I first heard of Bernie Sanders about nine years ago. I don’t remember the context, but I remember my reaction: “Vermont has a socialist senator!?” I was amazed to hear of a man who not only dared to run as a socialist in a country terrified of the word, but succeeded. Doubling down on that, he has succeeded as in independent where so many others have failed. Of course the label signified a set of policy beliefs I strongly support, like real progressive taxation in place of the farce we have now where most of the tax burden is on the upper middle class. But even more importantly, he was using an appropriate name for his beliefs rather than adjusting his professed beliefs to fit the currently popular label. It signified courage and integrity I don’t expect in a politician, combined with enough cunning and competence to succeed in politics and governing anyway. Everything I have learned about him since has substantiated that impression.
The most urgent and possibly most difficult problem facing the United States is that of money in politics. A system of dependency where politicians are accountable to donors first makes the problem itself — along with every other problem effecting the American people, peace, and the environment – seem intractable. Rampant cynicism in acceptance of this fact is not the answer; nor is denial. Bernie Sanders started his campaign with a pledge to run on small donations and, incredibly, he is succeeding. This puts him in a unique position to take on the influence of big money, as he is not beholden to it. That means that we can trust him when he says, and he is the only one who really does, that he will take on that fight and make it the top priority.
That brings us to the topic of the political feasibility of his proposals. In the current political environment, any truly progressive proposal is dead on arrival as it is not in the interest of the big money donors. If Bernie is the only candidate who will take on the influence of big money, then he is the only one whose other proposals hold any water. In addition, bold proposals give room for negotiation; timid proposals get negotiated to nothing, or worse.
I believe that protecting the environment is one of the primary functions of government. Unlike many Democrats, Bernie Sanders takes environmental protection and climate change seriously. A few tweaks won’t cut it and switching to natural gas obtained by fracking is not helpful.
Bernie Sanders is one of very few to have consistently voted against the USA PATRIOT ACT. Domestic surveillance is a hallmark of a totalitarian state. The willingness to spy on citizens disqualifies all the candidates but Bernie and one now dropped out Republican from being President.
Bernie Sanders is no dove, but he has been more consistently and vocally against military intervention than most politicians. This goes back to the 80s when he protested U.S. meddling in Latin America and before that to the Vietnam War when he was a conscientious objector. When asked where he would make budget cuts he responded with the obvious answer all others are afraid to say: the DoD. Like everything else this goes back to the problem of money in politics. It is absolutely despicable and shameful that the United States conducts its deadly foreign policy based on what will make the military contractors more money. Bernie is the only candidate I trust to make sound foreign policy decisions, and even to change the system so that future policy is more sane.
Trust busting is one of the most powerful tools the government has to curb the natural tendency of corporate capitalism to form monopolies and oligopolies that stifle competition, quarantine wealth in the hands of a few, pose massive risks to the economy as a whole, and wield inordinate political power. Old and new legislation gives the executive branch these tools. I expect Bernie Sanders to use them, at least in the banking sector.
These are just a few of the major issues that I care strongly about. Senator Sanders has a principled platform that I agree with and consistent record on so many other issues, many of which he has helped bring into the forefront of the debate in this race: criminal justice, drug policy, racial justice, healthcare, education, trade. Many of them hark back to the theme of his campaign: having the courage, integrity, and independence to stand up to moneyed interests in large part because they are not the source of his political power. When another candidate parrots these ideas, I have little reason to believe them, even if some are more eloquent.
The career of Senator Bernie Sanders has been an unlikely one. He has repeatedly won close anti-establishment races as an independent activist, and each time became highly popular in his position. He has managed to build a political career without compromising his principles or being absorbed into the system of corruption. A big part of that, in my mind, has been his minimal participation in the two-party system. In each position, he found ways to be progressive and serve his constituents even as an outsider: in Congress, he did this in part by passing amendments.
Early last year I watched Bernie make the rounds of the liberal TV programs as he deliberated a presidential run as an independent or, for the first time in his career, as a Democrat. As much as I am giddy to see a substantial independent/third party run, I quietly hoped he’d chose the latter at this crucial point. Showing sober judgment and a willingness to make the rare compromise when it is truly necessary, he did.
The culmination of all this – in combination with movements like Occupy, MayDay.us, New Hampshire Rebellion, Black Lives Matter, and Fight for 15 – is that we have a man running for president who is both an experienced politician in one of the highest offices and an honest, principled activist. And once again he is succeeding against all establishment resistance. He is inspiring the disenchanted. His career, this moment, has been 40 years in the making. That is to say: there won’t be another Bernie in 2020. This is truly a unique and historic opportunity, and that is why not only my vote but my voice, time, and money are with Bernie Sanders for President. I hope yours are too.