Author’s Note: I originally posted my endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President on February 1 2016. Since then, I wrote and published a separate blog post detailing my consideration of and thoughts about Martin O’Malley, which consisted of both the Martin O’Malley-related sections from the original February 1 endorsement of Bernie Sanders and new content related to my thoughts about O’Malley’s and Sanders’s electability. The following is a re-release of the February 1 post, with the Martin O’Malley parts excised for easier readability. This should make the post more succinct for those readers who want to focus on just my reasons for supporting Sanders, and those who are interested in my thoughts on O’Malley can follow the link to a separate post dealing with that subject. As the post has not otherwise been changed, it should still be read as if it were February 1. That said, as of today, March 25 2016, I am more supportive of Bernie Sanders than ever before, and I still wholeheartedly endorse Bernie Sanders for President in 2016.
February 1 2016
Bernie Sanders has been literally my favorite living politician since all the way back in 2005, when I first really learned about him in Matt Taibbi’s excellent and highly recommended “Inside the Horror Show That Is Congress”. When I saw him begin to make the Presidential rounds and drop hints about a 2016 Presidential run in late 2014, I was excited, but skeptical that he would actually make the plunge into a sea of opposition money. When he actually entered the race in late April 2015, I was very pleased, but skeptical that he would actually gain any traction against Hillary Clinton, she who was inexplicably beloved by all Democrats far and wide. And now on the eve of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Sanders is polling an average of just 4 points behind Clinton in Iowa, and is ahead by an average of a whopping 18 points in New Hampshire, which votes next week. At every turn I have underestimated Sanders, which is probably a product of my own caution: candidates I agree with tend to not do well in Democratic primaries.
Up until now, I haven’t officially supported Sanders for the Presidency. The reason was a third candidate in the race: Martin O’Malley, who was touting a slate of progressive achievements he’d racked up as governor of Maryland. Even though I was already aligned with pretty much everything Sanders thought and said, and his candidacy represented everything I’d been wanting to see in U.S. presidential politics for years, I wanted to keep an open mind and give O’Malley a chance.
(I never remotely considered supporting Clinton in the primaries; she is a serious danger to the future of the Democratic Party and she basically represents a continuation of the ideology and governing style of President Obama, which is not what this country needs. I can write more about her in the future, but for now, you can read my still-relevant opinions about her back during her first Presidential run in 2008.)
I looked into O’Malley’s positions and record, and the more I learned about him, the more I found to dislike. I came to realize that not only was O’Malley a bad fit for me, but I didn’t have any reason to support him even on electability grounds. I eventually decided to reject O’Malley as a candidate and go with my original instincts about supporting Bernie Sanders. To learn more about my thoughts on O’Malley, see my blog post “My Thinking on Martin O’Malley”.
Which brings me to Bernie Sanders. It’s not just that there’s practically no issue I can think of where I materially disagree with him. It’s not just that he’s been consistent on the issues and on his worldview his entire political life. It’s not just that he’s an unashamed advocate for an active and responsive government, and a believer in the good such a government can do for people’s lives. It’s not just that he actually understands and appreciates that politics is a constant battle between the haves and the have-nots, the powerful and the powerless. It’s not just that he deeply cares about the common person, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the out-of-luck in a way no other viable Presidential candidate in my entire goddamn lifetime has.
What sets Bernie Sanders apart from so many other candidates – and hell, people in general – is that he understands how political change happens. Practically everyone else involved in politics these days, whether as a candidate or a pundit or a regular Joe talking out of his ass, thinks of politics in terms of the details of one policy proposal or another, or the latest petty feud between two candidates, or yet another minor remark that’s being blown out of proportion, or the slow grind of the horse race. Bernie Sanders understands that real political change happens from capturing hearts and minds, engaging with people on what’s important in this country, and leading them to do what’s necessary to make meaningful progress a reality. And Sanders is fully ready to do his part as a candidate and as President, but he understands that it’s not just about him or about his proposals or about legislation or about Congress – though all those are very important as well. He understands that what’s been missing in our politics, throughout the Obama years and going all the way back to the great liberal movements of the 1960s and 1970s, is that vital element of public engagement. He understands that, as the late and great Paul Wellstone put it, “electoral politics without grassroots organizing is a politics without a base.” Sanders is ready to step up and do his part to connect electoral politics and public policy back to grassroots organizing, so we can once again produce a broad movement for the progressive change our country so desperately needs – if we, the people, are ready to do our part.
So forget about all the talk about how to win over “swing voters” in a general election (inconvenient fact: a majority of Americans already agree with Sanders on most of the issues).
Forget about all the talk about Republicans chomping at the bit to demonize a “socialist” (campaigns aren’t about how much they can hit you with; they’re about how hard and effectively you can hit back).
Forget about all the skepticism about how Sanders will get his liberal agenda through a Republican Congress (if anyone can convince me that Clinton or O’Malley can get their agenda through a Republican Congress, I’ll make a small donation to that candidate’s campaign).
Forget about how Sanders is too old, or too grumpy-looking, or too crazy-sounding.
The point of the Sanders campaign isn’t just about Sanders. The point, as Sanders will readily tell you himself, is to get people to stand up and take back control of the political system and the government that’s supposed to be serving them. And there is no person better suited to leading that populist movement as our next President than Bernie Sanders.
I decided about two months ago, in early December, that it was time to rule out everyone else and simply embrace the truth that Bernie Sanders is, and always has been, the right candidate for me. True to form, it took me until now, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, to finally get around to writing this post and making it official. Well let’s make it official: I officially endorse Bernie Sanders for President in 2016. He has my full and vociferous support and I’ll be looking into making a small donation to his campaign – which will be my first political contribution ever. I hope fervently that this will be the year when the American people finally take back control of their political destiny, so they can have a government and a society that truly cares about and works for them, and that process begins with electing Bernie Sanders as our next President. Feel the Bern!