I know, I know.
WHY? Why would you write this? This seems incredibly stupid. Politics on the internet, that’s guaranteed to cause an issue. But I feel like I should use the few platforms I have to open some things up, and what a better time than on the day of the Iowa caucuses.
This probably doesn’t surprise those of you who know me, but I wanted to get my thoughts out there.
It’s true that I like Bernie as a person. Judging from his consistent message and ability to hold, in my view, correct opinions even in the face opposition from his own party at various times shows courage and conviction. I also think he has the best campaign strategy and support to win.
While all this remains true much of why I support Sanders falls outside of him as a person and more of him as a candidate and the center of a movement.
This country is incredibly unequal, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of searching to see it. In fact, today I got into it with a person who yelled at me in a parking lot for trying to help someone out with a little money. Straight up yelled at me for helping a fellow human. There is something deeply broken in a society that doesn’t value helping our fellow friends, community members, citizens, and humans.
None of us chooses to be born. We should be helping each other along the journey.
Let’s start with most central issue to me. It probably matters a lot of you as well; it’s healthcare.
I’m not one of the over 30 million Americans who are uninsured or underinsured. I’m lucky. I have a job with pretty good benefits, I have no preexisting conditions or chronic illnesses, and I’m young and healthy. I hit the metaphorical jackpot. This is of almost due in no part to anything I did. You know what did; family genes and financial situation that opened doors to allow for an education to get the job. I’m not saying I played no part, but the external, systemic factors far outstrip my individual contributions. This is not the case for so many in the country. To me this is an incredible moral failing, but that is only one of the myriad facets that make this issue the most important of the election for me.
A full 1/3 of all fundraisers on GoFundMe are healthcare related. We have to divulge our most intimate moments when we are at our most vulnerable to hope to convince enough people that we are indeed worthy of your patronage so we can go to the doctor. That is a failure. That is dystopic.
On top of this, health insurance in this country causes us to take jobs we don’t want, makes us scared to ask for what we deserve, and keeps us stuck in a job that sometimes actually may be killing us. It makes us beg for crumbs as benefits are slashed because of “rising costs.” We don’t seem to slash CEO pay.
Healthcare is an inescapable need. If you’ve been fortunate, like I have, you will have had to interact with doctors and hospitals a scant few times. But make no mistake, no one escapes it. We all get old, we all get sick, and we all need help.
None of this is a personal failing.
I want you to imagine what it would feel like to go into a doctor’s office when you are sick and walk out without having to worry about co-pays or surprise bills in the mail weeks later. Not having to wade through systems, websites, and confusing billing departments to get the often lifesaving or life-improving healthcare you need. Getting that sense of relief, that sense of power knowing you don’t have to worry. It’s hard to put into words.
This is not a pipedream; we are one of the only economically developed countries without a universal healthcare system. This is on purpose, too. While we struggle to get healthcare, the health insurance companies post record profits.
The broader issue at play is runaway economic inequality. We, as humans, are almost incapable of comprehending just how much things are when they are sufficiently big. To most of us having $1 billion, and a $100 billion in terms of buying power won’t see a difference in quality of life. Hell, I mean, even $100 million to $1 billion wouldn’t see that. The status quo is not working. Even before Trump, income inequality was rising, and wages were staying mostly flat.
Income inequality is so hard to actually fathom. CBS recently did a small experiment with a pie to get people to guess how the pie would look. It didn’t surprise me that most people underestimated it, and even their pie visual is not completely accurate, the slices everyone but the 1% get are even smaller.
Income inequality is not a linear function, it’s exponential and getting worse by the day. On top of that, racial and ethnic wealth gaps are increasing as well. I’m sure almost all of us, feel the pressures from work. We are in charge of ever-increasing administrative tasks, longer hours, uneven schedules, or having second jobs or side hustles, unless you are incredibly wealthy (which, hey, message me, I have about a hundred places where your money would do incredible work). We keep getting squeezed while quarter after quarter companies post record profits and CEO pay is through the roof. The super-rich need to start paying their fair share. After the GOP wealthy tax cut, they aren’t even paying more than us. 018 was the first time in history, U.S. billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class.
Addressing climate change, healthcare, livable wages, and a host of other things are being put on backburner in service of profits and at the expense of us.
So, what do we do? I hear the comments now, well, his plans are ambitious, but they will never pass the senate or even the house. Yeah, you’re right, if they were put on the floor today, they wouldn’t. Bernie knows it, too. He’s not trying to trick us though, to get our hopes up only to be dashed.
In my short time as an activist, the most intense pressure I was able to take part in was when Trump and the GOP were close to repealing the ACA wholesale. This issue animated people. In many cases it was life or death for them or loved ones. People rose up though. They protested. The did sit ins. They called, texted, got arrested, and in the end, it failed (for now). Those of us who supported this had no levers of power. The GOP controlled everything, and it failed. It was not one thing, but all of it, every single action that made it happen.
“Politicians are like weathervanes. Our job is to make the wind blow.”
That’s Bernie’s strategy. His campaign slogan, “Not me, us” cuts to the heart of it. Bernie Sanders is one person, and even as president, he is one person, but the grassroot movement he has cultivated is powerful. It grows by the day, and it will continue outside him. That’s what he wants, and he knows that it is the path forward, the *only* path forward if we hope to correct any of the injustices we see. Shameless plug here, but in my small presentation I talked about the great man theory and how we like to lionize these larger than life figures that changed everything.
This is not an accurate portrayal of how things change, and the sooner we all realize it, the better we will be, and the faster we will realize our own inner and collective power. All the towering figures in the civil right movement did not single handedly bring about civil rights, they had countless volunteers, partners, and planners who helped. It comes down to good, old-fashioned organizing and people power.
All of this, all of this and more, is possible if we all do our small part. Sanders is helping to open the door, but we have to step through it.
We need to start imagining a future outside the one we have now. We need to start talking about and working towards a world where we seek solutions to our problems where we all benefit, together.
I believe there are no perfect moments for change to happen. No one is going to hold up a sign and say, “Oh yeah this is the change time. Go do the change now.” However, I do believe there are windows of possibilities that present themselves and I do absolutely think this is one of them. I see the energy, I hear the hope, and the willingness to fight. I know it’s scary, it is, but we have to take that step, together.
If you need some inspiration, watch this short video. It’s incredible.
This post only covers a small amount of the things that need addressing, and I left out so much, and if I keep going (and I want to) this will be a small book.
I think this whole post, this whole feeling, this whole movement can be summed up by the words uttered by Bernard himself:
“Are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”
I answer that with a resounding, “Yes.”