Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

A Worried Democrat Ponders


It all sounded so simple. The Dems would back Hillary Clinton but they did not want her to run alone. They wanted a primary – a sort of pro forma affair, just to keep her on her toes. She was the anointed but they did not want her to appear to be the anointed. In fact it seemed as if they needed Hillary because she was so experienced, but they didn’t really “feel” Hillary. There was a last minute groundswell for Elizabeth Warren.

When Bernie Sanders entered the race, along with Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb, none of these male candidates seemed strong enough to change the course of the Democratic Party’s push to elect the first female President of the United States. O’Malley and Webb were virtual unknowns, not hefty enough in personality, experience, or cultural cachet to be any real force in the primaries. Bernie Sanders was a Socialist, for heaven’s sakes. Americans shudder at the faintest whiff of “socialism”.

The exigencies of the current state of our nation, are perceived by shell-shocked Americans with great anxiety. Faced with an economy far less favorable than projected, there is unexpected appeal in a senior citizen who, philosophically, has remained in the 1960’s for decades, and who preaches a revolutionary message that has finally found its powerful rebirth. This has become a phenomenon that is changing everyone’s predictions about who will be the Democratic candidate in 2016.

I have found such solidarity with fellow Democrats, all resolved that we must not let a Republican win the Presidency in 2016. That goal is even more important now with the Supreme Court suddenly in play. Bernie’s success is splitting Democrats into the Hillary camp (seemingly growing smaller by the day) and the Bernie camp (ostensibly growing larger). Most Hillary people say they will support Bernie if he is the party’s candidate. The reverse is not as likely to be true however. Some Bernie people say that they would rather vote for a Republican than for Hillary Clinton. How is that even a thing? The Republican’s agenda is in no way similar to that of the Democrats. Perhaps there is a strong desire to be a firebrand, an extremist – any extreme will do. It is as if there is no middle anymore.

It doesn’t help that Bernie gets such sweet media attention. The media loves Bernie. The media also puts on a sour face for anyone who is not an extremist. And Bernie has been nice. He has been the ever-well-received “happy warrior”; probably stunned and pleased by his success, by a reawakening ‘60’s vibe. There do not seem to be many bad things to say about Bernie Sanders. Some say that he has been slogging away in government and yet has accomplished very little and has not, until now, made much of a splash. But the people in his state do seem to love him in spite of the fact that single payer health care failed in Vermont. I have even been tempted by Bernie. I grew up in those same energetic times when we dreamed of equality for everyone, an end to war for all people and all times, and changing the “establishment” so that our government would become truly Democratic, instead of a Democracy in name only.

Hillary, on the other hand, seems to be no one’s darling. The media rarely has anything good to say about her. They pound away at her lack of authenticity, they say that people don’t like her or trust her. They say it almost every day. And some of these media folks are classified by the right as left-leaning journalists and pundits who should be allies for Hillary. “With friends like that who needs enemies?”

The fact is that Hillary has not led a quiet political life. Because of her marriage to the high octane Bill Clinton she has been in the limelight for decades. She was not just a helpmate either; she had her own career goals and she got involved. She got her hands in the dirt, so to speak. She was not just the great lady who told the gardener what to do, she helped plant the garden. She legislated. She designed the precursor to Obama’s health care plan. She travelled the world and met the world’s leaders.

Hillary is vulnerable to attack because she has been front and center. She has not been timid, or held back, or bided her time. She has just rolled up her sleeves and helped her nation solve its problems. She is vulnerable in so many ways because she actually “did stuff” and is accused of making many wrong decisions. The tough drug arrest policy of the 1990’s is the newest albatross being hung around her neck. She didn’t pass that program alone. Even Bernie voted for that one. We, perhaps, only see what a mistake this policy was in hindsight.

Bernie Sanders is not looking quite so sweet these days. He is no empty suit. He has become a powerful opponent, splitting the Democratic vote and perhaps even getting some Republican votes. Independent voters find themselves choosing between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. How is that even possible? It boggles my mind. I see nothing in common between these two. In spite of the fact that Bernie is now fighting to be President for real, he is still not getting a lot of bad press. I am even reading mixed results when it comes to vetting the plausibility of Bernie’s programs. Some authors think that there is some economic viability, most have reservations.

Is Hillary Clinton as bad as the media paints her? Do the people even know anything about Hillary except what the media has told us or hinted at or insinuated. Is Bernie as spotless and pure as the media lets him seem? I am guessing that Bernie is “as honest as the day is long”. He just does not seem very materialistic or in possession of any strong personal ambition. While these qualities may make him a trustworthy leader, will they make him a powerful and a flexible leader? I don’t think Bernie Sanders is good at compromising. I think that may be his Achilles heel. I saw the camera catch a look on Bernie’s face the other day which did not look at all sweet, or flexible either. Look up “Bernie faces” on Google Images. He is not always so sunny these days.

What I am saying is that Bernie Sanders is creating a split between me and other Democrats who I thought of as my allies against the Republicans and that this split has me worried. I am also worried that it is looking less and less like Hillary Clinton is the most viable Democratic candidate among Democrats. We had better hope that if Bernie Sanders and the fans of revolution get the nomination that they can actually carry the day. Will the word “socialism” be used as a club to beat Bernie up and will the majority of American voters come to his defense?

I refuse to give up on Hillary yet. We wait, we listen, we watch, we express our thoughts – but we won’t know until we know.

By Nancy Brisson

After the 2016 Iowa Primary

Hillary and Bernie2

This election cycle started so early that it was almost a surprise when we finally arrived at the first primary of the 2016 election in Iowa. In my opinion the caucuses were a hot mess this year. Did Ted Cruz really announce to the people of Iowa that Ben Carson had withdrawn from the race, a statement that was patently untrue but might have netted him some of Carson’s ballots? Apparently he did, although he apologized after the caucus was over. You gotta love his timing.

Why did Hillary say she had won when the Democratic caucuses were not finalized? Why did her staff have her do that? Did some contests in the Democratic caucuses end in tie votes that were actually decided by a coin toss? That seems to be a true statement but there is more to this story, however it’s quite technical in a way you probably don’t want to know about. If you do want an explanation it can be googled.

Bernie Sanders is thinking about asking for a recount. Since the way the Democrats vote by just collecting in groups of like-minded people and then counting is sort of akin to a flash mob how would you ask for a recount?

I have decided to think of round one in the Democratic primaries as a toss-up, a tie. People are obviously excited by Bernie Sanders’ “revolutionary” middle class agenda. In fact we have given up fighting about Socialism, and we are now fighting about who is more Progressive. Given the number of Republicans in Congress and taking into account the analyses which suggest that those numbers are unlikely to change very much because of things like gerrymandering and voter suppression, it seems improbable to expect a far left agenda to make much headway even if Bernie Sanders does win the Presidency.

I feel that this is the time to elect a woman to the Presidency and we have a woman who is well-prepared to occupy the oval office. Everyone is saying that Bernie Sanders is FDR, but what if Hillary Clinton is FDR and Bernie is Eleanor Roosevelt. After all, FDR was a reluctant Progressive. The real activist was Eleanor Roosevelt. I want a ticket on the Democratic side that has Hillary for President and Bernie for VP. I can’t picture Bernie Sanders being simply a rubber stamp Vice President. He can hopefully prod Hillary to govern a bit more to the left.

By Nancy Brisson

What is Real and What is Fantasy?

