by David Turnoy
Special to the Sounder
Back in the early 1990s, when I learned that there was a socialist Congressman from Vermont named Bernie Sanders, I was thrilled. Finally, I thought, a person with my political views is in somewhat of a position of power. I began contributing small amounts of money to keep him in the Congress and keep his ideas in circulation.
When Bernie declared himself a candidate for president last year, though I was skeptical due to his age, I was ecstatic. He quickly proved that he has the physical constitution of a much younger man, so his age was not an issue. I helped put on some local events for Bernie, and in my position as vice chair of the county Democrats, I ran the Orcas Democratic Party caucus and the county convention, where in both cases Bernie triumphed handily, as he did throughout our state. Bernie inspired millions of new participants to jump into the campaign, fighting for such causes as raising the minimum wage, free college, reducing student debt, single payer health care, fighting climate change, and so many other very important issues. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the system was used against him, and Bernie did not win the nomination. However, in the process of the campaign, the eventual winner adopted most of Bernie’s positions.
I am writing today, as a Bernie supporter, to ask you to vote for the Democratic nominee for president. Yes, her name is Hillary Clinton, and yes, she has a lot of baggage. However, the platform adopted by the Democratic Party, which Hillary will be expected to bring to fruition, is just about everything Bernie was calling for in his campaign, and it is the most progressive platform in history. And in fact, Bernie is asking you to vote this way as well. Here is what he said in an interview on Sept. 20: “I’m a United States senator, and I have a responsibility to the people of my state—also to the people of this country. The first thing that I’ve got to think about is: What does a Donald Trump presidency mean for the people of my state and for the people of this country? And for the people of the world? I think it would be an absolute disaster. It would be beyond a disaster. Therefore, as a United States senator, I’ve got to do everything that I can to make sure that Trump does not become president.
“Now, do I have strong differences of opinion with Hillary Clinton? I think the whole world knows that. The goal here is not to say, ‘Hillary Clinton is the best thing in the history of the world—she’s great, she’s wonderful, she’s terrific.’ What we should be saying is that if you look at virtually all of the issues of importance to the people of this country—issues like making public colleges and universities tuition-free—Hillary Clinton is now on record for doing that for people making $125,000 a year or less. You know what? That is pretty revolutionary. That will transform the lives of millions of families in this country. That’s what Clinton stands for.
“Clinton is on record supporting a doubling of community health centers in this country, which will mean that tens of millions of people—poor people—will have access to health care that do not have it today. Is that significant? It is very significant. Clinton is on record supporting pay equity for women, so that women do not continue to make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. I happen to believe that one of the great crises facing the planet is climate change. Donald Trump happens not to think that climate change is real. Clinton takes it seriously.
“The point is not to say that we love Hillary Clinton or that we agree with her on all of the issues. The goal is to go above that and ask: Which candidate will do a better job for middle-class and working-class families? I think the answer is obvious.
“The second point to be made is that politics does not end the day of the election. The day after the election, when Hillary Clinton wins, you can be assured that I and other progressives will be saying to President-elect Clinton, ‘Take a good look at the Democratic platform that you supported—because together, President-elect Clinton, we are going to implement that platform. We’re going to involve millions of people in the process who are going to break up the large Wall Street banks, who are going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free, who are going to be very aggressive on climate change and transforming our energy system.’
“But if Trump is elected president… I just don’t know what America looks like four years after his election, in terms of the kind of bigotry that will be erupting, in terms of the kind of divisiveness that we will see, the kind of demagoguery that we will see.
“On many, many issues, Clinton’s views are progressive. In many areas, they are awesome.
“That’s where I am. I’m not going to sit here and say to you that Hillary Clinton is going to be great on all these issues with absolute confidence. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that on many, many issues, her views are progressive. In many areas, they are awesome. Where they’re not progressive, we’ve got to push her, and the day after the election, we will mobilize millions of people to make sure that we make her the most progressive president that she can be.”
So that’s where Bernie Sanders is. What about a third party candidate, you ask. Many are excited about Libertarian Gary Johnson. Do you know what Libertarians believe in? No regulation of corporations, no public schools, no social safety net, for starters. This is the opposite of Bernie Sanders. What about the Green candidate, Jill Stein? If she had a chance, sure; I voted for Ralph Nader twice myself. But Jill Stein doesn’t have a chance, and with a fascist like Trump running, it is just too dangerous to contemplate what might happen if he becomes president. The great American novelist Sinclair Lewis anticipated this 80 years ago during the emergence of fascism in Europe; he wrote It Can’t Happen Here, which is the story of a demagogue like Trump getting elected in the United States and the terror that ensues.
A final thought to consider is that the next president is going to get to nominate several Supreme Court justices. The make-up of the court makes all the difference in the world when it comes to court decisions. We have Citizens United because of the current court. Changing one member of the court would make it possible to overrule this case in a heartbeat. Hillary Clinton will nominate judges who will move our country forward, whereas Trump will nominate anti-choice and otherwise reactionary judges. Controlling the Supreme Court is huge.
In closing, if you can’t stand the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton, think in terms of voting for the most progressive platform in history, a platform that is as close to Bernie Sanders’s platform as possible. Then during the next four years, those of us in Our Revolution and those in other progressive groups will work to keep the pressure on Hillary to make the platform real. Hillary Clinton needs our votes to win, and if she gets them and does win, she will be that much more obligated to implement the platform. Rarely has there been a time when the progressives in this country could sway an election, and this is that time. If, instead, we get Donald Trump as president, the next four years will see us fighting battles in the streets against the thugs that join with him. You have a choice in which battle to be involved—choose carefully.