February 10, 2015

Bernie Sanders ~ An American Socialist

Does intelligent life exist within the Congress of the Excited States? Just days ago a senator from North Carolina suggested that restaurants in his nation should not have to make their employees wash their hands after visits to the toilet. Apparently that kind of legislation is taking big government too far.

Then again, there is Bernie Sanders. Serving his second term in the Senate after winning re-election in 2012 with over 70 percent of the vote. His previous 16 years in the House of Representatives makes him the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.  Not aligned with either party, Bernie Sanders is a rare thing in American politics: a politician who calls himself a social democrat; sometimes even blurting out the socialist moniker, and he's thoughtful and intelligent.

Mr Sanders was born in 1941 in Brooklyn to Jewish immigrants. In the 1960s he was active in the Civil Rights movement and became an organiser in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (the same SNCC depicted by two lone organisers in the film Selma). In 1964 he moved to Vermont, became active in the anti-war movement, and tried his hand at politics, losing a variety of elections.

In 1981 he ran for Mayor of Burlington and defeated a six-time incumbent in a hotly contested four way contest. He ran as an independent against the machines of the both political parties. He ran for mayor three more times, winning each time, and in one election went up against a candidate endorsed by both Democratic and Republican machines.

The images that appear after doing a Google search for Bernie Sanders are generally less than flattering. Mr Sanders is usually depicted in a state of disarray, angry perhaps and most certainly dishevelled. The fact is that Senator Sanders, independent socialist senator from Vermont, is mad as hell.

Some examples of recent quotes in a Washington Post story on the outrage of Bernie Sanders:
"We are living in the United States right now at a time when the top one-tenth of one percent own more wealth than the bottom ninety percent."
"One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns by itself more wealth than the bottom forty percent of the American people."

And then he gets around to the Koch brothers, Charles and David:
"... the second wealthiest family in America, worth $85 billion... who are now prepared to buy the United States government. You're looking at the undermining of American democracy, okay?"

Charles Koch

And it is true of course: inequality is as bad now as it was just before the Great Depression, and the buying of American politicians has never been more obvious and condoned. The Koch brothers plan to spend about $900 million on the 2016 election and no one seems agitated, except Bernie Sanders.

David Koch

The Kochs are a strange, extreme right-wing family that made
their fortune in oil and chemicals and have, under the second generation, expanded into all manner of things. They oppose public education and health care, and think climate change is bunk.

The Koch brothers finance a variety of conservative political interests and think tanks, including the Fraser Institute in Canada. During three years beginning in 2008, the Koch brothers provided the Fraser Institute with $500,000. Annual donations have continued and are believed to be in excess of $100,000 each year. Their corporate holdings in Canada revolve around the tar sands.

For Bernie Sanders it's clear: The Koch brothers are trying to buy the American presidency. Hell, they're attempting to buy the entire government. In 2014, at least six successful new senate seats were elected with Koch money, though that went largely unnoticed by the corporate media.

Mr Sanders, at 73 years of age, is considering a run for the presidency in 2016. He considers Clinton to be soft on corporate America, perhaps in the pockets of the very robber barons he sees as the enemy. He doesn't hold out much hope for Elizabeth Warren, another would-be candidate for the Democratic ticket.

Unlike both Warren and Clinton, Bernie Sanders is charismatically challenged for a corporate media obsessed with image, and with the American political system dominated by big money, it's unlikely he can mount any kind of realistic challenge to Clinton, or anyone else. Feelings of apathy, frustration and hopelessness are rampant among voters and Mr Sanders acknowledges that fact.

"The anger is there but it's an anger that turns into saying 'Go to hell, I'm not going to participate in your charade. I'm not voting.' So it's a weird kind of anger... we're at the stage of demoralisation."

Yet Bernie Sanders, independent socialist Senator from Vermont and possible presidential candidate, remains mad as hell, and he's not going to take it without a fight.
"You have to take on the Koch brothers and you have to take on Wall Street and you have to take on the billionaires... I think you need a political revolution."
Bernie's time might yet come.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

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