Rolling Stone magazine published an interesting article this week with a long Bernie Sanders interview by Tim Dickinson, who asks some of the harder questions I have been wanting to hear Bernie answer. I have problems with some of his responses.
His first question, in part, is, “The critique is not blaming Bernie Sanders for thinking too big, but critiquing Bernie Sanders for sweeping the ‘unpleasant truths’ of our political system right now – the way it ties everything up in knots – ‘under the rug.’” He asks Sanders for specifics on how he would get things done. Sanders, who has not waited to hear the rest of the question, says it is an absurd question, Essentially the question is, how do you get your ideas passed in Congress. Sanders answer resorts to his magical thinking about how if he wins he will bring with him a new Congress that he can work with. It is magical because as we see later in the article he does not understand the idea of raising money for down ballot candidates.
Dickinson presses on, suggesting that he would still have Paul Ryan as a negotiating partner and Sanders says it is a fair question and then sarcastically responds that if he tried to convince Ryan, head on, to agree with him about taxing Wall St to pay for free college tuition, Ryan would not respond by saying, “why didn’t I think of that.” No, he agrees he would need a different strategy and that would be convincing the American people to fight for this proposal. But, that does not address the realities of the current political system of representative government, which requires electing a lot of new people who agree with your ideas. This is something that cannot be done overnight. It is so much more complicated than that and in the meantime you continue to have gridlock. Sanders does not think he has to address this important concept when he tells his rallies of young people that they need to vote for him and he will change the political world.
In the article he does admit that he really doesn’t know how he will get his proposals passed. He says, “Now is it easy to do? No. How do you do it? It’s a good question. And the truth is, right now I’m a bit busy running for president to have figured that out, other than to tell you that it requires a mass-based political effort bringing millions of people together to stand up and fight back.”
How do you organize those people once you have their attention? How about a political party? But Sanders, we remember, doesn’t historically seem to believe in political parties. Political parties don’t just run independent campaigns; they work together to get elected many likeminded people who will then work together to run the country.
He criticizes Hillary Clinton for going to fundraisers to raise money instead of holding rallies as he has been doing. What he doesn’t seem to care about is that she is raising money not just for herself, but for down ballot candidates. Dickinson does not specifically ask Sanders to address why he has hardly given any of the money he has raised to other candidates.
When Dickinson ask him if he doesn’t win what will he do, he says that he can’t answer the question, even though it is a good one, because “that’s not where my head is right now.” He apparently hasn’t even thought about trying to help other people who agree with him get elected. Perhaps he could steer some of his supporters in that direction?
Sanders talks about changing the rules for the Democratic party, calling closed primaries a dumb idea. But it is not the party that is closed, as Sanders has been implying, it is the primary. People could join that party if they want to select the candidate that will represent the party which will appear on the ballot. He says that the state is holding the election with the people’s money, so they should be able to vote in the primary. But individual, “independent” people do not get on the ballot. In our representative government, parties nominate people to represent them so that they can get on the ballot. The party is open and if you don’t like what they are doing, you can join the party and try to change it. But, you have to step up and join otherwise you are an outsider. A lot of good is done by outsiders who heckle from the sidelines, but they can’t have it both ways. You make change from inside or from outside.
In the article he responds to a question about bringing his droves of supporters into the Democratic Party by asking if he brought them to a democratic party meeting, “will they be welcomed? Will the doors be open? Will the party hierarchy say, ‘Thank you for coming in.…?’ Or will they say, ‘hey we have a pretty good thing going right now. We don’t need you?’” He adds that he doesn’t know the answer. That is outrageous and he should be called on it!
Sanders is running for the Democratic party nomination and yet he has increasingly spent his time criticizing the party in this way, suggesting that it is not an open process. Then he wonders why, if he doesn’t get the nomination, his supporters might be considering voting for Trump and not Clinton. It is posing these kinds of questions that forms the thinking of his supporters.
He says, “It’s not my job to think that I can reach out and say to millions, ‘Do what I want you to do.’ That is not the way it works.” He says how bad Trump is, but he can’t ask his supporters to vote for the candidate that beats him for the party’s nomination? What? Really? He is asking them to vote for him and not for her. Is it that, after all the things that he has said about his opponent and the party, he would find himself being hypocritical by turning around and telling them to support her? If that is the case, then he should think about what he is saying now. He should think about the kind of attitude he is creating toward her and the party.
He actually says, “Apparently, a lot of people who voted for me are not prepared to vote for Hillary Clinton. Why is that?” Now that is an absurd question. It is because you have told them NOT to vote for her and you have continually implied that you do not intend to tell them you think that they should vote for her. To use one of Bernie Sanders favorite words, now that is just dumb.