People want to get back the things that we seem to have lost such as: security in the form of jobs that last a lifetime, pensions that don’t disappear (pouf) (thank you, Rachel), social security we don’t have to feel guilty about, medical care that we can afford from cradle to grave, ascendancy on the world stage, no environmental ax hanging over our heads, and no illegal immigrants taking our jobs and using our tax dollars.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both promise that they can deliver these things although, I assume, using totally different methodologies. Donald Trump’s alleged ‘plain-speaking’ hints at an agenda that will keep America mostly white and speaking English. If will be an America that employs all citizens who can work and an America that is feared and therefore respected around the world. He believes that building an enormous military force armed to the teeth with the very best weapons willing to fight anytime and anywhere will insure that our nation remains a ‘safe space’ for American citizens.

But Donald Trump is a true patriarch and, as a CEO, he is used to being large and in charge. His governance sounds much more like a dictatorship than an exercise in the checks and balances as set forth by our forefathers in our Constitution. Donald Trump sounds like the candidate you might want if you need to answer the question “who’s your Daddy”. How much freedom do we give up as citizens if we let Donald Trump set things right for us? Will our losses equal our gains? He tells us what we think we want to hear, but can he deliver? Does just having a big mouth and a flamboyant, overly confident personality win the day around the globe? Will our enemies be shaking in their boots or will they resent us returning to our interfering and often mistaken ways.

Bernie Sanders offers us many fine things, rights that working people in other advanced nations have already won, rights that support people who work, especially women (although increasing numbers of men find themselves in need of at least the parental rights); things like universal pre-K, family leave, sick leave, closing the disparity between male and female pay, between rich and poor. Bernie Sanders seems to favor turning illegal immigrants into an innovation advantage through education and programs that ferret out people with special talents or abilities or high levels of intelligence. Bernie Sanders is mostly focused on America’s economy which is certainly where we would like to have power focus right now so that the middle class does not continue to lose ground. What is Mr. Sanders foreign policy? At least Bernie will fight to keep our planet healthy. Will he be overcome by the socialist label which he does not seem to mind, but which most Americans fear (or have been taught to fear)?

Electing Bernie Sanders would be like electing the best union organizer of all time. We have never had a union organizer as a President. It sounds like Bernie Sanders is a very democratic socialist and will not take us to places we do not want to go. However, we have to ask ourselves if the state of our current finances and the extreme opposition to left wing reforms that benefit workers who don’t seem to have jobs, is practical and doable and a road that will lead us to prosperity, or if this too is just what the media is calling “magical thinking” and Bernie’s agenda is really just a fine example of promises that cannot be fulfilled. Boy, I hate to think that that is true. Perhaps instead of giving up on these kinds of middle class rights we need to choose someone who will take baby steps until the economy and our rights reach a peak at the same moment. It is really hard not to want it right now, but we have some other people in America who need a leader who will also fight for their rights. Can Bernie fight on all the fronts we need to fight on right now?

Donald Trump’s focus seems to be on forces outside of America and Bernie Sander’s focus seems to be on forces inside America. I like some of what each has to say, although, of course, I lean more towards Bernie Sanders. I like that Trump says he will make America great again, but, in truth, I do not agree with any of the ways he will go about it. Each of these candidates suggests the possibility of instant answers and that I cannot believe in. It appears to me that our culture and our economy is in a transitional age, which is why Americans cannot decide whether to be cautious or bold, inclusive or isolationist? We will, most likely, wend a careful path through some kind of middle way if we can ever get our nutty relatives on the right to make sense again.

We need training; we need education. If we are going to be a nation with fewer public jobs and fewer corporate jobs, we need to raise a generation of entrepreneurs schooled by people who already know the ropes. One reality show called The Apprentice is not nearly enough to get us an America full of thriving small businesses that succeed and grow into big businesses.

I am a proponent of a classic curriculum, of what used to be called the liberal arts (before liberal became a ‘suspect’ word and before ‘political correctness’ limited free speech and thought). I am, however, open to the argument that perhaps a liberal arts education is a ‘frill’ right now for those who need to go right out into the world to work. This means we need all sorts of educational environments from schools to one-on-ones and we need all kinds of programs from skill training to college degrees to apprenticeships. As far as I know the world will need people who can fix things for many, many years to come and we will need even more of them than the number of geniuses that we will require (although can a culture ever have too many geniuses). I tend to believe that education and small business and public programs are the ways out of our current impasse.

