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Bernie Sanders Of Vermont–Socialist United States Senator

Yesterday I wrote that conservatives and Republicans were helping Americans consider socialism as an option for the first time, simply because the political is so often repeating a word that most Americans had never given much thought about . In yesterday’s post I said that today I would consider Vermont’s self-described socialist United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders has held public office in Vermont since 1981. In 1981 he was elected Mayor of Burlington. He won that election by 10 votes. Burlington is Vermont’s largest city with a 20oo population of around 39,000. In 1990, Mr. Sanders was elected to serve as Vermont’s at-large member of the U.S House Of Representatives. Mr. Sanders was elected to the U.S. Senate  from Vermont in 2006.

Here is Senator Sanders’ web home in the Senate.

Here is some description of Mr. Sanders from the 2008 Almanac of American politics—

Sanders grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, the son of a paint salesman who had emigrated from Poland; his mother died when he was a teenager. He became involved in radical politics at the University of Chicago, then came to Vermont as part of the hippie invasion of 1968 and worked as a carpenter. Four years later, he ran in a special 1972 Senate election….Sanders won just 2% as the candidate of the socialist Liberty Union Party. His rumpled, tieless, sincere persona helped him election as Mayor of Burlington in 1981…”

On the way to the Senate, Mr. Sanders lost his first statewide race in 1988 for Vermont’s one House seat. He won in 1990 in good part because of the National Rifle Association. The Republican elected to the House in 1988 voted for the semiautomatic weapon ban while Mr. Sanders opposes gun control.

Hence the saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows.

In Congress Mr. Sanders has focused on the cost of prescription drugs. He was the first to propose the 2001 personal income tax rebate that later was taken up by former President Bush and Congressional Republicans. He has opposed NAFTA and other free trade agreements saying the harm workers in the United States and in the countries who are our partners in these treaties.

Mr. Sanders strongly opposed the Patriot Act.  This is a view that put him on the same side as many libertarians.

Writing in The Huffington Post last December, Senator Sanders said he supported the following–

“A major economic recovery program which invests at least $400 billion in each of the next two years to create millions of good-paying jobs rebuilding our infrastructure and moving us toward energy independence, sustainable energy and energy efficiency.”

I think this idea, with a few hundred billion dollars tacked on, will sound familiar to most Americans at this point.

Here is what Mr. Sanders said in a 2006 article at Common Dreams.org about his focus and his success at the polls.

“He says his consistent electoral success reflects the widespread discontent with rising inequality, deepening poverty and dwindling access to affordable healthcare in the US. “People realise there is a lot to be learned from the democratic socialist models in northern Europe,” Mr Sanders said. “The untold story here is the degree to which the middle class is shrinking and the gap between rich and poor is widening. It is a disgrace that the US has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any industrialised country on earth….”

Mr. Sanders was willing to take on Alan Greenspan long before most were willing to do so.

 Here is a list of a number of votes that Mr. Sanders has cast in recent years.

Senator Sanders has shown  that one can be what many would consider quite far to left, and still be able to reach the high post of United States Senator. With the involvement of government in so many aspects of our economy in recent months, Mr. Sanders may well be able to say that the nation is moving closer to his ideals than to those of his critics and towards the critics of government intervention in the economy.

The people of Vermont know Mr. Sanders well after all his years of seeking office in that state. Now the nation is moving closer to the views of Mr. Sanders and his supporters in Vermont.  On the other hand, familiarity with George W. Bush and his radical free-market ideas bred only contempt with the majority of American people.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Books, Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Conservatives Helping Americans Consider The Idea Of Socialism

Republicans and conservatives are doing the nation a service by repeating the world socialist so often. They are taking a term that not many in America gave much thought about and now making it something to consider.

I’m sure that most on the left are like myself in that we never gave the idea of socialism much thought. But just as many of us never ran from the word liberal when it was being demonized ,we should not now run from the word socialism.

These right-wingers think we have been plotting some socialist revolution. But I don’t know that I’ve ever discussed the prospect of socialism in America with anyone. It never seemed on the table. It is the political right that is making it a viable idea for many. 

Maybe socialism has ideas that would make America and more fair and more just society. Why not look and see? If the right hates it so much, it might well have some merit. 

Americans have in the past been at least willing to consider socialist candidates. Socialist Eugene V. Debs won 6% of the total vote for President in the election of 1912. In the first 20 years of the 20th century there were many socialist candidates for a variety of offices around the nation.

The March 23 issue of The Nation Magazine has an essay called Reimagining Socialism. The essay is written by author Barbara Ehrenreich and by Bill Fletcher, Jr.  At the bottom of Reimagining Socialism are a number of links to other Nation articles discussing ideas for socialism in the modern day.

There are many different thoughts discussed and there are frank estimates of the work that to needs be done to make socialism a viable option for the nation’s future.  

Still, given the clear failure of our present system, we should consider a wide range of options. The American right has helped get this process started by injecting into the daily language a word that was not on many people’s minds before John McCain started calling Barack Obama a socialist.

Let’s explore socialism and see what good ideas it holds.

Tomorrow I’m going to make a post about Vermont’s Socialist United States Senator Bernie Sanders. I’ll examine what Senator Sanders sees as socialism. Whatever these ideas are, they have met with acceptance in the State of Vermont. (Here is that post on Mr. Sanders.)

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment