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June 03, 2016

Op-Ed: Mark Kernes Is Feeling the Bern

LOS ANGELES—The California primary election will be held next Tuesday, June 7, and while one would hope that the adult community is savvy enough to vote for the candidate that's most likely to have their interests at heart, perhaps a few reminders are in order. I'll assume you won't be voting for Donald Trump, the epitome of a high school bully writ large, so let's talk about the Democrats and the only decent candidate in the presidential race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a "Democratic Socialist" in the mold of President Franklin Roosevelt, whose legislative triumphs such as Social Security and workers' compensation are still being branded as "socialist" by right-wingers, and even Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who came under similar major fire for her creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The reason you may not know a lot about Sanders is due to his virtually universal disparagement by the mainstream media, with the Washington Post having published 16 anti-Sanders stories in just 16 hours and The New York Times bashing Sanders at pretty much every turn. Even Markos Moulitsos, founder of ultra-liberal The Daily Kos, has been consistently anti-Sanders, though some positive Sanders pieces have been published on the site. Fact is, Sanders is the closest to being a "man of the people" that any congressional legislator in memory has ever been. He supports a "single payer" health system, opposes continually sending the U.S. military to fight unwinnable wars in the Middle East, is the only candidate not to have a SuperPAC and would work to repeal the Citizens United decision that gave corporations and the moneyed class free rein to spend billions supporting candidates for public office, wants all public colleges and universities to be tuition-free, and favors working as quickly as possible to replace polluting energy sources like oil and coal with solar and wind generators. "This campaign is asking you and every American to think outside the box—outside of the options that Congress and the media often give us," Sanders said during a recent speech in Santa Cruz. "What this campaign is ultimately about is to revitalize American democracy. A poll came out the other day. The overwhelming majority of people in this country—Democrats, Republicans, Independents—are disgusted with the current political system. They feel helpless. They feel that their voices are not being heard. They feel that elected officials are listening to the needs of wealthy campaign contributors but not to the needs of ordinary Americans.  What this campaign is about is changing that dynamic; it is about creating a political revolution." Admittedly, thanks to her friends in the mainstream/corporate media, Clinton currently has more electoral votes than Sanders, though depending on how well Sanders does in the nine primaries (including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) that are left, he can come close to tying her total—but that doesn't count the so-called "superdelegates"—719 non-elected delegates (current and former officeholders, party officials, etc.) sanctioned by the Democratic Party who are free to vote for any candidate, no matter what the voters of their states have already said. While it has been true for several months that the vast majority of those superdelegates have already pledged to Clinton, often before the results of their state's primary were in, that wall is now cracking. Sanders has begun to pick up superdelegates that previously had pledged to Clinton, and as public opinion polls continue to show the gap between Clinton and Trump narrowing as the election draws nearer, many are realizing that Sanders is the Democrats' best chance to keep the White House, and possibly even pick up a few Democratic Senators and Congressmembers. As for Hillary, as soon as the 2016 presidential campaign started more than a year ago, in many quarters, the foregone conclusion was, "It's Hillary." After all, over the past 24 years, she's been a senator, Secretary of State and the First Lady, so she's got a lot of governmental experience—and been accused of all sorts of crap related to Benghazi and her emails—all of which (non) scandals are still on the Repugnicans' radar and which they trot out at least every couple of weeks on their blogs and e-"news"letters. There's also an excellent chance that, if Clinton does get the nomination, they will attempt to arrange for her to be indicted on the "e-mail scandal," or, failing that (because Attorney General Loretta Lynch would probably have to sign off on such an indictment), they will (continue to) villify her in the press in a sort of "media trial" of the case they'd never be able to win in court anyway. Forget "mud"; shit will be thrown at her non-stop for the next five months, even more virulently than it has been for the past year. But aside from the (non) scandals, Clinton nevertheless has a whole slew of problems. For one thing, in generally supporting the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), Clinton has rejected calls for government-paid healthcare for all, aka "single payer," despite the fact that more than 33 million Americans do not have healthcare and, even with Medicaid, can't afford to pay for it. In terms of international relations, Clinton can only be described as a hawk. In 2003, as a senator, she supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, though there was zero evidence that that country had been involved in the September 11, 2001 attack. According to the Huffington Post's Jeffrey Sachs, Clinton "strongly promoted NATO-led regime change in Libya, not only in violation of international law but counter to the most basic good judgment. After the NATO bombing, Libya descended into civil war while the paramilitaries and unsecured arms stashes in Libya quickly spread west across the African Sahel and east to Syria. The Libyan disaster has spawned war in Mali, fed weapons to Boko Haram in Nigeria, and fueled ISIS in Syria and Iraq." Not exactly something to be proud of—and she's been guilty of plenty more of the same. And let's not forget Wall Street, with whose businesses Clinton has close ties. Of course, it was Bill who signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagell Act, which led directly to the 2007 "Great Recession," but it's Hillary who made at least $675,000 giving speeches to Goldman-Sachs higher-ups and another $1.8 million speaking to other big banks' executives. In fact, between 2013 and 2015, she made 92 speeches, collecting $21.6 million in speaker fees—and she's yet to make public the texts of those speeches. Why? Is there something in them that might tip off the Great American Public that her ties with Wall Street will cause her, as president, to favor the top 20 percent of Americans who own more than 85 percent of the country's wealth? Oh, yeah; and she's said she intends to put Bill in charge of America's economic future, possibly as Secretary of the Treasury. As for the environment, anybody remember hearing about those earthquakes that shook places like Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas—places that hardly ever shake—over the past year or so? It's pretty clear now that they've been due to all the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") taking place in those areas by companies desperate to find more atmosphere-polluting oil—and Clinton has been a steadfast fracking supporter: "As secretary of state, Clinton supported and promoted fracking around the world," assessed Politifact.com. "As a 2016 candidate, her support comes with conditions such as local choice, stronger environmental regulation and chemicals. Sanders’ claim [that Clinton still supports fracking] is accurate but needs additional information. We rate it Mostly True." Civil liberties-wise, voters should know that Clinton voted for the PATRIOT Act and its reauthorization, defended the National Security Agency's widespread surveillance of millions of Americans and their electronic data, and worst of all for the adult industry, "Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as The Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection." And finally, I've actually heard people say they will vote for Clinton because "we need a vagina in the White House." Frankly, I'm sympathetic to that view, and if the candidate were Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Zephyr Teachout, I'd be right there with them. But Clinton isn't nearly that good, policy-wise, so simply voting on the basis of sex is just a bad idea. In short: Vote for Bernie; he's your only chance for decent federal government. (By the way, even if you're registered as an Independent or "No Party Preference," you can still vote in the California Democratic Primary—so make sure nobody tries to make you use a "provisional ballot"; you've got the right to enter that voting booth like any Democrat. There's more information on that topic here.)

 
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