The Pragmatic Truth Behind Bernie Sanders’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

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Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders also endorsed Bill Clinton in 1996, and I think we can read his words then and gain a great deal of insight into his present endorsement:

“In terms of who to support for president, the choice is really not difficult. I am certainly not a big fan of Bill Clinton’s politics. As a strong advocate of a single-payer health care system, I opposed his convoluted health care reform package. I have helped lead the opposition to his trade policies, which represent the interests of corporate America and which are virtually indistinguishable from the views of George Bush and Newt Gingrich. I opposed his bloated military budget, the welfare reform bill that he signed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which he supported. He has been weak on campaign finance reform and has caved in far too often on the environment. Bill Clinton is a moderate Democrat. I’m a democratic socialist.

“Yet, without enthusiasm, I’ve decided to support Bill Clinton for president. Perhaps ‘support’ is too strong a word. I’m planning no press conferences to push his candidacy, and will do no campaigning for him. I will vote for him, and make that public. Why?
“I think that many people do not perceive how truly dangerous the political situation in this country is today. If Bob Dole were to be elected president and Gingrich and the Republicans were to maintain control of Congress, we would see a legislative agenda unlike any in the modern history of this country. There would be an unparalleled war against working people and the poor, and political decisions would be made that could very well be irreversible.

Medicare and Medicaid would certainly be destroyed, and tens of millions more Americans would lose their health insurance. Steps would be taken to privatize Social Security, and the very existence of public education in America would be threatened. Serious efforts would be made to pass a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, affirmative action would be wiped out, and gay bashing would intensify. A flat tax would be passed, resulting in a massive shift in income from the working class to the rich, and all of our major environmental legislation would be eviscerated.

“The Motor Voter bill would be repealed, and legislation making it harder for people to vote would be passed. Union-busting legislation would become law, the minimum wage would be abolished, and child labor would increase. Adults and kids in America would be competing for $3.00-an-hour jobs.

“You think I’m kidding. You think I’m exaggerating. Well, I’m not. I work in Congress. I listen to these guys every day. They are very serious people. And the folks behind them, the Christian Coalition, the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and others, are even crazier than they are. My old friend Dick Armey is not some wacko member of Congress laughed at by his colleagues. He is the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out his views. No. I do not want Bob Dole to be president. I’m voting for Bill Clinton.
“Do I have confidence that Clinton will stand up for the working people of this country—for children, for the elderly, for the folks who are hurting? No, I do not. But a Clinton victory could give us some time to build a movement, to develop a political infrastructure to protect what needs protecting, and to change the direction of the country.”

That was when the Democratic Party took its rightward turn and disavowed its traditional progressive ways. Bernie knew it at the time, and he spoke out against it, even while acting pragmatically in the face of the Republican threat.

Time is a circle.

Trump People (And The Terrible Moment I Was One Of Them)

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Cliff Caldwell was a splintered twig of a kid, short and gangly, a twitchy scarecrow without enough stuffing. His hair was blond and dirty, but always combed down with a troubling precision. He stared at the world through glasses with big thick frames, and his clothes were ratty and didn’t fit right.

Cliff wasn’t very smart, and he moved from grade to grade largely out of an embarrassing agreement by teachers to pass him rather than actually help him in any meaningful way. Teachers even allowed him to grade his own tests because his handwriting was incomprehensible.

Outside of school, you’d sometimes see Cliff walking along the roadside, stomping swiftly along, his gaze fixed straight ahead as if he were racing obsessively toward some definite goal. He was going where he was going, and he seemed oblivious to everything around him.

I don’t know how old we were when I met Cliff, I just remember him always being around when I was a teenager. He was one of those unfortunate kids who was born broken, who can’t function properly, and who thereby becomes the target of derision and abuse from most of his peers.

The last I heard about Cliff was in 2009, when this happened:

“The holidays can cause stress for all of us. This must particularly apply to those slaving in Santa’s workshop. One case in point: 45 year old William C. Caldwell, III, surely the frontrunner for 2009 Angry Elf of the Year.

“It may come as no surprise to anyone that your local mall Santa receives excellent security training these days. And a good thing, too. On Wednesday evening, the mall Santa on duty at Southlake Mall in Morrow, Georgia came face to face with a potentially explosive situation. The 45 year old Mr. Caldwell, in full elfin attire, wanted his picture taken with Santa. When his turn came, he informed Santa that he had in fact brought some of his own tools from the workshop… specifically, a bag of dynamite.

