Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders Is Actually Quite Serious About This ‘Political Revolution’ Thing


by John Nichols

What Sanders did was highlight a series of issues on which, more often than not, he split with prominent Democrats—including Clinton—to take positions that were considered politically dangerous. Sanders pointed to his relatively lonely opposition in the 1990s to the Defense of Marriage Act, which he dismissed as “simply homophobic legislation,” and to gutting bank regulations with attacks on the Glass-Steagall Act. He explained his opposition to authorizing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to take the country to war in Iraq, earning loud applause when he told the crowd, “I am proud to tell you (that) when I came to that fork in the road, I took the right road, even though it was not the popular road at the time.” He mentioned his long crusade for a serious response to climate change and his early opposition to the Keystone pipeline, arguing that, “Honestly, it wasn’t that complicated. Should we support the construction of a pipeline across America and accelerate the extraction of some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world? To me, that was a no-brainer and that is why I have opposed the Keystone Pipeline from the beginning.”

On the issue of trade policy, Sanders was particularly blunt: “After I came to Congress (in 1990), corporate America, Wall Street, the administration and virtually all of the corporate media: they said you’ve got to vote for this NAFTA trade agreement…I didn’t believe their arguments I voted against NAFTA. I voted against CAFTA. I voted against PNTR (Permanent Normal Trade Relations) with China. And history has proven those of us who opposed those agreements were right—because, in the last 14 years, this country lost 60,000 factories and millions of decent-paying jobs.

“And let me be clear about the current trade deal that we are debating in Congress, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That agreement is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements. I did not support it yesterday. I do not support it today. And I will not support it tomorrow.”

That reference to “the gold standard” recalled a 2012 speech in which then–Secretary of State Clinton, who now criticizes the TPP, told an Australian audience, “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” Sanders and his team had to know that the “gold standard” reference would catch the ear not just of labor and environmental activists who organize on trade issues but of pundits who are always listening for political fireworks. But something else caught the ear of the young Iowans in the Sanders bleachers at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, the ones who weren’t eating at the main tables where the party leaders were seated. They were on their feet shouting their approval of the “not… yesterday, not… today, not… tomorrow” steadiness of Sanders’ stance.

“Can Sanders win Iowa? I think the answer is yes,” explained Ed Fallon, a former state legislator and gubernatorial candidate, as he looked at the crowd of young Sanders backers in the bleachers Saturday night. “But to do that, he has to get these people to the caucuses. He has to get a lot of people to the caucuses who aren’t happy with politics as usual. The way to do that is by making it very clear that he’s never been a typical politician and that he’s not going to be a typical politician now.”

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