Bernie Sanders is my preferred candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 American presidential election, and this is my attempt to articulate why that is.
The TL/DR of it is this: Alone out of anyone I’ve seen run for president in my lifetime, Sanders seems committed to the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of humanity. Specifically, he seems to share my understanding of that phrase: The right to life goes beyond the right to not be murdered, and includes the right to affordable food, water, housing, and healthcare. The right to liberty is tied to that. If you have to spend a majority of your waking hours generating profit for someone who has more than they’ll ever need, just to make ends meet on the pittance you get in return, then you don’t really have liberty. If leaving a bad job means risking death from treatable disease, then you don’t really have liberty. Likewise, if the work required to stay alive leaves you with no free time and no energy – if all you can do is pursue survival, then you’re not really free to pursue happiness.
And from those values comes the commitment to universal healthcare, to housing for all, and to a system that organizes the distribution of our abundant resources based on what all people need, not just on what rich people want. I think Elizabeth Warren shares those goals and she’s willing to work hard to get there, but her approach worries me. Her strategy seems to be to get to where we both want to go through better regulation of basically the same capitalist system.
What sets Sanders apart is that he has show a commitment to supporting those rights for all of humanity, not just Americans. It’s understandable for American politicians to view domestic and foreign policy through the lens of “American interests”, but I think we’ve reached a point where it’s essential to move beyond that. Climate change, global trade, the global internet, and the speed with which people can move from nation to nation all require that we view the world through a global lens. I think it’s clear that the oligarch class does this, with the chummy relationship we’ve seen between the “elites” both through events like the Davos conference, and the friendship between American elites and the House of Saud. Likewise, the capitalist class has been using global trade, travel, and warfare to benefit themselves at the expense of others, with the abuse and exploitation of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America being used to reduce the power of the working class in the so-called “western” nations.
If the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is going to survive – more importantly if humanity is to survive – then, to use a slogan, the workers of the world must unite.
That’s where Bernie Sanders stands apart from the others running for President. His record is not just one of fighting for progressive values in America, it’s one of fighting for them all over the planet.
Bolivia, and more specifically Bolivia’s lithium reserves, have been the focus of attention for some time. Current battery technology relies heavily on lithium, and with the push for better batteries, and for more electric cars, demand for lithium has been rising. In another world, this could be a golden opportunity of Bolivia, and a chance for them to very, very well by supplying the power storage needs of a world trying to move away from fossil fuels. The world we live in today, however, is guided by profits for big corporations, and those profits, in many cases rely on trade “deals” that give those corporations control over natural resources at incredibly low prices. This dynamic is at its worst when it comes to former colonies of the various European empires. There’s a lot to be said on this topic, but for this article I’ll just point out that it’s no coincidence that the military’s “suggestion” that Evo Morales should resign came so soon after the Morales administration decided that Bolivia’s lithium resources should be extracted, processed, and sold to the world in a way that would benefit the Bolivian people more than multinational corporations.
This exposes the right-wing nationalist lie that they want a happy world of nations attending to their own interests first. What they really want is a world that serves the interests of their nations, and of the corporations they serve. When a country like Bolivia tries to look out for its own people, they stage a coup, as they have done over and over again around the world. Bernie Sanders wasn’t just the first and strongest in naming and opposing what’s happening in Bolivia, he is also the only candidate in the Democratic primary whose vision and policies include standing up for the people of all nations, and truly working together across the globe to deal with global problems like climate change. If we don’t change how we do things, then we’ll see another couple decades of false “solutions” that continue the vicious exploitation of resources to increase the hoards of the aristocracy at the expense of everyone else. It has been pointed out many times that the people who see the least benefit from this neo-colonial exploitation are also the ones who are suffering the most from the warming climate, and the ones who the far right increasingly wants to kill off as they try to take refuge from problems they did not create.