“It probably should have raised a few eyebrows that a 45 year-old man, dressed as an elf, was standing in line with a bunch of kids waiting to speak with Santa… particularly when he’s got this look in his eyes:

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“…The quick thinking Santa immediately informed the Southlake Mall security team of the potentially dangerous elf. Authorities contacted local police who evacuated the mall, blocked off streets and cordoned off the area. Georgia Bureau of Investigation officers arrived along with the Morrow Police. They completed an exhaustive search of the mall. Three suspicious bags were discovered near Santa, but no explosives. Fear that Caldwell would actually drop an elf bomb subsided after the ‘all clear’ was given at 10 p.m., local time…”

Fortunately, this was at worst a crazy whim of Cliff’s tormented mind, at best an actual cry for help. No one was hurt. I have no idea what happened with Cliff after he was arrested, but I hope he found some badly needed help and some happiness and peace.

The reason I’m telling you about Cliff is that he was instrumental in my learning a lesson about myself that has stuck with me for years, a lesson that makes me all too able to understand some of the dark impulses that drive many of the people who support Donald Trump (and, frankly, the Republicans in general).

I’m already quite familiar with the basic unenlightened and racist mindset we see flying its Confederate flag at Trump rallies. I’m from Georgia and was raised by those people. But the lesson I learned through Cliff Caldwell is about something deeper and more intimate than that, about the very nature of self and how it can turn rotten.

As I said, Cliff was often a target of abuse from our peers, from cruel insults and mockery to outright violence. I remember sitting nearby in one class as a group of popular kids (the oft stereotyped jocks and cheerleaders, acting according to stereotype) clustered around Cliff’s desk alternately teasing him and acting like they were his friends. Everyone would laugh. Why not? It was just Cliff Caldwell.

One day, in tenth or eleventh grade, a group of bullies started pushing Cliff around in the locker room, shouting in his face, yanking at his clothes, shoving him into the wall. Laughing at him. To my lifelong shame, I joined them.

Why did I do that? I was a kindhearted kid, a gentle kid, a smart kid who had somehow never absorbed the racism or bigotry I’d been raised in. I had not only always treated Cliff with kindness, I’d stood up for him at times. And here I was,  clawing at his arm, laughing in his face.

It was because, as strong as my sense of self was, as deep my compassion, I was broken too. I was horribly abused at home, so depressed I came close to suicide several times, and of uncertain social value among my peers. I felt small. I felt threatened. And on another day, it might have been me under attack instead of Cliff, though I was at least able to fight. Cliff wasn’t.

I joined that hateful little mob because I desperately wanted to belong. I desperately wanted to be one of the popular kids. And I wanted them to know I was one of them, not a pitiful wimpy target like Cliff, so they would leave me alone.

I thought I was showing strength. But I was really showing the depths of my own despair and weakness.

Then, I really lost it and did something that degraded me far more than it degraded Cliff.

I spat on him.

I actually fucking spat on him.

And this other kid, I can’t remember his name, looked me right in the face with such a look of disgust that it burned me to the quick. “You spit on him?” he shouted, and pulled me back.

And that, my friends, was the moment of epiphany. Through that guy’s eyes, I saw what a craven piece of shit I had allowed myself to become in my desire to belong and to be on top.

I lashed out because I was weak and afraid, and I went too far. I’m pretty sure I’d have walked away ashamed of myself anyway because, as I said, I was a good kid. This was an aberration. But good kid or not, it was me attacking and spitting on a kid whose only sin was that he couldn’t function in the world, a kid fighting his own battles who didn’t need me adding to them.

That other kid, that hero, didn’t become a part of the mob, didn’t give in to those dark petty drives. And he jerked me back into the right, painfully and swiftly, and I am forever in his debt. His disgust with me taught me this necessary lesson much more powerfully than I’d have learned it on my own. I had allowed myself to be drawn into terrible dark waters, and he helped me back to shore.

Trump people swim in those dark waters. They ignore the shore. They thrive out there, making themselves feel strong by tearing others down. The poor, the lost, the weak, the Others…all targets of chthonic rage that can’t find a healthy outlet because the members of the mob don’t bother looking for one. They scream at the light because, like that hero kid’s eyes on me, it makes them see themselves. But they never learn the lesson I learned in that horrible moment.

