by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
May 18, 2015
HILLARY IS NO PROGRESSIVE, AND BERNIE SANDERS IS NO PIPE DREAM
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Back in December, I wrote a piece for The American Reporter entitled "Can Bernie Sanders ignite a progressive populist moment?"
I wrote that "if Sanders does run, he would be the only candidate representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party in the presidential primaries."
I pointed out that the junior senator from Vermont "isn't a member of the Democratic Party and, as an independent, isn't beholden to the special interests and big corporate donors that the party sold itself out to back in the 1990s under Bill and Hillary Clinton."
And I quoted Sanders as saying that the most significant question facing the American people is: "Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy?"
I wasn't sure Sanders would run, but I was confident that if he did, Hillary Clinton would have a race on her hands.
And now Bernie (few in Vermont call him anything else) is in the race, and America will get to see what we in Vermont have known for years - a politician who shuns glitz, is generally strong in his convictions, and is without peer when it comes to connecting with voters.
For example, it would surprise people to know that some of his strongest supporters in Vermont are veterans and gun owners. Elders love him for his work in trying to lower the cost of health care. He has held town meetings in every corner of Vermont, and has used them for education and advocacy, rather than self-aggrandizement.
Vermonters respect that he was one of only six Congressmen to vote against the Gulf War in 1991. That he opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. That he fought against deregulation of the financial industry in the late 1990s, and opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003. That he was an early backer of Barack Obama and helped steer economic stimulus money to Vermont.
Sanders has long been one of the most popular political figures in the state, but Vermonters are mostly ambivalent about his presidential run. After the way that our former governor, Howard Dean, was treated by the national media during his 2004 presidential run, we're afraid the same thing will happen to him.
Just like the Democratic establishment wanted John Kerry and not Dean in 2004, the party poohbahs want Hillary Clinton in 2016.
I didn't support Hillary Clinton in 2008 and don't support her now.
Why? She voted to go to war in Iraq. She completed the militarization of the State Department begun during the Bush Administration. She is a wholehearted supporter of corporate globalization, and is a favorite of Wall Street. She hasn't a progressive bone in her body. She is the epitome of the establishment politicians who have brought this nation to the brink.
She'll get votes because she's not as insane as any of the potential Republican nominees, but it will be a half-hearted vote for the lesser of two evils.
The people who support Bernie are anything but halfhearted. He raised $1.5 million online within 24 hours of entering the race, in increments that averaged under $50.
And he is used to being an underdog. He won his first election, for mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981. This came after four losing races for governor and U.S. Senator as a candidate for the Liberty Union Party in the 1970s. He lost a run for governor in 1986 and for the U.S. House in 1988 before winning his first term as Vermont's congressman in 1990.
He hasn't lost an election since then, winning eight elections for Congress and two for the Senate. He is maintained his political independence in his 24 years in Congress. He caucuses with the Democrats and accepts their support during election years, but he has never had any interest in joining the Democratic Party.
He has said that the only reason he is running as a Democrat against Clinton is that he doesn't want to be a spoiler and help elect a Republican, as so many accuse Ralph Nader of doing in 2000.
And while Sanders seems like the most unlikely candidate for president in decades, he is serious about this campaign. The issues he supports - single-payer health care, a minimum wage that's a living wage, a smaller defense budget, preserving and expanding Social Security - are popular with voters. He has consistently stood with the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the voiceless, and against the wealthy and corporations that have looted America.
He has never backed away from his political identity as a democratic socialist. The reality is that his politics are not that much different than that of every Democratic presidential candidate from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. Only in the last 40 years have we seen the political spectrum shrink to the point where moderates are considered liberals and liberals are considered socialists.
I still believe that economic inequality is the central issue of the 2016 campaign and that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who can speak credibly on this issue. Not Hillary Clinton, and certainly not any of the Republican candidates. Real and fundamental change is what is needed, and Bernie represents our only chance of seeing that happen.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.