By Nancy Brisson

Our Daenerys Targaryen

I love Bernie Sanders, but I’m a girl and I want us to have a girl for President. We have to break this particular “glass ceiling” and we need to do it now. Hillary is the woman who is most prepared to lead America at this particular moment in time. We are in a gender runt. Even women seem unable to accept that a woman could run America.

Bernie Sanders would make a great President but he is definitely not female. If he wins, Hillary can’t and then how long will we have to wait. Gender should not be an issue in electing the American President yet unless we break the male dominance now we may not break with tradition in my lifetime.

Of course if Hillary is considered truly incompetent to lead America then she should not get to be our President regardless of her gender. Fortunately, Hillary has a resume that suggests that she is more than qualified to be our President.

Our Presidents never govern alone anyway. As we have seen clearly in recent years Congress can act as a check on a President. In fact we have watched a Congress that interpreted checks and balances to mean blockades. If President Obama overstepped his powers (which I do not believe he did) Congress has definitely overstepped theirs. If both Parties had acted equally to control the President’s executive powers that might read as appropriate, but to have one Party (the Party out of executive power), erect an ersatz wall against the exercise of the executive and to, in fact, execute what appears to be a plot against the executive power. This does not read as appropriate at all.

If the Republicans don’t win, if Hillary wins, will obstruction continue for four more years at least? Will Hillary be able to buck the obstruction which has become the way Congress conducts itself.

Well, we already have the NRA getting their way through mad intimidation tactics (in the sense of insane) and we have the climate deniers using this same tactic to halt actions designed to counteract climate change. We have Grover Norquist, large and in-charge, and the hot and stubborn tea party and Republicans in Congress, all digging in and winning by turning into immoveable objects. This may not make you nervous, but it makes me very nervous. It smacks of anything but democracy.

Hillary seems mild and too light-hearted to handle these people, but I’m not sure Bernie Sanders is tough enough either. I’m not sure if any Democrat is. But Hillary is up. She’s the next metal marble in the chute of the pinball machine that has become our government. She’s up next to beat back the right wing beasts or tame them from dragons into pussycats. Perhaps she is our Daenerys Targaryen.

Therefore it is Hillary for me even though I would normally be torn between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Since we really need a Democrat to win this one, and the outcome is anything but certain, and many people continue to “dis” Hillary, I will do what I have in the end.

By Nancy Brisson



A Cynical Attack on Bernie Sanders

An article in the Daily Beast last Sunday, which sports the title Why Free College is Really Expensive by Dmitri Mehlhorn states an opinion shared by many media people, that free tuition at public colleges should not be a high priority idea for the 2016 election.

One problem with the free tuition plan, the article points out, is something we know is true in our American economic system which hates regulation and which immediately upon being subjected to any rule or regulation choses to believe that such “obstacles” to free trade simply offer opportunities to creatively work around these regulations. Just like trying to shove a down comfortable back into the plastic bag it came in, so neat and rectangular with the nice zipper, you find yourself stuffing a handful in on one side while it pops out another. We saw this with health insurance (and we continue to see it). Companies keep finding ways around attempts to control costs and, while Obama’s ACA may have contained costs for a while, we suspect the insurance industry is, even now, working on some ways to raise profits without disobeying the letter of the rules they signed onto when they agreed to the ACA in the first place. We often call this American ingenuity, but sometimes it just looks a lot like greed.

Dmitri Mehlhorn says that this is the same sort of thing we can expect to happen on college campuses. If tuition is free then costs for room and board and books and other fees will rise. Creative ways will be found to make sure that “free” higher education is not free.

