Monday, May 11, 2015

Here: Have a Candidate Who Actually Wants to Do What Most Americans Want

For decades, liberals have been driven crazy by the fact that majorities of Americans repeatedly tell posters that we want the whole liberal, socialist agenda - higher wages, unions, more money for poor people, environmental protection, health and safety regulations, strong activist government, women's rights, minority rights, secular society, open immigration, gay rights, you-name-it - yet keep voting the most backward, ante-diluvian repugs morons into office.

That is because nobody outside of Berkeley actually runs on the liberal socialist agenda Americans actually want.

Until now.

PZ Myers:
(#12 is to urge his supporters to hire editors and proofreaders.)

Shouldn’t that just be the Democratic party platform?

When the Minnesota caucuses roll around, I’ll be there to vote for Sanders. But this next election is also too important to screw up — we have to get rid of the Republican poison — so at the election itself, if Clinton is the official nominee, I’ll vote for her.

But there is no excuse to not vote your conscience in the primaries. If nothing else, let’s put some pressure on the corporate candidate to move to the left.

Digby has more details:

"People should not underestimate me. I've run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country."
In case you wondered what that message will be, here's a good rundown:
Move to a single-payer health care system

The major issue on which Sanders embraces "full socialism" is health care, where he maintains his longtime support of a single-payer health-care system. At an Iowa event last year, Sanders called Obamacare a "modest step forward." But he said much more work needed to be done on expanding coverage and reducing the costs of care: "We are the only major nation on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people." The problem, he said, is that in the current system, "the goal is for the insurance companies and the drug companies to make as much money as possible."

Sanders was a key supporter of Vermont's plan to implement the United States' first single-payer health care system. "If we do it and do it well, other states will get in line and follow us," he said. "And we will have a national system." But the plan has since foundered over cost concerns, and implementation has been indefinitely postponed. "It's not that it hasn't worked out, it hasn't been implemented," Sanders told The Hill this February.

Overturn Citizens United, publicly fund elections

Sanders has harshly criticized Supreme Court rulings allowing for increased spending on elections by individuals and outside groups. "We must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous 5-4 Citizens United Supreme Court decision," he's said. "Billionaires like the Koch brothers should not be able to spend hundreds of millions to buy elections in the US." He's also called for moving toward public funding of elections, saying, "We are losing our democracy in this country."

Free trade's expansion has been a "disaster"

"Unfettered free trade has been a disaster for the American people," Sanders told me. "It was pushed by corporate America with many Democrats including Bill Clinton and the Republicans working to support him." He said that during his two and a half decades in Congress, "I voted against all the trade agreements." He has been harshly critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and will make his opposition to it a key feature of his campaign.

Combat climate change with a carbon tax

"Global warming is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet," Sanders has said, "and averting a planetary disaster will require a major reduction in the burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels." To that end, he supports a carbon tax, which he calls "the most straightforward and efficient strategy for quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Don't cut Social Security — expand it (by taxing the wealthy more)

Sanders scoffs at the idea that the US faces a deficit problem that necessitates cuts in benefits or domestic spending. He mocks "entitlement reform" as a "code word" meaning "cutting Social Security and Medicare," and fought against President George W. Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security in 2005.

For Social Security in particular, Sanders says improved benefits could be funded by simply increasing payroll taxes on the rich. He's suggested applying the tax to all income over $250,000 a year. "You do that, you bring in enough money to extend Social Security for decades — and you also give us the resources to expand benefits, not cut them," he said at an event in Waterloo, Iowa, last year.

More spending on infrastructure, less on defense

Sanders has proposed spending $1 trillion on modernizing infrastructure, saying it would both put people to work and generate more economic activity. As for deficits, he wants big cuts in military spending, saying, "It is absurd that the United States continues to spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined." He's frequently suggested that any increases in defending should be fully funded by tax increases on the wealthy.

Don't tax the middle class more — they're already getting squeezed

As seen above, Sanders has frequently called for greater taxation of the wealthy. However, despite proposing a great deal of increased spending, he has not called for tax increases to the middle class or low-income people to fund these efforts.

Instead, he generally argues that the middle class is already getting squeezed — his speeches tend to include a blizzard of statistics about growing inequality. "The most significant issue facing this country is the 40-year decline of the American middle class," he's said.

Raise the minimum wage quite a lot

"If we are going to be serious about cutting poverty," Sanders said in a speech last year, the minimum wage should be raised "to a living wage." He supports raising it from the current level of $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but says "that is not enough," and wants more of an increase "in the coming years."

Supports immigration reform — but not guest worker programs for unskilled labor

Sanders supports a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants here now, and voted for the Senate's 2013 immigration reform bill. However, he criticized the bill's expansion of guest worker programs, particularly those involving unskilled workers. "I'm very dubious about the need to bring foreign unskilled labor into this country," he said in 2013. "What I do not support is, under the guise of immigrant reform, a process pushed by large corporations which results in more unemployment and lower wages for American workers."

Does not support drug legalization

"I have real concerns about implications of the war on drugs," Sanders told Time in 2014. He said it's lasted decades, to "a huge cost and the destruction of a whole lot of lives of people who were never involved in any violent activities." But he added that especially considering Vermont's heroin epidemic, "I am concerned about the overuse of dangerous drugs." Asked about marijuana legalization, Sanders said he'd "look at it," but that "to me it is not one of the major issues facing this country."

