Monday, May 6, 2019

2020 Challenger Lineup: Bernie Sanders

You know, I thought I was doing this primarily because I saw so much hate against Bernie Sanders and thought it would be a good idea to lay down the facts about each candidate. Now that his turn has finally come around, I'm not excited about it.

I've cooled a little bit on Bernie in the past months. I'm beginning to feel that Elizabeth Warren is a better option. However, Bernie has remained very popular, much more so than Liz.

I still feel that a lot of the criticism of Bernie comes from a place of neoliberalism or is coming out of the trauma of the 2016 election. I've read multiple critical articles/written pieces on Bernie that come down to "Bernie has refused to support the Democratic establishment and now he wants to run for president as a Democrat, how dare he." This seems like such a disingenuous argument. And it seems to come from the same people who keep accusing Bernie of splitting the vote. He can't split the Democrat vote by running as a Democrat, but you think he should run as an Independent? That is exactly how he would split the vote and hand the 2020 election to Trump.

We also live in a two-party system in which a third party candidate cannot win. This has been engineered by both Republicans and Democrats who do not want more competition. I've seen people claim that Bernie should do the work to create a viable third party instead of running with Democrat support. That just blows my mind. You try creating a viable third party. People have been trying for like the entirety of U.S. history and haven't been successful. Does Bernie have to perform miracles for you to stop riding his ass?

These are the arguments coming from liberals who so hate any hint of real leftism that they would vote for Joe Biden and commit us to this great big greasy slide into economic collapse rather than vote for the guy who's like "maybe this massive wealth gap is a bad thing." These are the establishment Democrats who don't understand that the reason Bernie is so popular is because of his criticisms of the Democratic party and his refusal to lick their boots.

I've even seen these people try to claim that Bernie hasn't really done anything in all his many, many years as a legislator, which, if you look at his record, you'll see is extremely untrue.

There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Bernie. It does look like he's been significantly more focused on appealing to the idea of the disenfranchised white man than pledging to help the millions of poor people of color and particularly women of color. He recently failed to impress at the She the People Presidential Forum because he failed to offer any actual plan for fighting white supremacy, instead once again bringing up the fact that he marched at MLK rallies.

We know you've marched, Bernie. We want concrete ideas for the problems that exist now.

When asked if he would consider a woman for a running mate, he signaled that he would, but when asked if he would consider a woman of color, he basically said "we'll see." Seattle feminist writer and editor Rosie has also spoken out about a personal experience she had in 2016 when she witnessed his campaign event be interrupted by black women who were demanding attention to police brutality issues, and instead of letting them say their piece, he went into the crowd (which was largely hostile to these women) and started shaking hands. Then, when he got to Rosie, he looked at her "black lives matter" pin and visibly grimaced.

It makes me doubt that Bernie's racial politics have evolved with the times. Of course, every white candidate has their own issues with race, including Warren's history of claiming Native American heritage she has no right to. Even Kamala Harris has been accused of promoting and holding up criminal justice policies that have been devastating to communities of color.

Which brings me to the whole "let's all pledge not to say anything negative about any Democrat candidate" shit. Let's not. Because the negative aspects of a candidate's history are just as important to making an informed choice as the positive, and candidates who can't stand up to criticism, who deflect and get defensive and refuse to listen to criticism and refuse to change, those candidates need to go. Biden to Bernie, candidates whose response to criticisms of their records are "lol fuck you" should not get to be President. We already have a President like that right now and *gestures to everything*.

I still suspect that a lot of criticism against Bernie is liberal/centrist fear of anything that is actually leftist because it's either going to take away the power they have now or power they hope to gain in the future, but a lot of criticism is also coming from women of color on his race issues and that is all valid.

Okay I've already written a ton and haven't even gotten into his policy positions.

Yes, Bernie Sanders checks pretty much all of the progressive boxes. Green New Deal. Medicare for All. College for all. Jobs for all. Women's rights. Racial justice. Disability rights (there's an often-overlooked one). Empowering tribal nations, which is conspicuously absent from Warren's issues page. The only thing that makes me grimace is Bernie's desire to "fundamentally" restructure ICE instead of just abolishing it, at the very least because it's become a symbol of U.S. genocidal fascism.

He has an extensive issues page that covers a lot more than Warren's. However, what he lacks in comparison to Warren is specific plans for change. Warren's got a whole "recent announcements" section that lays out several specific and innovative plans, including her student loans debt forgiveness program, which as I've said before, is a big swish, nothing but net. She also has a specific affordable housing plan, a plan for universal childcare, a plan to break up big tech (as well as big banks, of course), abolishing the electoral college, addressing the mortality rate of black mothers, debt relief for Puerto Rico, and of course her ultra-millionaire tax.

Now, I'm sure Bernie has plans. But his website mostly outlines promises to reverse all the damage to our country caused by the right (and some by neoliberal Democrats). And all of that is important, but I'm feeling like we really need some fundamental changes to break us out of this horror story cycle of going from a little bit better to a bunch worse over and over and over.

I honestly can't tell anymore who's more progressive between Bernie and Liz. What I can tell is that Bernie has been the recipient of way more tweets and thinkpieces about why he's a threat and a problem and will get Trump elected again than Warren. So is that because he's further to the left and they know it, or because he's still so popular right now and Warren is not so much? Time will tell.

So, after all that, I really don't want to even grade Bernie. There's too much fucked-up-ness around him. But can we all agree that no candidate is above criticism, and they're all still capitalists relying on the system that's fucked us, and that we still have until 2030 to make radical fucking changes before we pass the point of no return and slide into runaway climate change that will make the planet uninhabitable for humans? Cool, have a nice week.

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