“Additionally, directing that much guaranteed money into a system is a sure-fire way to accelerate cost inflation. The state may pick up the tab for tuition, but students will still have to pay for ancillary services (such as room, board, textbooks, etc.), and those services will go up in price. These costs are not trivial; for instance, although Sweden has abolished college tuition, students graduate with more debt than students in the United Kingdom, and only slightly less than students in the US. Through economic incompetence, Sanders’ proposal might hit the jackpot of reducing college quality while also increasing cost.”

Mr. Mehlhorn’s next negative point is that Bernie Sanders chose the worst, the least honest “get” from among the many progressive policies he could have championed. Poor people don’t go to the polls, they also do not stand to benefit from free tuition at public colleges, says Mehlhorn. Here he offers us two somewhat flawed reasons why Bernie Sanders makes a mistake deciding to lead with free college tuition (as if politics were a card game and Bernie picked the wrong trump card).

First of all, Mehlhorn tells us, that he has lost faith in Bernie Sanders as a candidate dedicated to equalizing opportunity. He feels Sanders chose this issue because the middle class stands to reap the real benefits here and that this was a choice dictated by political expediency.

The middle class votes, the middle class contributes to grassroots campaigns. So Bernie chose this issue to lead with for the same reason every other politician does, money and the ballot box. This view seems cynical in the extreme to me. Despite political realities that all candidates must heed, I still believe Bernie Sanders to be more genuine than Mehlhorn gives him credit for being.

“The bottom line is that if Sanders wanted to invest his political capital to create opportunity for those in need, college tuition is one of the last places he would have gone.

Within the world of education, Sanders’ proposed $70 billion would pay for top-quality preschool for millions of 3- and 4-year-old children who do not attend any preschool today. Such a program would deliver enormous returns to the children and the country, and would incidentally help with childcare for single-parent households.

High-quality early childhood education does have one major problem, however: the beneficiaries will not shape the 2016 presidential election. Families of college kids, meanwhile, will make a big difference. Folks with above-average income vote a lot more often; give more money to politicians; are over-represented among elites who influence editorial boards – and would get almost all of the financial benefit of Sanders’ college subsidy proposal.  

Presidents don’t get everything they want.  At most, they get their top priorities.  What matters in judging a President’s future plans is not their long list, but their short list.  Free college tuition was Sanders’ first spending proposal since he announced his presidency, and it’s where he wants to spend the money he’d raise from transactions taxes. 

Sadly, in this cycle we have seen presidential ambition drive many leaders to discard credibility they had spent decades building. In Sanders’ case, that was his credibility as an honest politician who would speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

The second flaw in Mehlhorn’s reasoning is his insistence that the poor cannot benefit from free tuition because they are not college ready. Based on the numbers of poor and nearly poor people who are being scammed by expensive online “rip-off” schools, which do offer real degrees but at sky high prices, the poor will do better in a marketplace that offers free tuition for public higher education.

As for the statement that the poor are not ready to succeed in college – this can be easily remedied with a well-planned college preparatory program. Campuses and cities have excellent programs already in place to use as models. When well-designed these programs offer students a very high success rate in college. The EOC’s in NYS are fine examples of programs that know how to do this.

There are some excellent points made by Mehlhorn that tell us that any free tuition plan needs to be carefully designed and must cover all the squishy ways that the clever will create to defy the cost limits. Just because a great thing is tricky to accomplish does not mean it should be scrapped.

For 24 years I helped underprepared, economically challenged students succeed in college and, after a few years of practice our student’s success rates were very high. I have friends who are still paying student loans when they should be getting their social security checks. The system should not work this way. We have seen college costs rise and rise, even at public schools and the system should not work this way.

I also, along with Dmitri Mehlhorn, suspect that we will not be inaugurating President Barney Sanders in 2017, but I don’t think he has tarnished his virtues by choosing free tuition as his starter issue. With so many Americans unemployed and underemployed training programs and college programs should be top priorities if we truly are dedicated to equalizing opportunity in America. The children of parents who attend college always reap rewards from their parent’s efforts.


By Nancy Brisson