The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For: Coyote Culture Endorses Sanders for President
By the CC Editorial Team
Earlier this week, Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont received some very good news: recent polls put him atop the leaderboard for the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as the behemoth primary in California. Similarly encouraging was a recent poll of likely voters showing Sanders with a four point lead over the sitting President while outperforming all other Democratic candidates among independent and young voters, groups viewed as highly important to defeating Donald Trump in 2020. After the polls were released, major media outlets began deploying relentless attacks against the Senator over complete nonstories, as clear a sign as any that the political pundit class is terrified of Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination. But this article is not about the argument for his electability, which nevertheless grows stronger with each passing day. Instead, it is about why the United States and, indeed, the world needs Bernie Sanders to win. Though the Coyote Culture editorial staff does not always ascribe to the efficacy of the American political process, the urgency of our problems requires us to put aside any doubts we may have about electoralism and throw our considerable weight behind the effort to make Senator Sanders, President Sanders.
During the most recent CNN-sponsored debate, the event’s hosts were clearly determined to steer the conversation away from the substantive but “boring” policy and into the candidate’s personal grievances with one another or other insignificant political dramas. While this may well be a good strategy to boost viewership, it gave those viewers little idea of what many of the candidates actually believe. This is, however, an excellent strategy to make the election more about personality and appearance than about how it might affect voters. Despite the clear bias by the moderators asking questions so shallow that standing in a puddle of them wouldn’t get your feet wet, the key moment of the debate came when the topic turned to trade. When asked whether or not Sanders supported a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, he began talking about climate change. As the moderator interrupted to condescendingly remind the Senator that the question was over trade, Bernie responded by saying, “they’re the same thing.” This moment illustrates how Sanders is one of the rare politicians who understands the grave problems we face are not discrete issues to be tackled one at a time, but the product of a much larger system of ideology that has metastasized into all areas of our lives.
Few other politicians have the foresight or political courage to explain how as climate change accelerates, populations in South and Central America will be forced to migrate to survive, increasing the burden on their already overburdened states. Sanders is the only candidate running to come out in opposition to Trump’s NAFTA Revision, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). He argues that it does not provide adequate protections for workers in either the United States or Mexico, as the US will continue to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs while Mexican workers will be subject to the country’s poor labor practices, facing even greater exploitation by American corporations. Moreover, the agreement does absolutely nothing to address the responsibility of the three nations to address climate change, which he calls an “outrage,” as it surely is. Any modest short-term improvement in trade imbalance will, inevitably, be more than offset by the long-term ramifications of a plan that does not incorporate provisions for climate change. To give in to this Trump-led trade deal is to compromise so severely on climate, one of the biggest threats to global stability in modern history, that it would be a betrayal of the public trust to chalk it up as anything other than an abject failure of the Democrats to protect their constituents.
This is not the only issue that makes Bernie the climate candidate. The Sunrise Movement, the nation’s preeminent activist group fighting to end the behavior that has put us in such a precarious position in regards to climate, also endorsed the Senator last week. This is due in large part to the Senator’s adoption of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sponsored Green New Deal. While a robust spirit of climate denialism on the Right still ravages the discourse in this country and others, few political figures on the Left are willing to admit how immense the scale of the problem is and how great the task is before us. For this reason, the Green New Deal does not stop at increasing environmental protections or disincentivizing bad climate-related behavior. Many of the solutions instituted by slightly more forward-thinking governments, like that of France, have shown the inefficacy of a climate program that does little to address the problems of the working class and even less to assure them that they will not bear most of the sacrifice required of humanity to ensure our continued survival. As prices of fuel spiked in the country, the workers of France took to the streets to voice their displeasure in the strongest of terms. Anyone familiar with revolutionary history knows that as the people of France get more and more frustrated with their leadership, the word “revolution” is found on more and more lips — and only the most ignorant of leaders would dismiss this as a bluff.
