Climb The Hill or Feel the Bern

Climb The Hill or Feel the Bern

by Jim Luken
ABC NEWS - 12/19/15 - ABC News coverage of the Democratic Presidential debate from St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, airing Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 on the ABC Television Network and all ABC News platforms. (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute) BERNIE SANDERS, HILLARY CLINTON

Hello Streetvibes readers. Let’s talk politics, a subject that I love to hate. My most recent diatribe, I mean: “essay,” had to do with what I cynically referred to as the Republican “goat rodeo.” At this writing, only four of those 16 goats remain, but the embarrassingly juvenile circus has continued, degenerating to what might euphemistically be called “locker-room humor,” or a grade school cafeteria food fight.

This time, let’s talk about the Democrats. Only two left, battling it out for the coveted nomination, but doing so in a manner that makes the Republican “goat rodeo” even more absurd by comparison. Hillary and Bernie have chosen the high road, criticizing one another’s position on issues, voting records, and intentions, but refraining (almost entirely) from attacking each other’s character (or “endowments”). They are conducting what could be termed a “more civilized” debate over things that matter to those of us who comprise the body politic. Less entertaining, perhaps, than the boisterous Republican “goats,” but way more substantive.

Clearly, most readers of this paper will vote for one of these two candidates (although some, for excellent reasons, will be voting Green, for Jill Stein).

Let me make several potentially outrageous statements up front: It matters that people (you) vote, but your actual, individual vote…makes no real difference…unless an election were to be decided by one vote, which—except in the smallest of local elections—never happens. When we go to vote, we put such thoughts out of our minds as we perform what we see as a civic duty or privilege.

Voting (participating in the choosing of officials for public office) is part of the democratic process, but—unfortunately–we no longer live in a democracy. Historian and wag Gore Vidal famously stated that “America does not have a two party system. There is only one party, the Corporate Party, and it has two wings.” Let’s call them the Repugs and the Dims.

In painful fact, we live in an oligarchy, dominated and controlled by wealthy business interests. Basically things have always been this way. Proof? The founding fathers were slave owners… businessmen, first and foremost. Fortunately, social contracts (laws) are in place to protect some of us more vulnerable citizens from the greedy power of the corporatists. None the less, these money men shape and (through the media) control much of our lives.

Of course, it makes a difference whether the democrats or the republicans are in control of the mighty ship of state, because the democratic wing of the Corporate Party tends to be more concerned about those of us who occupy lower berths on the ship, or–to switch metaphors like horses in mid-stream–who live on rungs closer to the bottom of the social ladder.

So, a few days ago, those readers who voted the Democratic ballot in Ohio helped decide between two aging political war horses, Hillary and Bernie. Hillary had the backing of those who control the “machine” of democratic politics. Bernie (who is technically an independent), attracted a huge “populist” following. Bernie has been going to “we the people” for his campaign money and support.

Full disclosure: This writer decided to cast his primary ballot for the Senator from Vermont. Mrs. Clinton won in our state, and–absent some huge campaign calamity–she will most likely be the nominee. [I have yet to decide whether I will vote for her in the general election.]

Here is my take on the two candidates:

Bernie Sanders (Age 74)

Officially, the Bern is the only declared “Independent” in the US Senate. Ideologically, he is a Socialist, which–until he proceeded to run this very effective campaign–was a dirty word in US politics. Bernie has made us way more comfortable with socialism, which is the river of benign governance in which most of us swim, off and on, from cradle to grave. He almost always votes with the Democrats in the Senate, but the Party does not hold him in very high regard. Bernie is also a Jew. Just like Jesus was. He has had a long political career in a state where I lived for five years (1999-2004). He was one of Vermont’s two representatives for 16 years, before he won a seat in the senate in 2006.

I shook hands and chatted with Sanders at a fundraising barbecue in 2002.  Straight forward. Likeable. Not cloying. Not a baby kisser. Most famously, he has never taken contributions from corporations or their PACs. He is a populist, meaning his appeal is to large groups of ordinary people, and it is from these grassroots connections that he receives his funding (In February, he raised more money than his opponent, with all her corporate connections).

