Monday, May 9, 2016

Why I'm voting for Bernie Sanders

In 2004, I worked for the first time on behalf of a presidential candidate: Howard Dean. I chose him after reviewing the web sites of all the Democratic Party presidential candidates. He was, for me, the obvious choice. I was living in Germany, and I got the opportunity to caucus for Dean in Frankfurt. It was a surreal experience: I didn't fully understand what was going on. What I wasn't expecting was how ugly it would be; the John Kerry supporters said things like, "You have to vote for John Kerry. He has the best chance. You're wasting your vote and our time." No policy positions were discussed - and it's policy positions that drive how I vote. I should have left feeling like, wahoo, I participated in my country's democracy even though I'm thousands of miles away! Instead, I felt marginalized and dismissed. I left feeling angry. I did vote for John Kerry in the general election, but it was without enthusiasm, and I didn't work for the campaign at all.

Four years later, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton squared off. I was still in Germany. And I was torn. I literally made lists of why I should vote for one or the other. They were so alike, policy-wise. I loved Obama's energy, but I loved the idea of a woman President at long, long last. I felt like both would compromise later on most of what they stood for in the election - they were both very much Clinton Democrats, in that regard. I would wake up for one and go to bed for another. I cried over it at one point. How did I decide? I'm not going to tell you. Because it was a rather random reason that I finally decided.

Barack Obama's Presidency was brilliant in ways I never imagined. But it's been disappointing in others. He saved our country in terms of its economy - there's just no debate in that regard, the facts speak for themselves. But not one person went to prison for the criminal acts that almost brought down the world's economies. Not one. People lost their homes, they lost their houses, their credit was ruined - and billionaires stayed billionaires. I'm also disappointed that he turned his back on Elizabeth Warren, that he has not been aggressive at all on financial reform. President Obama stood firm on reproductive rights, just as Bill Clinton did - no compromises - and I am grateful - and I am unforgiving regarding any compromise on that issue. I think history will show that President Obama's foreign policy of not putting more troops on the ground was right on, but it will also show that his policy of drone bombing has been a disaster. He ultimately came out against the Keystone pipeline - and I think that's because of relentless, well-organized and well-spoken grassroots pressure. I wish he had led on the issues of gun control, gay marriage and human rights abroad - particularly Saudi Arabia - but I'm glad that he has spoken about the rights of gay people in other countries, often to a great deal of derision, and has not shied away from talking about the economic and social realities of being a black person in the USA.

Now, it's 2016, and all signs are that the financial crisis is going to happen again. Bankers are engaged in most of the same reckless behavior that almost killed the world's economy. Dodd-Frank is becoming toothless. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is being marginalized. Banks are getting bigger. Pension funds are being raided. Privatization of public services, from prisons to schools, is rampant. There's a strong push to give the corporate sector control of universities, of national parks, of so much that has been the domain of the government of the people. People are working longer hours for less money, and are experiencing a level of financial insecurity that should scare everyone.

I'm scared.

I want a candidate that is going to address those economic issues, that's going to put the USA back on track in terms of the financial security of the 99%. And that's the primary reason I'm supporting Bernie Sanders. He's got the ideas, the skills and the experience to do what needs to be done in terms of our economy and our future. We need dramatic action, bold action, regarding our economy, and he's going to bring that action. He's been talking about this for decades, and so much of what he warned about has come true. He's not just a wide-eyed idealist; he has the knowledge and capability to protect our financial security.

There are other reasons I'm voting for him as well: he's got a long record of supporting environmental causes, abortion rights, civil rights and the rights of workers. He was against the invasion of Iraq and will be against other foolish foreign interventions. I don't see him flip-flopping on issues the way Hillary has regarding Palestine and Israel, foreign trade deals, minimum wage, gay marriage, and on and on and on. I don't see him saying things just to please a certain group of people, particularly when saying such would go against what he's supposed to support. I know where he stands, even on some issues on which I don't agree with him. I know what I'm getting with my vote.

Yes, I know, he's not going to win the primary. But his huge percentage of votes nationally, particularly among young people, is a wake-up call to the Democratic Party: you have ignored progressive issues, you have cow towed to banks and corporations, and we aren't going to take it anymore. Ignore us and lose future elections, it's that simple.

I'm not a wide-eyed optimist either. I'm 50. I've been all over the world. I've lived in other countries. I've seen what works, economically speaking. And I'm voting for Bernie Sanders.

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