When taxes are raised on fossil fuels to discourage their use, millionaires and billionaires will only be slightly poorer millionaires and billionaires, while truck drivers and commuters will have their already meager wages garnished. When governments institute cap-and-trade programs to encourage changes to renewable energy, energy companies can use their massive reserves of money to pivot their business models while workers are left without a job and without options. This is why the Green New Deal hearkens back to FDR’s plan to get America back on track in the wake of the Great Depression. It includes massive investments in infrastructure, construction, high-speed rails, agriculture, and all sectors of the economy to support a federal jobs guarantee, essentially rendering unemployment a relic of the past. If we are going to live in a world where you need to work to eat, why would we allow for a system that necessitates a certain level of unemployment at any given time? Bernie Sanders says we should not, and his plan to transform the economic, ecological, cultural, and political framework of our country does not stop there.
However, no discussion of restoring economic justice can be taken seriously without an institution of racial justice in a country that has never had it. As a people, we must face the fact that our nation was built on a foundation of white supremacy, grew economically powerful as a function of white supremacy, and maintained a tradition of white supremacy as to not upset the power structures that learned to enjoy its consequences. The terrible police violence we have witnessed against unarmed black and brown citizens in recent years is not a recent development, despite only recently being noticed by white populations. It is also a symptom of the prison-industrial complex that developed out of a desire to keep black people in chains and working for free after the end of slavery. Though reparations may go a long way toward healing the wounds of slavery, racism, and discrimination, if we do not bring an end to the systematic oppression of communities of color it will ultimately do little good. Bernie’s extensive plan to put a stop to policies that unfairly target communities of color includes ending the war on drugs, expunging sentences for marijuana convictions and other nonviolent offenses, abolishing private prisons (who are incentivized to put and keep more people in prison), ending mandatory minimum sentencing as well as cash bail, and reforming police procedures and culture. These comprehensive policies will set the tone for a future where all people in our country are finally equal in the eyes of the law.
Though the changes he wants to make are often seen as radical in the political context of the United States, this is not unlike a ten year-old thinking it is radical to order something besides chicken fingers at a Mexican restaurant when that is all they have ever tried. Some form of guaranteed, inexpensive healthcare is a reality in every major developed nation in the world with the exception of the United States, despite the fact that we are far and away the most wealthy in terms of GDP-per-capita. Medical debt is the number one contributor to bankruptcy in the United States, which Bernie has promised to eliminate as President. Everyone needs healthcare at some point, and American politicians have allowed companies to profit from our pain. This system has remained relatively unquestioned by the mainstream media and bulk of politicians for decades not because it is more cheap and efficient, as the lie is often told, but because the most powerful actors in the industry benefit from it immensely and can pay out the nose to ensure its survival. Incidentally, four of the ten wealthiest corporations in the United States are healthcare companies in some form or fashion.
The story is little different when it comes to obtaining a higher education in this country, because the root causes are the same. Growing up, out children are told they simply must go to college to find wealth, success, and fulfillment. It is no coincidence that this manufactured “requirement” for prosperity also requires mortgaging their future to a predatory lending ecosystem in order to attend university (unless one has parents that can pay for college, of course). This gives an obvious advantage to students from well-off families, and is a major reason why the United States lags so far behind our similarly developed peers in social mobility, or the ability to raise your social class from the one you were born into.
Senator Sanders’ initiative to make public college free for the country’s students and eliminate student debt would go a long way towards racial and class (which are often the same in the U.S.) equality in college admissions and free up the nearly one trillion dollars currently burdening our nation’s graduates back into the economy. It seems intuitive that a healthy, well-educated populace makes a country stronger. Unfortunately, a better country is often not the goal of the oligarchs who have run our country in the preceding decades.
You don’t need any advanced degrees to see where the disconnect lies. There is only one reason why you either die or go bankrupt in this country if you experience a medical emergency without health insurance. There is only one reason why the best chance to improve your lot in life is to tie yourself to a boulder of debt for twenty years or more. That is because of the profound greed of the country’s ruling class and their desire to consolidate power. It is not difficult to imagine how to pay for free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare when you realize that Amazon paid exactly zero dollars in federal taxes last year, despite its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owning assets in excess of $100 billion. Even the billionaires we have come to associate with giving their fortunes to philanthropy, like Bill Gates, have never been wealthier. Oftentimes, these philanthropic endeavors are actually just convenient ways to excuse themselves from contributing to society’s coffers while providing themselves with excellent press. A less-educated citizenry oftentimes means less critical and informed voters that can be more easily manipulated by the deceptions of the rich and powerful. A Bernie Sanders presidency will finally force these modern-day robber barons to not only pay their fair share but to reckon with their selfish behavior, and not a moment too soon.
