You Can’t Take the Sky From Me

Image: Gabe Pyle via Woot! Shirt

Yesterday Bernie Sanders ended his campaign. After 7 years of supporting his runs for President, it was a difficult moment. I will take exactly 24 hours to grieve for the lost dream of an administration that would put the American citizen first, instead of wealthy corporations and oligarchs… and then I will go back to working for that dream, much as Bernie has done for the last 4 decades in the face of continual opposition and derision.

It will happen. Just not on this day.

Political winds shift regularly, and the political pendulum swings over time. What makes the “Bernie Revolution” so critical in our day is that the pendulum of ideology has swung so far to the right over the last 40 years that putting a moderate or centrist Democrat in the White House will only be good enough to slow the progress of our society toward an evangelical fascist nation, the beginnings of which have been painfully evident in the most gangrenous *administration I have experienced in my almost 70 years of life.

America doesn’t need a moderate right now, it needs a more radical approach to governmental transformation, and Bernie would have been just the ticket.

There’s an old aphorism floating around out there that basically says “If you aim for the trees you’ll hit the ground, but if you aim for the stars you’re more likely to hit the trees.”

Anyone who’s ever practiced archery or marksmanship knows this. If you want to shoot higher, you need to aim much higher than your target, and any candidate who tries to get elected by promising to preserve the status quo is guaranteed to hit the ground and not the target, only dooming America to a continued march toward corporate-funded despotism.

Bernie had thoughts about just about everything. For reference, a basic list of his positions, consistent over decades is found below.

Capital Punishment / Death Penalty: Abolish it
Cash Bail Reform: End it
Cocaine Sentencing Disparities: Scrap the disparity
Mandatory Minimum Sentences Reform: Eliminate them
Private Prisons: Eliminate them
Election Security: Mandate paper ballots
Affordable Housing: Construction funding, rent control and taxes to curb speculation
Big Banks: Bring back Glass-Steagall
Income Inequality: Raise taxes on the wealthy, create new social programs
Minimum Wage: Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour
Paid Leave: Support several months of broad paid leave
Reparations: Study reparations
Charter Schools: Restrict charter school growth
Cost of College: College should be free
Student Debt: Cancel all student debt
Teacher Pay: Boost teacher pay
Campaign Finance: Unlimited spending should not be allowed in politics
Electoral College: The Electoral College should be eliminated
Felon Voting: Felons should be allowed to vote while incarcerated
Nuclear Power: Support closing down existing nuclear power reactors
Oil and gas drilling: Ban fracking everywhere
Reducing carbon emissions: Impose government regulations
Farm Economy: Break up agribusiness
Farming and Climate Change: Pay farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices
Nutrition: Universal free meals in schools
Rights for Farm Owners and Workers: Expand farm worker protections, but no specific plans for USDA civil rights
Assault Weapons: Support a voluntary buyback program
Background Checks: In favor of universal background checks
Bernie Sanders’ views on: Abortion
ACA / Coverage Expansion: All in on Medicare for All
Drug Costs: Importation and patent breaking
Medicare For All: Medicare for All or bust
DACA: Citizenship for Dreamers
Illegal Entry: Repeal the statute
The Wall: Don’t support additional wall funding
Transportation: Boost infrastructure spending, but no stated funding mechanism
Legalizing Marijuana: Legalize it
Marijuana Convictions: Scrapping past pot convictions
Defense Spending: Slash the defense budget
Overseas Deployments: Bring the troops home
Capital Gains Taxes: Increase the capital gains tax rate
Corporate Income Taxes: Eliminate tax breaks for “offshoring.”
Wealth Taxes: Create special taxes on wealth
Rural Broadband: Create a public option for broadband
Social Media: We should consider holding companies legally liable for user posts
Tech Competition & Antitrust: Break them up
China: Support the goal, change the approach
NAFTA / USMCA: Against the USMCA
Tariffs: Use tariffs to crack down on certain countries
TPP 2.0: Oppose joining CPTPP or opposed TPP

I don’t think even the most radical of Bernie’s supporters convinced themselves that every one of these platform planks could be enacted into law. But every one is something that would make life better for all citizens, not just Democrats.

