Monday, July 20, 2015

Bernie Sanders is No Extremist

In 2011, our country was in the grips of an economic crisis.  The vast extent of inequality was being publicized by the grassroots ‘Occupy’ movement like never before.  Police forces across the country were conscripted into the service of the 1%, attacking peaceful demonstrators, and the political right flayed democratic protestors in the press, accusing them of being dirty “takers” and “scroungers”, desperate to keep the focus away from the resonating message of the movement and its handful of high-profile supporters.
Critics of the 1%, the corporate takeover of U.S. politics, and of gross inequality had to contend with hostility not just from the Republican Party.  Hillary Clinton, in well-paid speeches to the likes of Goldman Sachs, dismissed concerns about the state of economic and political life in the U.S. as unproductive and foolish.
That is perhaps unsurprising given the record of defense for Wall Street Clinton built while representing New York in the Senate.  It might also be unsurprising given her sympathy with dictatorial regimes across the Middle East, whose parasitical leaders suck the life blood from the labour of their citizens much as the elites do in the United States.
Clinton’s neo-liberalism has been on display in her backing for the TPP, the Pacific-region deal which is bad for labour rights, environmental regulation, human rights, and democracy given the power it hands to corporate adjudicators. 
Hillary Clinton attended several fundraisers, touring the elite residences of San Francisco—a city that might symbolize the divide between the haves and have-nots.  Ordinary Californians, who would not recognize themselves in the circles where Clinton raised cash, were not on the agenda.
If Hillary Clinton was the only candidate contesting the Democratic Primary, this would be a depressing state of affairs indeed.  Voters, one would hope, would be dismayed at the prospect of having to settle for a war-mongering, corporate-minded candidate, beholden to corporate donors who clearly expect something in return from their investment.
But fortunately, Hillary Clinton is only the deeply-unserious challenger to a candidate who has much more substance and a much better track-record when it comes to representing the middle- and working-class. 
Clinton tiptoes around the issues, waiting until they have been tested to death by pollsters before producing a statement written by enough political hacks to go some distance towards addressing unemployment numbers.  Bernie Sanders, the leftist Senator from Vermont, has no such qualms, and has built a campaign around denouncing the inequality which characterizes our society.
Sanders is happy to be described as a democratic socialist or a social democrat, and unafraid of committing to use taxation to redistribute the wealth which has become so badly skewed toward the top in the U.S.  He has called for a return to top marginal tax rates from the era when “radical, socialist Dwight Eisenhower was president”, recognizing that in another era, under a top tax rate more than double what millionaires and billionaires pay today, businesses still made profits, and the country built much of the material and social infrastructure that has sustained us to this day.
Such infrastructure—both physical and welfare—is in need of overhaul, and Sanders is prepared to mount a campaign to rebuild our crumbling highways and expand our neglected transit system, while also investing in higher education and healthcare.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clinton feels threatened by this unashamed social democracy, and her minions—and the Clintons have an abundance of such hangers-on, eager to wield the knife in exchange for the favour of our country’s political royalty—have been attacking Sanders. 
ClaireMcCaskill was amongst the most prominent of Clinton’s supporters to attack Sanders, calling him “extreme”, “against trade”, and arguing that “It’s not unusual for someone who has an extreme message to have a following”.
The bewildering “trade” comment is presumably a reference to Sanders’ opposition to the TPP, a deal which could take individual nations’ control over labour, environmental, and human rights policy, and hand that control to corporate entities. 
The comments about Sanders’ “extremism” are also curious.  McCaskill, after all, is defending Clinton, a candidate who has taken enormous sums of money from a Wall Street crowd that has introduced an extreme degree of inequality into the U.S. through its speculation and lobbying.
Clinton backs Israeli colonialism and the extreme violence that goes along with it.  She backed the illegal, immoral, and downright stupid U.S. war on Iraq, which created ISIS, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of U.S. citizens, and will cost our country trillions of dollars.
Sanders’ “extreme” vision is the form of political, social, and economic organization in which hundreds of millions of other people around the world—who generally enjoy healthier lives, better services, and a greater degree of security than U.S. citizens—exist. 

Claire McCaskill’s comments were extremely stupid, and Clinton is extremely naïve if she thinks her extremely poor record is going to sail past the public without scrutiny, challenge, and hopefully defeat.  Sanders is no kind of extremist.  In most countries where political power has not yet been purchased by the plutocrats, he would be a middle-of-the-road political figure, preaching common sense rather than the swivel-eyed demagoguery and economic fundamentalism promoted by the Republican Party and indulged by the likes of Hillary Clinton. 

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