They are more comfortable in the dark, with their own kind.

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Is Hillary Clinton REALLY Raising Millions of Dollars For Other Democrats? Not So Much…

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You know how Hillary and her supporters keep talking about how she’s raising money for other Democrats to run? Like that $15 million she raised with George Clooney?

Well, about that.

First, watch this video from The Young Turks which gives a solid rundown on the huge money laundering scheme Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have been running for the entire campaign:

This involves using loopholes in the campaign finance system to funnel much larger donations to Hillary’s campaign than is allowed for by law. It’s also an enormously unethical breach in party ethics because the DNC is not supposed to play favorites during a primary (which was why Tulsi Gabbard resigned from her second-in-command DNC position to be able to campaign for Bernie Sanders, unlike Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has carried water for Hillary Clinton every step of the way). And there may be actual violations of campaign finance law, as the Sanders campaign said yesterday.

Okay, so they have this YUGE scheme that funnels cash through the state parties and the DNC into Hillary’s Victory Fund. And Hillary’s Victory Fund is where all that money she’s supposedly raising for other Democrats is supposed to go. Well, about that.

According to the Washington Post:

“’It’s time to rebuild our party from the ground up,’ the former secretary of state pledged. ‘When our state parties are strong, we win.’

“The joint committee that was formed, called the Hillary Victory Fund, ended up raising nearly $27 million by the end of 2015, thanks to six-figure donations from longtime Clinton allies and a New York fundraiser headlined by the singer Sting.

“So far, the state parties have served only as a pass-through for their share of the funds. Campaign finance records show that nearly $2 million in donations to the fund initially routed last year to individual state party accounts was immediately transferred to the DNC, which is laboring to pay off millions of dollars in debt…

“’I’ve never seen anything like this,’ said Lawrence Noble, a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) who is now with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. ‘Joint victory funds are not intended to be separate operating committees that just support a single candidate. But they appear to be turning the traditional notion of a joint committee into a Hillary fundraising committee.’”

So out of $27 million, only two million was sent to the state parties for their candidates, and that money was then returned to the DNC to pay its bills. That was last year.

According to Politico, in the first quarter of this year, the Hillary Victory Fund raised $33 million:

“The idea is that the committee will help the state parties raise money for their general election efforts, an area where Clinton’s allies argue that her insurgent rival for the Democratic presidential nomination Bernie Sanders has done little…

“Yet, during the first three months of the year, the $2 million transferred by the Hillary Victory Fund to various state party committees paled in comparison to the $9.5 million it transferred to Clinton’s campaign committee or the $3.5 million it transferred to the DNC.

“And the Hillary Victory Fund also spent $6.7 million on online ads that mostly looked like Clinton campaign ads, as well as $5.5 million on direct marketing. Both expenses seem intended at least in part to help Clinton build a small donor base, an area in which Sanders has far outpaced her.”

So, in short, the Hillary Victory Fund raised $60 million. Of that, most of it went either directly to Hillary’s campaign or toward promoting her campaign. Only $4 million went to state parties, and at least half of that boomeranged back to the DNC to pay its bills.

All those Democrats lower on the ballot aren’t getting much help when you get right down to it. You know what would really help them? A YUGE excited voter turnout in November.

And if the Democrats want that, Hillary isn’t the candidate they should be supporting.

UPDATE: A recent piece in Politico reports that even less of the money is remaining with the state parties, only 1% of the $61 million raised to date.

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Hillary Clinton Declares War On Bernie Sanders

 

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After her latest humiliating defeat last night, CNN reported that Hillary Clinton has “lost patience” with Bernie Sanders and will be attacking him more savagely now in an attempt to “destroy him.” They said she has decided that “party unity can come later.”

First off, this should come as a big relief to multitudes of Bernie supporters who have been suffering through endless lectures about how they shouldn’t critique Clinton too harshly in case she wins the nomination and will need to be strong against the GOP candidate. Hillary herself just publicly embraced a scorched earth policy and actively wants to hurt Sanders as much as possible, his strength as a possible nominee be damned. So arguments that we should maintain a certain gentle respect for her in our criticisms are now completely invalid. Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the blogs of war!