In 2004, I had a second encounter with Sanders, an encounter which disappointed me. At a large union hall in a small Vermont town, I sat among three hundred others, listening to a campaign speech. When the Congressman opened the floor to questions, I asked him if he was aware that on September the 10th, 2001 (one day before the day which “changed everything,” Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, held a press conference, wherein he revealed that the Pentagon had lost track of (could not account for) 2.3 Trillion dollars. Not billions. Trillions!! A staggeringly unimaginable amount of money.

The day following this incredible announcement, three buildings at the World Trade Center were demolished, and no one seemed concerned about the loss of 2.3 TRILLION dollars. Sanders’ response to my question was shamefully inadequate. “Yes, I am aware of that,” he said, “but it is a very complicated matter, and I am not going to go into it at this point.”

Complicated? Indeed. But no one has yet attempted to unravel the mystery of how a government agency could lose so much money without so much as an accounting. This failure to provide accountability includes Senator Sanders. 2.3 trillion dollars could provide college tuition for every eligible student in the US for years to come. 2.3 trillion dollars could solve the problem of homelessness forever.

Here’s the thing about Bernie. He talks about creating a revolution, about the need to radically change the “System.”  In 2008, Obama campaigned on the notion of “change.” Whatever. Leftist journalist Chris Hedges makes it clear that Sanders is not a revolutionary politician. He is trapped, as Hillary is trapped, in the political “matrix.” He will support Hillary if/when she gets the nomination.

Hedges says, in no uncertain terms, that revolution stands a chance of happening if and when enough people (you and I) take to the streets and force the “System” to grind to a halt, in the way that Charlie Chaplin shoved a monkey wrench (literally and figuratively) into the grinding gears of the corporate machine in his brilliant film, Modern Times.

As one who participated in the Occupy Movement in 2011, I find myself in total agreement with Hedges. We the People might someday create revolutionary change. But a politician, working within the system, doesn’t have a chance. So, for me, Bernie is a good choice, but we are still choosing between greater and lesser evils.

Hillary Clinton (Age 68)

Among the many ways I think of myself: activist, writer, actor, teacher, one of my most profound self-images is that of an ardent feminist, or as Alice Walker (The Color Purple) expresses it: a “womanist.” I believe that, unless patriarchy is eliminated, the world will never come to its senses. Unless women share equally with men, in all things, the world cannot mature.

With that in mind, I am totally ready for a woman to be President of the US. In her day, Eleanor Roosevelt might have been better than her husband. In some ways, I will be happy to see Hillary as President. But, unfortunately, I will most likely not be voting for her. The main reason: Hillary has proven herself to be a war-monger. As a journalist for the international Franciscan order, I have been up-close-and-personal with too many wars (Nicaragua, Croatia, Haiti, Bosnia).

I believe that most wars should never have happened. But continuing to resort to the violent solution is the American way. Vindictiveness is in our breakfast food. And Hillary Rodham Clinton has supported every war the US has waged since 9/11. Some of these wars were propagated during her time as Secretary of State. Like her husband Bill, Hillary seems always drawn to the militarist solution. Perhaps—as a woman—she feels she must prove herself macho by opting for the military solution, time after time. The killer fact for me is that Hillary has never met a war she didn’t like.

She has other tragic flaws, like a decided affinity for Wall Street and for business as usual. Her husband made war against the poor in our own country, and she supported that war as well. I could go on and on with a list of reasons why my conscience may prevent me from voting for her.

That said, there should be little doubt that another Clinton Presidency would be less catastrophic than having a Trump, a Cruz, a Rubio, or a Kasich in the White House for the next four years.

Those of us who are waiting for a revolution will continue to bide our time. As Leonard Cohen sang in his amazing futurist song: “Democracy is coming to the U-S-A. But it is not going to come as result of this Presidential election.

[Editor’s note: The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition does not endorse political candidates or political parties.]