Boy, I really don't want to start wading into the 2016 Presidential election season yet, but it seems increasingly unavoidable. And besides, I'm kind of excited about Bernie Sanders.
Is he some kind of crazy radical? Fellow Democrats, of all people, accuse him of that of being too far Out There, while no less an authority than George Will says that calling Sanders a Socialist is a charade, the Sanders is no more Socialist than the last seventy years of American politics. But the Washington Post has gone from ignoring him to delivering daily coverage as if he were-- shocker-- a legitimate Presidential candidate-- including a piece two weeks ago confirming that many Americans agree with many of Sanders's positions.
The Sanders campaign trajectory reminds me of the candidacy of Ron Paul-- a guy who initially looks like a fringe candidate slowly gathering steam by speaking to wide streak of voter discontent both in the content of his message and in the unpolished directness of his campaigning. It is part of what draws some people to-- dare I say it-- Donald Trump; he may be a horse's ass, but at least he talks like a regular human being and not a carefully packaged focus-group tested human-shaped product. (Also, they are all not exactly conventionally attractive.)
As a teacher, I know that nobody in the current GOP field is going to support public education. I know that Hillary is never going to say anything she doesn't think voters want to hear, and she is never going to do anything that her 1% backers don't want her to do. They are all standard-issue modern candidates, candidates who don't need to show up in person because every word out of their mouths will be pre-scripted, pre-vetted, pre-tested, and pre-rehearsed. They are all running for one primary reason-- they want to be President. Now we'll just watched to see what they're willing to do to get there. As the old joke ends, we have already established what they are-- now we're just haggling over price.
But Sanders, like the senior Paul before him, has the air of someone who isn't really heart-set on the Oval Office. It's just that there are some things that need to be said, and if not him, then who?
I'm not naive. I know that Sanders is a seasoned politician, that he didn't get where he is by being an amateur bumpkin. I know he's not Superman or a knight on a white steed. But I also know Vermont, and I know slickness will only get you so far there.
And Sanders says stuff like this:
It would have been easy to suck up to the first questioner and deliver some halfway answer. But "no public dollars to private schools" is nice and clear and not what some folks want to hear. I've watched several similar clips and I'm struck that Sanders speaks plainly and directly, but without hyperbole or over-promising.
And with roughly 147 candidates out there, Sanders is the only one willing to directly address the massively corrupting influence of money on our political system; the other 146 want that money too badly to so much as nibble on the hand that feeds them.
Sanders is drawing crowds now, but I don't imagine that means he'll easily withstand a full onslaught of the well-financed political machine that Clinton can unleash. Nor do I imagine that, should he somehow land in the White House that he will single-handedly turn back the tide of corporate reformsterism. But I'm still supporting him.
First, because I am sick to death of Democrats who consistently and deliberate kick teachers and public education in the face. "Well, the GOP will kick you in the face and also break your fingers," is the only response we get. At least Jeb Bush is going to continue to be forthright about his intention to break public education and sell off the parts to private concerns. Somehow, the fact that Clinton will do the same thing, but will insist on pretending that she won't is worse.
I am tired of casting my vote for the lesser of several evils. The candidate I support will have to earn my support by some argument tougher than "I don't suck as much as that other guy, as far as you know." I'm done with that. I've had it.
"But what if you throw away your vote and the evil Other Guy wins?!" Honestly, I don't care. If I have to suffer under an Evil Other Guy Presidency in order for the Democratic party to wake up and say, "Hey, maybe we should pay attention to someone other than our rich corporate overlords," then so be it.
I am tired of being the Democratic Party's booty call, and if finally putting my foot down means I have to sit at home alone on Prom night, so be it. It's the right choice for me and the right choice for the long run. I deserve better, dammit.
Go here to read up on Sanders and to make a contribution to his campaign. It doesn't appear that there is any other way that the voices of ordinary citizens and teachers are going to be heard in this election cycle, so let's give it a shot.