Monday, 7 November 2016

Why #ImWithHer (Hillary Clinton) Part 3: Bernie Trusts Hillary To Deliver A Progressive Platform

Bernie Sanders is one of my political heroes. You have to understand that as a trans equal rights activist in a conservative part of Eastern England that often feels underrepresented by the political system, I look up to Bernie because he is a man of integrity and he respects and fights for those who truly feel they have been left behind by the Establishment. Bernie never makes his campaigning about himself; he never asks for blind cult followers or celebrity filled rallies to help build support for his platform and he never throws temper-tantrums when the vote hasn't gone his way; instead he tries to empathise with his opponents and find ways of working with them to ensure the lives of Vermonters regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion/creed, disability, political preference or whether you prefer shopping at Walmart or 7-Eleven.
Just the other day Bernie released a series of tweets that showed his compassion for all ordinary American voters that are choosing to vote for Donald Trump; "I do not believe that most of the people who are thinking about voting for Mr. Trump are racist or sexist. Some are, but I think most people are hurting, they're worried about their kids, they're working longer hours for lower wages". (5th November, 2016).

Bernie gets it. He knows working class voters feel disengaged with the political system as it currently stands. He knows voters want real change. He knows the 2-party model is old fashioned and broken and restrictive. That's why Bernie talked so passionately about kickstarting a "Political Revolution" that would allow voters to stand up to big business lobbyists who want to continue making a fortune off the backs of hard working citizens. This revolution, however, wasn't Bernie's to own. He wanted voters to take ownership of the campaign and be passionate about it 24/7, 365 days a year, not just for one portion of the election cycle.

The key thing to remember is that Bernie believes that voters can only truly rise up and fight for their rights and win by engaging with the system rather than trying to destroy it in its entirety. When Snake-oil merchants sell you the idea that you can vote once and then all your political dreams will come true, you should know you are being lied to. Remember what happened with the Suffragists. The movement started properly with The Seneca Falls Convention, in 1848, when they passed the first resolution in favour of women's suffrage. This led to amazing strong women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony choosing to be figureheads to spur others to fight for their voting rights. Anthony was even arrested in Rochester, New York, in 1872 for attempting to cast her vote and she was only following on from other women who had tried to vote in the past (some were even successful!) but Anthony helped  make the suffrage movement visible. Bernie Sanders did the same sort of thing when he decided to run against Hillary. He helped give a voice to millions of Millennials and Liberal progressive Americans  who want substantive change. Yet it took many more years of campaigning to eventually secure the right to vote, with the passing of the 19th Amendment on August 20th, 1920. If you want to change the American political system for the better, you have to be prepared to put in the hard work to do it. By getting representatives and senators elected that share a progressive vision for the future of the US, you as a Bernie supporter and voter can enact real social change. Nobody expects blind obedience to the Democratic party platform; it is the essence of democracy which allows people to critique ideas and policies to try and make those policies better for the good of the majority, rather than the minority.

In case you haven't picked up on some of Bernie's policies that have made it onto the Democratic party platform for the 2016 election, here's 4 of the best:
  1. Pay for students to attend college if they or their families are earning less than $85,000 a year. The coverage will go up to $125,000 a year by 2021.
  2. Give Americans in every state the chance to access publically funded health insurance options and expand Medicare by allowing people 55 or older to opt in while protecting the existing program.
  3. Raise that National Minimum Wage to a Living Wage of $15 an hour, something Bernie has pushed for for many years.
  4. Oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal because Bernie helped Hillary release the deal could reduce job creation and lead to lower wages for those in employment.
I believe some Democrats have to understand that the central component of the argument that has swayed some voters away from Hillary to vote for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or another 3rd party candidate is that those voters feel they are being exploited by those in a position of power and that change has not been swift enough under the Obama administration to make a positive difference to their own lives. Most of the trouble has been connected to a Republican controlled Senate and Congress obstructing those increases in federal budgets that could have helped fund policies designed to help working class voters who were still reeling from the effects of the 2008-09 Economic Crisis. I haven't seen any decent vaguely progressive policies from Republicans or Trump that couldn't have been proposed by a Democratic Senate working in collaboration with their Republican counterparts. For example, legalising marijuana, especially for medical use is a great idea at a state level but whilst Trump advocates for state freedoms on that, he also wants states to be able to repeal same sex marriage laws and overturn Roe Vs Wade. The correct position to take (from a British progressive perspective) would be to legally abortion, marijuana and SSM nationally and allow people to make decisions for themselves, especially if you believe in freedom of choice and  expression. It seems to me that Trump wants to allow people to express their freedom but only if it tallies with his own conservative beliefs (or if you don't really believe him to be conservative, whatever position he happens to be selling at the time).

As someone who watched the Republican and Democratic primary season unfold, it is quite ironic that Trump wants to reach out to Bernie supporters yet ignores some of his key platform ideas. Here's why:
  • Bernie wants to raise the National Minimum Wage to $15 an hour which would benefit all working class voters but Trump hasn't said a positive word about that policy. All Trump keeps harking on about is "bringing jobs back to America" without having hired American workers to make his own products (when he could have done easily as a "niche luxury manufacturer") and giving tax breaks that would benefit the richest 1% more than working and middle class voters.
  •  Bernie talks about fighting against the dominance of pharmaceutical companies so that drug prices can fall so that ordinary Americans can afford the medication they need to be able to live a comfortable life without worrying about getting into sustained debt. Trump hasn't even created a strategy that would help benefit HIV/AIDS patients where they would only have to pay a maximum of $250 per month towards their out of pocket expenses. Trump doesn't have a policy that would end drug subsidies that pharmaceuticals get for direct-to-consumer advertising and use the subsidies to fund research instead. Nope, those are Hillary's policies, influenced no doubt by progressive Bernie!  

