If You Don't Vote for Bernie, You're on Your Own!

A Tale of Three Americas

I had a recent argument with a friend over politics. Don't worry—we're still friends. We both support Bernie Sanders–you know, that awful socialist who'd make all Americans share toothbrushes if elected. At least that's what people who don't know the difference between a socialist and a coconut would have you believe.

The debate was over what each of us will do if Bernie doesn't get the nomination and my friend insisted that I will go into the voting booth and put an X beside Hillary Clinton's name. I'll do it, he insisted, because the current crop of Republicans is so intrinsically crazy that a vote for Hillary would be the only way to fight the possibility of a GOP president. I agree that today's GOP is to the right of Mussolini. (Hey, even Mussolini cared about his nation's train system!) I think "crazy" might be too mild; "evil" is a better handle. What does it tell you when evangelicals endorse Donald Trump? It tells me that their pious rhetoric on morality is the biggest sham since Piltdown Man. It tells me they worship a god named Mammon, not one named Jehovah.

But I still won't vote for Hillary; I will write in "Bernard Sanders" on the ballot. I'm just not going to carry anyone else's cross any more. If women vote for the GOP, who am I to tell them they shouldn't sleep with the enemy? If Christians want to commit acts of blasphemy, it's not my job to save them from fiery perdition. And if working Americans once again vote against their self-interest, I'll be done explaining to them that their bosses are not their friends. But I'll try one last time.

Here's what I tell anyone who wants to know why it's Bernie or nobody for me. I've seen enough of America to say this: If you want to know what the economy would look like under Donald Trump, go to Atlantic City. If you want to know what it would look like under Hillary Clinton, visit a Wal-Mart.  I'm for Bernie because one of my favorite places in the world is Burlington, Vermont–a place whose transformation under a Sanders mayoralty I witnessed with my own eyes.

Donald Trump Prosperity
Donald Trump is a modern-day pirate, has the fashion sense to go with it, and economic theories rooted in the pirate ethos of raid and plunder. Stroll down Atlantic City's splintering Boardwalk and you'll see what happens when pirates sail away. Atlantic City's heyday was over before Trump arrived, but he proved you can get blood out of a turnip. Trump once owned three of Atlantic City's casinos; all of them have since been sold or closed. He took advantage of bankruptcy laws four times to stiff creditors, which means only the corporate entities lost money—not Trump personally. But you know what, even if he had lost some change, let's consider how The Donald makes his money: real estate and gambling. Both are high-risk ventures, but Trump seldom puts his own chips on the table. He develops, sells, and lets the buyers worry over whether they'll make back their investment. He arrives in places like Atlantic City—as godawful a burg as you'll ever want to be–lays on the bling and sells dreams of riches. Did you ever know of a poor man walking into a casino and exiting a millionaire? Casino operators are classic bottom-feeders selling fantasies dollar-by-dollar to those with little left to lose, but manage to do so anyhow. Don't take my word for it—go to the Casino State—sorry New Jersey–and report back on how casinos have revitalized Atlantic City, Camden, Pleasantville, and other Garden State locales. This is what Trumpeconomics looks like, folks.

Hillarynomics: Protest Outside of Bentonville HQ
Hillary Clinton was on the Wal-Mart board of directors for six years (1985-92) and would have been there longer if Bill hadn't charmed his way into the White House. Here's what she's said to date about efforts to unionize Wal-Mart: nada. There's no need to regale you with anti-Wal-Mart screeds; if you don't know the high cost of low prices by now you're simply not paying attention. But I will say that Bill & Hill made up the most powerful conservative presidency since Calvin Coolidge. Need a list? Here it is: NAFTA, Defense of Marriage Act, fast-track free trade deals, deregulation of the communications industry, the military's DADT policy, tightening welfare eligibility, spending cuts, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the pardon of Marc Rich, relaxation of regulations at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac…. Ronald Reagan couldn't have dreamed of such things! Can we just stop with the nonsense that Hillary would be a progressive force? Her economic vision is that of Chinese goods being sold to low-wage workers by low-wage workers. She's a pirate as well–just one whose baubles are made of plastic instead of gold. A Hillary presidency would look more like Maggie Thatcher's reign than the liberal regimes of Helen Clark, Johanna Sigurdardottir, or Julia Gillard.*

Burlington's vibrant Marketplace
This brings me to Bernie Sanders—that left-winger so many people fear. The one who took over a decaying city (Burlington) in 1981, put city services out to competitive bid, balanced the books, inspired the redevelopment of the city's waterfront, marshaled the completion of the city's vibrant downtown retail center, encouraged the development of the arts, negotiated with city workers as equals, brought minor league baseball to the city, prevented the conversion of working-class homes into luxury condos, and created a Community Economic Development Office. Under Sanders, millions of new dollars flowed into Burlington coffers. Some of this might have happened on its own, but Bernie was the catalyst. I was there; I watched Burlington go from seedy to trendy. Above all, I saw Bernie Sanders practice citizen-based democracy—not the politics of the one percent.

That's why he has my vote no matter how the primaries sugar off. If he's not on the ballot, I'll write in his name because, frankly, if it's the GOP versus Hillary, I will have lost all hope. At least I can have a clean conscience.  

* Helen Clark headed New Zealand's government from 1985-92; Sigurdardottir Iceland's from 2009-13; and Gillard Australia from 2010-13.  

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