2016 is the year when either big change can happen or a huge opportunity will pass again. For the past few months, people have been discovering who Bernie Sanders is and he has generated a huge movement for change which is frightening the establishment candidates, the corporate media and their lackeys.
Bernie’s ethics and integrity are nothing new to me. I first discovered him when he was a guest each Friday morning on the now defunct Air America radio station on the Thom Hartmann program. Thom had a special segment called « Brunch with Bernie » which I never missed. That was my radio program to listen to during work (back in my corporate days in Los Angeles). Listening to Bernie each Friday was like having fresh clean air blowing in my face from listening to someone with sane politics and a strong integrity of heart.
After all these years, I am still astounded at the degree of political ignorance in the general American public and what is being done in their names. Americans are champions at voting against their best interests. When Americans still believe that Democratic Socialism is similar to the Soviet Union, I am in disbelief. I didn’t realize that all Social Democracies (like France, Germany, Sweden and others) were like the Soviet Union or that our own Communist party had so much power. In the early part of the 20th century, Socialism was not seen as bad thing however; Upton Sinclair, the author of the Jungle, was himself a socialist.
Bernie has not suddenly just dropped from a tree, he has been around and fighting for us for a long time. One of Bernie’s first job in his life was registering people for food stamps. Before he was a politician, he was first a social justice activist. In 1963, as a Chicago University activist, he was arrested for protesting segregated schools. He traveled to Washington for the famous Martin Luther King Jr « March on Washington ». In 1972, he was editing the Liberty Union Party newsletter « Movement » in which he was already talking about economic inequalities. In 1981, he was elected as Mayor of Burlington not long after Reagan became President and he kept getting reelected, proof that his brand of socialism obviously pleased people. In 1987, he was named one of the best mayors in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Then he went on the become the only independent in the Senate. And the rest, we mostly know. I just barely scratched the surface of Bernie’s bio.
Bernie is the one and only American politician who has never wavered from his beliefs in the little man, social equality and justice and his rejection of the greedy system. That is something he has done constantly during his 50 years of career. His current opponents have tried to grill him on issues like healthcare but they have failed because Bernie doesn’t flip flop on issues, he is constant.
Why does Bernie matter to a French Vegan like me?
In the past 30 years I have started noticing a slow but gradual degradation of the French social safety net. Unfortunately, in Europe, we have this tendency to always look towards the United States and import its worse aspects. We went from small farmers to American style industrial farming, from small traditional restaurants to McDonald’s, from mom and pop stores to large retail chains (we have the largest number of big malls in Europe) and our politicians have become corrupt neo-cons imitating their American counterparts (they all have money in Panama, right?).
Bernie reminds me of the old school politicians we used to have. They were strong social democrats, meaning they always stood up for the working class, the poor and against the greedy rich. A president Bernie would send a clear message not just to America but also to the rest of the world that good values are not hypothetical or utopic but should be the norm. A politician who is not corrupt and sold out to corporations, what a novel idea! And because we, in Europe, often look up to the United States (for better or worse, usually for worse), Bernie’s influence on the rest of the world would help remind not just Americans but Europeans too of what is at stake.
The French healthcare system is currently the best in the world (according to the World Health Organization) but it’s starting to be undermined from within by our neo-liberal politicians. The British National Health System is facing similar problems. This is all a result of neoliberalism. I want my healthcare system to not change, particularly after having tasted the American one for 18 years. Americans should revisit Michael Moore’s movie « Sicko » for a taste of European healthcare and they will realize that even Obamacare is terrible. This is a good movie to also revisit to see how Hillary went from supporting Universal Healthcare (like Bernie) to selling out to Big Pharma. Well, Bernie never stopped supporting healthcare for ALL. Of course, as Vegans, we are less likely to see doctors and end up in hospitals, but we are not immune to accidents and I would rather set foot in a hospital at low cost than with a huge bill.
Have you ever seen the classic Frank Capra movie gem « Mr. Smith Goes to Washington »? It’s one of those movies you want to be real. James Stewart is a young politician who is confronted to the corruption of Washington in the 1940’s (the movie is from 1939). If Frank Capra thought it was that bad then, I wonder what he would think now. Bernie Sanders is Mr. Smith, except older. But he shares with the Jimmy Stewart character the same characteristics of integrity and willingness to fight for the common man/woman. Bernie, just like Mr. Smith, also conducted a historic filibuster when he became Senator which lasted over 8 hours. Bernie’s historic speech is reprinted completely in the book « The Speech: on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class ». When Bernie did his 2010 filibuster, it was followed by so many that it crashed the Senate server! What was Bernie filibustering about? The deal between President Obama and the Republicans which would give more tax breaks to the rich. I rest my case.
Bernie is popular with young and old alike because he stands up for us all, not for the 1% as he has consistently done so for 50 years. He never changed his opinions to fit any party lines and that is why he has remained independent and, like a modern Elliott Ness, incorruptible.
Bernie Sanders is also not a war monger (which is not something I can say about Hillary or the Republicans) and has always believed that war should be a last resort. He has voted against the Gulf War war and the war in Iraq and history has shown that he was right. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who is not trying to make the Military Industrial Complex even richer while chasing oil in foreign countries. His Foreign Policy is based on diplomatic solutions, and not war as a first resort.
Is Bernie open to animal rights?
Yes, he is already opposed to factory farming. My friends at Direct Action Everywhere have already understood this by confronting him at one of his rallies just like the #BlackLivesMatter movement did (and to which he responded). I doubt Bernie would ever support ag gag bills and other anti-activist bills. On the contrary, he has always stood against big money which is what this bills defend. Bernie is already pro women, anti racist, pro-gay and pro-environment. He has voted against the Keystone XL-pipeline and fracking while Hillary was supporting both. He has voted against NAFTA and the TPP, and pretty much all the so-called free trade deals which are destroying jobs for the middle class in either the United States or Europe as well as hurting the planet and all life. Hillary, once again, was for them until she changed her mind because it was politically convenient for her to do so.
Bernie may not be Vegan, but he is the best candidate we have in terms of animal welfare. As much as I would like to see a Vegan in the White House (we had our chance with Kucinich in 2008 but people chose Obama), our humane candidates will never get as close to the White House as Bernie is doing right now. Therefore, we have to keep pushing him in the right direction. Bernie has consistently voted in favor of animal welfare: He is against commercial breeding, for applying some humane care to farmed animals (ok not perfect obviously but the others don’t even give a damn at all). He is opposed to cruelty towards animals in captivity or in the wild. He is also a strong defender of wildlife including the Endangered Species Act. And let’s not forget his strong environmental record.
As Bernie Sanders said, this is a revolution he can’t create alone. If he gets elected, we need to keep him accountable and keep pushing him to meet even greater expectations. He has showed that he could not be corrupted (50 years of proof!) and that he was willing to learn (as seen with the #BlackLivesMatter movement) but one thing is clear, he will always fight for the poor and the middle class, never for the rich and powerful. That is a constant record we need to keep in mind if we want to create a society of justice.
As Cesar Chavez connected the dots between social human justice and justice for non-humans, I believe Bernie could also eventually make the same connections but we have to have his back first! When people keep voting for the lesser of two evils, nothing ever changes. As Vegans, if we didn’t believe we could create a Vegan society, we would have given up a long time ago. So let’s not give up on this either.
Photo: Bernie Sanders – Courtesy Pixabay.com (Free photos)
- Brunch with Bernie and Thom Hartmann – Free Speech Radio and the Thom Hartmann website
- Bernie’s Animal Welfare program
- Bernie’s Foreign policy program
- Bernie Sanders Shuts Down Homophobic Jerk Congressman in 1995 Classic!
- « Sicko », Michael Moore’s movie from 2009 on Healthcare (with spanish subtitles).
- Animal Rights activist disrupt Bernie Sanders at Wisconsin Rally – YouTube
- Bernie’s pro-women program
- Bernie’s first job – Allen B. West
- « Mr. Smith goes to Washington » – Filibuster scene with James Stewart.
- Watch the entire « Mr Smith » classic movie on Youtube.
- Thom Hartmann has been vegetarian for years and is now vegan – Put Down the Cheeseburger
- Bernie Sanders GOES OFF on One Percent Boot Licker – 2008 Classic
- History of Air America radio
- Bernie Sanders, the Early Years – Politico Magazine
- The March on Washington – Dr. King Jr. YouTube
- Critical Essays The Tenets of Sinclair’s Socialism – Cliffnotes.com
- « The Jungle » by Upton Sinclair – Project Gutenberg
- What are the Panama Papers, who is involved and what is a tax haven? – Telegraph.co.uk
- Bernie Sanders’ radical environmental proposal – The New Republic
- Bernie Sanders on Free Trade – OntheIssues.org
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