Bernie Sanders for U.S. Senate

In our election-year tradition of endorsing candidates, we offer our views not as much to encourage votes for these particular candidates as to provoke our readers to question the support of their own preferred candidates and to think through the reasons they support one candidate over another. Our own views are shaped by the multiple interviews we have had with the candidates at the Addison Independent offices, extensive reading and study of their programs and accomplishments, and the routine observation of their ongoing work either at home or in Montpelier or Washington. Our goal is to help our readers be informed, and we encourage any healthy debate that fosters that outcome.We begin with the race for the U.S. Senate.Bernie Sanders for U.S. SenateIn an election year in which the vast majority of Americans are eager to elect a Congress that won’t continue to rubber-stamp President George W. Bush’s radical agenda, an in which the balance of power in the Senate may tip to the Democrats, incumbent Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is the clear pick for the seat being vacated by Sen. James Jeffords. Sanders has earned the state’s support and endorsement by virtue of his 16 years as the state’s progressive voice in the U.S. House. Among his accomplishments in the House, Sanders: • consistently supported veterans’ and workers’ rights; • worked to provide lower prescription drug prices, including organizing the first-in-the-nation shuttles to Canada so seniors could buy prescription drugs at greatly reduced rates. • worked to ensure that corporations across the nation don’t unnecessarily cut workers’ pensions; • promoted progressive tax reforms and fought against further tax cuts under President Bush to large corporations and the wealthiest individuals; • promoted a single-payer health care system and stronger measures to protect the environment; • advocated for a national energy policy that stresses conservation as a means to curb the nation’s appetite for fuel as opposed to the current Republican philosophy of doing little to curb consumption and everything to make it easier to drill for more oil and deplete natural resources; • helped pass the Northeast Regional Dairy Compact for dairy farmers and worked to pass the current dairy price support system.In the current campaign, Sanders is an outspoken opponent of the War in Iraq and calls for a timeline for American troops to pull out of the ensuing civil war. He continues to press for a health care system that cares for the poor and under-privileged. He champions policies that would reduce the pollution that causes global warming and rejects Bush’s calls to drill for oil in environmentally sensitive areas. He vows to increase funding for education, affordable housing and childcare subsidies. He continues to fight President Bush’s expansion of the Patriot Act, including wiretapping measures that allow the federal government to invade the privacy of American citizens. He remains adamantly opposed to the torture of enemy combatants in violation of commonly accepted international law.Sanders’ leading opponent, Republican Rich Tarrant, the former CEO of IDX in Burlington, never seemed to find the human touch with the voters and, somewhat surprisingly, failed to engage Vermonters on two key issues of his campaign: free trade and health care. As an issue, free trade may seem arcane to many voters, but in this increasingly global economy it remains one of the most controversial issues on the world stage and a debate could have been enlightening. Sanders is a harsh critic of the practice of out-sourcing jobs abroad, while Tarrant is a solid proponent of the need for businesses to be competitive while positioning themselves to be a leader in developing industries. The debate, however, was muted by Tarrant’s preference to challenge Sanders on obscure votes (such as the Amber Alert) that not only distort Sanders’ record, but also have little national significance. Similarly, the health care issue has no clear-cut answers and Sanders’ concept of a single-payer system needs to be challenged. Tarrant opposes a universal single-payer system, though he supports a system in which markets such as Vermont’s could cross state lines and form regions to help drive down health insurance rates. A thorough debate on both issues never happened and that’s an opportunity lost for Vermont voters.Most disappointing, however, was Tarrant’s luke-warm opposition to President Bush’s War in Iraq, his support of Bush’s drive to prosecute enemy combatants in military tribunals without what have long been considered legal rights by the international community, his support of Bush’s tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, and a seeming disconnect as to the harm Bush’s foreign policy blunders have done to undercut America’s international prestige and influence. In short, there was little in Tarrant’s campaign to suggest he would buck many of Bush’s current policies.Sanders’ inherent grasp of the political values that make America strong — equality, economic fairness, transparency in government, truth in domestic and foreign policy, the use of diplomacy first and military might as a last resort, and the use of government as a regulator to strive toward a cleaner environment, ensure safe medicines and foods, and break-up industrial monopolies to ensure a competitive environment — has demonstrated a keen sense of what Vermonters also believe. For these past 16 years, he has championed those causes well. Vermonters can expect him to do the same as their U.S. senator.Angelo S. Lynn

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