  • Bernie wants a single payer system for healthcare- a bit like the UK's NHS because for him, access to decent healthcare is a human right. Bernie voted for Obamacare because it was a "small step in the right direction" Hillary wants to strengthen and expand Obamacare coverage "even if it means standing up to special interests" by making a "public option possible". Trump's plan is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because he is in favour of "free market reform" to allow those who are rich to get better insurance policies than working or middle class voters. Bernie supporters should take note that this means Trump does not support progress towards a single payer system or having a public option. Trump opposes healthcare for undocumented immigrants, stating they cost the US "too much money ($11 billion annually)" whereas Hillary wants to provide treatment for all undocumented persons, regardless of immigration status. Trump wants to reduce access to abortion, contraceptive and preventative care. Family planning clinics provided by Planned Parenthood would be up for defunding despite the fact that preventing pregnancy is as rational, sane a thing as choosing to give birth to a child to allow him/her to be adopted. If you are Pro-Choice like me, there is no way I could support Trump based on healthcare policies.

  • Bernie wants to make college education debt free and tuition free so that every American who aspires to having a career in the Arts, Politics or even  to be a Wall Street big-wig can be given the tools to try and attempt to achieve their dreams, if they work hard and get the grades in High School to pass the entry requirements. Even those who haven't received a good education in their childhood should be able to attend evening classes without having to take on a massive amount of debt to do it. Trump doesn't even have an credible college policy to me- saying that he only has "good faith" in universities to reduce tuition costs to draw on. We all know how reliable that "good faith" is in the UK, where the Government has allowed tuition fees to rise beyond the £9,000 a year cap and our universities have been active in capitalising on that cap increase the first chance they get, even as the number of students eligible for grants and maintenance allowances from those universities concerned continues to fall dramatically. Trump's proposal to make it easier for working class students to attend a technical/vocational school is appealing at first glance but remember he won't fund it 100%.

  • Bernie fights on the side of Native Americans and Environmentalists opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. He got Obama to take notice of the DAPL situation and there are signs that Hillary may speak out after the Election has ended. Yes she hasn't been vocal enough to support #NODAPL protestors, especially when they are being physically assaulted by local police forces but remember Trump hasn't spoken once about Standing Rock, either. He hasn't reached out to the protestors, or Bernie to discuss what's going on there. If Trump really cared about the environment or protecting Native American homestead rights, he'd have intervened by now. He usually shoots his mouth off about his pet causes anyways. Protestors should beware a Trump presidency though; look at what happened to Austyn Crimes, whose only "Crime" was daring to hold a sign up saying he was a "Republican Against Trump" and the Trumpettes came at him by shouting "Gun" to panic the crowd enough to call for him to get him arrested for attempting to "assassinate Trump" with "hateful"words and then online trolls  slandered his reputation by calling him "yuppie" or "mentally ill" and then when  that didn't work they called him a Democrat agitator, with Wikibleets branded him a "Hillary Shill" within minutes of the event happening. LOL! The man had only volunteered for canvassing for Hillary for 3 hours during the entire campaign and he still voted down ballot for Republicans! Enough - Bernie would have been tolerant of the protestor and would have answered his questions sanely and treated him with compassion. President Barack Obama did the same with a Trump protestor carrying a sign at a Hillary rally. Who looks truly sane now?

Bernie has even stated that he's "pretty much opposed to Donald Trump's policies in every way". I can see why pretty easily. Trump may say he is "fighting the Establishment" and wants to make the US a better place, or in his words "Great Again", but not from a progressive standpoint. Hillary may have not started out as having a particularly progressive platform but she has clearly been receptive to Bernie's ideas. Bernie has backed Hillary unequivocally by going across the US, speaking to socialist and centrists alike who were unsure about voting Democrat after Bernie lost the primary. Bernie knows that Hillary will find it difficult to deliver many of these progressive policies without support from a sympathetic Congress or Senate. Bernie has to be at the centre of helping to deliver the platform and it seems some House Republicans are scared at the prospect of him getting anywhere near the decision table. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that a vote for Democrats would lead to Bernie being in charge of the Senate Budget Responsibility Committee. For once, Speaker Ryan got something right. By voting Dem down the ballot, Sanders supporters and progressive voters can hold Hillary to account for her decision making by having Bernie there to scrutinise her. This will help protect the progressive platform that has been created by those at the forefront of the "Political Revolution". If Hillary doesn't follow on her promises, by all means vote her out in 2020 or at the next Presidential Election. If you are reading this on Monday night or Tuesday morning, are an undecided/independent voter or Sanders supporter not sure what to do, remember you have the ability to change the outcome of the election. Vote for the progressive platform. Vote for equality, inclusion and compassion. Vote to help Bernie gain a Democratic Senate. Help Bernie to help elect Hillary Rodham Clinton as POTUS. Help Bernie to hold Hillary to account for her actions during her first term. Most importantly of all, continue to enact your own Political Revolution to ensure your voice gets heard, louder than ever, in 2020.