of Anthony Kennedy's sudden retirement also merit investigation. Furthermore, Presidents can be impeached at any time — not just while they are in office — and it would be a good idea to get all of President Trump's corrupt dealings on the book and rightly excoriated.
As I said, I don't know if a Sanders administration would go that far, even if they should. However, it is all but assured that any other Democrat candidate would certainly employ an Obama-esque "forward not backward" view. I will give the Warren campaign credit where due, as it did issue a statement that they would create a taskforce to investigate the Trump administration. How forceful and empowered such a taskforce would be remains to be seen, but at least the thought is there. Obama's decision not to prosecute the George W. Bush administration for war cimes — and taking the country to war under false pretenses — is the worst among many significant failures on his resumé.
Bernie Sanders may very well be impeded and thwarted by the Republican party, and even centrist Democrats, but what matters is that the good fight is even fought. I am encouraged by his campaign's demonstrated understanding of the power of an executive order and the fact he is even willing to pick the necessary fights. The argument that "you'll never pass a universal healthcare bill with a Republican senate" misses the point that you can then point to the detractors and say "these people want you to die." It's a long game approach, but it's the truly realistic approach; you're not going to suddenly change the opposition's mind with a rousing speech and an appeal to one's greater sense of country á la West Wing. This is a long-term battle.
Bernie Sanders being elected President isn't the be-all, end-all solution. To the contrary, it's only the beginning. There will be incredible opposition — both internally and externally — to the kinds of reforms he wants to enact. Some will succeed, while others will not. The important thing is that the battle is even fought in the first place; the middle class has been under assault for the better part of 4 decades now. Reaganomics has failed, with Trickle Down Economics being thoroughly proven to be a golden shower — as the economic elite siphoned up any gains the middle class made since the end of World War 2.
Bernie Sanders represents a huge opportunity for the global left as well as the American populace. The American people deserve lives without the threat of medical bankruptcy hanging over their heads. Every human being, in my opinion, is entitled to benefit from the fruits of our civilisation's immense prosperity. The notion that a fraction of a fraction of the planet's population control more wealth than billions of other people combined is patently absurd. If you made $5,000 dollars a day since the founding of American (July 4th, 1776), you would still not have a billion dollars — you wouldn't even be half-way there. And yet we live in a world where individuals worth hundreds of billions pay less in taxes than their lowest-paid employees.
I was born in 1983 and I refuse to believe that I got here just in time to see the end of the world. Electing Bernie Sanders as President of the United States is a chance to take the first, formative steps towards a global revolution. Like it or not, the United States will either lead the way to humanity's salvation or our ultimate destruction. This leaves room for a lot of nuance, but without the efforts of the world's most powerful nation there is almost no hope of averting the oncoming geopolitical and climate crises. The status quo is untennable, and has been since 2015. The question is whether the challenges of the future are met head-on or reluctantly, by forces concerned solely with their own comfort and avarice.
It is crucial that the United States sets an example as a nation possessed of incredible wealth and influence is able to properly support and care for its populace. The resources are there, it's a matter of distribution. There is no valid reason that, in the 21st century, that the standard of living for all human beings can't be much, much better. It's time for a serious voice to speak up and act against the failed policies of the past and fight for a better future for the other 99%. For all the centrist talk of compromise, they would do well to realise that either society begins a slow shift back to the left or there will eventually be a much more drastic course-correction at some point.
Bernie Sanders appears, at least at this point, to be the most enthusiastic nominee to make a presidential bid. His popularity is unparalleled and he has secured endorsements from a hugely diverse audience. Centrists talk of unifying both sides and compromise, while Sanders yields no ground to anyone — he never has and ostensibly never will — and has drawn support from powerful unions, progressive voices and even mainstream personalities like Joe Rogan. Donald Trump — a grotesque creature devoid of ideology and living an entirely instinctual existence — will steamroll any other opponent, the same way he beat Hillary Clinton. Only Sanders is able to appeal to the oft-maligned Common Man as Trump does.
People who are way too plugged in, addicted to the petty grievances and mind-boggling hysterics of politics on social media, overstate the importance of so many esoteric points of contention. The average person does not care about recycled accusations of Bernie Bros getting rude in people's mentions. No one really cares what blue checkmark on Twitter is equating being told their bad ideas are bad with bullying and abuse. The average voter is far too busy with the day-to-day demands of life, they don't have time to get mad at ephemeral Twitter bullshit 8 hours a day, each day. Sanders is able to appeal to the average voter by addressing real, tangible issues in their lives.
Not only does America need real leadership, willing to tackle the damage done by decades of Republican and neoliberal policy, but the world needs its premiere super power to set an example for others to follow. The climate and prosperity of all but a fraction of a fraction of society are depending on it.
I wish you all the luck in the world.
Published: February 2nd, 2020.