Bernie Sanders is not the revolutionary

I understand how you feel, Bernie Bro; I voted for Bernie Sanders too. Like Bernie actually is, I too am an independent but I voted the Democrat ballot in California’s primary election. I felt the Bern and I want to see a political revolution in this country as much as he and you do. So like you, I was disappointed when Bernie lost the Democrat nomination.

Cover of The Beatles' Revolution albumBut if Bernie were the next president, it would not guaranty that the political revolution he campaigned about would happen. And the political revolution can still happen, no matter who the next president is. Because Bernie is not the revolutionary—we are.

That’s right—none of Bernie’s platforms can be implemented without the legislature. And even if Bernie were in the Oval Office, he would not be able to sign any of his platforms into law unless the legislature was to first pass a bill that legislates one of his platforms. We the people have much more sway over our congress than any president ever could.

How do you affect your legislators? You write to them and tell them how you feel about the issues. It’s easy to do. You can message them through a form on the senators’ and representatives’ web sites. There’s a search tool to help you find your own representative or a committee. Unfortunately, as easy as it is, few constituents ever contact their congressman. A political revolution means that we all need to do this regularly. If everyone who felt the Bern did this, congress would be deluged by many millions of messages echoing the positions that Bernie took and that resonated so strongly with you.

Some of you have conservative congressmen. That means you also need to tell them that, if they vote contrary to the position you are asking them to take, you will vote for someone more like Bernie when they are up for reelection. And then you actually need to do so. That threat might not impress your congressmen if they only get a few of them but, if millions of constituents threaten to vote them out of office, they will pay attention. Over ninety percent of incumbent congressmen get reelected. There are not nearly that many of them supporting or opposing legislation the way their constituency wants them to. What incentive is there for them to do what their constituents ask if they will reelect them anyway?

Finally, a political revolutionary needs to be informed accurately on the issues. You cannot effectively write to your congressmen and vote for them if you are ignorant about politics. The three sources you should not use to inform yourself are Internet memes, TV commercials, and Fox News. All three sources are notorious for providing information that is false as frequently as it is truthful. Get your political news from multiple sources, including ones that favor the Left and ones that favor the Right, so you get a well rounded perspective on politics. Visit the Library of Congress legislative repository to read the actual bills, see their current status and, if they’ve been brought to the floor, how your congressman voted. Both FactCheck.org and PolitiFact are great tools to separate the lies from the truth. It is surprisingly easy to get detailed information about congress but you must be discerning to identify the bullshit.

You can start a political revolution even though Bernie will not be president. But it’s important to vote for the presidential candidate who would be most likely to sign Bernie’s platforms into law—and has a possibility of being elected. If your political revolution is successful at getting the legislation you want through congress, you don’t want it to just get vetoed in the Oval Office. Sitting out the presidential election because Bernie Sanders was not nominated as the Democrat candidate will not start the revolution he called for. And electing a megalomaniacal autocrat will stop it cold.

He said, she didn’t say

The latest dustup in the Democrat primary race is Senator Bernie Sanders questioning Secretary Hillary Clinton’s qualifications to be president of the United States. It’s pretty clear that he did just that Wednesday at Temple University when he said:

Well let me just say in response to Secretary Clinton, I don’t  believe that she is qualified if she is—through her Super PAC—taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get 15-million dollars from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs.

Some Hillary supporters felt that this was a low blow, claiming that Clinton never called Sanders unqualified to be president. While that may be true, they fail to recognize that the day before Sanders discussed her qualifications, she was interview by Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe. Scarborough asked Clinton directly if Sanders is “qualified” to be president. She dodged the question and instead discussed reasons she thinks Democrats should not vote for Sanders. So Scarborough explicitly asked her if Sanders is qualified to be president twice more and she again dodged the question and criticized Sanders each time. From her responses, there’s no question in anyone’s mind that she was implying that Sanders is unqualified to be president, even if she did not explicitly say the word. In view of these comments Clinton made about then presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 Democrat primary race (video below), it smacks of the pot calling the kettle black.

