Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Taibbi: Sanders is "the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person"


Sometimes, a broken institution
Needs a public burned enough to fight.

by Gaius Publius

In an article in Rolling Stone entitled "Give 'Em Hell, Bernie," Matt Taibbi weighs in on the Sanders presidential run. About that run, the bottom line, as far as I'm concerned, includes these three items:

1. Bernie Sanders appears to be serious about challenging both Clinton and the system, which are, in my view, somewhat coextensive.

2. If elected, he'll certainly do what he says he'll do. He won't be one more Mr. "Yes we can, but sorry, No I won't."

3. He may be the "place to park an anti-Establishment vote" that I've been looking for — a Eugene McCarthy for this decade's version of the fed-up, Occupied generation.

Why does the last point matter? Because resentment among both Democratic voters and rank-and-file Tea Party voters is very high. Elizabeth Warren is said to be quite popular among the rank-and-file right. No one in the country wanted bankers bailed out — only the One Percenters, and the professional class that runs the world for them, were in favor of giving bankers money by the bucketful.

Of course, the One Percenters run the country, and that's what's coming to a head in this election. As it needs to — if the One Percenters control the country through 2016, there will be no broad plan to deal with climate change. In my view, if we get to the early 2020s without strong and effective climate action, it will indeed be over. We need that anti-Establishment, anti–Big Money candidate now.

If Sanders proves to be as serious as he seems, he could reveal just how much of the country is ready to say No to the money class that controls their lives. He has to give it a real shot though — run hard; get on the ballot in 50 states; do what Warren, for instance, would have done had she taken this on. But if people in the country take him seriously — and he's on that trajectory now — the country will have, for the first time in a generation, a real choice.

To which I say, good. It's time for a test for both groups, a test of the power of the One Percenters, and a test of us. This is a test for us. Did you want Warren for all the right reasons? Sanders is out front now, on all of her issues. If he proves serious, what will you do about it? (If you want to start doing something about it now, you can contribute here.)

Taibbi Thinks Bernie Sanders Is Serious

Taibbi thinks Sanders is "the real deal," a completely honest person; clearly a man to be trusted to mean what he says. Taibbi opens with a story about how, when Sanders was in the House, Taibbi wrangled an assignment to follow Sanders around for a day to profile a day in his life. He then concludes with this (my emphasis):
Give 'Em Hell, Bernie

Bernie Sanders is more serious than you think

... Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he's motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can't protect themselves, I've never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

This is why his entrance into the 2016 presidential race is a great thing and not a mere footnote to the inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

And what are those questions?

Here's the thing: Sanders is a politician whose power base is derived almost entirely from the people of the state of Vermont, where he is personally known to a surprisingly enormous percentage of voters.

His chief opponents in the race to the White House, meanwhile, derive their power primarily from corporate and financial interests. That doesn't make them bad people or even bad candidates necessarily, but it's a fact that the Beltway-media cognoscenti who decide these things make access to money the primary factor in determining whether or not a presidential aspirant is "viable" or "credible." Here's how the Wall Street Journal put it in their story about Sanders (emphasis mine):

It is unclear how much money Mr. Sanders expects to raise, or what he thinks he needs to run a credible race. Mr. Sanders raised about $7 million for his last re-election in Vermont, a small state. Sums needed to run nationally are far larger.

The Washington/national press has trained all of us to worry about these questions of financing on behalf of candidates even at such an early stage of a race as this.

In this manner we're conditioned to believe that the candidate who has the early assent of a handful of executives on Wall Street and in Hollywood and Silicon Valley is the "serious" politician, while the one who is merely the favorite of large numbers of human beings is an irritating novelty act whose only possible goal could be to cut into the numbers of the real players.

Sanders offers an implicit challenge to the current system of national electoral politics. With rare exceptions, campaign season is a time when the backroom favorites of financial interests are marketed to the population. Weighed down by highly regressive policy intentions, these candidates need huge laboratories of focus groups and image consultants to guide them as they grope around for a few lines they can use to sell themselves to regular working people.

