by Anthony Robbins, MD, MPA
When Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President, I cheered. For the first time in my life, we would know what a candidate for President really believed and what she or he would do. For me, I am doubly pleased, as I agree with Bernie's ideas.
Bernie began his political career in Vermont in the 1970s just as I was beginning my government career in Vermont. By the time he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, I had worked in Washington for both the executive branch (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Congress (House Energy and Commerce Committee). Thus I talked with Bernie and his staff about how he might be effective in the House as a sole Independent. Bernie knew what he wanted to accomplish–Medicare-for-all, for example–but knew little about how the House worked or how to serve his constituents. Cong. Dave Obey (D-WI), who had been a great protector for NIOSH, and his staff, at my urging, volunteered to help.
Until last week, I had been very unhappy with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate, not because she would be any worse than most Democrats. She has often said the right things, about children, for example. But she had also said things that should be absolutely unthinkable: in 2008, for example, she was prepared to “nuke Iran.”
With Bernie there is no question where he stands and what he would do. The New York Times' Gerry Mullany summarized his positions in the April 30 article “Bernie Sanders on the Issues.” by Gerry Mullany, April 30, 2015.
I also took down from the shelf my autographed copy of Bernie’s 2010 The Speech: a historic filibuster on corporate greed and the decline of our middle class to confirm that Bernie’s rhetoric is as good as the many one-on-one discussions we have had over the years.
The Speech is well worth reading.
Anthony Robbins, MD, MPA is co-Editor of the Journal of Public Health Policy. (Facebook pagehere.) He directed the Vermont Department of Health, the Colorado Department of Health, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the U.S. National Vaccine Program.
The smart strategy, per progressive Democratic activists on Daily Kos, is to support Sanders all the way through the primaries, and then support whoever is the nominated candidate in the general election.
Sanders will almost certainly cause HRC to move a little to the left. This is good: every centimeter of progress counts, not only in elections but in reframing national political debates. Realistically we can count on Sanders to shift the frame: and we should be prepared to reinforce that in the public mind, with as much media, blogging, peaceful demonstrations, etc., as possible.
Keep in mind re. HRC, that "nuke Iran" comments are basically throw-away lines, and HRC is too smart to do anything of the sort. She was also many years ahead of the curve on health care: Hillarycare would have gone even further than Obamacare, and the degree to which the extreme right has taken over is demonstrated clearly by the climate in which Obama had to struggle to get even as much as he got.
Lastly, any current Democratic candidate is light-years better than any current Republican candidate. 1) Climate change, existential threat to our species. No further explanation needed. 2) Religious extremism: you need to know this: keyword search "Seven Mountains," keyword search "Dominionism," and read talk2action.org for high-quality reporting on the religious right. 3) The Supreme Court. The next president will get to replace as many as three retiring Justices. The prospect of the Court moving even further to the right is terrifying.
The most important thing each of us can do, is make sure that everyone we know is registered to vote, and ask them to make sure that everyone they know is registered to vote. Start working on that n-o-w, do not wait until next year. Then next year, make sure everyone you know votes in the primary, and in the general. Social gatherings such as dinner parties, or nights out at restaurants and/or films, are good incentives & rewards for participation. In states with voter ID laws, also make sure that people have appropriate ID and that it will not be expired before the primary or general election. If someone you know doesn't have appropriate ID for their state, help them get it. For students, check to see that you can vote where you go to school, and if not, then get the all-important absentee ballot.
The Koches and other bad-actors have the money, but WE have the numbers, and that is what counts.
Not to take anything away from Sanders, but I'd say Dennis Kucinich was reliably progressive, too. So much so that he was disinvited from the debates. I wonder if Sanders will be allowed to debate, especially since he's not a Democrat.
Sanders is a self-admitted Socialist, from what I recall. Are Socialists considered "progressive"?
Re. 2: Social Democrat. There's a substantial difference. Social Democratic policies are largely responsible for the prosperity and high standard of living in Europe particularly the Nordic countries.
The empirical findings are in. America experiments with laissez-faire have failed. The last one nearly crashed the entire global financial system and nearly took out our largest automobile maker. Meanwhile Mack Trucks, as American a brand as ever there was, is now owned by Volvo. Of Sweden.
It's time to try something that works.