Second, Hillary’s usual disingenuousness and condescension just ooze from this decision. She’s “lost patience” with Bernie, and now he’s gonna get it. As if she’s been graciously tolerating him tagging along till now, but now he’s had the gall to keep beating her in contest after contest and she’s just going to have to put her foot down and tell him to cut it out! As if she hasn’t already been smearing him and playing dirty tricks for months, and gotten particularly ruthless and mean the past few weeks. As if she could have taken him down any time she wanted but was being nice.

How dare this other candidate campaign to win, when the whole game was elegantly rigged for her from the outset? Who does he think he is? She’s like a spoiled debutante who shows up at her coming out ball to discover she has to share the spotlight with someone else.

“But Daddy told me that I’m the Chosen One!” she says, stamping her foot. “Get out of my way!”

And Bernie just keeps on dancing…


Get your own Berdie Sanders, handcrafted with love by Nydia Macedo, Doc Wilde’s Portuguese translator! Go here for details.

 

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Hillary’s Lying: The Truth About Bernie Sanders & Women’s Issues

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In the very week that she complained about Bernie Sanders’s campaign’s “tone” and its attack ads against her (existence of which her campaign subsequently was unable to prove), Hillary Clinton has reached…well, not a new low, because she’s gone just as low before, but another despicable low. She is using a carefully chosen segment of video from Rachel Maddow’s interview with him this week to portray Bernie Sanders as dismissive of women’s issues.

At a campaign stop yesterday, she said:

“Last night, Sen. Sanders agreed Donald Trump’s comments were shameful, but then he said they were a distraction from the, and I quote, ‘serious discussion about serious issues facing America.’ To me, this is a serious issue, and it is a serious discussion. We need a president who is passionate about this, seeing it as a top priority because women’s health is under assault.”

Bullshit. Clinton is shamelessly smearing Bernie again, misrepresenting a man with perfect 100% lifetime scores with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America regarding support for women’s issues, a man who has always voted the right way to help American women and who has himself championed legislation on these issues.

Not shown in the video they’re circulating was this exchange:

MADDOW: “After, uh, the word spread that Donald Trump had made those remarks today about abortion, that a woman needs to be punished, uh, if she seeks an abortion and abortion should be banned, you said today that was shameful. What is shameful about it?”

SANDERS: “Well, I think it is — shameful is probably understating that position. First of all, to me, and I think to most Americans, women have the right to control their own bodies and they have the right to make those personal decisions themselves. But to punish a woman for having an abortion is beyond comprehension. I — I just — you know, one would say what is in Donald Trump’s mind except we’re tired of saying that? I don’t know what world this person lives in. So obviously, from my perspective, and if elected president, I will do everybody that I can to allow women to make that choice and have access to clinics all over this country so that if they choose to have an abortion, they will be able to do so. The idea of punishing a woman, that is just, you know, beyond comprehension.”

Bernie said that in the very interview Hillary is trying to cite as evidence that  he’s dismissive of the issue.

What Bernie was actually dismissive of was anything said by Donald Trump. He, correctly, pointed out that the media drools over every stupid thing Trump says and he said rather than spending so much time talking about whatever stupid things Trump said on any particular day, the media should consider covering issues that matter. All of which he said after first very clearly making the statements I quote above in unequivocal support of women’s abortion rights.

This is simply dirty politics at its worst, and Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of herself. This is as bad as the time in 2008 her campaign released an image of Barack Obama in traditional African wear including a turban (taken while he was visiting his father’s homeland in 2006, the clothes proffered to him as a gift) so that it would scare white voters into thinking Obama was a Muslim. That whole “Birther” thing, where stupid people think Obama’s a Muslim from Kenya? Clinton started that. The Republicans just took the ball and ran with it.

Beyond the objective facts of his previous record, the truth is that during this campaign Bernie has been even more supportive of  abortion rights than Hillary. After several debates in which the issue was never raised, the candidates were finally asked about it by Bret Baier at the Fox News debate in March. As Mother Jones reported, “Bernie Sanders opposes all abortion restrictions. Hillary Clinton’s stance is murkier.”

BAIER: “Can you name a single circumstance at any point in a pregnancy in which you would be okay with abortion being illegal?”

