Why the Bernie Sanders candidacy is a singular event in American History.
What are the trends we are dealing with in America?
1. Mass Surveillance (Sanders opposed the Orwellian Patriot Act at least twice, Clinton voted for them.)
2. The ever growing military industrial complex. What is astonishing to most of us who have some memory, is that the US spending on arms and Defense is now equal to the expenditure of nearly all other countries combined. The US is also exporting arms to repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia at levels unseen in previous history. The US typically exported around 10 billion a year in arms, although these numbers are hidden in an Orwellian fashion. Many military exports appear to be aviation parts, etc. Many companies hide their military production in their financial statements so as to avoid scrutiny. It is hard work to even get at these numbers. But under Clinton, the US exported more arms to more repressive regimes, the UAE, Qatar & Saudi Arabia than at any time in history that I am aware of. The State Department is essentially the sales organization for these arms, having to negotiate and approve every single foreign arms transfer. ThereforeHillary Clinton sold more arms to repressive regimes than any person in American History in real $ terms. (Other than her succesor John Kerry who actually broke her record, but these were deals in the pipeline forged by her). This also has dragged us into the Yemen war, as we are pressured to help them operate their equipment that we sold them, effectively further subsidizing these foreign countries. To my knowledge the US is not reimbursed for providing logistics and personnel to support the Saudi assault on Yemen.
3. Incarceration. The US now imprisons more people than any other country in the world.
4. Militarization of police forces. We have provisions for transferring equipment from the military to local police departments. This comes very close to violating Posse Comitatus, which bans the military’s involvement in policing. The founders were very much against allowing a standing army that could tyrannize the citizenry.
5. Our democracy itself has dropped to 46th place. We desperately need to convene a constitutional convention to restructure US elections. We need to guarantee elections cannot be rigged, by having international election observers. Best practices do exist that will guarantee fair and transparent election, yet we do not implement them. We need to allow proportional representation, to make way for other political parties to exist. We need to lower the barriers to running for office by strengthening campaign finance laws. Bernie Sanders has called for everyone being automatically registered to vote as they turn 18, and having public financing of elections.
6. Inequality and crony capitalism. It is understood by most people that great inequality breeds social misery. In studies of happiness, more equal societies tend to be happier societies. I as a businessperson have seen first hand, how federal agencies become “captive”. Due to a corrupt revolving door between government and industry, generals, politicians and legislative aides routinely take high paying jobs with the very companies they regulated previously. Bernie Sanders has been very strong on indicating that will change, (For example in the Global Exchange: 2006-2012 Percent Loyalty to Finance, Insurance, Real Estate Lobby Sanders scored a 0% (never selling out) as opposed to Hillary Clinton’s 100%. (Clinton, Obama and Biden are the only three Democrats with 100% loyalty ratings.)
7. Climate change. This year was the first year in four years the Northern Sierras achieved even a normal snowpack. 1 billion trees have died in California due to the drought. However there is a price, this year. The Eastern Pacific has had water, but the Western Pacific paid for it. The Orangutan has almost gone extinct due to severe fires burning on Borneo, due to the heat and unwise draining of peat swamps creating perpetual forest fires. The northern two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef may permanently die if temperatures don’t drop in the next few days. All over the world we see these problems. And Hillary Clinton supported the dirtiest energy project in modern American history the Keystone pipeline, until Sanders more left wing movement pressured her to drop this stance. Additionally many of the trade agreements Clinton has supported (NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP) have provisions that put corporations in a position to sue for damages if countries or even municipalities enact environmental laws that would hurt their profits.
8. The humanitarian intervention industry. The Clinton emails make clear that intervention abroad is often in tandem with business interests. Sid Blumenthal was angling to sell military and medical equipment to a post intervention Libya. This was Clinton’s chief email correspondent on Libya. Sanders did not vigorously oppose intervention in Libya. But he did voice major criticism of turning a peacekeeping resolution, that President Obama assured us in March 2011 did not extend to regime change, into the decision to kill every Libyan soldier even those encamped and not moving. The horrors of Libya are indescribable. All Clinton had to do was use diplomacy instead of bombardment, but she actually preferred bombardment. It is no secret that Clinton is to the right of Trump on foreign policy, much less Sanders. For Libya, see HERE, HERE andHERE. Clinton supported the Iraq war, which created ISIS and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Sanders led the opposition to it. She had proposed introducing the same method in Syria. She also as Secretary of State utterly failed to do the key thing that is needed to stabilize the Middle East, to force a two state solution between Israel and Palestine and has unquestioningly supported the right wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu. She has publicly stated she would not be neutral in negotiations, which is absurd if the US is to act as broker. The US is one of a small minority of countries that does not recognize the Palestinian state. Bernie Sanders has come under attack for supporting a real commitment to the peace process.
