I support Bernie Sanders and his 2020 candidacy. I am also one of the first people to admit he is not perfect, and by “not perfect” what I mean is that I do agree with certain people that he has taken some very crappy stances on some very important issues.
So in my persuit of truth, scrutiny, and integrity as a lefist organizer I would like to address the largest reservations that I, a very adamant Bernie supporter mind you, have about Bernie and how we might address them.
1. His FOFSTA/SESTA Votes
This is one of most pressing reservations I have about Bernie at the moment. It cannot be ignored that the passage of both these bills has put the lives of sexworkers at an exponentially higher risk. Bernie should be held accountable for voting yes on these two bills.
But let us review previous Bernie controversies;
When Bernie was disrupted by Black Lives Matter organizers, he gave them the stage and effectively yielded his speaking time to them. When debating Hillary Clinton and asked the question “Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?” Bernie unequivocally answered “black lives matter.”
When the news broke of sexual harassment on his previous presidential campaign, Bernie 1. Apologized 2. Hired a new campaign manager. 3. Has met with the victims of harassment from his campaign. 4. Promised to be more attentive about the issue of instituitonal sexism.
When confronted about his vote on the 1994 crime bill, he admitted it was a mistake.
If there is any politician who responds to popular pressure and actively corrects their stances, it’s Bernie Sanders. I am confident that if we can correct issues with white supremacy and sexism in Bernie Sanders’ campaigns, we can correct his stances on sexwork.
It should also be noted that every democratic candidate for president who sits in either the house or senate voted in favor of these bills. We should not single out Bernie for something that was clearly systematically perpetuated. Further, if Bernie had voted no on these bills the Hillary bots would have mercilessly ostricized him as a supporter of human trafficking. The fact of the matter is FOFSTA and SESTA was a “damned if you do or damned if you don’t” situation for Bernie Sanders.
We need to be organizing to protect sex workers, and we must also make sure we are still pursuing the most material gains for the most people.
2. Electoral politics never solves anything and Bernie will sell us out if he becomes president.
First of all, leftists who reject electoral politics are one of the reasons that conservatives have been able to do things like strip women of access to abortion and poison our planet. Also if electoral politics never solved anything then the GOP would not be dedicating so much of their resources to oppressing black voters. I do share the sentiment however that elections in America as they stand represent a system that will inevitably perpetuate colonialism and racism no matter who is president because it was born out of colonialism and racism. This however is more of an argument in favor of overall systematic change (revolution) and is less of a conclusive argument against Bernie. I share the sentiment that revolution is the only way to abolish capitalism and purge the systems it props up to oppress women, lgbtq, and non white people. However, when we ignore elections or skip out on voting, we get presidency’s where women’s reproductive health is at stake and where oil fracking poisons our water wells. Also, to assume anything will be definite such as Bernie selling us out is nearsighted. To assume that conjecture will become definite fact is in of itself a logical fallacy and logical fallacies have no place in organizing.
3. Bernie is just another old white guy
First of all this is not a real criticism, it is a description. Secondly, no. The historic significance of electing our first jewish president, especially one who is actually to some degree critical of Israel, would not be more of the same. Also while I do think that a presidency that is filled by a queer woman of color would be a historic boom, it would not neccearily be a reassurance of good policy. Barack Obama was our first black president, but did his presidnecy see the quality of life improve for most black Americans? Did he give the whole working class the material gains we were hoping for? Do we have universal healthcare or free public college? Did having a black president end white supremacy and stop the police from slaughtering unarmed black people in the streets and their homes? Was obama not a worse deporter in chief than George W Bush?
It is important that we elevate people from oppressed communities into positions of leadership, however we must be looking at the effects of their policies in the process. What would Kamila Harris’s election mean for women if she compromises on sex work, as she did (like Bernie) on the FOFSTA and SESTA votes? What would Julian Castro’s election do for latinx and indigenious people if neoliberal policies are still pursued? The identity of our president will always be signficiantly less important than their actual policies and the presidency of Barack Obama is proof.
4. Bernie is too old.
This one is just flat out agist. Some of the best world leaders have also been some of our eldest. Nelson Madela of South Africa and Jose Mujica of Uruguay were well into their senior citizen years when elected to public office and both served as some of the most effective international leaders in recent memory.
With age also comes a degree of experience not seen in any presidency. Bernie has been a mayor, a congressional rep, and a senator. Very few presidents have come into the office with that degree of experience. Not to mention that, if he chooses a woman of color as his running mate, the possible short tenure of his presidency due to age increases the chances that a woman of color will immediately follow him.
Concerns about a Bernie candidacy are valid, but what is not valid is forsaking a chance to make immediate material gains. Will a Bernie presidency make the world socialist? No, but will it increase our chances of socialized policies such as medicare for all, college for all, and jobs for all? Absolutely.
5. Bernie and Internationalism
Next to his FOFSTA votes, this one has become the biggest concerns I have about a Bernie presidency. Recently Bernie tweeted about the need for President Maduro to allow in America’s “humanitarian aid” into Venezuela. Previously he had tweeted that the United States has an unsuccessful history of interfering with Latin America, but he simultaneously validated the neoliberal opposition of Venezuela by perpetuating the right wing talking point about protesters being repressed.
The protesters in Venezuela’s opposition are not protesting oppression but rather protesting because they do not like having their rich privileges infringed to fund Bolivarian social programs and because of their white supremacist hatred of Venezuela’s indigenous. The fact that Bernie would believe or even validate the right wing talking point of “humanitarian aid” is incredibly disappointing.
John Bolton and Trump have already used the guise of “humanitarian aid” to sneak guns and weapons into countries like Venezuela. This is one of the oldest tricks of U.S. imperialism. Trucks claiming to be bringing in aid are in fact smuggling weapons in order to arm the right wing oppositions, as was the case in Nicaragua and Panama in the 1980s. It should also be noted that Maduro is allowing aid into the country from the U.N? and nations not set on overthrowing him.
Now, I do not think this is something we can just ignore and it is possible to both support Bernie while criticizing Bernie for this. A valid point was made by Black Socialists of America when they tweeted “Liberals will not have the same criticisms of Bernie as Leftists will.” Which is very true. Being critical of Bernie when it comes to international matters will not play into liberal fodder about russian bots or any of that garbage spewed by MSNBC loyalists. However I think it goes deeper than that.
The reality is that I support Bernie because he will provide us with the most material gains than any other candidate will. No other candidate has reassured the public that they will fight for eco-sustainability and healthcare as much as Bernie has. However the reality is that even if Bernie becomes the first socialist president of the united states, he will still be president of the united states. I think Bernie is evidence that no matter how much good he can do, he cannot undue the hundreds of years of colonialism and imperialism which created this country. (See my second point in this post).
We can count on Bernie to help us get green jobs and healthcare, but we cannot count on anyone but ourselves to overthrow American imperialism. This does not mean I will withdraw my support from Bernie, quite the contrary, if anything it reinforces my point. When leftists say “Bernie is not perfect,” we do not mean “lets ignore his faults.” What we mean is “the rest of the work will have to be done ourselves.” This would be true even if Bernie was not running. Remember, this is not actually about Bernie Sanders, it is about us getting the things we desperately need to survive.
All in all, I am still a Bernie supporter. I am still absolutely in favor of Bernie 2020.