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Bernie Sanders Turns His Back on Single-Payer

Last week I went to jail for a misdemeanor trespassing charge at the office of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) because I staged a sit-in at his Providence office demanding he enter parallel legislation on the floor of the Senate to HR 676, the bill authored by Rep. John Conyers which is described as the gold standard of single-payer healthcare by many noted minds on this topic. I regretfully am restrained by my own desire to keep all legal avenues open from saying anything about that instance besides which I previously said.

However, it is not impossible for me to observe the continued proliferation of discussion in various forums that places emphasis on the self-described democratic socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. I must admit that, after two years now of polemicizing against first his presidential run and now his positioning as a figurehead/leader of a section of the progressive movement, I frankly am all Berned out. What comes to mind whenever I see his visage or various accoutrements related to it now is the voice of the late Shari Lewis, host of the preschool show Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, singing the finale of every episode:

This is the song that doesn’t end
Yes, it goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue singing it forever just because
This is the song that doesn’t end…

Unfortunately the moment has come for the man behind the curtain to be revealed. And surprisingly I am saying this with more compassion and sympathy for the Senator than I have shown him in the past 24 months! Not only that, I imagine that this sympathy will be contagious and hopefully will spread to inspiration necessary for praxis!

So let’s go back to the 2008 election. While John McCain opted for the public financing, the seeming rookie Barack Obama instead relied on his campaign for the presidency being funded entirely by private donors. One of the truly remarkable aspects of that was the way he was able to flip the medical-pharmaceutical industrial complexes from GOP to Democratic donors with ease, which should have been a foreboding sign of what would happen later when he passed the Affordable Care Act. Regardless, this continued into the contest for his successor. Hillary Clinton was the candidate with a history of making the world safe for medic-oligarchs (HillaryCare anyone?) By contrast the game show host both stole lines from the Vermont senator about single-payer and pledged to have “Medicare negotiate bulk discounts in the price it pays for prescription drugs”, reversing a provision of George W. Bush’s 2003 Medicare Modernization Act that only allows insurance companies administering Medicare a seat at the negotiation table.

This establishes the first point, that Big Pharma is a major Democratic donor that has substantial sway owing to the fact it made up over 17% of the 2013 GDP.

Now let’s do a simple thought experiment. The neoliberal Democratic Party has held power for 20 of the past 40 years, starting with Jimmy Carter. In that time the judiciary on all levels has been significantly peppered with like-minded corporate-minded judges, prosecutors, DAs, attorney generals, and investigatory officials at bodies like FBI, SEC, and the like. The days of the New Dealer-Great Society Keynesian political appointees are long over and are not coming back. This leads to my second point, that the machine embodied by the Clintons and Obama proliferates extensively and is particularly thick in the northeastern United States.

Which of course includes Vermont.

Now comes the third point. On June 23, CBS ran a story headlined Bernie and Jane Sanders, under FBI investigation for bank fraud, hire lawyers. Apparently Jane is alleged to have been involved in some problematic business regarding a land deal going back to her time as president of Burlington College.

It seems plainly obvious to me that Sanders was brought into a room and told at some point ‘Alright old man, either you step in line or we send your old lady up the river!’

I wouldn’t doubt a Clinton proxy incapable of that for a minute.

Could it have been sometime in March when he tweeted about saving the Affordable Care Act, which caused Russell Mokhiber to declare that ‘Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean’?

Hard to say for sure. In a bit of irony, I actually took a tour of Burlington College thirteen years ago when I was looking for a film program to get a BA from. At the time it was located in a building overlooking Lake Champlain, down the hill from the UVM campus. With students meeting for classes around folding tables and chairs, I was reminded of a commune more than anything else while my mom was slightly aghast and made a dash for the car as soon as possible. It was a small nonprofit where a bit of a foul-up with finances would be tangible and easy to make, which in turn would make it easy to exploit by the Clintons as a leverage to stop a single-payer bill from being entered onto the floor of the Senate.

If this is not able to make people understand what will necessary to get single-payer, I will merely repeat how important it will be to read Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s What Gandhi Says About Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage.

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Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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