Label foods with GMO ingredients

Sanders strongly supported Vermont's law requiring labels on foods with genetically engineered ingredients — the first such law in the nation. Vermont's law is facing a court challenge, but Sanders has proposed federal legislation to ensure states can pass labeling laws. He has said that "a movement to allow the people of our country to know what is in the food they eat" is standing up to "Monsanto and other multinational food conglomerates."

Supports more gun control — but hasn't always

Sanders has been a consistent supporter of laws to toughen gun control in recent years. But earlier in his career, he was hesitant to engage on it — likely reflecting his rural constituents' views. He voted against a bill requiring a waiting period for a handgun purchase in 1991, calling it "symbolism" and saying gun control shouldn't be a federal issue. However, in 2013, Sanders voted for the Democrats' post-Newtown gun control bill, which expanded background checks and restored the assault weapons ban. He said there was "a growing consensus" that "we have got to do as much as we can to end the cold-blooded mass murders of innocent people."

Much more government funding for higher education

Frequently, Sanders argues for the importance of making college affordable. "Because of the high cost of higher education, many bright young people can no longer afford to go to college, and millions of others are leaving school saddled with debt. This is absurd," he's said. At an event last year, he said it's "time we thought about" making college free for everyone. As a first step, he's suggested that there should be no tuition for the first two years for any public college or university, saying, "We need a revolution in the way higher education is funded."

Less foreign policy interventionism

Sanders is a critic of most large-scale military interventions abroad, saying they are frequently expensive and counterproductive. He opposed the Iraq War, says Republicans are now "itching" for a war with Iran, and said he had "reservations" about Obama's intervention in Libya.

"ISIS is a brutal, awful, dangerous army and they have got to be defeated," he said last year. But, he added, "this is not just an American problem," and called on Arab nations to take the lead in the fight. "This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must be deeply involved."

Stop the NSA's "out-of-control" surveillance

"The National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies are out of control," Sanders has said. " We cannot talk about America as a 'free country' when the government is collecting information on virtually every phone call we make, when it is intercepting our emails and monitoring the websites we visit. That is not what a free society is about." He was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the first version of the Patriot Act, back in 2001.

Supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage

Sanders is pro-choice, and he has long been a supporter of LGBT rights. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. He backed Vermont's civil unions law in 2000 and its full marriage equality law in 2009.

Network neutrality is essential for free speech

Sanders strongly supports efforts to preserve network neutrality. "Our free and open internet has made invaluable contributions to democracy both here in the United States and around the world," he has said. "We must not let private corporations turn bigger and bigger profits by putting a price tag on the free flow of ideas."

Reform the Export-Import Bank

Sanders has long been a critic of the Export-Import Bank, as David Dayen documents at Salon. In a 2002 speech, Sanders asked why US taxpayers should give "huge subsidies and loans to the largest multinational corporations in the world, who pay their CEOs huge salaries … and companies take this money from the taxpayers and say, thank you very much, and oh by the way, we are laying you off because we are going to China and hiring somebody at 20 cents an hour." He voted against reauthorizing the bank in 2014.

There's a lot to like in that list. A whole lot.

But, as with Clinton and the Republican field, he's going to have to answer some tough questions too. It's part of the deal. And I can't wait to see what he says about all of it. The Democratic nomination is already more interesting and useful for having him in the race.
And Jay Ackroyd on what Sanders' candidacy means:
Put the real issues on the table this time

I’ve had a lot of excited email come into my inbox last few days, excited about Bernie Sanders. At this week’s Virtually Speaking Sundays, I talked to Cliff Schecter and Dave Johnson about Sanders. I really feel like we have an opportunity here. Not an opportunity to make Clinton say things she’d rather not say. Not an opportunity to raise a big huzzah because, finally, we have a candidate from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

What Sanders offers is the opportunity to change a narrative that has been beating on us for at least the last fifteen years—a narrative that excludes good, popular public policy from consideration. Raising the minimum wage to where it was in the 70s, adjusted for inflation, is good, popular public policy. Recognizing that the 401K experiment for replacing pensions has failed, and we need to increase social security benefits to make up for that failure is good, popular public policy. Making it possible for a student to graduate from college without a crushing debt burden is good, popular public policy. So is the adoption of trade and industrial policies that benefit everyone, not just the rentiers.

This stuff polls well. Really well. In the 70s, even the 80s. We don’t hear about it because the gatekeepers—the centrist media and the campaign funders--don’t want these issues on the table. These are unifying issues. How do you think 50 something white men in West Virginia feel about medical coverage in the years between the corporate job with health benefits and Medicare? How do you think they feel about their retirement security?

Sanders presents us with an opportunity for an inclusive campaign, a coalition of people across a broad spectrum of American society who have been, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed. They know it—they can read the 401K statement. They get the student loan bill. They’re gonna be working at Home Depot to carry them from their last real job to retirement at 67. They hate the banksters, coming and going.

We liberals have had some success shifting the Social Security narrative. We wouldn’t let the president get away with claiming that he just wanted some “tweaks.” We can do it again by using our now much more open media environment to say that what Sanders is advocating isn’t just gonna win votes in the liberal Iowa precincts. It’s gonna win votes in the general as well, because these issues transcend the identity politics embraced by our friends at Politico, and This Week and, sadly, Clinton’s campaign staff.

It’s a good time to write an LTE, talk to your neighbor, tweet Ezra or David Leonhardt and say “Aren’t these American policy positions? Don’t they poll really well across a broad spectrum of voters? Doesn’t that matter?” Because it does matter. Sanders presence in the race makes it much harder for the gatekeepers to pretend that it doesn’t.

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