Sanders on the other hand has no constituency among the monied crowd. "Billionaires do not flock to my campaign," he quipped. So what his race is about is the reverse of the usual process: he'll be marketing the interests of regular people to the gatekeeping Washington press, in the hope that they will give his ideas a fair shot. ...

Thus this whole question of "seriousness" – which will dominate coverage of the Sanders campaign – should really be read as a profound indictment of our political system, which is now so openly an oligarchy that any politician who doesn't have the blessing of the bosses is marginalized before he or she steps into the ring.
Taibbi goes on to say that the national press "could successfully sell Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or any other populist candidate as a serious contender for the White House if we wanted to." His reason? They successfully sold George W. Bush. It's just a matter, for him, of wanting to.

By Giving Us a Choice, He Gives Us a Chance

I meant what I said above about this being the last clear shot at addressing climate change in a way that addresses the problem instead of simply mitigating damage — or watching the ship sail away. Addressing the climate crisis means ripping the reins of power from the hands of Money. These are exactly the issues Bernie Sanders is addressing, and will address as president.

People don't have to respond to his message (though god help us if they don't). But they can't even choose to respond if the choice isn't on the menu. Sanders puts a choice on the 2016 menu. By giving us a choice, he give us all a chance.

If you want to give him a chance, click here to donate. Thanks!


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At 11:58 AM, Blogger Mf Lehman said...

My concern is that even if Bernie were to be nominated and elected, who is going to pass all of the legislation that is needed? He will still have to deal with Chuck and Steny and Mitch and … We already know who owns their souls.

And that assumes that he gets past the Mike Gravel "not serious" treatment, weathers the Ross Perot/Howard Dean Scream press slander treatment, and survives a, may God forbid, Bobby Kennedy "he's going to win the nomination we need to do something about it" treatment.

And while it would be nice to have Bernie push Hills to the left rhetorically and maybe even help us defeat TPP etc. now, we know for a fact she will sell us and the country out in a heartbeat once she is elected and we lose leverage over her.

Sorry to be gloomy.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Thanks, MF. One step at a time. Let's capture the White House for progressives. That's one more branch of government than we possess today, which by my count is zero.

We can also support the transition of the House and Senate. Small steps, I know, but small steps are still worth taking. My top priority in Congress is to fill out the "open rebellion" group being fronted by Elizabeth Warren.

Two or three more like her would make a real difference. And Alan Grayson (ahem) is looking like a real Senate possibility.



At 1:44 PM, Blogger Mf Lehman said...

Indeed. And - one of the things that demonstrates that Obama is getting what he wants and is not a victim of obstruction - a president can accomplish a great deal of good all by himself with appointments (and firings), regulations, interpretations, executive orders - the gamut of executive discretionary actions.

At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Gai, hopefully y'know 'big' "Bad" Bernie's yet to Have EVER used his Senate 'secret "HOLD" (see Ted Stevens' for precedent) or effectively FiliBustered, To STOP any of the rafts of heinous 0bama or Big Brother Bush's travesties of wars, $ocial OPPREϟϟION or deprivation of our unalienable and Constitutional civil rights RIGHT!?
I wouldn't hold out Hope for IMPROVEMENT, finally; just yet.

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points by MF et al above.

It is never easy to misUNDERestimate the American electorate, given that we have voted over 95% for clones of Reagan since 1980... and RE-elected such misfits as cheneybush and obamination.

I tend to believe that the numbers who will vote for Bernie are pretty much set in stone, save the minute numbers of Rs that might decide to do so. So the money isn't such an issue in the primaries. What Bernie needs is an organization to get him on the ballots in all 50 states.

Only when Ds vote in primaries will anyone know how viable Bernie is.

And if, by some absolute fluke, Bernie wins the nom, we'll be treated to our fascist media fomenting homophobia like you've never seen before.

So... we'll see. Unless EW runs, I'll vote for Bernie and feel pretty good about it.

That said, Bernie HAS spent altogether too much time and energy since the Clinton admin apologizing and making excuses for the abysmal performance and myriad betrayals by his "Democratic friends".

One wonders why he waited over 20 years to speak the truth about those people...


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