By Michael Ryan Blackwood
I support Bernie Sanders because I'm a progressive.
Hearing Sanders speak at Safeco field inspired me, because he speaks in a wholly new way for mainstream politicians. His ideology resonates with millions of disillusioned voters who have grown tired of—or entirely given up on—the political process. But merely speaking in a new way isn't such a new thing. I may have been tempted to offer the same praise to Obama in 2008, because candidates make promises. They are politicians who fight to win. However, when Bernie Sanders outlines his platform, he has earned the right to do so. No, he is not a God. But I have to admit, he is somewhat of a unicorn. We have rarely seen a politician with such a consistent record of upholding their values.
You see, he's not all talk. He is credibility. We somehow forget that he has experience, lots of it, which bolsters not only his electability, but his ability.
He is a stalwart of equality. When he speaks to us about the plight of the disenfranchised, we can look as far back as his youth, when he was arrested as a civil rights protester.
He is vehemently opposed to big money in politics. When he decries the influence of major banks and corporations in government, we can look to his campaign, which continues to be financed by small donors. During his tenure as mayor of Burlington he fought for public works in place of corporate development.
He is a staunch anti-interventionist and advocate for veteran's rights. When he is the only major party candidate to denounce "perpetual war," we can look to his opposition to military action in Nicaragua, Kuwait, Iraq, and more. He charges America with the task of caring for our veterans, and indeed the first bill he ever introduced as a representative was a bi-partisan bill on veterans of the Gulf War, and as recently as 2014 he brokered a bi-partisan deal on the V.A.
He's not some phoney "revolutionary" from the outside, some unknown who's spent no time in politics. He's been working for the American people for 35 years. He has more experience as an elected official than any other candidate. He even has more experience inexecutive office than any other candidate, including sitting Ohio governor John Kasich. We somehow forget that this anti-establishment candidate has himself been a Washington "insider," serving in both houses of Congress, where he has sat on various committees, authored legislation, reached across the aisle, and fought for progressivism. Sanders co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which he went on to chair for eight years.
Bernie Sanders embodies a combination of ideology and experience. His unprecedented track record of fighting for progressive values in office makes him our best candidate for President of the United States.
It is time to bring this country into the 21st century. We've abandoned the greatest thing left to us by Lyndon Johnson and our Democrat forebears—the dream of the Great Society. Since that time, Republicans have been massively successful (to their own detriment, we are fully realizing) in pulling this country politically to the right. And Democrats, in efforts sometimes to compromise, but often to keep hold of their wavering power, have been chasing after the right, bringing their own politics to the middle. The allure of the "swing voter" has enticed Democrats away from galvanizing their own base the way Republicans have. (Thus far, there has been no progressive equivalent of the Tea Party.)
Sanders' message does a remarkable job of this. Already Sanders is ushering in a new era of American progressivism. I will admit, had the Democratic Caucuses not involved Bernie Sanders, I would probably be among the thousands too uninspired to vote. (Every four years, forty plus percent of voters are too uninspired to make it out for the general!) Democrats—indeed, all politicians—are missing out on a key group of voters—the disillusioned. Those who stay home because we believe our vote powerless to effect change. Whether or not I vote, candidates and elected officials will continue to be bought and paid for by millionaires, corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Whether or not I vote, politicians will invest more in their own power than in empowering the American people. So we wonder,What is the purpose of casting a vote merely to legitimize corruption inefficacy?
Bernie Sanders calls out the institution for this corruption and inefficacy, and the people respond by showing up. Near-record caucus turnout here in Washington State, and record-sized rallies all across the nation testify to progressivism's ability to light a fire under those who have previously been uninvolved in politics. That is the fire the Democratic Party needs. There are many who call for "pragmatism," for moderation. But the problem with Democrats is not that they aren't moderate enough. The problem with Democrats is that they aren't progressive enough.
The pragmatists will claim that, Yes, Sanders' ideas are great, but they are too far-fetched. He'll alienate conservatives and won't be able to accomplish anything. He won't be able to reach across the aisle. What we need instead is slow, incremental change, and only a moderate can make this happen. Aside from the ideological shortcomings implicit in this, examination of this argument reveals poor thinking that neglects the lessons of history and ignores the truth about compromise.
It seems we've all forgotten the art of negotiation. Some of us are privileged to remember the slogan, "54-40 Or Fight!" from our social studies lessons. My freshman history teacher offered this lesson as a parable on compromise. The (very) simplified version goes like this: James K. Polk threatened war with the British if they wouldn't relinquish to the United States the entire Oregon Territory, which covered much of what is now British Columbia. Polk was willing to compromise, and we settled on the 49th parallel where the northern border of Washington sits today. Think about it this way: If you're bargaining with an employer for a raise, and your bottom line is 2%, you don't ask for 2%. You ask for 4, for 3.5. You certainly don't ask for slow, incremental change—you don't ask to get a raise of half a percentage point in the hope that eventually you'll get to 2%. That would be absurd! You must ask for more.
