By Jason Newell –
UPDATE – (4/2016) – Panama Papers added.
“[After Clinton’s introduction] Introducing second, from the progressive corner, weighing 200 pounds—he hails from Brooklyn, New York, and was rated, by many, as the best vote-for-vote politician in Washington, with one no-vote on Iraq, a prediction of the Great Recession 10 years before it occurred and a 100 percent approval rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the former mayor of Burlington, member of the House, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, and current United States senator from Vermont, Bernie ‘I Support the Middle Class’ Saaaannnnnddderrrrrrrrrrrs! (Ding-ding-ding!)”
Bernie Sanders is a legitimate challenger in the boxing match known as the Democratic primary— landing political jabs and uppercuts. The other participant in the ring, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is taking the blows and countering with establishment haymakers. Remember, Hillary has done it all: she was first lady, a United States senator, ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008, and most recently, was handpicked by Barack Obama to serve as the secretary of state. And moreover, Hillary’s political positions aren’t that far off from what Bernie is propagating. However, there is one key difference: Bernie’s political foresight makes Nostradamus look like a Medieval street prophet.
How so? Bernie has the upper hand on Hillary with regard to a few hot button issues: the War in Iraq, the financial crisis and pro-LGBT positions. Let’s start with the War in Iraq, a conflict that Bernie opposed from the outset.
“I am concerned about the problems of so-called unintended consequences. Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed and what role will the U.S. play in ensuing a civil war that could develop in that country?”
Bernie didn’t vote to authorize the Bush Administration to conduct operations in Iraq. Instead of pandering to the financial elite by supporting false pretexts for war, conjured up by Saruman Cheney (an incredibly nerdy LOTR reference, I know), Bernie had the mental wherewithal to comprehend the difficulties of controlling a post-invasion Iraq, whereby he predicted the creation of a power vacuum that would foster an environment of extremism.
Years later, Iraq has become a breeding ground for radical jihadists seeking to construct a Muslim caliphate. Thanks to George “Dumbya” Bush, and his pro-defense inner circle, the Middle East has reached a dangerous crossroads, one between moderate Muslims, and those who seek to distort the Koran to fit their morally backwards religious objectives, such as, oh, you know, banning the breeding of pigeons, as they fly over head and expose their genitals to unsuspecting civilians. Apparently, Middle Eastern pigeons are as well-endowed as Ron Jeremy. Either that or breeders supplement their diets with Cialis….
But back to my point: Bernie’s astute argument also sheds light on America’s future role in post-invasion Iraq—the underlying inferences being: 1) how long will the conflict last, 2) the level of engagement required, and 3) the role to which the U.S. will play in dictating domestic Iraqi affairs. Factors the Bush Administration, Republicans and duped Democrats refused or naively disregarded. Bernie’s cautious calculations and tamed foreign policy objectives demonstrate his lucid political foresight.
The democratic socialist, from the great state of Ben and Jerry’s, also predicted the 2008 Financial Crisis in a Congressional hearing on financial bailouts, ten years before the financial collapse. In sum, Bernie Sanders calls out trickle-down economics, wealth inequality, hedging, Federal Reserve bailouts and economic cronyism, and has hinted at these policies culminating in an unsustainable system that would contribute to financial turmoil. Bear in mind, the economy at the tail-end of the previous century was booming, so Bernie’s statement may have fallen upon deaf ears. Nonetheless, Bernie’s refusal to mollycoddle the financial elite was a political standpoint that has become mainstream ever since the financial collapse. And while one can’t tie Hillary to these policies—as she was the first lady at the time—her husband, with the benefit of hindsight, was perhaps a bit too comfortable with the now faded icon, Alan Greenspan, who created an economic paradigm that justified massive wealth accumulation by financial giants, shady derivatives schemes and white collar gambling on Wall Street. The untouchable Greenspan Ayn Randian unfettered capitalism dream that was fated once again to lead to economic Armageddon. Once again, Bernie’s political foresight brings credibility to his consistent moral convictions.
I will concede, however, that a few individuals on the Right, like Ron Paul, predicted the financial meltdown, but Paul’s solutions to the problem would have exacerbated the crisis. For one, Paul has consistently advocated for the radical roll back of the government regulatory scheme, but what he fails to realize is that deregulation and a lack of oversight were a couple of the primary factors behind the economic collapse. To be more specific, certain regulations were weakly enforced and sufficient safeguards were not instituted, despite warnings signs of an impending financial collapse starting in 2007. So, while Ron Paul’s prediction is accurate, his economic proposals, assuming they had been adopted, would have only deepened the crisis.