If we could get the three I have highlighted in red enshrined in American law – A decent minimum wage, universal single-payer healthcare, and repealing Citizens United – it would go a long way toward creating a better life for every American.

There’s no question that I’m sad. I know that there are people out there who will be exulting in the copious “liberal tears” that are being shed at the moment, and I’m sad for them as well – because they’re essentially cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Bernie will continue serving the American people without compromising his principles as a senior Senator as he has always done, and until he can serve no more. There will come a day when he will go the way of all the earth, and it is my fervent hope that there will be those who come after – young people like AOC, or others who have not yet arisen – who will mature in government service and pick up Bernie’s torch. In the meantime I will do what I can to support progressive candidates who will work to build a world that works, in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller,

“for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Thank You, Bernie Sanders

As I commented to a Facebook acquaintance, I am approaching the twilight of my life, and in these uncertain days one never knows how much time is left. When my own time comes, I need to be able to go down to my grave knowing that I did all that I could to leave the world a better place for my children and grandchildren; I need to be able to look them in the eye and say that I voted for freedom, for prosperity, for equality, and for human dignity. For me – and your mileage may vary – to support the current occupant of the White House for another 4 years would be voting to keep my posterity in a state of servitude to the wealthy, to say to them in effect “You must remain poor. You do not deserve a living wage. You do not deserve affordable healthcare. In order to get an education, you must undertake a lifetime of debt. You girls do not deserve the right to choose your destinies, you must submit to abuse at the hands of any man who feels like you are nothing more than property, and if you happen to become pregnant, too bad for you. You have no choice.” This I cannot do.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

It’s not the lesser evil, it’s the greater good.

For a long time I’ve been complaining to myself, about every four years or so, of having to choose between the evil of two lessers. Over the course of my life, my politics have been all over the spectrum, from Democrat in my youth (think McCarthy and McGovern), to a 40-year stint of drinking the GOP Kool-Aid (I still think Reagan had the best interests of the nation at heart, but Cheney & Co. put an end to my straight-party history), to Libertarianism (too close to Anarchynarchy for comfort), and back to the Dems since 2008, because like many Americans, I really was hopeful for some change, particularly in the economic arena.

While I don’t agree with all his politics or agenda, our current President has had a pretty good run if you look at the numbers. Those on the evangelical right tend to see him as Satan incarnate, the enemy of all righteousness, attacking foundations of “moral America” with jackhammers and wrecking balls, but despite what the John Birch Society would have you think, no religious code is enshrined in the Constitution; morals remain, thanks to the First Amendment, a matter of personal choice and personal accountability.

Bernie Sanders was the first real breath of political fresh air I have experienced on the national stage in my entire life. I worked for him, I stumped for him, I contributed my $3.00 (several times over, if the truth be known), I was a caucus captain for him in Maine, and I was really hoping for someone in the White House who would pay less attention to politics or private interests than those who have occupied that seat of power during my sojourn on earth.

Now those hopes have been extinguished, and once again I am left to choose between two people whose politics I do not endorse, and must choose the lesser evil. Or perhaps not.

Donald Trump is a caricature of all that is wrong with politics, a real-live Oliphant cartoon (I deeply regret this great commentator’s gentle slide into retirement, especially during this circus of an election season), Tammany Tiger in the flesh, the ghosts of Leona Helmsley, Imelda Marcos, and Joseph McCarthy brought back to life in one horrible package of xenophobic one-percentism. The prospect of a Trump presidency terrifies me, and the thought that a fraction of this country approaching 50% thinks he would be good for this country leaves me with cold sweats.

