It’s mid-April, and the 74-year-old democratic socialist senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders is not only still in the race for the Democratic nomination, he is in the midst of a spring surge to overtake the most inevitable candidate in modern political history. On Wednesday (April 13th), Bernie held a rally in Washington Square Park in NYC that drew somewhere in the neighborhood of 27,000 people. That’s a few thousand more than Barrack Obama at the same location in 2008.
Earlier this week, thousands of people marched on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. protesting capitalism’s takeover of democracy. More than 400 people were arrested for refusing to vacate the area. According to Rolling Stone, “close observers of Washington activism say it may have been the largest [mass arrest at the Capitol] since the Vietnam War.” Tomorrow, only three days before Tuesday’s all-important primary, #Occupy Wall St. will reboot to march through NYC’s financial district in support of Bernie’s campaign. As of today the march’s FaceBook event page lists 12,500 as attending and 25,000 more as interested. I hope the march is yuuuge.
I must admit, I’m a bit disappointed by Bernie’s performance in the debate last night. He was nervous in the first several minutes of the contest, letting Hillary policy-bite her way to sounding like the policy expert on Dodd-Frank and breaking up the banks. For those who lean toward Bernie, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Hillary is leaning way further left today than when she started this race, no doubt in a thinly veiled attempt to attract actual progressives to her neoliberal cause.
On gun control, Bernie’s responses were also underwhelming. I am rather confused as to why he doesn’t rebut Clinton’s accusations by pointing out what every Bernie supporter (including me) was screaming at their TV at this point during the debate:
Hillary Clinton is the biggest international arms dealer in modern history.
Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.
A big chunk of that $165 billion in arms went to Saudi Arabia in the form of Boeing F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jets. Not long before Hillary became Secretary of State and approved the deal, Saudi Arabia donated $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Boeing donated $900,000. After Obama appointed Hillary in 2009, the Clintons reluctantly agreed that their Foundation would not accept money from foreign governments while she was serving as Secretary of State. Apparently they feel no need to avoid the perception of undue influence now that she is running for president, since the ban on accepting money from foreign leaders was lifted the moment she stepped down from the State Department. Will the ban be re-imposed if she takes office as president? I wonder whether Hillary would be for legislation allowing Boeing and other defense contractors to be sued for civilian deaths caused by their weapons overseas?
After losing the congressional election in 1988, largely as a result of his support for an assault weapons ban, in 1990, Bernie had to make a deal with the gun lobby in Vermont to become the first socialist elected to congress in decades. He didn’t try to hide this fact during the debate. He continues to stick to his guns. He refuses to apologize or pander on the issue. But why has he let Hillary win the moral high ground on this issue when her private business ventures and State Department decisions (is there a difference for her?) have so obviously contributed more to world-wide gun violence than all the other presidential candidates and currently serving congresspeople combined? It’s as if Bernie’s been told by the party bosses that the transnational military-industrial complex is off limits during the primary campaign. He’s not allowed to mention it in earshot of any of the major media networks. At least, not as long as he wants to remain a member of the Democratic party.
Bernie and Hillary agree that many of our nation’s public and private institutions bear the scars of a racist past. Where they differ is in their prescriptions. Hillary offers platitudes. When challenged, she remains defensive and dismissive. Bernie’s response to the mass incarceration of 2.2 million Americans is universal public education from K through college and a thorough cultural overhaul and demilitarization of the criminal justice system.
On the ecological crisis (mentioned for the first time an hour into the debate and discussed for about 10 minutes), Hillary is arguing that fracking is part of the “bridge” to renewables. She’s refusing to take swift and decisive action to disempower the fossil fuel industry on behalf of future generations.
Bernie is offering the only adequate federal level policy response to climate change. He is the only candidate who is openly recognizing the “unprecedented urgency” of the crisis. He is the only candidate calling for a carbon tax. He is the only candidate with a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to rebuild the American energy grid to run on renewable energy in 10 years. Bernie quoted Pope Francis during the debate, who has described the industrial growth economy of global capitalism as “a suicide course.”
Some Hillary supporters have been decrying the sarcasm they detect in Bernie and his supporters. Sarcasm is one of the only authentic responses to the sort of condescension the Clintons are directing at young people. We are the next in line who are going to have to deal with the inaction, negligence, and impropriety of the present generation of leaders. Excuse us for not being patient enough for your austerity incrementalism or trusting enough in your crony capitalism, Hillary.