We see the importance of his global vision when we look at what’s been happening in Brazil. During the presidency of Luiz Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, Brazil became a global leader in renewable energy, and in fighting for working class solidarity around the world. Lula da Silva worked hard to reduce the right-wing influence of the American Empire, and to empower nations that have, for most of recent history, been suffering under the rule of authoritarian regimes backed, and in some cases installed by American military and intelligence operations. He played a major role in the presidency of his successor, Dilma Rousseff, and his popularity had him on track to retake the presidency in 2018, before he was wrongfully imprisoned as part of the “anti-corruption” operation that also took down Rousseff.
I am deeply concerned by the current effort to remove Brazil’s democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff. To many Brazilians and observers the controversial impeachment process more closely resembles a coup d’état.
“After suspending Brazil’s first female president on dubious grounds, without a mandate to govern, the new interim government abolished the ministry of women, racial equality and human rights. They immediately replaced a diverse and representative administration with a cabinet made up entirely of white men. The new, unelected administration quickly announced plans to impose austerity, increase privatization and install a far right-wing social agenda.
“The effort to remove President Rousseff is not a legal trial but rather a political one. The United States cannot sit silently while the democratic institutions of one of our most important allies are undermined. We must stand up for the working families of Brazil and demand that this dispute be settled with democratic elections.
Since then he has been consistent in his support for the working people of Brazil. When the man who would become Bolsonaro’s defense minister jailed Lula da Silva, Sanders called for his release, and was the only candidate in the Democratic primary to do so. From what I can tell, no other candidate for president has shown anything like this support for left-wing politicians and movements in other countries, even in contrast to people as extreme as Jair Bolsonaro or Bolivia’s Jeanine Áñez. When it comes to viewing international politics through the lens of climate change, it’s pretty clear that right-wing extremists are bad news. Their scorn for environmental protection has a long and bloody record, and the fires in the Amazon, are just the ash-flavored icing on that disgusting cake. Again, the global perspective of the Sanders campaign, and his demonstrated solidarity with other left-wing leaders and causes sets him apart from everyone else in this primary race.
So where does he stand on getting elected, and on getting things done? I believe he’s well positioned for both, and for the same reason. From the beginning of his political career, Sanders has focused his campaigning on talking to people. That has meant direct conversations between him and his constituencies, but it’s also the guiding principle of his broader outreach movement. His slogan of “Not me, us!” isn’t just words – it’s the core of what the Sanders campaign is trying to do. They’re trying to bring people together. They’re encouraging people to share their problems with each other, and to see that they’re not alone. Just as Sanders kept talking to people while working in every office he’s ever held, his campaign is working to build a movement that will keep working, and keep building once the 2020 race is over. Nobody is under any illusion that Republicans or right-wing Democrats will be on board with all of his policies, so part of the goal is to energize people to vote in more politicians like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Unlike Obama, Sanders has shown that his efforts at building power for the people, and his effort to listen to the people, will not end when he gets into office. Whenever he has gotten political office, he has continued the very basic work of talking to people.
That is also something that is allowed by the focus on small donations from lots of people – rather than spending all his time calling on mega-donors, hat in hand, Sanders can go around and talk to the people he’s actually supposed to be working for, and fund his efforts in doing so. This not only gives more power to the people by having a powerful politician who’s not dependent on the capitalist class for his funding, it also gives more power to the people by giving them access to the politicians who work for them. It gives everyday people far, far more influence over government than they have with any other candidate in the race, or with almost any other politician in America right now.
Most importantly, his campaign is about building connections between people, and a kind of collective power that can function without him, and that can outlive him. While most presidential campaigns are all about electing the candidate to office, the campaign Sanders is running is about more than that. It’s using that goal to build something more solid and enduring that can keep fighting for its ideals and goals even when Sanders, in time, leaves the picture. With hard work and persistence, it’s something that could change the country. In time, it could place America not as a “leader”, dominating the world, but as one nation in solidarity with many others working for a better life for everyone.