The reason Bernie is often more adamant about the redistribution of wealth is because he understands that it has already been happening for generations, but in the least productive way possible. The top 10%, and to a much greater extent the top 1% and 0.1% of wealth hoarders in this country have gradually been redistributing the wealth of the poor and middle class directly into their own pockets. Following the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal-mandated progressive income taxes and increases in union power led to the Great Compression, wherein the wealth gap between the richest Americans and the bottom 90% of Americans was at its lowest. Though American workers were among the most exploited in the developed world in terms of their contributions to the economy versus their share of the gains, it still represented the period of productivity that made the United States the richest country in the world while creating a robust middle class. As the conservative movement took power in the late 1970s and Reagan rose to power, this trend began to reverse rapidly. It is an important distinction to note that Bernie, a democratic socialist as opposed a social democrat or some other vein of lesser progressive, understands that so long as the levers of power are firmly in the grasp of capital, we will always end up in a situation where the workers produce most of the country’s wealth but see far less of it.
Today, the three richest men in America control more wealth than the bottom half of the entire country. Even the most staunch capitalist has to admit they could not possibly deserve as much as they have. In no world do those three men provide as much value to the country as the half that does the bulk of all actual labor. The ultra-rich have what they do because they stole it from their employees’ wages, cheated a system by exploiting rules designed specifically for them, and extorted it from the public trust under the indifferent watch of politicians too cowardly or too self-interested to stop them. In the opinion of this publication, as well as that of the world’s left, Bernie is far from a radical. That said, his ideological underpinnings as a socialist separate him from the field in the most meaningful way. Democratic socialism is not about a redistribution of wealth, though that is a consequence of socialist policy. It is about restoring the ownership of the means of production to the workers, and democratizing our lives beyond the political process.
One of the most undiscussed and unsung planks of the Senator’s platform, despite its being one of the first priorities listed on his website, is his initiative to increase workplace democracy. This plan would double union membership by removing much of the union-busting legislation passed since the Reagan years that have left the workers who form the foundation of our economy without protection from the abuses of owners and bosses. Most importantly to the cause of worker justice, though, is his plan to ensure that workers own at least 20% of all publicly traded companies, while electing at least 45% of all the companies’ board members. An employee who has no agency in the workplace or no stock in the success of the company has little reason to increase their productivity or demonstrate any loyalty to the firm. But if the worker owns a part of the company and has a say in how it is run, they have a vested interest in seeing the business reach greater heights. The below graph shows how worker productivity has far outpaced worker pay since the 1970s, when the union busting of the Reagan and Gingrich era began in earnest:
The lives of workers and the health of the nation can be dramatically improved by restoring the rights taken from workers such as collective bargaining power, protection from unfair firing practices, and guarantees to the right to organize. A robust, secure workforce is as much a key to continued economic prosperity as an educated and healthy one.
The issues we have listed in this article represent what we consider to be the main obstacles to true economic and political freedom in the United States, and so it is Bernie’s proposed solutions to these obstacles that we decided to focus on. Of course, every good socialist knows the ultimate root of injustice lies in the incentive structure. Be it housing, immigration, the military-industrial complex, Wall Street reform, gun control, voter enfranchisement, or any of the items discussed in this article, their origins can be traced to the desire for profit and a capitalist system that rewards that type of behavior. The reality is, even Sanders is not radical enough to put an end to our most pressing problems. He is, however, aware of the profound greed of a ruling class that puts profits over people and consolidation of wealth over country. His election to the Presidency, as much as I would like it to be, is not a political revolution. Even if elected, to install the necessary changes would require mass mobilization against corporations, the media, and entrenched political interests. This is why his campaign slogan is, “Not Me, Us.” A victory for Bernie is a victory for all of us, yes, but only because it puts the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable in the best position in over half a century to bring necessary change to this nation. From there, it is on all of us to do the work. In the eyes of we here at Coyote Culture, there is currently no one running for President more capable of inspiring millions more like us to roll up our sleeves and transform the country. It is for this reason, as much as any other, that we endorse Bernie Sanders for President of the United States of America.