If there was any doubt at all that the 2016 election broke everyone’s brain, the reaction to the very predictable announcement from Bernie Sanders that he will be running is evidence enough. While the weird obsession that he evokes in younger people whose parents are undergoing a trial separation and are seeking a reliable parental figure is obnoxious, it’s nothing compared to the response from the Clinton loyalists who is to Bernie what Michael Scott is to Toby.
As a result, there are many bad faith criticisms of Bernie Sanders, which is a shame, because this heavily marginalizes the good faith ones. Just because I haven’t had my inbox fill up with emails calling me either a lib or a tankie in awhile, let’s write some good faith criticisms of Bernie Sanders. If you’re already clutching your Bernie Sanders action figure with rage at the idea of any criticisms, feverishly typing out that Harris is a cop, feel free to go look at my good faith criticisms of her. Criticizing a candidate doesn’t mean you can’t vote for them. Anyone who votes will be voting for a flawed, imperfect candidate.
A lot of people like to excuse his vague foreign policy ideas as the result of him being a Vermont senator for most of his career. This isn’t really much of an excuse, however, as, I don’t know if y’all know this, but the senate does play a role in US foreign policy. For the most part, Sanders does say some correct things about our current foreign policy, accurately calling the War on Terror a “disaster for the American people” which I would only criticize in saying that it was much more of a disaster for the people in Afghanistan or Iraq.
He is vague though. It’s easy to see why, Bernie likely feels that the United States shouldn’t bother fighting “terrorists” (or whatever excuse we use to invade Iran, North Korea, or Venezuela). He would be right, but he should just come out and say some contemporary version of “US out of everywhere!”
The other concern is his bafflingly statement that “Hamas is sending missiles into Israel.” Bernie has been better on Israel than basically all other mainstream politicians, but that’s a reason to consider voting for him, not a defense from the criticism itself. He does seem to think that this is a war between two equal countries, and not an invasion of one country by a different, very powerful country (backed by the most powerful country). If he was elected president, he likely wouldn’t make things much worse for Palestinians, but it doesn’t seem like he would make ending their plight a central part of his presidency either.
Yes, Raytheon. The defense giant that Bernie Sanders has criticized has also given him money. Why? Well, no company is ever going to spend that money if they don’t think it’s going to make them more money eventually. Again, some might say “well yeah, so has everyone!” which, yes, that’s likely true, but again, that doesn’t mean it’s not a fair criticism. I promise, I’m doing these articles for all the candidates with a legitimate shot of winning (so Sanders, Harris, and maybe Biden (probably not, as he’ll likely be getting MeToo’d less than a week in because he’s a weird sexist creep and always has been)).
The reality with Bernie is that, historically, he’s prioritized jobs over whatever is happening abroad. He famously responded to protests at a General Electric plant, which were over GE building weapons technology for the Contras to murder communists at the behest of the United States, by remarking as to how many jobs the plant created. Bizarrely, he later claimed to visit the plant, which GE denies. It is worth noting that, prior to Sanders’ statement regarding jobs, GE did express that it felt Sanders had been passively encouraging the protests, which, if true, would have been the correct thing to do. Regardless, this ties into a running theme with Bernie regarding jobs, which leads well into the next issue.
Open borders is, ethically, the only way forward. Even the most Ayn Rand obsessed, MBA having “economist” knows that, in the long run, more people means more demand which means more jobs. The border security of the day is purely about racial animosity filling in the gaps for economic anxiety among what CNN likes to call “working class” voters, but what means poor white voters. Bernie should be in favor of open borders, or at least a heavy reduction in border security. He is not, however, because of jobs.
It’s not really about jobs though. Bernie, who has said himself that “America First” is bad policy, doesn’t apply that to immigration, which he has called a “Koch Brothers” conspiracy. He’s not entirely wrong, the Kochs tend to personally favor more immigration because it provides them with an increase in cheap labor, but that doesn’t benefit them as much as the racial anxiety of scary brown taking jobs does, which is why most of their money goes to representatives who would violently oppose open borders. Plus, if wages were to be raised among documented and undocumented citizens alike, any Koch support for open borders would dry up immediately.
Based off of his policy views and quote, it seems that Bernie wants jobs in the US to go to US citizens, which would be fine if he would be willing to expand the definition of citizen to one that isn’t so aggressively racially dictated by the endless cycle of imperialism leading to the destruction of foreign economies leading to immigration leading to a reduction in the cost of labor leading to lower wages. Bernie should take the long view here and fight for an end to the militarily cajoled indentured servitude that immigrants are subjected to after the US destroys their home countries. He tends intend to be committed to blanket jobs policies that ignore unique contexts. Speaking of…
Race & Gender
Before you go off to the Chapo sub to talk about yet another identity politics obsessed lib besmirching Bernie’s name, and talking about how he took a bullet for MLK, let me say once again, that this isn’t really indicative of any other candidates. It’s okay to view Bernie as imperfect, but also understand that Clinton’s policies in the 90s contributed to our radicalized police state, and Bill Clinton and Joe Biden are definitely not exactly great on gender. That doesn’t make Bernie good on these topics.
Here is the main problem with Sanders on so-called idpol: he seems to view it as completely irrelevant. Again, subscribing to the Obama style “a high tide raises all boats” line of thinking, only with better economic policy ideas. This isn’t the case. Race and gender (and a whole host of other issues we, for better or worse, sort via identity) are unique issues that present problems that, while heavily impacted by class of course, still exist and will continue to do so after policies are put in place to improve the lives of the working class.
A good example of this is the way government services, despite the perception that people of color are the main benefactors, actually gatekeeper people of color far more aggressively. Even if they are enhanced or improved, there’s no reason to think this won’t be the case. Even if they’re rebuilt from the ground up to try and change the minute functions within these broader systems that work as barriers to keep people of color, and often single mothers as well, and definitely trans people, out, it’s still likely going to be populated by people who are put in decision making positions who still hang on to some form of bigotry.
Part of the battle is to engage in battling bigotry overtly. Policies that seek to reduce the systemic racism in our country should do so overtly. Trying to lift all the boats with one high tide has never worked before, and it won’t work now.
There you have it, some sincere criticisms of Bernie. If you think he’s shifting the political discussion positively, and would be the best and most electable person to run against Trump, that’s all the more reason to understand his failings and continue to pressure him to improve. The fact that many other people in the upcoming primary will have these flaws and more isn’t a reason to pretend these criticisms don’t exist.
Dylan James Harper is the Political Editor for CSUITEMUSIC.com
Read more from Dylan at http://www.dylanjamesharper.com
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official views of CSUITEMUSIC or its partners and collaborators.