As longtime readers know, I supported Bernie Sanders in both of his runs for the presidency in 2016 and 2020. But I started supporting him much earlier ever since I became aware of how, in his long political career, he has been so consistent and passionate in his support for those who are less well off and his excoriation of the greedy wealthy people who make obscene amounts of money while using every trick in the book to avoid paying taxes that come anywhere close to being a reasonable fraction of their income. His relentless advocacy for a single-payer health insurance system and his attacks on high drug prices in the US, especially for essential ones like insulin, while the drug companies make huge profits and pay lavish salaries and bonuses to its top executives, has resulted in those issues becoming part of mainstream political discussions and undoubtedly has paved the way for the recent drops in the prices of insulin drugs. He has been a supporter of civil rights from the days when as a college student he was arrested in 1963 for taking part in demonstrations. He was found guilty for resisting arrest and fined.
Robert Reich has served in government in various administrations, most notably as Labor Secretary during the first term of the Clinton administration and is a progressive himself. It should come as no surprise that he is also a supporter of Sanders and in this essay he gives his reasons why..
Let me just come right out and say it: I love Bernie Sanders.
I love his authenticity. Some people like Donald Trump because he says whatever he wants and he’s an asshole. Bernie’s authenticity comes from saying what he wants and speaking the truth. And although he’s blunt, he’s anything but an asshole. When he growls “this grotesque level of income and wealth inequality is immoral,” he means it. And he’s right.
I love his chutzpah. On Tuesday, Bernie announced that Starbucks’s anti-labor CEO, Howard Schultz, has agreed to testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which Bernie chairs. The National Labor Relations Board has filed more than 80 complaints against Starbucks for refusing to negotiate in good faith with its workers in more than 280 Starbucks stores that have voted to unionize. Schultz had refused the committee’s request to appear until Bernie threatened to subpoena him. “I look forward to hearing from Mr. Schultz as to when he intends to end his illegal anti-union activities and begin signing fair first contracts with the unions,” Bernie said.
I love him because he’s never been afraid to call himself a democratic socialist. Soon after he began running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, his campaign manager warned me he was about make a speech to “introduce” the public to democratic socialism. I was impressed that he had the guts to do this but worried about his timing. “Does he have to do it now?” I asked. The campaign manager told me Bernie was committed to doing it and couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. It was pure Bernie.
Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for Social Security, Republicans have used “socialism” to scare Americans away from doing anything big that we need done.
But America is changing. As early as 2011, the Pew Research Center found that almost half of all voters under the age of 30 held a positive view of socialism while only 46 percent held a positive view of capitalism. In the 2016 Democratic primaries and then again in 2020, young people all over America wore buttons reading “Feel the Bern.” They were like the young admirers of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, another warrior who combined progressive conviction with elder crankiness.
I love Bernie because he has almost single-handedly changed the national conversation — turning proposals that had once been on the Democratic fringe into respectable, and in some cases mainstream, Democratic positions. Creating jobs by rebuilding infrastructure. Providing free tuition at public universities. Breaking up the big banks. Guaranteeing workers paid medical and family leave.
The policies no longer seem far-fetched. And now that he’s chair of a powerful Senate committee, Bernie might be able to usher some of them through, if Democrats regain control of the House next year.
I love Bernie because even at the age of 81, his indignation hasn’t faded. Nor has his energy.
I love Bernie because he has more guts than any politician I know. Hell, he has more guts than just about anyone I know.
It is unusual for the righteous indignation that one feels as an idealistic young person about the injustices one sees all around to not fade when one gets older. Sanders is one of those rare examples.
I like Bernie a lot. I also like Robert Reich a lot. I try not to fall in “love” with any politician because that tends to make one start to gloss over their shortcomings and that’s how we ended up with eight years of Bill Clinton.
Pierce R. Butler says
… again in 2020, young people all over America wore buttons reading “Feel the Bern.”
Yabbut then most of ’em sat on their hands on “Super Tuesday” and let that other old guy sweep the nom.
John Morales says
That rare breed that practices https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conviction_politics