That the American left has fled from its liberal responsibilities is an inarguable fact. Like many Americans, I rushed to the polls (twice) to elect and re-elect President Barack Obama. Obama represented a change in this country that many liberals thought was long overdue — a man who stood for the working class, aspired to make healthcare available to all, took Wall Street and big business to task and supported a whole host of other leftist agenda items.
But today, that man is only a husk of the man I went to the polls for — his most recent failures being his support for the Patriot Act and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and I can’t fathom where this departure began. To be sure, Obama is a far cry better than anything the right has brought to the national scene in many years — Mitt Romney was an elitist fool, George W. Bush was inept and the current presidential hopefuls are slovenly business leaders, badly diluted fascists and religious extremists of the worst sort.
But no matter how bad the American right has become, it does not excuse the left from ignoring the plight of working men and women; it does not excuse them from cozying up to the same business dictators that they’ve claimed to stand against; it does not excuse them from taking part in the same idiosyncratic political business practices that their adversaries on the right have perfected over all these years.
Thankfully, there is a class of true liberals coming up through the Washington ranks right now — specifically Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has made it her life’s mission to go to war with Wall Street, big banks, overpaid CEO’s and the Securities and Exchange Commission. While not a self-described pinko, Warren has many of the desirable attributes of a well-trained leftist demagogue.
Sanders, however, is a socialist, and a proud one at that. To read about Sanders’ rise to power in Vermont, where he became Mayor in 1981, is to read a leftist handbook of sorts — he established communal land for public housing; created an arts council to bring free cultural events to the city; took land-gobbling, tax exempt organizations to task by charging them more for public services; stopped chasing big business and worked to raise the clout of small, local businesses (like “Ben & Jerry’s”) and overall worked for the good of average men and women. A heavy measure at any time in the evermore angering American tide, but an especially tall order during the time of Reagan and the Cold War.
I have been called a communist more times than I can count. Generally, this “insult” comes from people who can neither spell nor define communism. I prefer the word socialist — similar thinking without the terrifying McCarthy-era connotations. And, to the dismay of many a rightwing supporter, I believe it is long overdue for America to have a true liberal in the White House — not one who espouses liberal views only to grab office and throw support behind big business (as Hillary Clinton will most certainly do if she makes it to the White House, as will any Republican who makes it to the top spot), but a true liberal who will put the clamps down on untethered capitalism and the greed and inequality that it has created in this country. Anyone who will argue that capitalism and the free-market have not done damage to more Americans than it has helped has obviously not looked past their nose to see the rampant poverty that has taken hold of American households all across the nation.
Naturally, anytime one discusses a truly liberal vision in the form of a socialist democracy (as opposed to a capitalist republic), the argument comes in somewhere along these lines: “Communism looks good on paper, but …” or “It didn’t work so well for Cuba,” or some other cretin-like disdain. The reason such tenets have failed in other countries is two-fold – either those countries have been ruled by dictators claiming to support leftist ideals and/or our own country has decided to fight such governments at all costs (as liberalism is the greatest threat to the American way of life behind terrorism). There is no real reason to argue with such claims because they are rooted in an uneducated theory that is based on anti-pinko propaganda.
And, in an effort to give each side its due diligence, I may well be a product of propaganda from the other direction. I was born a liberal — when disease causes a person and his family to live in debt from his first day on this planet, it’s hard not to sympathize with the ailing and destitute masses that make up so much of our country — and that liberalism has only grown redder and more radical as the years have progressed. I’ve read every leftist manuscript I’ve been able to grab, from the obvious to the obscure, and I’ve consumed it like a man taken by scurvy would ingest a plate of citrus fruits.
To explain liberalism is simple and evident to me — in the words of Leonard Bernstein: “A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.” To explain conservatism, the kind made famous in America or abroad, is difficult if not wholly impossible for me.
So, I plan to place my vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Sanders is a man of vision and conviction and empathy, something sadly missing from the presidential class of 2016, and deserves the opportunity to turn this country around — the opportunity to make this country less self-centered and more socially responsible; the opportunity to provide a better life for those at the bottom, even if it comes at the expense of those at the top; the opportunity to make food and healthcare rights, not just amenities.
But, being the political junkie that I am, I am not naive enough to think that Sanders will have great odds against Clinton, who will stop at nothing — no dollar amount too high, no attack ad too low — to have herself installed as the next president. And, again, to be fair, I’d prefer Clinton over anyone in the GOP camp as a win for the GOP is a win for everything that is wrong with this country — a win for intolerance and hate and money-grubbing elitism. And, further, I’m not naive enough to think that my vote will make much of a difference in the general election — no liberal of any hue will ever win the state of Alabama — but I can at least try to propel my candidate to the national level.
Not for me or him, but for every man, woman and child who has been crushed beneath the weight of a system that rewards greed and punishes selflessness; a system that promotes excess and discourages frugality; a system that would rather bomb another country than make sure the people on its own shores are fed and clothed and healthy; a system desperately in need of real change.
Originally published at Piece of Mind.
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