By now, even Bernie Sanders understands he, in all likelihood, will not be the Democratic Party nominee in 2016. Bernie has been accused by more than one of his critics of being “disconnected from reality,” and repeatedly, Clinton supporters and other dissenters seeking his exit from the presidential race have pointed to the delegate counts, all but stammering, but as supposedly crazy as the senator from Vermont and his policies are purported to be, he does get it. As the calendar counts down to the Democratic National Convention, with Hillary Clinton all but certain to be the party’s representative, more and more pundits are taking to commending Bernie Sanders for running a well-intentioned campaign and raising important issues. After all, his point was never to win, but to start a political revolution, right?
Sigh. Spare me your “moral victory” nonsense. Of course Bernie wants to win! He wouldn’t have competed all the way through the primary season if he didn’t, and he’s still technically in the race! Dude won 22 states between primaries and caucuses, so let’s show him a bit more respect beyond regarding him as some sort of “cute” nobody who dared to roar against the Clinton political juggernaut. Even after decisive victories by Hillary in key primary states, at rallies across the country, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life came to hear Bernie Sanders speak at a number of his political rallies. An awful lot of enthusiasm for a guy who isn’t in it for the W, hmm?
Still, the writing is on the wall with respect to the nomination, which is why Sanders recently streamed a live message to his supporters regarding the priorities for his campaign and for his political movement. First off, there’s Donald Trump. He’s an asshole. You probably knew that, though. It would be a monumental disgrace for the American people to elect Trump, quite simply, so his complete and utter political destruction is the most immediate priority.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Bernie talks about where the political revolution ultimately needs to be heading. It’s about involvement by energetic, high-quality candidates as part of a 50-state approach for the Democratic Party, one that challenges for offices no matter if they reside in “red” or “blue” states and at all levels of government—including state, county and local. In this respect, certainly, the inclusion of young people interested in politics either as a candidate or a prospective voter and advocate is critical to this design, but anyone with a mind toward progressive policy is desired for this purpose. Sanders actually closes with this call to action, and rightly so, but my concern is with the particulars of the platform of progressivism that he and those of his ilk insist on pushing.
The meat, if you will, of the progressive sandwich that Bernie Sanders outlined in his speech was an enumeration of key points in an agenda that he intends on bringing to the Democratic National Convention, backed by 1,900 or so delegates. This is the same agenda he claims he is “looking forward” to working on with Hillary Clinton to strengthen the credentials of the Democratic Party as a party built on the strength of working and young people. Though let’s be frank—who really looks forward to working with Hillary? OK, I’m projecting a bit, but I can’t imagine trying to work with her alongside her ego is that easy. Anyhoo, here’s the laundry list of demands:
- Take on Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel industry, and other special interests. Bernie didn’t mention Big Agriculture, or “Big Ag,” by name, but this special interest group, led by the likes of multinationals like Monsanto, is also a big player in the pay-to-play world of American politics. Sen. Sanders notes in the video how he and Secretary Clinton see eye-to-eye on most issues, though they do disagree on a few important issues, and this, seemingly, is one of them.
- Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and commit to rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.
- Fight for equal pay for women and men.
- Protect the right of women to control their own bodies.
- Fight for marriage equality for the LGBT community in all 50 states.
- Ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons, end the gun show loophole, and expand instant background checks.
- Defeat the TPP and work against other bad trade deals.
- Resist cuts for Social Security and expand benefits for our seniors and disabled veterans.
- Pass a modern-day Glass-Steagall Act and break up “too big to fail” institutions.
- Combat climate change, move toward sustainable energy practices, and impose a tax on carbon.
- Ban fracking.
- Make public colleges and universities tuition-free, and substantially reduce student debt.
- Guarantee healthcare as a right, not a privilege.
- Move toward criminal justice reform at the federal, state and local levels in an effort to tackle the problem of mass incarceration.
- Pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.
- Examine and cut down on instances of waste and cost overruns in all branches of government, especially within the Department of Defense.
- Stop putting our young men and women in harm’s way as a function of perpetual warfare in the Middle East and other world regions.
Bernie Sanders just recently has said in interviews that he would vote for Hillary Clinton, though he has come short of fully endorsing her, wanting to see instead how she plans to incorporate elements of progressive policy with her own agenda if she were to become president. As for what Clinton has said she plans to accomplish upon first entering office, according to this post by Heather Long for CNN, she has these reforms in mind:
- Create jobs with a big government investment in infrastructure.
- Make college debt-free for all.
- Encourage companies to share profits with their employees.
- Make the rich (and Wall Street) pay more in taxes.
- Put “families first” in the economy by raising the minimum wage, enacting paid family leave and expanding preschool for all.
According to the piece, a $275 billion infrastructure investment plan will be at the heart of HRC’s agenda, though some economists suggest the true amount needed to address our failing infrastructure is more likely in trillions of dollars. In terms of taxes, Hillary has vowed not to raise taxes on those with incomes under $250,000, instead saying she would raise taxes on the wealthy in line with the so-called “Buffett Rule” as a means of funding her intended initiatives. On paper, it all looks good.
At the same time, however, some would say, even within this bloc of “progressive” ideas, what Hillary Clinton calls for doesn’t go far enough in standing up for the poorest Americans and the middle class. She believes college should be “debt-free,” but this is not the same as free tuition. She believes the minimum wage should be raised only as high as $12, not $15. Moreover, in terms of Bernie’s agenda that he laid out in painstaking detail in his message, there is no mention of substantive policy to fight climate change, or to limit military spending, or to expand Social Security and Medicare. These are legitimate concerns of voters across parties, notably younger voters, and especially among Sanders supporters.
In the minds of some voters, Hillary Clinton is a corporate shill who will say anything to get elected, so it is unlikely she can say much at this point to win their support. Some likely will feel betrayed by Bernie Sanders for saying he would vote for her strategically to defeat Donald Trump. For those who are, shall we say, more pragmatic about things, though, and for the independent voters and other individuals who are on the fence about what they will do and whom they will choose come November, the 17 separate bullet points referenced by Sanders in his call to action are more than just talking points—they are a roadmap to real progress. Hillary keeps repeating the line that she is a “progressive who gets things done,” but unless she runs on a more authentically progressive platform, these will yet come across as more hollow words. There’s a path to progress for Clinton to follow, but time will tell if she’s truly ready to walk the walk.