The word (not) “qualified” was a poor choice by Sanders. I have not read the job description for POTUS, so I don’t know what the official qualifications are, but considering her background, education, and experience, it would be difficult to make a compelling case that Clinton does not meet the qualifications. But let’s take a closer look at the empirical portions of the issues Sanders raised about Clinton and see what a better choice of words would be without talking about her qualifications.

  • “Through her Super PAC—taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds,” it’s fair to say that Sanders would be less influenced by special interests than Clinton since there are no Super PACs campaigning in support of him.
  • “If you get 15-million dollars from Wall Street through your Super PAC,” it’s fair to say that Clinton would be more likely to favor the banking industry than Sanders would be if he were president.
  • “If you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq,” the most damaging foreign blunder a president of the USA has made in modern history, it’s fair to say that Clinton demonstrated poor judgement on the most critical factor that can be faced by the POTUS.
  • “If you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent paying jobs,” it’s fair to say that supporting them demonstrated poor understanding of macroeconomics, the most important domestic topic for a POTUS to have a strong grasp of.

Sanders’ comments about qualifications notwithstanding, both he and Clinton have held by far the most positive, civil, and substantive political campaigns in this Democrat primary that I have seen in recent decades—including the current GOP primary race—even when compared to how Obama and Clinton conducted themselves in the 2008 primary. For example, while the press has constantly tried to get Sanders to comment on Clinton’s email server scandal or the Benghazi embassy attack, he has never taken the bait. In fact, he has not only consistently dismissed the issue, he has even supported Clinton by downplaying it multiple times while debating against her on national TV.

The truth is, Sanders explicitly said Clinton is not qualified and Clinton strongly implied that Sanders’ is not by dodging questions about his qualifications. But regardless of which one is nominated by the Democrat party to be the presidential candidate, the eventual nominee will face withering attacks infinitely more negative and untruthful than anything either of them has faced from the other once the race moves to the general election. Both Clinton and Sanders need to really toughen up their skin to prepare for that.

Capitalism can coexist with a socialist democracy

When asked if he’s a capitalist, Senator Bernie Sanders says he is not. He doubled down on that claim during the Democratic debate last night when he reasserted it. Instead, Sanders claims to be a democratic socialist.

I think this is a tactical error on Sanders’ part. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a democratic socialist but Sanders should not disavow capitalism. Sanders should more explicitly recognize that the two philosophies are not mutually exclusive.

He implied as much when Sanders stated that:

“Everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course we have to support small- and medium-sized businesses.”

Capitalism is defined as an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. But this system can exist side-by-side with Bernie Sanders’ view of democratic socialism. Neither has to be (or even should be) an all-or-nothing system.

Sanders only proposes socializing those sectors that capitalism does not do well. For example, private health insurance companies (like those used in Obamacare) have almost a 25% overhead because of the cost of advertising, executive salaries, stock holder dividends, and administrative overhead. Medicare, which is a single-payer system like Sanders proposes, has only a nine percent overhead.

He also proposes using tax dollars to rebuild America’s aging and crumbling infrastructure. If the federal government didn’t do it, no capitalist company would rebuild our highways, bridges, sea & airports, power grid, schools, and telecommunications networks. But without rebuilding the national infrastructure, American companies will be unable to be compete globally in the heart of the 21st century.

While Sanders proposes socializing those sectors and a couple of others, he does not advocate eliminating free enterprise. He explicitly says that we need to support small- and medium-sized companies, calling them the backbone of our economy. He does not call for eliminating investment banking. He just thinks investment banking needs to be regulated like it was under the Glass-Steagall Act because it was the deregulation of the banking industry that led to its near collapse in 2008. Sanders demonstrates that he is a believer in capitalism.

The countries that Bernie Sanders cites as examples of successful socialist democracies all have robust capitalism in their economies. Too bad Sanders doesn’t clearly state that they do. It’s fine for him to say that he is a socialist democrat because he is. But Americans would be more accepting of it if he also said that a foundation of capitalism that builds a strong middle class is critical to a healthy socialist democracy.