SANDERS: “It’s not a question of me being okay. Let me be very clear about it. I know not everybody here will agree with me. I happen to believe that it is wrong for the government to be telling a woman what to do with her own body. I think, I believe, and I understand there are honest people. I mean, I have a lot of friends, some supporters, some disagree. They hold a different point of view, and I respect that. But that is my view.

“I’ll tell you something which I don’t like in this debate. There are a whole lot of people out there who tell me the government is terrible, government is awful, get government off our backs. My Republican friends want to cut Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, education. But somehow on this issue, they want to tell every woman in America what she should do with her body.”

BAIER: “I guess the genesis of the question is that there are some Democrats who say after five months, with the exception of the life of the mother or the health of the baby, that perhaps that’s something to look at. You’re saying no.”

SANDERS: “I am very strongly pro-choice. That is a decision to be made by the woman, her physician and her family. That’s my view.”

So, no ifs, ands, or buts. No equivocation. Bernie Sanders supports a woman’s right to choose absolutely.

How about Hillary Clinton?

BAIER: “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before it’s born? Or do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”

CLINTON: “…Under Roe v. Wade, which is rooted in the Constitution, women have this right to make this highly personal decision with their family in accordance with their faith, with their doctor. It’s not much of a right if it is totally limited and constrained. So I think we have to continue to stand up for a woman’s right to make these decisions…”

BAIER: “Just to be clear, there’s no — without any exceptions?”

CLINTON: “No. I have been on record in favor of a late pregnancy regulation that would have exceptions for the life and health of the mother. I object to the recent effort in Congress to pass a law saying after 20 weeks, you know, no such exceptions, because although these are rare, Bret, they sometimes arise in the most complex, difficult medical situation…And so I think it is — under Roe v. Wade, it is appropriate to say, in these circumstances [we can have exceptions], so long as there’s an exception for the life and health of the mother.”

So, while Bernie stands against any restrictions to a woman’s right to choose, Clinton is open to late-term restrictions as long as exceptions are allowed if the woman’s health or life are endangered. That’s consistent with the stance she stated last September on MSNBC:

“I am where I have been, which is that if there’s a way to structure some kind of constitutional restriction that takes into account the life of the mother and her health, then I’m open to that. But I have yet to see the Republicans willing to actually do that, and that would be an area, where if they included health, you could see constitutional action.”

Constitutional actionConstitutional restriction. So, basically, if the Republicans are willing to allow some abortions in cases where the mother is endangered, she is willing to restrict, at least somewhat, women’s right to choose. And whether you agree with her on that or not, she certainly is in no position to claim the high ground over Sanders on this issue, and she is simply lying to the American people when she disparages him in this way.

You know how much of a warrior for women’s rights Bernie Sanders is? You know how much a warrior for all of our peoples’ rights Bernie Sanders is? Read this account about how domestic violence issues and legal entanglements on Native American reservations inspired him to fight for legislation that would help these women:

“The Native struggle also owes its marginalization to the complexity of the laws that govern it. For example, the tangled web of tribal and federal law nominally gives tribes the right to govern themselves. However, until recently, tribes had no authority to prosecute violent crimes that happen within their reservation boundaries. For years, whites could commit violent crimes on reservations and remain untouchable to tribal police.

“This legal nightmare extended even over marriage. It prevented Diane Millich, an Ute woman living on a southern Colorado reservation, from seeking any protection against her white husband, who beat her regularly. The Southern Ute Tribal Police could not arrest him and, because the couple lived on the Ute reservation, the husband resided outside the jurisdiction of the La Plata County sheriff. Millich went to the federal authorities for help and received none. In fact, Millich’s domestic nightmare would likely have continued had her husband not shown up to her office one day and shot her co-worker.

It is this absurd and dangerous state of affairs that led Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to co-sponsor the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which expanded tribal governments’ jurisdiction over domestic violence crimes and provided funds for tribal criminal justice systems and victim services.

“It is Sen. Sanders’ recognition of the deplorable conditions on tribal reservations that has led him to become the first presidential candidate to actively involve Native Americans in his campaign. The most promising sign of that involvement arrived on February 22, when Sanders appointed Tara Houska, an attorney and member of Couchiching First Nation, as the Native American advisor to his campaign.”

