Dem leaders spreading Berniephobia virus
When the market fell the other day by 1,000 points, I was reminded of my Filipino American father, a hotel/ culinary worker, who was always too poor to invest in the stock market. He arrived in America during the Great Depression and, even as I was growing up, he never saw the market as his go-to economic barometer of choice.
When he wasn’t at a card table, he preferred to derive value from an honest day’s work as a proud union member, where he believed in the power of the vote, even if just for shop steward.
And if he were alive today, I know who he’d be backing. Bernie Sanders. No question.
He’d consider Sanders a youngster. And they’d talk about income inequality and their heart attacks.
Maybe my dad’s vote would be different if he were a hedge fund manager and had a little more than the rent in his bank account and bus fare in his pocket.
But then who else is speaking out for the working class and for immigrants and people of color in ways that might make a difference in their lives?
That’s Sanders’ appeal and why he won fair and square at last Saturday’s Nevada caucuses.
With his 34.3 percent of the vote, Sanders nearly doubled his closest rival, Joe Biden (17.9 percent). Pete Buttigieg (15.2 percent) and the latest hot debater performer Elizabeth Warren (12.8 percent) were even further back.
What happened? People had a real choice for a change.
And now all the power brokers in the center are finally realizing that paying lip service to Asian Americans and people of color, as well as working class Americans of any color in general, no longer works.
People aren’t just giving up and falling silently back in line when they’re ignored by the big political players, who simply lock us in place by saying, “Where are you going to go?”
On Saturday, honest, hardworking voters tired of being shut out of the system turned out for Sanders.
On “60 Minutes,” Sanders admitted his secret to winning in November would be turning “non-traditional voters into voters.”
It’s about getting those who have opted out to opt back in for democracy’s sake.
Nevada shows that Sanders has built a real coalition for the New America—voters historically diverse and tired of a politics heavily weighted toward rich, white, corporate elitists.
According to entrance polls reported by the Washington Post, Sanders did it with 29 percent of the white vote, 51 percent of the Hispanic vote, 27 percent of the Black vote, and 65 percent of voters under 30—a multiracial, youth-oriented vote.
Sanders is the only candidate so far who can legitimately proclaim the diversity litany as a victorious battlecry.
“We are bringing our people together — black and white and Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight,” Sanders reportedly said at a Sunday rally in El Paso. “We are bringing our people together around an agenda that works for the working people of this country.”
Others can say it, but the results are showing Sanders is actually attracting those who’ve felt left out and neglected.
But can he win in the general?
Not if Democrats repeat what happened in 2016, when party leaders freaked out and changed the rules at the last minute.
And not if Democrats fail to understand that Sanders is for real and continue to red-bait Sanders from within. Right now, that’s a big threat to Sanders. Every good day for Sanders exposes America’s one-party system that advantages the wealthy and mostly white. Ever wonder why Bloomberg and Trump can be a Democrat one day and then a Republican the next? Because when America is controlled by oligarchs and their money, it doesn’t really matter. Everyone else is just along for the ride.
But now the Sanders threat is real. You can’t keep talking about income inequality and empowering the middle class of this country without making the rich feel a little uneasy.
That’s why Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, doesn’t hesitate to say it’s harder for him to vote for Bernie Sanders than it is for Donald Trump. Or why financial pundits on CNBC are calling Sanders “Communist,” echoing Michael Bloomberg’s comment during the Nevada Debate. (For the record, Sanders isn’t a communist, no matter if reports say he honeymooned in Moscow. He’s more Democratic Socialist as in Scandinavian countries).
And then there are the millionaire political pundits on MSNBC, one of whom compared Sanders’ crushing blow of Democratic rivals to the victory of Hitler in Europe. Chris Matthews didn’t say Sanders was Hitler, but was comparing the inevitability of their victories. A fine line, perhaps, but it does the trick. Mention anyone in the same sentence as Hitler, and you’ve just performed a major hit job.
People are scared. The mainstream power folks have no viable candidates and have resorted to name calling.
They can’t agree on an anti-Trump, so they’re acting just like Trump. Enough to vote for him even.
It’s positively Trumpian.
It’s the flip side of the Never Trumpers. Here come the Never Bernies.
Some pundits are mounting more reasonable attacks against Sanders, saying that nothing he proposes has a chance of passing in a Senate controlled by Republicans. That may be true, but nothing anyone else is proposing to help the middle class would pass either. The critics then say Sanders ideas would cost too much. Will it cost us more than what Trump is doing–cutting taxes to the rich and growing the military to obscene levels in peacetime?
The Congressional Budget Office in January said the government debt will grow by $1 trillion this year and average $1.3 trillion a year through the next decade. That would put us at $31.4 trillion by 2030, 98 percent of our GDP, the highest since World War II. That’s the direction we’re going.
Pro-Bernie types would simply ask whether you’d rather tax the rich a little bit more so that working people can struggle less.
All the negative talk begins to spread like a virus. It spooked Wall Street this week. It works the same way in politics. When you add the news that Russia wants Sanders to win only adds to the confusion. It works in people’s heads. Just like a virus like an out-in- the-open hack in the election process. People begin to doubt everything and vow not to participate. And it’s starting to work. Well-meaning supporters of the also rans are saying, “Yeah, Bernie’s a threat to democracy.”
Meanwhile, our democracy is really threatened every day by the unchecked and unbalanced Trump with his administrative purges and assault on norms.
And this is the time when Democrats should be rallying around the emerging and overwhelming front-runner, right?
Nope. They’re trying to take him down. It’s full-fledged “Berniephobia.”
It’s the kind of infighting that can kill a democracy.
We’ll see the impact in Saturday’s race in South Carolina. Can Sanders keep and grow his coalition. And then it’s on to California, Texas, and the big prize Super Tuesday on March 3rd.
If you’re a Bernie fan, inoculate yourself now from the daily barrage of anti-Bernie “revelations.” There will be something new every day.
Wash your hands after watching cable news if you must. You have nothing to lose but your oligarchs.
If you’re not a Bernie voter, don’t engage in all the insults and red-baiting. Instead, encourage your candidates to build a better winnable coalition. Either that or encourage them to drop out and support one candidate. In 2016, that candidate was Hillary Clinton. This year, who will it be?
With all the moderates divided, the math still works right now for Sanders. But there’s still time left for someone to emerge who can appeal to both the working class and the oligarchs. That—not name-calling and fearmongering—is what it would take to stop the Senator from Vermont.
All Asian Americans, including Filipinos like my late father, know xenophobia. Sanders knows Berniephobia.
None of it belongs in an American democracy.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a column for the Inquirer.net North American Bureau. Twitter @emilamok