Bernie Sanders is running for president again and I’m really glad to see him run. An article in The New York Times has framed his candidacy in a rather interesting way. No longer the outlier, Sanders has joined many other candidates who say that they have embraced many of the policies he promotes. The New York Times wonders aloud, “How can Bernie Sanders distinguish himself from the other candidates?”
Here is how he can do it. What distinguishes Bernie Sanders from all others is the policy message that he has consistently stated: Get big money out of politics. This is a message he has repeated many, many times. But during a nationally televised debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, he did something more. He said, in so many words, that we must get big money out of politics, for there will be no other reforms before this one.
To my knowledge, no other candidate has ever laid the problem of big money in politics so bare. Not even Hillary Clinton, who had a moment to agree with Sanders during that debate. She could have co-opted his message on that very point, but did not.
The public policy decisions that have been made since 1978 gave rise to inequality that we have not seen since just before the Great Depression. Those decisions were made based on money given to politicians in a quid pro quo, a legal bribe. Those decisions, to take the money and vote with the money, were made at the expense of everyone else.
To frame it a little bit differently, if a poor man and a rich man have the same vote, but the rich man has access to his representative for laws that would favor him and his class alone, that would subject the poor man to a subtle form of slavery. The American Aristocracy knows this for they have been fighting a covert class war for at least the last 40 years, and they have largely won the war. The American Aristocracy is not interested in accountability, they want money.
Few remember Harvard professor, Larry Lessig, who briefly ran for president and was immediately shut out of the running. He never appeared in any debates. But he was writing articles, recording videos and promoting something called, The Citizen Equality Act. The Citizen Equality Act would provide for ranked choice voting, campaign finance reform, redistricting by independent commissions, citizen funded elections and would make election day a holiday. Lessig is the only other candidate I know of that has plainly stated that we must have campaign finance reform or there will be no other reforms.
It is also worth noting that Sanders ran for president the first time to push the Democratic Party to the left. A review of the 2018 midterm elections has shown that the party has indeed moved left. But the Democratic candidates running for president now, have adopted many of the planks that Sanders is running on because they had to. Sanders is restoring an old norm in liberal politics. Do you want someone in the White House who whets his finger and holds it in the political wind to see what to say? Or do you want someone who has been promoting the same liberal policies consistently for nearly 40 years? If the latter, that would be Sanders.
There is something else that I like about Bernie. Since he has voluntarily eschewed the big money in politics for nearly 40 years, he knows how to completely bypass the one thing that has prevented average Americans from representation in national politics: The money primary. This means that he owes no favors to a cigar smoking fat cat in a New York hi-rise on Wall Street.
In the aforementioned New York Times article, Republicans appear ready to paint the Democrats running for president as “socialist”:
Republicans have seized on Mr. Sanders’s entrance, eager to ascribe the socialist label to all Democrats. Soon after his announcement, the Trump re-election campaign issued a statement denouncing “every” Democratic candidate for “embracing his brand of socialism.” The president said pointedly that Mr. Sanders “missed his time.”
The irony here, is incredible. In America, we have a wealthy donor class that can buy laws that enrich themselves, and has done so since at least 1978, how socialist is that? And now they’re calling Bernie Sanders a “socialist”? I doubt we will ever see any Republican running for president that will tell us that we must have campaign finance reform, or there can be no other reforms.