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Bernie Sanders with Native elders before his rally in Seattle

Bernie Sanders cares deeply for women. He cares deeply for children. He cares so deeply for all of us that he even reaches out to those who are traditionally mostly ignored by our government and our politicians on the campaign trail. Bernie’s the first candidate to EVER actively involve Native Americans and their issues in his campaign. In addition to appointing Tara Houska as his campaign’s Native American advisor, this was reported in February:

“[Sanders advisor] Nicole Willis announced that presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was creating a policy advisory committee on Native American issues. She said the committee’s membership will be announced soon.

“She said Sanders has already announced that he will continue President Obama’s tribal nations conference, keep a senior Native American advisor on staff at the White House, and work to restore tribal jurisdiction to improve local decision-making. He also pledged to expand the Violence Against Women Act and find additional funding for the Generation Indigenous initiative.

“Willis said that Sen. Sanders pledged to have a climate change summit within the first 100 days of his administration and that tribes would be included as full participants…”

And if you need more evidence, watch this short video from when Bernie went to speak at evangelical Liberty University and was asked about abortion. He not only addresses the extremely conservative crowd with respect, he earns their respect in turn though they disagree, and even gets some cheers. And throughout, he stands firm in his dedication to the right to choose.

Don’t let Hillary Clinton lie to you: Bernie Sanders fights for women, and he always has.

Please share this post. Let’s keep the lies from taking root.

 

It’s All About Tone: A Conversation With A Hillary Clinton Voter

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“Bernie and his supporters are sexists. They’re misogynists! Did you see the way he interrupted her that time she was interrupting him? Hateful! And he mostly gets white voters because he’s a racist, and that one time, when he wasn’t even there, apparently one of his followers shouted ‘English only!’ at a Hispanic icon and even though there was a video showing it didn’t really happen it totally did! So obviously he and his followers hate Latinos. And even though there’s all that documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts of Bernie’s personal civil rights activism, that don’t count because he’s clearly racist against black people, like that woman he was chained to when he was arrested fighting for her rights. And he supported the Minute Men vigilantes who hunt Mexicans along the border, because that totally makes sense! He’s an egotist and just running for his own aggrandizement and doesn’t give a damn about anybody but himself. And ALL his followers are just loutish twenty-year-old frat boy Bernie Bros and every single one of them is an abusive asshole online. Oh, okay, yeah, there are a few women, but they’re just in it for the boys, and they’re too naive to understand what they’re doing. He’s not even a Democrat and his supporters are traitors to the party. And he’s a communist! And he loves guns and is totally in the pocket of the NRA! And he doesn’t understand how government works and he’s never accomplished anything in all his years in public service! And the fact that he hasn’t had to evolve over the years from having stances that are despicable or did great damage to the country and the world doesn’t mean he’s almost always been on the right side because of his character, it means he’s inflexible and resistant to change! He’s an unrealistic idealogue and he’s as bad as Trump! And it’s just awful the way he and his supporters tear poor Hillary down, they shouldn’t be so negative! We need to think about November!”

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When Bernie Sanders Throws His Mighty Shield…

 

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I just returned from visiting Nydia,  my amazing inamorata, in Brazil for a couple of months where, among other more psychologically healthy activities, we spent a great deal of time tracking the American election. Last week, as we sat eating airport food, drearily counting the minutes before I had to depart, I noticed the latest of many Captain America t-shirts I’d seen worn by Brazilians during the visit.

I told Nyd I was heartened to see the shirts, and the popularity of the character, who I see as a true symbol of the American ideal, not the jingoistic symbol of American imperialism seen by some. And I credited that popularity to the Marvel films, and Chris Evans’s very human, very decent, very noble portrayal of Steve Rogers. Captain America isn’t propagandistic, he’s aspirational.

“Captain America is Bernie Sanders,” I told her. “They’re both old guys from Brooklyn with superhuman stamina, dedicated to New Deal policies, still fighting to protect the weak from the powerful, unflinching in their belief in the American dream.”

Later, back home in the states, I saw author Catherynne Valente tweet, “Clinton is Black Widow (troubled past, does the right thing eventually) Sanders is Hulk, always angry, no one is Cap.” I have a lot of respect for Ms. Valente, but I disagree.

