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Bernie’s Sleepy Giant

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It is time to make Noam Chomsky happy by proving him wrong. The MIT sage was pleased by Senator Sanders left-wing candidacy, but expected no lasting result. Once the election ended the political effort would fizzle.

New York’s conservative election laws enfranchise longtime voters who enrolled in a party before the start of the campaign. Voters who took notice in the final weeks of campaign — the period of maximum publicity — must wait until November to cast their ballot. Election day registration favors a popular candidate like Bernie. Had independent voters been allowed to participate, it would have been a close election and an accurate measure Bernie’s popularity.

The New York Times election map is a sea of green. Green is Sanders’ color, blue – Hillary’s color is confined to the State’s big cities and their suburbs. Bernie won most of the counties in New York State, but lost the cities. In future elections this should be a fluke with a left candidate winning Black and women votes in urban areas. Bernie’s upstate strength creates openings for left candidates to challenge Republican incumbents. In this way Bernie’s legacy is growing left agitation.

The Vermonter demonstrated strength. His 752,210 votes are almost 4 times greater than Zephyr Teachout’s 192,210 in 2014. The primary is good news for Teachout’s congressional bid, Sanders won the 19th Congressional district where she is a candidate.

Sander’s winning streak was halted “by a daily pummeling that forced him on the defensive and stopped his momentum cold” observed Politico, a webzine for political junkies. Shorn of its fine-tuning, the Clinton camp said Bernie was a demagogue who lured the young with foolish and unrealistic promises. Speaker after speaker mocked Sander’s promise for tuition-free college.

They ignored that his promise applied only to State-run universities and absolutely never mentioned, his tax proposal—a transaction tax on the sale of stocks traded by the billions every day. Sanders they said is peddling a dream rather than public policy. They warned an electorate used to false promises that Bernie isn’t to be trusted.

These attacks cast doubt over the campaign’s feel good advertising strategy that emphasized the buzzwords like billionaires and didn’t provide information on why the Bern was making serious policy proposals. Issue oriented ads might have had a greater impact.

Or could Bernie have done better with a straightforward appeal to African-Americans and Latinos? Debating these issues will promote a critical self-examination that permits the left to expand its electoral strength.

The core of the Senator’s message must be preserved. Breaking up the banks introduces the public to the economy’s domination by finance capital. Ending the drain on the world’s economies posed by debt and the diversion of money into the hands banks and corporations is as important as the struggle against global warming or a healthcare system without premiums and co-pays.

The left must engage expert opinion. A missing link in the campaign is a cadre of experts explaining the commonsense of the Senator’s proposals. Clinton’s Professors led by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman shredded Bernie’s reputation, and their snarky comments too often went unanswered. In fact breaking up the banks is not radical. Dodd-Frank provides for this option, but this truth seldom entered the debate. A public debate requires support from economists and experts.

Belatedly Sanders started talking about the drug war, but his understanding of the issue seems primitive. He shows little understanding of the links to crime and gun control. The bloodbaths in Mexico and neighborhoods frightened by gang warfare have a common theme; the worst harms of prohibition fall on communities who supply illegal drugs. Reform will come as we concede drugs are always used, the question is what policies should surround the use of drugs. A call by the left for passing leadership over drug use from the police to public health officials would open the way for innovation based on evidence.

According to the CDC since 2000 nearly 500,000 persons have died of opioid overdoses. Public Health officials have successfully warned the public about the dangers of smoking, they can do the same for the illegal drugs, but more importantly they have programs like supervised injection facilities that help those who use drugs. Drug reform should receive increasing attention from the left.

Bernie’s campaign will be a success if the left promotes candidates who use his issues to challenge the status quo. Bernie insisted that the Palestinians had rights and New Yorkers cheered. He has awakened a sleeping giant. The public has a chance to learn what the left believes. This is Bernie’s legacy and we shouldn’t drop the ball.

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Nathan Riley is a columnist for Gay City News and a veteran of numerous New York State Campaigns. 

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