By Arthur Z. Schwartz
On September 18, I was reminded why politics and elections can be inspiring. Seated with Westview Publisher George Capsis and 1500 others at Town Hall, I watched the Presidential candidate who has drawn the biggest crowds and the most fervent support as we head towards the 2016 election. And it wasn’t Donald Trump. It was Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old white-haired “socialist” Senator from Vermont, by way of Brooklyn.
As an activist, I have had the pleasure of listening to and even meeting with some amazing candidates, who speak from the heart and don’t b.s. people, and who are exciting. Jesse Jackson was number one. Zephyr Teachout was another. So was candidate Barack Obama. On September 18, Bernie Sanders made my list.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t hedge. He begins not by asking “What is possible?” Instead, he asks “What do we need to accomplish to make America a better place to live?” And then he tells us that he is using the campaign as a vehicle to actually address, without nuances and hedges, the problems facing the United States.
What does Bernie want? He wants a United States where corporate money doesn’t dominate elections. He wants a country where education is a priority, where teachers are heroes. A central plank of his platform is a free public college education for all. Another central plank is a true National Healthcare Plan, one like Medicare which covers everyone without cost, cutting out insurance company profits. He points out that we are the only advanced industrial nation without national health care. (It’s not just Canada—England, France, Japan, Spain, Argentina, all have national health care.) And he tells Americans (who probably don’t know) that these countries all have paid maternity leave (usually one year), free government-staffed child care, paid sick leave, and mandatory paid vacation time. He wants a government-supported jobs program with millions of jobs at $15 per hour, and he wants to tap the minds of the scientific community to move our country away from fossil fuels, so we can address global warming in a serious way.
Perhaps most importantly, to fund the trillions of dollars that these programs would cost, he will address the failure to tax overseas income of U.S. corporations. And he will seek to increase the estate tax on the top 0.3% of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million.
He has similarly ambitious plans to address racial injustice, overcrowded prisons, and immigration reform (which I will elaborate on in the future). The immediate question now is: Can Bernie Win?
Right now, despite the fact that the media treats Bernie like a fad, and beats the drums for a Joe Biden candidacy because current polls show that Hillary Clinton is tied with Trump, would lose to evangelist/doctor Ben Carson and super right-wing (but handsome, young, and Hispanic) Senator Mark Rubio. But Bernie is winning in the states where his campaign—and the public—is focusing on the election. One recent poll has him 18 percent up in New Hampshire, and another shows him ahead by 10 percent in Iowa. And he is gaining in other states where his campaign is just getting started. If Hillary loses in Iowa and New Hampshire, we will hear a lot from her about why they don’t matter (with no explanation of why she made 144 visits to each state, and had 200 full-time staff on the ground). But they do and will matter. When I was 15, in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson pulled out of the race after he won New Hampshire with only 49 percent to 42 percent for Senator Eugene McCarthy. A Clinton loss in those two states will be devastating. Remember, in 2008 she lost in Iowa to Obama but won in New Hampshire, and still stumbled from there to a loss. Had she lost in New Hampshire in 2008, the campaign would have ended there.
It is plausible to see a campaign without Joe Biden where Bernie Sanders beats Clinton in state after state and wins large shares of delegates in the states he loses. And Bernie will have the money to do it. By the end of September, Bernie Sanders will have received a donation from his one millionth online contributor—
the fastest growing and biggest campaign in American history.
But one big “unspoken” issue will loom larger and larger: Can the U.S. electorate elect a Jew as President? For all the horrible talk about Muslims, there is as much, if not more anti-Semitism in America, as there is negativity about Muslims. We don’t always see it in New York City, where being Jewish isn’t as much of a liability, but outside of NYC and a few enclaves in Chicago and L.A., there aren’t many Jews in America. And as someone who travels and works on matters across America, I know that Jews are looked at with distrust and disregard by many people. In 2008 Obama got elected because 98% of Blacks and 80% of Hispanics voted for him; 51% of White America voted for McCain. In 2012, 55% of White America voted for Romney. Those margins among Blacks and Hispanics won’t hold for a White Jewish candidate.
But for now, like Bernie, I, for one, will deal with what I want to see, and then work hard to make it possible. And Bernie, unlike Obama, says that when his campaign ends, even if he is elected, he wants it to continue as a movement to change America.
We don’t get to vote in NYC until next April 19. A lot will change between now and then. But if you, like me, want to address the issues of poverty and climate change and corporate avarice that Bernie—and the Pope—want us to address, get online to www.berniesanders.com and join the campaign!
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Male Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village.
Waiting for Bernie
By George Capsis
“You want to go hear Bernie Sanders” attorney Arthur Schwartz offered and I did and heard the best political speech I have ever heard—I mean ever—I will vote for Bernie.
He wasted not a word, he had no notes, he never repeated, and each of his arguments ended with a perfect punch line that was met with thunderous response “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…”
I thought if this could only be televised capturing the passionate response of the audience then Hillary would be finished.
“I love you Bernie” one women called out. “I love you too,” he responded without missing a beat.
I can see why he is ahead of Hillary in the polls but can he stay there—he is Jewish and as Arthur said as we waited to meet him in the basement dressing room area of Town Hall “there were a lot more blacks that could vote for Obama than there are Jews that will vote for Bernie.”