Why I’m Voting for Bernie, and the “Revolutionary Moonshot,” in the New York Primary

Tomorrow, those of us who are registered Democrats here in New York go to the polls to make a decision of great importance to the future of this nation. Here’s why I am supporting Senator Bernie Sanders for President, and his vision for America’s future.

Part I — The Individual Issues (obviously not exhaustive)

1. Death Penalty — Sen. Sanders is against it unequivocally (as am I), and Sec. Clinton is not. To me, the death penalty is not only a human rights issue in and of itself, but also an issue of equal justice when you look at who is being put to death in this country.

2. Single-payer Healthcare — As someone who works with both low-income workers and small businesses, I see single-payer as the only logical way to get to true universal healthcare. Obamacare was a step in the right direction (and Sen. Sanders agrees with that, despite what Sec. Clinton likes to insinuate), and has led to an increase in the number of people with insurance, but on its own it is nowhere near enough, when you consider the incredibly high cost of plans on the exchanges in many states (such as NY), as well as high deductibles. Plus, small businesses continue to struggle to pay for health insurance on the private market (an argument those on the Right often use to say businesses shouldn’t have to offer such benefits) and will try to get around benefits requirements by cutting hours, etc. A single-payer plan is the one method that is both pro-worker/consumer and also pro-small business, as it takes healthcare out of the hands of employers and spreads the risk across the public.

3.Fracking/Fossil Fuels — Again, Sanders is against fracking (a process that has wreaked havoc in several states) and has been from the beginning. Clinton has only recently come around to this position. In addition, he supports a carbon tax as a tangible way of reducing fossil fuel consumption. Clinton does not support such a tax.

4. Criminal Justice — From the beginning, Sanders has spoken out against the so-called War on Drugs as well as militarized policing and extreme racial disparities in police treatment of residents. He has concretely called for police departments to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, and called for real accountability for police violence. Clinton is again a latecomer to these issues, and even to this day she half-steps.

5. Foreign Policy — Does Clinton have foreign policy expertise and knowledge? Of course. I won’t deny that. But that knowledge has often been of the conventional American foreign policy approach that has too often led us in the wrong direction. Of course there’s the Iraq War vote. But there’s also the Libya Invasion (which she touts as one of her accomplishments, even while Pres. Obama has called it one of his administration’s “biggest mistakes”), which led to a political vaccuum in that country. There’s the coup in Egypt, which deposed a democratically elected leader and replaced him with a strongman. Plus, she’s particularly hawkish on Iran, moreso than the position of the Obama administration, while Sanders supports a path toward normalization. Particularly as we have the spectre of ISIS in the region, we need to work with the Iranians. We’ve had steps in the right direction here, and Clinton, like the Republicans, could undo a lot of the progress we’ve made. When it comes to Israel and Palestine, Clinton calls for a typical American knee-jerk “pro-Israel” approach that all but supports the vast majority of the actions of the Netanyahu regime. I’ll be honest and say that Bernie’s positions don’t go as far as mine on the issue of Israel and Palestine, but at least he is advocating for an even-handed approach toward the two peoples. I know a guy who works on his team on a variety of foreign policy issues, including this one, and his understanding of these issues is excellent.

6. Economic Policy — The fight for $15 is one of the best examples. Sen. Sanders has consistently stood up for low-wage workers, unions, and the disenfranchised in an era where workers’ rights have consistently eroded. He supported the Fight for $15 from jump. And to be honest, it particularly bothered me when Sec. Clinton stood onstage with Gov. Cuomo (another latecomer to the issue) in celebrating the $15 minimum wage legislation, when until VERY recently she did not support this increase (and she still doesn’t on a national level).

Part II — Clinton’s “Getting Things Done” vs. “Bernie’s Revolutionary Moonshot”

On a more general front, Clinton touts her experience — as Secretary of State, Senator, and in the White House — as a major reason to vote for her. Fair enough. She has a lot of experience and knowledge. BUT if she is going to turn to her White House experience as a selling point, than such experience is fair game to criticize. The Clinton Administration of the 90s is one of the most important instances of the watering-down of progressive values within the Democratic Party, through Bill Clinton’s triangulation. And Hillary Clinton carried water for this triangulation. From welfare reform to the 1994 crime bill to strong support for capital punishment to the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the erosion of progressive values within the party hurt America — most notably America’s poor and middle class and communities of color. It was the Clinton Administration that pushed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. And while this was a different time, it still shouldn’t be forgotten. Furthermore, her foreign policy (as mentioned above) is in the tradition of people like Henry Kissinger (who she herself cited as an influence). Henry Kissinger — the man responsible for coups across Latin America that resulted in thousands of civilian deaths. This Kissingerite, Reaganite philosophy has damaged America’s standing in the world over the past 4 decades. Clinton is competent for sure, and smart for sure — — but she’s wrong on these issues.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has been consistent on the vast majority of his positions for decades. From his support for workers to LGBT rights, he’s been voting his conscience. And he’s been able to get things done in the legislature, attaching amendments to countless bills — — a strategy that’s been particularly necessary as an independent in a legislative body that is largely organized on entirely partisan lines. And he’s done this without taking money from lobbyists or large corporations. Look at the man’s tax return — it’ll make your eyes glaze over.

Look — if you are happy with the way American foreign policy, and American economic policy, have worked over the past 3 or 4 decades, Clinton is for you. She’s a relative social liberal who will probably keep in place many of the accomplishments of the Obama administration, which is better than the GOP alternative. But the status quo is not enough. We’re in a crisis of global warming. We are in a crisis of poverty in this country, where the middle class is shrinking and the number of working poor (and working homeless) is growing. We have continued to get ourselves into endless, unnecessary wars across the world, while our national reputation abroad is squandered. We’re seeing police across the country killing young, unarmed people of color. And I just don’t see Hillary Clinton as the person who is going to dive in and fight to change this.

Yesterday, at Bernie’s rally in Prospect Park, Councilman Jumaane Williams (a guy I’ve respected since he joined the council) talked about Bernie being the guy pushing for a “Revolutionary Moonshot.” The end of slavery was a revolutionary moonshot. Women’s suffrage was a revolutionary moonshot. The end of Jim Crow was a revolutionary moonshot. The New Deal was a revolutionary moonshot. The founding of this country was a revolutionary moonshot. This country’s crowning achievements are nothing if not revolutionary moonshots.

So when Clinton supporters shake their heads and say we’re living in a fantasyland, I say no — we’re living in the United States of America.