Despite my own feelings, I have a huge circle of friends who support both Trump and the GOP, and there are parts of their fears and frustrations that resonate with me. The “giant sucking sound” Ross Perot referred to with regards to American jobs – not to Mexico, as it turned out, but rather to Asia – is of deep concern. The rotting factories of America, the economic terror that is snapping at the heels of a far-too-great segment of our nation’s families, the social unrest, and a general trend in our country toward an “anything goes” outlook are valid concerns in the minds of many people. The growing fear of Islamic extremism is a real phenomenon; remembering that the enemy of freedom is not Islam but rather extremism of all stripes and ignorance has become ever more difficult since 9/11, an event that scarred my soul and twisted my Weltanschauung despite my being aware that it did so. But championing trickle-down economics and outright jingoism and fear-mongering are not the answers to these pressing problems, and these are precisely the principles upon which Donald Trump has built his campaign.

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On the other side of the aisle we have Hillary Rodham Clinton, part of the “Buy one, get one free” package that we inherited under the presidency of her husband. During the Billary days, there was a joke circulating that was so cruel and petty that I can’t repeat it here, but it underscored the notion that both Bill and Hillary were crooked and dishonest. It’s worth considering that much of the “crooked Hillary” rhetoric that seems to have become part of the American psyche could be the result of a decades-long smear campaign by her opponents on the right, but for good or ill it has affected me. I don’t know if I trust her to act ethically and honestly for the good of America’s citizenry, and that’s admitting freely that as a person, I don’t know her from Adam’s off ox. The Clinton presidency appears to be settling on the positive side of the historical ledger, but the moral lapses of our 42nd president, followed by the web of deceit and duplicity that followed, add to the general feeling that having this team back in the White House will do more good for them than for us.

Coming back to Bernie Sanders, there is a segment of his constituency who have adopted the “Bernie or Bust” philosophy… and I understand that as well. My franchise under the Constitution is precious, and casting a ballot for someone I don’t support seems like squandering that franchise. I supported Bernie so fervently that it seems folly not to ignore the dominant candidates and cast my ballot for him as a write-in, or vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to bolster third-party strength. But that’s not the attitude that Bernie himself has adopted; he’s a career politician, has stayed on message for over 3 decades, and he understands clearly that politics makes strange bedfellows.

From where I stand, Senator Sanders’ support for Hillary at this time is an effort to make the best of a less-than-optimal situation. Even his decision to run as a democrat was a calculated political move, and one that paid greater dividends in the long run than having run as an independent might have done. I like what he stands for. He has a lifetime in the political trenches. I trust him. And if he’s asking his supporters to support the Democratic candidate at this point in time, it makes sense that I do so now.

From a faith-based standpoint, I should be on the far right. I believe that there are certain standards of conduct that, if followed, will bring greater overall happiness to mankind than the alternatives. But I am also a fervent supporter of free agency which I see as the core principle of our earthly probation; the whole concept of “I don’t believe in eating cake, so you may not have any either” just doesn’t fly with me. As a result, the efforts of the Christian right to impose morality on the nation by political activism is just as worrisome as the jihadis who would impose Islam on the world by the sword.

So there’s the dilemma. I can’t just stay home and not vote, because that would be an insult to those who dedicated their lives to creating a republic where my franchise is guaranteed. I can’t really justify voting Libertarian or Green, because neither party has a hope of winning in the general election, and I can’t write Bernie in for the same reason, as much as I would love to see him at the helm of state. I can’t vote GOP, because the Republican Zeitgeist at this moment in time seems to revolve around a world that works for the rich, the few, and the holy.

Yes, I think there has been a lot of jiggery-pokery in the political process this year, perhaps more than in the past. I think the DNC basically shafted Bernie and his supporters with a cactus, and that the game was essentially rigged from the start. But in the end analysis, I have to ask myself “Which party’s ideals intersect most strongly with my own?”

The answer, for myself, is clear. I will vote for Hillary in November, not because she is the lesser evil but because I believe she will accomplish the greater good. But in the meantime, I will continue to work for and support candidates at the local and congressional level who support the ideals that Bernie Sanders offered the nation: equal opportunities for all, a political process free of corporate money and influence, universal healthcare, universal human dignity, and – in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller – “making the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.