Incidentally, Bernie, in 1979, wrote about the potential issues associated with the privatization of television networks. One excerpt that stands out is his reference to the TV industry’s objective—due to it being mostly owned by private corporations—of intentionally stupefying American television viewers in order to drive advertising profits. Essentially, according to Bernie, television content that lacked intellectual subject matter would become commonplace: a prediction that has panned out. I mean, have you watched Fox News lately? Viewers of this jingoistic propaganda machine are less informed than individuals who don’t watch news at all. Bernie’s prognosticating is surely eerie, especially when one considers that 90 percent of the American media is owned by six corporations.
A few weeks ago, the Panama Papers were leaked, which only bolstered Bernie’s assertions in regards to the international financial elite. The Papers include 40 years of data that reveals massive collusion between government officials and big business to hide assets in overseas tax havens. What’s important to note is Bernie’s stance on trade, which relates to this leak: the 2011 Trade Deal – a deal that Clinton outright supported – only provided more protection for this unscrupulous tax dodgers. In stark contrast, Bernie vociferously attacked the legislation on the Senate floor. Once again, Bernie highlighted the problems with the trade deal, especially as it relates the limited or zero liability for the shady players involved in this international scandal.
Even before the Edward Snowden revelations, Bernie foresaw the ever-encroaching nature of the Patriot Act on the 4th Amendment. After the 9/11 attacks, in an environment rife with insecurity and paranoia, Sanders understood the dangers of granting the federal government Orwellian-esque police powers. That’s why he voted against the bill in 2001. In times of crisis, citizens—especially following events that expose a nation’s security apparatus—are more willing to concede their freedom in exchange for protection. While the Patriot Act may have been well intentioned, the Bush administration ended up employing extra-judicious tactics in implementing it, such as the warrantless wiretapping of American phones. But Bernie highlighted the potential for government overreach and issues with the lack of oversight of government intelligence agencies, and therefore knew that this wasn’t necessarily the best approach. He stuck to this conviction when he voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in both 2006 and 2011. In contrast, Clinton voted to implement the Patriot Act in 2001 and for reauthorization in 2006; but, to her credit, she voted against extending the wiretapping provision in 2005. There’s no doubt that Sanders’s stances on government surveillance exemplifies his adherence to the liberty-centric tenets of progressivism.
In my opinion, Bernie’s unwavering backing of LGBT rights draws another distinction between the two Democratic frontrunners. Remember, Hillary Clinton, in the 2008 Democratic Primary, ran on an anti-gay marriage platform, a possible consequence of public sentiment regarding same-sex marriage not hovering at, or over 50 percent — a position made out of political convenience, rather than doing what’s right. My criticism isn’t only confined to Hillary Clinton: Barack Obama played the same “my opinion evolved” card when he announced his support for same-sex marriage, acting as if they had never favored it in the first place. And while a presidential candidate’s opinions typically reflect party preferences, Democrats, as a coalition, have supported same-sex marriage by a majority since 2006—so why the wait?
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders was in favor of same-sex marriage when it was largely unpopular: he voted against numerous anti-gay marriage measures and received a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign—he never had to “evolve” his opinion. Bernie unquestionably recognized marriage as a right that should be granted to all American citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. Public opinion is peripheral to Bernie’s support of human rights: Understanding the immorality of legally suppressive measures, even if they are supported by a majority, is key to becoming a morally upstanding leader. Bernie’s acceptance of same-sex marriage is, to some degree, analogous to Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, as they were able to differentiate between just and unjust laws regardless of restrictive social mores.
Political foresight is a skill limited to a few intuitive politicians—Bernie being one of them. The Bernie surge, whether or not it dethrones Clinton, forces Clinton to accept more left-leaning positions, especially in regards to foreign policy, financial markets and civil rights. Moreover, Clinton is substantially benefiting from a strong primary challenge as it’s preparing her for the grueling and hyper-scrutinized general election. Thankfully, the Democratic nominee will be running against circus clowns, who tend to have the mental capacity of domestic turkeys (Donald Trump is an apt synonymy for this mentally slow animal)—an animal known to get frightened and, in a state of panic, continuously run into a corner until a turkey mountain is created, which suffocates those stuck on the bottom.
In the end, Bernie’s heightened political foresight and adherence to moral convictions can set the standard for what Americans expect from their elected leaders: an ability to think critically, and a strong, stable, moral character.