First off, Clinton ain’t much like the Black Widow. She lacks the Widow’s metaphorical agility as a campaigner, and when she takes aim at her opponent, her shots almost always miss or ricochet back and hit her. I’ll grant she has a “troubled past,” if you really want to undersell the problems with Clinton’s record, but that very record shows she actually doesn’t really do the right thing eventually unless it’s politically expedient or she has to because she’s forced to “walk back” a stance or action because of political damage. She does have a great deal of “red in her ledger,” blood on her hands, in places like Haiti and Iraq and Libya and Honduras, places that have suffered terribly because of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton’s ruthless political calculus. But the Widow owns up to her acts, and, in The Winter Soldier, even released the transcripts records to the internet, taking full responsibility for her misdeeds and working to redeem herself for them.

Hillary won’t even share the content of a few speeches she made to Wall Street, much less acknowledge the terrible human impact of her decisions over the years.

And Bernie as the Hulk? No. The Hulk’s anger is unreasoning, destructive rage. Bernie is angry, yes, as he should be, but he is not destructive. He is protective, nurturing, and constructive. And he is anything but unreasoning; just watch the video of him speaking to the students at evangelical Liberty University, where he engages them with respect and gets respect in return though their philosophies are radically opposed.

I’d say Donald Trump is the Hulk, but he lacks the Hulk’s dignity and compassion. Hell, he lacks the Hulk’s intellect.

But no, Bernie is definitely Captain America.

One of the best pieces I’ve ever read on Captain America is by Steven Attewell, and in it he addresses Steve Rogers’s political identity:

“Steve Rogers isn’t a jingoistic conservative asshole…Unlike many other patriotic characters who derive their virtues from the American heartlands, Steve Rogers grew up in the cosmopolitan multi-cultural world of New York City. He came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the ‘Double V’ campaign.

“Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the ‘Cultural Front.’ We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and ‘The Cradle Will Rock,’ Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the ‘New York Intellectuals’ were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.

“And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.

“Captain America didn’t ‘share 40’s values’ – a reductive label assuming that everyone alive in 1940 was either a racial bigot, a misogynist, a homophobe, and an unthinking militarist, and handily ignores the people of color, women, gays, and left-wing activists who were hard at work to change American society for the better – he exemplified from the beginning the ideal that America could be. Thus Steve Rogers led the Invaders (a multispecies and multinational Allied superhero force) into Europe to fight fascism, he fought with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, a racially integrated fighting force from the beginning, and fought with the French Resistance rather than snidely repeating anachronistic cheese-eating surrender monkey jokes.

“Thus when Captain America is unfrozen in the 1960s, he’s not freaked out by the changes in racial progress – instead, he forms an instant partnership with one of the first black superheroes, the Falcon, who movie audiences just met for the first time, and the two of them go toe to toe against an insane imposter Captain America who’s obsessed about communists under the bed. The analogy cannot be more pointed: the real Captain America stands for racial equality and civil liberties, the Captain America who believes that the government needs to ‘smash’ reds by any means necessary is a fraud. In the 1980s, Steve Rogers runs into a childhood friend, Arnold Roth, who happens to be gay – and Steve Rogers defends his friend from bigoted violence, because Steve Rogers is a good man.

“In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when Steve Rogers is unfrozen in the ice in 2011, he’s not here to be startled by our progressive values. He’s here to judge us for falling short of his – and that’s the entire crux of the plot of Winter Soldier. When Steve Rogers wakes up in post ‘New York’ America and sees SHIELD preparing a giant fleet of sniper drones that’s going to be used to cull the human race based on meta-data that supposedly predicts the bad things people might do in the future, he immediately calls this out as inherently incompatible with the Constitution and the ideals that Steve Rogers fought and essentially died for. He puts his faith on ordinary soldiers and rank-and-file officers to do what’s right, not the corrupt or blinded authorities personified respectively by Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson. And his solution to SHIELD/HYDRA’s plan for world domination through mass murder is not only to sacrifice himself to save the world (again), but also to release all of SHIELD’s secrets to the world.”

Did I say that Bernie Sanders is Captain America? Bernie Sanders is Captain America.

 

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A few years ago, writer J. Michael Straczynski put these words in Steve Rogers’s dialogue balloon:

“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world: No, YOU move.”

That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is doing. He’s telling the Democratic establishment and the GOP and the media and the big money special interests, No, YOU move.

And the people of America are hearing him. And they’re starting to plant their feet as well.

(NOTE: A while back, I had a really interesting discussion about Captain America and his place in America’s political psyche. I posted it here.)

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Art by Danny Kelly