Outsider in the White House reviews the various campaigns Bernie Sanders has been involved in, those he overwhelmingly, sometimes unexpectedly, won and those he dismally lost. Interestingly he uses his 1997 reelection campaign as something he is “currently” working, to which he returns again and again from excursions off into earlier campaigns. He obviously won the 1997 campaign but the details and outcome are used in the book to build a sort of advancing suspense, interspersed with the other campaigns. He certainly uses the form to lay out his political philosophy. The “White” is added to the title, for the book was originally published in 1997 and is updated to 2015 for his presidential run.
What stands out is that Bernie has been preaching the same pro-democracy point of view (real democracy, not the corporate-manipulated exercises that impersonate it) from day one. Candidate Clinton obviously tries to capture citizens attracted to Bernie by appropriating some of his rhetoric but her friendship with Henry Kissinger, vote to back the Bush/Cheney illegal invasion of Iraq and support for the Honduran coup create a high bar of suspicion that she is not likely to clear, not when you throw her corporate campaign contributors into the mix. And though it’s a long way back, there’s a telling double photo drifting around facebook that shows Hillary and Bernie in 1964, what they were doing – Hillary working for the election of Barry Goldwater and Bernie working for the civil rights movement in Chicago. People grow and change but Bernie has been consistent. He’s not playing to the base, he’s with, and always has been with, the base, the people. This is why Vermonters trust him.
Bernie offers up programs that would serve the general population rather than the usual 1% – single payer health care, debt-free college, public financing of elections (so that the public rather than the corporations and wealthy own the candidates), infrastructure repair, mass transit, minimum wage increase, environmental remediation, anti-corporate trade deals; He lists current wasteful priorities that could be curtailed or cut and those funds transferred to his (our) projects. Among them is ending new nuclear weapons development, which would make us safer and also fulfill obligations the U.S. has under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This particular item is refreshing. Nuclear weapons could end our civilization in an afternoon through an accidental launch of warheads now kept on hair-trigger alert, an outrageous lauch-on-warning policy remaining from the insane cold war. Despite this serious threat the pundits peppering the candidates with questions in the debate go no where near this one, support for Chomsky’s notion that the so-called watchdog media are actually lapdogs in the service of power.
Many programs and policies have been put in place by corruption, that is, in exchange for campaign contributions congress and administration have channeled taxpayer monies into corporate hands. Hand-outs like the regulations that allow mining companies to extract resources from public (and private) land with little compensation to the owners nor the public. Subsidies for fossil fuel companies already awash in profits, and dangerous, uncompetitive nuclear energy which no insurance company will touch,
Past Sanders’ opponents have often relied on the time-tested smear, hurling the scary word communist or socialist, words the 1% have worked diligently over the years, quite successfully, to demonize. They’ve even made politicians nervous of the word Liberal. But a cheery exception: Sanders won by 70% in a Republican state, with a Republican opponent spending millions of dollars on the usual attack ads. Name-calling doesn’t work when the object of your smear has gained the trust of the electorate. We can hope that he might pull this off on a national level though of course the difficulty is not slight, the opposition’s tactics predictable and formidable in terms of resources and the electorate predisposed to manipulation – the 1% will not meekly relinquish its power, profits and privilege. It will fight tooth and saber the faintest wiff of curtailment, the meekest request for sharing. Its ownership of the major media give them a huge leg up. Yet, the stakes now are very high. This may be the last opportunity to begin the necessary protection and repairs to the life system on which we all depend. Half measures will not cut it.