9. What Bernie Sanders has done, which no other candidate has done in recent times, is to compare the United States to other major democracies. All others have universal health care, at half the cost per capita or less than the US. The vast majority provide free tuition at public universities. The United States has the weakest social contract with its citizens of any major industrialized democracy. In the past we hid from this through the perverted lens of “American Exceptionalism”. The whole purpose of a global village is to study what works elsewhere and copy it, while developing our own innovations. Bernie has performed an invaluable service in this respect. If Obama had tried this, he would have been perceived as un-American. So far that line of attack has not worked on Bernie Sanders.
10. Bernie Sanders has given full support to a path towards citizenship for undocumented people living here. He has called to honor the treaties we have made with the first Americans, the Native Americans. Clinton has been reasonably good on immigration reform as well.
11. Media concentration. One terrible bill passed under Reagan had the effect of deregulating media concentration rules. As a result we have gone from 500 companies providing 90% of the media to 6 companies. In fact 5 or 6 is the magic number in every industry. We have not busted trusts in a very long time. Several bills were passed by Bill Clinton. The Digital Rights Millennium Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Bernie Sanders has repeatedly critiqued our media. In my view the network and cable news outlets no longer hold power accountable. Most serious investigative journalism is done through whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, in conjunction with reporters like Greg Palast and Glenn Greenwald, neither of whom work for any major outlet. Imagine if networks and news organizations focused on an issue, did deep background and provided analysis on the different approaches. We need public funding of media apparently. The cable news outlets simply speculate about the horse race aspect, instead of the much more difficult questions, such as “how do we transition from non productive harmful industries, like excessive speculation (Wall Street), the unconscionable arms industry, the fossil fuel industry, towards real wealth creation, whether it be research, teaching, the arts or trades.
I have pondered these problems reading economists from Adam Smith to Hayek to Marx and their modern interpreters. To me Bernie Sanders is able to weave these many challenges, crises and opportunities into a single tapestry. He clearly has thought about how to move beyond a society heading towards a banana republic as we saw in Matt Judge’s movie “Idiocracy”.
The latest polls are absolutely mind boggling. Bernie Sanders would get as much as 1/3 of the Republican vote. People who will not vote for Cruz or Trump or Clinton in many cases.
He is the most popular candidate by far amongst independents. In a general election Sanders would get 50% or greater of independents, and Clinton would at best get 20% of them. And he would get at least 85% of Democrats. (15% of Hillary supporters might sit out a general with Bernie as the candidate.
So when I say that Sanders candidacy is a candidacy that comes along every 100 years, let us qualify that.
It is not his message that is unique. It is two fold. First it is his success. His execution. No one other than Jesse Jackson in the history of the United States has done as well as Sanders up to this point in a presidential election, who is critiquing the establishment in the way he is doing. His message was a powerful gauntlet thrown in the face of a media utterly opposed to him run by corporations he openly said he would side with the workers on.
He has utterly transformed politics by surviving entirely on small donations, with only one PAC supporting him, the Nurses Union.
He has taken on a massive patronage network built by the Clintons and the Obamas once they took it over and the DNC.
He has virtually single-handedly opposed every major power structure in the United States with the most anti-establishment platform that has gotten this far, not based on white supremacy. And he has done it fighting a candidate (Hillary Clinton) who has built a powerful political machine amongst the very people that would benefit the most from what Sanders policies promote, the African American and minority communities. He has built a movement championing the rights of the poor and working class, while tactically isolated from many of these poor people. He has the most pro African American poor and working class friendly platform of any candidate, and has survived not being supported by them in the early part of the election. Of course another factor is that up to 1 in 5 black people are not even allowed to vote in certain regressive repressive states like Florida and South Carolina, due to the war on drugs felonizing the Black population. One other candidate got roughly this far: Jesse Jackson in 1988. But he certainly did not have to lose the South to a political machine run by pro business democrats who had spent years creating a patronage network in that community.
Second, we thought we were getting Sanders when we elected Obama. Obama himself has said if this were the 1980’s he would be viewed as a moderate Republican. With Sanders people have confidence, because 99.9% of the time, when the pressure was on, he stood up for what was right. For gay rights in the 1980s, and for individual liberty during the reign of darkness we were subjected to by Cheney and Fox News after 9-11.
As I mentioned in my previous writings. The Sanders revolution is about getting poor and working people and young people involved in the political process, it may take 2 to 4 years before the Congress and Statehouses begin to fill with people inspired by Sanders who run. But the signs are unmistakable they are coming.
America is controlled by a warlike national security state, that roams the world toppling countries governments that do not create favorable business climates to multinational corporations. We prefer right wing religious fanatics to secular dictatorships (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya). We have built a massive surveillance system, essentially declared martial law with the Patriot act, whose very definition is classified. Our President Obama has run the most secretive administration since Richard Nixon, and statistically much more secretive. Classifying everything, prosecuting whistleblowers, persecuting journalists. This is a nation run by very powerful wealthy people who own the corporations, and the danger is acute, as we transition from an economy requiring many people to produce things of value, to a hollowed out economy, where very few people are actually needed to work. This could be a paradise, as automation, computers and robotics eliminates much work, but with the present system it will lead to mass misery. It is already happening. Excess labor is being soaked up in police , national security and military industrial occupations.