Saturday, November 30, 2019

#334 / Why I Am Voting For Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, in Burlington, Vermont, from an article in The New York Times
Today's blog posting is a kind of "follow-up" to my blog posting yesterday. In that Friday blog post, I suggested that our political system (at the national and state levels, though not at the local level, of course) operates as if we had a "parlimentary" system of government. And we don't have a parlimentary system of government; at least, that is not the way the United States Constitution indicates that our governmental system is supposed to work.

When I read The New York Times on Thanksgiving, I was struck by an article on Bernie Sanders' first successful political campaign, as Sanders ran for Mayor in Burlington, Vermont, and won. Here is a link to the article, which is titled "Sanders Forged Idea of Change Inside City Hall." Actually, that is the title I found in the hard-copy edition that showed up on my front walkway. Online, the article is called, "Bernie Sanders vs. The Machine." The article focused on Sanders' campaign for Mayor, outlines a theory of political change that is most definitely not "parlimentary," or "partisan." I think it has a lot to tell us about how we could change our politics today - and how that would be a huge improvement.

I have some positive feelings about the presidency of Barack Obama, but anyone who cares about putting the "people" over "party," in the politics of our nation, probably understands the following comment by Sanders, which indicates why he regards the Obama presidency as a lost opportunity for the restoration of democracy in our country: 

Throughout the 2020 campaign, Mr. Sanders has sounded like an echo of his younger self ... He has pledged to campaign in even the reddest of states against lawmakers who oppose his ideas, including against conservative Democrats. It is a method of governing untested in the modern presidency. 
Mr. Sanders suggested in the interview that the last Democratic president, Mr. Obama, would have done well to apply relentless pressure of the kind he envisions, rather than seeking “middle ground” with Republicans. 
“Obama ran one of the great campaigns in American history — a brilliant campaign,” Mr. Sanders said. “Do I think he should have maintained that grass roots support and activism in his first term, in a way he did not do? Yeah, I do.” 
Mr. Sanders said he had discussed the subject with Mr. Obama in a private meeting. “He will tell you that it’s harder than it looks, which it is,” he said. 
He declined to elaborate on the details of their discussion. But asked whether Mr. Obama had raised any doubts in his mind about his theory of power, Mr. Sanders answered in a word — “No” — and pointed to Burlington. 
“At the end of a few years,” he said, “a sleepy political city became one of the most politically conscious and progressive cities in America.”

I was a Sanders' delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2016, and I am supporting his presidential candidacy this year, too. The Times' article outlines why. I believe that the kind of politics that is described in this article can work, even on the national level. I hope those reading this will review the article, and consider its argument as they cast their votes in the California Presidential Primary election on March 3rd. Incidentally, since The New York Times maintains a "paywall," and that may prevent some or even all persons reading this blog posting from clicking through to the online version of the article, I have not only included a significant quote, above, but have also downloaded the article as a PDF. No pictures, but you can click right here to read the text if The Time's paywall prevents you from reading the article on The Times' website. 

I formed my own idea of how politics works (or can work) in local politics in Santa Cruz County during the 1970s and 1980s. I know what happened here, and it was very much like what happened in Burlington, Vermont. Our experience in Santa Cruz County indicates that politics can produce truly "revolutionary" changes in the way our communities operate. Measure J, the Growth Management Referendum Measure enacted by the people of Santa Cruz County in 1978, fundamentally changed land use policy in our local community.

I agree with Sanders that we need to try to bring the techniques that worked in Burlington (and in Santa Cruz County in the 1970s and 1980s) to the national level. 

President Obama is right, as Sanders says, that this is "harder than it looks." Admitted. But the stakes are pretty high. For instance, this upcoming presidential election may well determine the possibility of a continued commitment to democracy in the United States of America. This, also, may be an election that will decide the fate of human civilization, given the reality of global warming, and the fact that the United States must radically change what it does, and lead the world in making comparable changes, if we wish to stave off the growing likelihood of a civilization-ending environmental disaster. 

To be successful with the kind of politics that Sanders is advocating is definitely "harder than it looks." But I think it's worth a try. Think about that. Without going too "religious" on you, and with the recognition that Sanders is Jewish, consider this timeless observation, from Rabbi Hillel, as you cast your vote: 

If I am not for myself, then who is for me? If I am for myself alone, then what am I? If not now, when?

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