Editorial: We’re standing with Bernie

Here’s why I’m standing with Sen. Bernie Sanders in his run for the presidential Democratic nomination and why it’s smart politics for other Vermonters — and moderate to liberal voters everywhere — to support him as well: He’s talking about the right issues; fundamentally, he’s right; he won’t be beholden to special interests; his presence in the race will force the Democratic Party to discuss income disparity — a crucial touch-stone issue that without Bernie in the race would likely be silenced; and while he is prone to impassioned ranting to make his points, you’ll know precisely where he stands; as a bonus, he’s not likely to be the subject of scandal.
That’s a good enough start to give Sen. Sanders the opportunity to see if his approach to the issues connects with the rest of the country.
What Vermonters, in particular, can’t do is play Bernie’s candidacy both ways. We can’t say we love him, believe in him, agree with him, but then support someone else.
If you believe in what he stands for — reducing income and wealth disparity, restoring the nation’s middle class, providing health care to all, providing a low-cost or free college tuition, reversing climate change, ensuring adequate Medicare and Social Security to all seniors, fighting for campaign finance reform, creating jobs by rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, reforming Wall Street, and keeping this country out of unnecessary wars while being smart to defend our national security interests — then be willing to support him in his race for the party’s nomination. We do.
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He also made it easy for Democrats to throw their support behind him.
By running within the Democratic Party, he won’t play the role of a spoiler and split the liberal vote. If his candidacy doesn’t sway the national interest he needs to win the presidency by the 2016 Super Tuesday primaries on March 1, then Bernie will likely bow out of the primary, toss his support to the front-runner (most likely Hillary Clinton) and the party can unite, while embracing Bernie’s call to rally working class Americans by serving their interests. If just that much is accomplished, the Democratic Party will be stronger in the 2016 race against an emboldened Republican field.
But for his campaign to be effective, supporters have to pledge their support wholeheartedly through those early primaries and caucuses. As of last week, the primary schedule has four caucuses and primaries before Super Tuesday: Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa; Feb. 9 primary in New Hampshire; Feb. 20 primary in South Carolina; and Feb. 23 caucuses in Nevada (dates can still change, but that’s as of May 15). A week later, on March 1, Vermonters have their primary along with primaries in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina, and caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota.
He doesn’t need to win Iowa or any of these first four races to be in the running. If he beats expectations in Iowa (which are low right now), that will give him momentum into the New Hampshire primary, where his name recognition is high. South Carolina would be tough, though his populist message could work well among African-Americans and middle-class workers, and the caucuses in Nevada favor the most impassioned wing of the party. It’s a long shot that Bernie would win any of those races, but if he can stay close, his message stays alive through Super Tuesday and as far as Americans will take him thereafter. By then his message will have been heard, and the people will decide.
But Vermonters of every persuasion need to boldly rally behind him with the confidence that what he is saying is the right direction this country should go. It is not a political calculation of whether he will win, but rather that what he stands for is what’s best for the country.
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Sen. Sanders is 73, older than any other candidate to run for the presidency in a first term. It’s clear his motivation is to affect the national conversation, and to follow through on issues in which he sincerely believes. It’s also important to note that we, and most likely many other supporters, don’t agree with all of his proposals or solutions. That’s OK; what’s important is that he’s tackling the right issues and his proposed outcomes are where we, as a nation, need to be.
In an interview with Mother Jones magazine last year, Sanders was upfront about his intentions:
“Let’s be clear: Nobody, certainly not me, has any magical solution. It may well be that the rich will win big-time. It may be that the billionaire class is so powerful in terms of their control of the economy, the political process, and the media that they will not be beat. But what I will also tell you is that I have four kids and seven grandchildren whom I love very much. I am going to do my best to try to create a country in which children are not living in poverty, in which kids can go to college, in which old people have health care. Will I succeed? I can’t guarantee you that, but I can tell you that from a human point of view it is better to show up than to give up.”
More Americans need to believe as much, and get involved. One way to do that is support Sanders’ candidacy and believe they can make a difference. They can. Bernie has. Let’s give him a chance to let his message resonate across the land.
— Angelo S. Lynn

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