Let’s start with the basics: Over the past decade, full LGBT civil rights has become a core platform plank of the Democratic Party, and all the current candidates for the Democratic nomination for president are supportive of LGBT issues, even those candidates that may have been resistant to LGBT rights in the past. While Bernie Sanders may have been ahead of his time to advocate for gay rights as early as 1971, we are truly blessed that in 2015, all our Democratic presidential candidates take our side and understand our issues.
This is true not only of LGBT issues, but of almost all the issues that concern Democratic voters. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Vice President Biden all support a living wage for workers, expanded opportunities for employment, comprehensive educational assistance, truly progressive taxation; meaningful campaign finance reform; humane immigration policy; action to fight global warming; women’s economic and reproductive rights; racial justice; and substantial reform of our criminal justice system. Meanwhile, the Republican Party offers nothing but a smorgasbord of homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, warmongering, reality-denial, bluster and pandering to the worst prejudices of the plutocracy.
The recent sharp stock market sell-off, based on global economic instability and continued weak growth, have reminded us that in many respects, the “Great Recession” is not over, and that the reforms that should have been implemented to prevent its recurrence have fallen short. Since 2009, the power of Wall Street has repeatedly intervened to block legislation, regulation and prosecution. Investment bankers, CEOs, hedge fund managers have taken the economic productivity gains of the last three decades for themselves, while the standard of living for lower-income Americans has actually decreased. During the Great Recession, the banks were bailed out, but not people.
The hundreds of thousands of people who have become involved in Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and gone to his rallies are responding to the reality that American democracy has become corrupted by the vast tidal waves of Wall Street and corporate cash. Banks, oil companies, corporate lobbyists, law firms, venture capitalists and defense contractors have the ears (and other parts) of our elected officials. But children in poverty, the mother who works three jobs, the college student with $100,000 of debt do not. Sen. Sanders’ supporters instinctively understand that presidential candidates that have received millions of dollars in corporate contributions are not going to bite the hands that feed them. Sanders’ supporters are saying, “Enough is enough.”
The Bernie Sanders campaign is not about Bernie himself; it is about demonstrating to the country that candidates that truly speak for the people can run and win, and about building a movement of federal, state and local candidates not beholden to corporate sponsorship. We want to show that left-wing candidates can win without the blessing of the establishment media who, for the most part, dismiss low-cash campaigns as quixotic and unworthy of attention. The Sanders campaign wants to show that free social media and good old-fashioned people power can overcome the dynamics that, according to a recent well-known Princeton study, have already turned our democracy into an oligarchy.
Establishment Washington, naturally, is skeptical of the Sanders campaign, believing, as it always has, in “incremental change,” “working within the system” and in “not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
As a result, Democratic as well as Republican elected officials continually make concessions to a small cadre of the ultra-wealthy and corporate donors who have set the parameters of acceptable debate. Many Democrats continue to support job-killing trade deals and the fossil fuel economy long past the time when their deleterious effects have been conclusively demonstrated. “Pragmatism” has co-opted both our passion and our compassion. And as a result, we edge ever closer to a future where the middle class of the United States has been eviscerated, where a few oligarchs own everything and the rest us are left to homelessness, squalor, disease, starvation and environmental catastrophe. In so many countries around the world, this is already the reality. This is the vision to which the American oligarchy aspires.
It is time for all of us to stand up and say, with Sen. Sanders, “Enough is Enough!”
Jeffrey Hops, a resident of Columbia Heights, is an attorney. He has previously served on the board of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and as a congressional staffer.