Tuesday, April 05, 2016

My case for Bernie

I agree with Bernie about just about everything, and there has never been a presidential candidate I could say that about who has taken a campaign anywhere near as far as he has.

But if I were to reduce my case for Bernie to simplest terms, it is this: I believe there are only three big issues that really matter for America going forward. Better solutions to almost everything else flow from a sound response to these three. They are: global warming, economic inequality, and militarism. And to wrestle these interlocking horns, we need Bernie to ride on in.

1)    A person who does not in 2016 grasp that climate change is the biggest human issue of our lifetimes and our epoch has a shrunken heart for the future of life. We need inspiring, bold, sweeping dedication and action. Only Bernie takes it well beyond business as usual into the transformative territory we need to enter.

2)    Extreme and still-growing economic inequality is the bread-and-butter daily life issue of our era, far out ahead of any other. You don’t have to be anti-wealth or anti-rich to recognize that the radical concentration of top wealth, especially the 1% of the 1%, has dragged our proud nation into the configuration that only a generation ago classically defined a banana republic. It’s pathetic.

But more than that, extreme wealth concentration goes hand in glove with our civilization’s failure to date to adequately address climate change. The two phenomena are bound at the hip, and must be transformed together. That’s because the acquisitiveness, competitiveness, and selfishness of extreme wealth concentration makes all of us run faster and faster on the treadmill, taxing our planet’s resources beyond capacity, just to live – and feeds our insatiability, our will to excess consumption, and our distancing from others with whom we compete in scarcity. It doesn’t have to be this way.

3)    And this living on edge, this widespread forcing of insecurity, leads to irrational competition, feeding the vilification of the other (xenophobia), and militarism. The most obvious future if climate change and wealth concentration are not addressed transformatively is a future of increasingly violent competition between nations, communities, and ethnic and religious groups across the globe. Blinders and madness. Our large, permanent military budget is a major driver of own our domestic life-impoverishment and at the same time a glaring signal to all the world that your best shot is to arm yourself to the teeth. We need a change of orientation that will lead the world, to whatever extent possible, more towards calmness, civility, peace.

Friends, this here is what Bernie can do. It doesn’t matter if he should turn out to have a Congress that won’t pass anything he wants. We need this authentically progressive, meaningful, and effective agenda telegraphed at the highest level for an extended period of time in order to pull not only the Congress and the Washington and New York elite who control the instruments of governance, business, and messaging, but also everyone who is simply comfortable enough to feel isolated from these matters, into a greater acceptance of a general popular consensus that the interests of the people must be much better served at this time. Then look to the subsequent midterm election to build electoral and legislative strength, and a greater mandate.

Is the better alternative really to have Hillary pursue a path of continuing to soft-pedal these life-in-the-balance matters for years to come, in the face of an opposition that loathes her easily as much as Obama, and is guaranteed never to do anything she wants?

Better to have a president who effectively rallies undeniable support around a progressive agenda, and let the agenda’s strengths grow as more real leaders move into the fast lane. Four years for Bernie, then he hands it off for eight to America’s first woman president, Elizabeth Warren.

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