When Bernie Sanders speaks of "revolution," the language sounds hyperbolic to those who have forgotten that the way to combat lies, injustice, and oppression is to fight as loudly and fiercely as possible for truth, justice, and liberation. Ask those who marched on Washington with MLK. Ask the women of the Women's Liberation movement. Ask any activist organization throughout our history if they changed the culture of the country and the law of the land by only demanding slow, incremental change, or if they made their accomplishments by standing up for what is right. The Black Lives Matter movement isn't going to march up to a podium and demand that police hold off on murdering one or two innocent citizens over a period of time. How absurd! They are going to demand justice and equality right now. Always bear in mind that slow, incremental change is what we get whether we ask for it or not. We ostensibly outlawed segregation decades ago, and yet we still live in a society where black men and women are treated as second, as third class citizens, who are disproportionately imprisoned, executed, and outright slaughtered by the criminal justice system.
Compromise means having a position to begin with, then meeting your opponent in the middle through the course of negotiation. Today's Democrats instead attempt to compromise by making the middle their starting point. We've been told that being moderate is the only way to accomplish anything. It's not true. Progress is slow because we make it so. Moderation has been our downfall, not our saving grace. Even when Democrats have power, they waste it.
Allow me to digress for a moment to examine our elected Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats are gutless wimps. Look at the ACA. Yes, thanks to the ACA, many more people like now have (somewhat) affordable health care for the first time. But Democrats had won back Congress and the White House with a clear mandate, and instead of using this authority and power they squandered it on their spineless notions of moderation and incremental change. They brought their moderate proposals to implacable Republicans, who (of course) refused to budge anyway. In the end, the ACA only passed because Democrats had a majority in Congress. They could have written into law nearly anything they wanted. Yet the bill that squeaked through failed to bring us into the 21st century: unlike every other developed country in the world, the United States still fails to provide universal healthcare, leaving tens of millions un- or under-insured. And these Democrats marched through the street to celebrate their success!
Now let's discuss Republicans. These are the people with whom we are to compromise, whom we are to meet in the middle.
They're extremists. We shouldn't call the Republican Party anything other than right-wing extremists. They forgo reason and logic in the face of their so-called "values." These are people who would rather watch their teenagers get pregnant and contract STDs (including HIV) than have them use condoms. They would rather women die trying to use a coat hanger than keep abortion legal. They would rather our coasts get swallowed up by the sea than create new jobs and sustainable, American energy. They would rather spend more money drug testing non-users than help a poor child eat. They would rather continue to see countless innocents slaughtered in their own country than reign in firearms. They would rather attempt—sixty times—to remove healthcare from the underprivileged than to improve the health care system in any way. They would rather lower taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations than help the working class live decently. They would rather send their children to die in the Middle East than take care of them here at home. They would rather watch black people die than ensure that those devoted to serve and protect be asked to do so.
These people are fucking insane. It's time we see them as such. We need Democrats to go further left, not to walk to the middle. The fire that the Democratic Party needs, the fire that Bernie Sanders is igniting, is that very fire of truth, justice, and liberation. It is the fire of reason and compassion, of science and ethics. Progressivism, not moderation, is the true antidote to the right-wing extremism that Republicans propound year after year.
Republicans know their base well. They have been pandering to them and goading them along for years, and with Donald Trump we are witnessing the complete manifestation of their divisive ignorance. Bernie Sanders' message of knowledge, understanding, love, and togetherness flies in the face of everything Trump. Where Trump calls for violence, Sanders calls for compassion. Where Trump combats his protesters, Sanders stands aside and gives them the microphone. Where Trump calls for segregation and further disenfranchisement, Sanders calls for camaraderie and dignity.
The Republican base is aptly called just that, for they are truly the basest of the Party. We, however, will not stoop so low. Let us not match the Tea Party in their ignorance and fear, but rather let the progressive movement serve as the antithesis to the Tea Party.Instead of ignorance and fear, we will search for truth and understanding. Instead of prejudice and hatred, we will seek to unify and ennoble.
We will not be the base of the Democratic Party, we will be the elevation of the Democratic Party.
This is the real revolution.
Just as Trump is one man, so is Bernie Sanders. He is not a lone wolf or a maverick who can illicit change in American politics on his own. That is magical thinking. Rather, the beauty of Bernie Sanders' candidacy is that it inspires millions of us into action. It is time to take back politics all across the country. To take back governorships, state houses, Congress, and the White House.
Bernie Sanders has stood up for the rights of the disenfranchised for his entire career.
Bernie Sanders has railed against corporate influence for his entire career.
Bernie Sanders has battled the recklessness and inhumanity of perpetual war for his entire career.
Bernie Sanders stands before us today, not as a savior, but as a human with a history. Despite his seeming ability to summon wildlife to him, he does not have mystical powers. No, he cannot command the tides of American politics with the sound of his Brooklyn accent. He, like you and I, is fallible and flawed, capable of mistakes and missteps. But his record is nearly unimpeachable in its consistency of both thought and action. He has fought for the same, progressive values, without faltering, for the last three and a half decades. We've not seen a major party candidate like Bernie Sanders in generations. He has the guts, the integrity, and the experience to lead this country.
I am a progressive, and I support Bernie Sanders because he is the only candidate who will lead America into a new era of progress.
Disclaimer- The preceding editorial does not reflect the opinion of Chosen Magazine. It solely reflects the opinion of the author.