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Wednesday, 29 April 2015 08:12

Bernie Sanders Will Bring Uncomfortable Truths to Presidential Debate

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abernies(Image: DonkeyHotey)

In case you didn't know it, Sen. Bernie Sanders is a socialist - and he doesn't try to evade the identification if you ask him. That alone makes him an unusual politician: he doesn't try to steer away from his principles in order to climb the political ladder.

Officially, Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. Now, he will be running for president as a Democrat, while robustly bringing up systemic problems with the US economic system, corporate media and ongoing injustices. 

Sanders says that he hasn't changed his political positions on fundamental systemic change in the US since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont years ago. Sanders isn't a politician who watches the polls; he keeps his eye on the prize of social and economic justice.

I know because when BuzzFlash started in 2000, we began interviewing Sanders and working with his press secretary, who was then David Sirota (now a progressive columnist and author). Sanders was also a regular reader of BuzzFlash, as he would tell us when we ran into him at venues such as the first Free Press conferences. The egregious flaws in the current US financial, media and political system were the ones he focused on back when we first talked with him. 

Sanders will run a social and economic justice candidacy at a timely moment. A growing movement has developed in the US that no longer believes in incremental change. The killings of black males by police - and the protests and uprisings that have risen up – has opened up the debate of the cancer of racism, criminal legal system injustices, economic inequality and political campaign funding.

Sanders has long advanced these issues, particularly economic injustice. In 2010, he filibustered a budget agreement between congressional Republicans and President Obama. His indictment was so detailed and devastating that it was published as a book: The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class.

When one looks at the electoral map, it is hard to see how Sanders could win the Democratic nomination. However, don't rule out a Sanders win in the Iowa caucuses, which have upset the campaigns of many a media-favored candidate before, including Hillary Clinton in 2008. Sanders offers truths and convictions that inspire voters emotionally, which is what a candidate needs in a caucus state.

Whatever the outcome of the Democratic caucuses and primaries, Sanders will have an indelible impact by bringing up issues in the mass corporate media that would go otherwise uncovered. Sanders will also likely force Hillary Clinton to abandon platitudes and address the issues of concern to the Sanders/Warren/Brown wing of the Democratic Party – and to activists outside of the party.

Indeed, Clinton on Wednesday acknowledged the ongoing killing of black males by police with a phrasing that was likely due to her campaign's concern about the surge of individuals and groups who are eager to see systemic political, cultural, economic and social justice change. As The Huffington Post reported, Clinton made what was billed by her campaign as a "major policy" speech in New York:

Hillary Clinton on Wednesday used her first major policy speech as a 2016 presidential candidate to draw attention to the death of Baltimore's Freddie Gray, saying it was part of an "undeniable" pattern in which black men in America are disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system.

"What we have seen in Baltimore should -- indeed, I think does -- tear at our soul…"

"From Ferguson, to Staten Island, to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable," Clinton added. "Walter Scott shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina -- unarmed, in debt, terrified of spending more time in jail for child support payments he couldn't afford. Tamir Rice shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio, unarmed and just 12 years old. Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on the streets of our city. And now Freddie Gray, his spine nearly severed while in police custody."

Clinton called for an "end to the era of mass incarceration" in her remarks. Of course, the devil is in the details of how she would allegedly accomplish ending "mass incarceration," details which she is not likely to disclose. (It may not be coincidental that Clinton made such statements just before Sanders is announcing his candidacy, thus undercutting coverage of his decision to contest Clinton's "anointment" to the Democratic nomination.)

Yes, one should be skeptical of Clinton's campaign promises and statements. We surely learned that from the Obama "movement" campaign of 2008.

Make no mistake about it, however, movements such as #blacklivesmatter and the Occupy movement (among many, many others), have created a growing resistance to the status quo of many institutions and systems in the US. Bernie Sanders, as a presidential candidate, will give a political presence to many of the movement issues that will penetrate even the mass media - and force Clinton to make statements like the ones she made today. A Sanders' candidacy - combined with the courageous advocates of transformation in the United States - could further advance the potential for systemic institutional and cultural change.

BuzzFlash has frequently stated that no voters should think a presidential candidate can offer dramatic change by him or herself, because the overarching context of politics, economics and social justice has to change within the culture. However, a presidential candidate can help social justice movements have a greater impact by reframing the debate about the future of the US - and pushing the national discourse into terrain other than calculated sound bites.

Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout