And Bernie Sanders Is The Only One Who’s Talking About Them
In full disclosure, I’m not a Democrat — but I used to be. I was a party loyalist in my 20s and 30s and gradually drifted into the independent camp in my 40s. Since then, I’ve wandered into a no-man’s-land. I’m unplugged from political antics and haven’t voted in more than a decade. I’ve awakened to the futility of expressing my “voice” in a terminally broken System.
My confession in today’s politically charged climate may seem nothing less than blasphemous. Some of you may already have your fingers poised on the keyboard, ready to type a blistering response. After enduring years of abuse for my voting abstinence I’m pretty sure I know what you’re going to say. It’s a script that writes itself at this point, and it usually goes something like this:
“You’re NOT VOTING? How can someone as smart as you not vote?” These questions come with the horror, disdain and fury reserved for child molesters (or Russians).
I calmly respond: “Because whether or not I vote, the problems that concern me most never get fixed by the candidates we elect. They just keep getting worse.”
“But if you don't vote that guarantees nothing will ever change. If you vote there’s always a chance we can change things!”
Therein lies the core of their argument: there’s always a chance. And that’s when I deconstruct the “chance” with my gambling analogy:
When you play roulette at a casino, you know the odds are stacked against you. But you play anyway. Why? Because the way the wheel is set up, there’s always a chance — however slim — that you can win.
But what if every time you placed a bet you lost money because the house had rigged the wheel? Would you keep playing? Of course not. Yet that’s what we do every four years when we vote. We pretend we have a chance of winning in a game that always takes our money. Think about it. No matter who we vote for or which party they’re in:
The cost of living always rises faster than wages
Health care always becomes more unaffordable
Education always becomes more unaffordable
The middle class always gets smaller
We see more homeless on our streets
Our foreign policy keeps us mired in wars
Broken antitrust laws allow continued consolidation of industries into the hands of a few and reduce the number of decent paying jobs
Banks continue their predatory practices
The surveillance state continues to expand and gut our civil liberties
And the kicker? These aren’t problems that only affect Democrats or Republicans, black people or white people, straight people or gay and transgender people. These are problems that affect all of us. After every election they only get worse, yet we pretend not to notice. We bitch and moan, but we remain in denial. We patiently wait for another crack at the rigged wheel four years later.
More than a decade ago I decided to stop pretending. I realized that playing along just keeps more suckers in this rigged game. My friends still vote-shame me, and I’ve always resisted their entreaties to return to the polls. Until now.
After every election our problems get worse, but we pretend not to notice. We bitch and moan, and we patiently wait for another crack at the rigged wheel.
This year, the casino feels different. This year, it feels as though a critical mass of gamblers have awakened to the scope of the casino rigging, and they’re throwing their weight behind the only candidate who’s willing to admit that he sees it, too: Bernie Sanders.
After his Lazarus-style Super Tuesday resurrection from the electoral grave, my friends have urged me to “get with the program” and vote for Joe Biden. It doesn’t matter that the man barely knows where he is at any given time, which office he’s running for, or whether his wife is his sister (and vice-versa). Or that after working in the System for 47 years he’s a self-described moderate progressive — which, translated from Establishment-speak, means “incremental change so undetectable that it effectively maintains the status quo.”
None of this concerns my vote-blue-no-matter-who-friends. All that matters to them is that Biden isn’t Donald Trump.
Don’t get me wrong; I know Trump can be an obnoxious megalomaniac. I know he doesn’t always behave presidentially, has the personality of a handsaw, and is often a loose cannon. But the focus of any campaign shouldn’t simply be to kick someone like this out of office; that can obviously be a goal, but it shouldn’t be the only one. More than anything, a compelling campaign needs a vision that lets voters know what that candidate brings to the table and how he/she plans to make our lives better.
My problem with Biden is that he doesn’t seem to have this vision because his supporters want and expect him to accomplish only one thing: to remove Trump from office. I’m concerned that if Biden just sits at his desk and naps for four years the vote-blue-no-matter-who crowd won’t have a problem with it.
And this leads me to the point of this article: watching my country unravel over the last two decades has shown me that there are things more dangerous to Americans than a narcissistic, loud mouthed, pussy-grabbing POTUS. And those things are epitomized by the forces that have moved heaven and earth and spared no expense to ensure that Sanders disappears ASAP and his message is silenced.
a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.
Let’s stop fooling ourselves, okay? It’s time to be honest and acknowledge the kind of country we really live in. The United States is no longer a democratic republic; it’s an oligarchy. The problem is that most of us haven’t come to terms with this reality, which accounts for the epic gaslighting that grips vast swaths of the electorate. This is the delusion that coerces my earnest and well-intentioned friends to vote. They cling to the quaint notion that we still live in a democracy. And once again, I have to break it down for them:
158 families donate nearly half of all campaign financing in presidential elections, 1% of families own 40% of the nation’s wealth, and 3 men are worth more than 160 million Americans combined, which is half of the country’s total population.
This is what oligarchy looks like.
This isn’t some fringe theory, by the way. A 2014 study conducted by professors at Princeton University and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. effectively operates as an oligarchy that favors economic elites. Even former president Jimmy Carter has acknowledged that the U.S. “is an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery" resulting in “nominations for president or to elect the president.”
The evidence is all around us if we bother to look.
We can delude ourselves by calling this set-up a representative democracy and pretend that the candidates we vote for will advance our interests and serve our needs. But the reality is that they won’t. When 158 families fund and determine who our “viable” choices are, those candidates aren’t motivated to serve us when they’re elected. They’re essentially employees who work for the people who pay them — and that’s not us.
In the past few weeks, it’s become abundantly clear just how much Sanders terrifies the Establishment, and if you peer beyond the optics — a cranky old democratic socialist who always looks like he’s lost his luggage at the airport — you can see why the power brokers are so threatened by this man. In 2016 Trump called our attention to the growing legions of forgotten Americans, and whether you love him or hate him, this was undeniably a message of immense importance. But Sanders is drawing our attention to something far more significant and revealing: he’s telling us why so many Americans have been forgotten and who’s responsible for making this happen.
Sanders is calling out the oligarchy — the invisible ruling power in the United States — and that is a very dangerous message.
For the first time in more than a decade, I’m heading back into the casino, and I’m voting for Sanders. My friends insist I’m crazy to support a man who will be crucified for advocating socialism and who stands no chance of beating Trump. But I’m not voting for Sanders because I think he’ll win, although I believe he has a decent shot of beating Trump, and he would have a much better chance if the Democratic Establishment didn’t actively thwart his campaign and drive on-the-fence voters into Biden’s camp.
In fact, I think Sanders’ message carries considerable cross-over appeal to anti-Establishment Trump voters who are turned off by the Orange One’s antics and would welcome a less offensive messenger (not to mention the fact that a generous chunk of Sanders’ awake-and-aware gamblers are more likely to steer clear of the casino entirely if Biden is the nominee).
I’m voting for Sanders because I believe he is our best hope for starting a movement, and that can only happen if he maintains visibility. And make no mistake, a movement is what we desperately need now. I’m voting for Sanders because the further he goes in this race, the harder the oligarchy must try to stop him; and the more blatant their efforts become, the more obvious their existence will be to anyone who’s paying attention.
When Michael Bloomberg spends $570 million (or $18 million per delegate) for the privilege of having a seat at a brokered convention so he can disrupt Sanders’ path to the nomination, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. If Sanders outperforms in Michigan, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeff Bezos toss his hat in the ring to snag a couple dozen delegates in the April primaries so Amazon can have a seat at the convention. After all, he can probably afford $30 million per delegate. This is how crass and blatant the desperate and heavy hands of oligarchs have become.
And that’s why I’m voting for Sanders. Because I believe it’s abundantly clear now that we face threats that are far greater than Trump or anything that’s ever come out of his mouth.
Sanders is calling out the oligarchy — the invisible ruling power in the United States— and that is a very dangerous message.
Is Sanders an experienced “compromiser” who can “get things done” if elected? Probably not. But let’s be realistic about what we can hope to get done at this point. In a cancerous System that’s been poisoned by elites, chemotherapy is the only real solution; a single healthy cell can’t heal the whole body. But the first step in getting treatment is to realize that our body is sick. Sanders is the only candidate who has the guts to tell us just how sick our country is, and that’s a huge step in the right direction.
At this point, I would die to have a Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t gaslight us on a daily basis by making us think that we have a voice in a System that’s owned by elites. I would die to have someone sitting in the Oval Office who has the courage to open a meaningful dialogue about the real problems we face and their root causes, not just their symptoms.
You might underestimate the value of this kind of change but I assure you it would ignite something powerful in all of us. We’ve been silenced for too long, beholden to “viable” candidates who do the bidding of their masters, who say the “right” things to get elected then screw us under-the-table for the next four years. We’ve been deceived into playing in good faith at a casino where the wheels, tables and dice are all rigged against us.
Lastly, let me make something clear: I have nothing against Biden personally. By all accounts, he appears to be a congenial and easy-going guy. My concern is that this good-natured man who shows early signs of dementia is much more likely to become a pawn of the elite interests that are dedicated to maintaining the status quo in this country. And the status quo is quietly eviscerating 90% of Americans.
I have no interest in a replay of the Obama era that would invite another four years of quiet evisceration with better optics, i.e. less pussy-grabbing, no crazy Tweets, more support for a Rule of Law that’s systemically broken but “appears” to still work. Having a well-behaved, pleasant face in the Oval Office might “look” good and make us “feel” better, but it will have no bearing whatsoever on my daily life or that of the vast majority of Americans.
I’m so tired of pretending, and Sanders is the only candidate who’s also tired of pretending. He carries a warning to elites: We see you. We are on to you. And we’re coming after you. It may take time. It won’t happen overnight. But your days are numbered.
And that’s why he has inspired me to do something I never dreamed I would do again: vote.