The Universal Notebook: The case for Bernie Sanders

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As we look ahead to 2016 and Barack Obama’s exit from the stage, who can you imagine as the next president of the United States? I’m afraid when I survey the woods of wannabes I don’t see a lot of presidential timber.

I voted for Hillary Clinton back in the 2008 Democratic primary. Obama at the time struck me as a first-term U.S. senator with few accomplishments to his name. But a lot of people inflated him with their hopes, and the rest is history – the first African-American president of the United States.

Yes, I voted for him twice and I will vote for Clinton to become the first female president of the United States if it comes down to that, but I am not all that enthusiastic about her candidacy.

At this point, I fear that Clinton has too much baggage, from Benghazi to Bill. Given the unending investigations of Bill Clinton by Republicans while he was in office, I can only begin to imagine how vicious and vile the attacks from the right will be if Hillary Clinton wins. There is no aspect of her life and career that some slime bag won’t make into a federal case. She’d be up for impeachment before she was even inaugurated.

The electoral dialectic that has fickle voters swinging back and forth from right to left – Eisenhower to Kennedy-Johnson, Nixon-Ford to Carter, Reagan-Bush to Clinton, Bush II to Obama – might suggest that we are in for reactionary backlash of the sort that saddled Maine with Gov. Paul LePage. We can only hope, if that is the case, that we end up with Bush III instead of one of the GOP goofball alternatives.

If we have a Clinton vs. Jeb Bush race next year, it won’t surprise me. Americans love royalty, celebrity and make-believe. Clinton-Bush would be “Downton Abbey,” “The West Wing,” “House of Cards” and “Madame Secretary” all rolled into one stranger-than-fiction front-page story. At the moment, Paddy Power, the Irish odds makers, are giving even odds of Hillary being elected. Jeb Bush is at 4-1.

But as I said, better the next Brother Bush than Marco the Rubio (8-1), Union Buster Scott Walker (10-1), Bullyboy Chris Christie (16-1), the appalling Rand Paul (16-1), Ted Cruzify (33-1) or Hillbilly Huckabee (50-1). What conservatives do not seem to understand is that their point of view is only shared by about 38 percent of the American people. A similar percentage self-identify as moderates. The reason we have such polarization and paralysis in our political system is that the conservative minority seems to believe the American people share their extreme views, so they refuse to compromise.

I am well aware that my progressive views are held by only about 24 percent of Americans. I don’t expect elected officials to fully embrace my values and beliefs. That’s why I am so incredulous when conservatives portray Obama and Hillary Clinton as liberals. They aren’t, at least not liberal enough for me.

My preference for the next president of the United States would be either Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (28-1) or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (a 100-1 long shot). Both Warren and Sanders hold progressive views close to my own, which probably means they cannot win a general election. Heck, Warren couldn’t even win Senate confirmation as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Independent Sanders, of course, is a declared socialist, albeit a small “s” socialist, not one looking to nationalize industry and institute five-year plans. He supports that kind of socialism that enables Scandinavian countries to have a higher standard of living than we do.

Last week, Sanders announced he is running for president as a Democrat in order to be able to participate in the primary debates and offer a progressive alternative to Clinton. I will likely vote for him in the Democratic primary, because I like the way he thinks and talks.

“I do not know how you can concede the white working class to the Republican Party, which is working overtime to destroy the working class in America,” the crotchety Vermonter has said in his Brooklyn accent.

Just being labeled a socialist, of course, will sink any remote chance Sanders has of becoming the nominee, let alone the president. But what Sanders stands for is what America needs.

The greatest threat to America is not socialism, it’s oligarchy: rule by the moneyed elite. Sanders opposes tax breaks for the rich and America’s ever-growing income inequality. He is in favor of getting big bucks out of our elections, single-payer universal health care, free higher education, trade deals that favor American workers, and raising the minimum wage.

I welcome Sanders as a candidate, if only to let Americans see the true face of liberalism.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.