By Paul Adams Shepard
The fact is, unless you are wealthier than 99 percent of your countrymen, a Bernie Sanders Presidency would help YOU in specific and significant ways. This is an absolute fact.
If a man or woman (such as my friend, a woman in her forties who is employed as a cashier in the gas-station and convenience store where I used to work) opposes Senator Bernie Sanders for cultural reasons (“cultural” as in relating to America’s famous “culture war” of the last several decades); if you are for example “pro-Life” and this is your primary issue, then far be it for me to insist that you cast your vote for any Democrat.
HOWEVER I would suggest that the Abortion Question (like Marriage Equality, Gender Diversity, School-Prayer, etc.) isn’t going to resolve itself immediately and that it would be better to keep discussing these issues in comfort. Who disagrees with this? The alternative is to remain shackled to debt and to the greed of exploitative plutocratic elites.
What I mean is that this kind, wonderful woman and I could (and surely would) continue to debate the morality or necessity of Roe vs. Wade until we’re both blue in the face. The REAL question is whether she’d prefer $15.00 per hour MINIMUM from her job, paid vacation no matter her role or employer, a less obnoxious, intrusive, and dangerous Police Force, etc. in the meantime. Would such a situation not give her more time and energy to contemplate the issues dear to her and so focal to her politics?
At $7.25 per hour (my country’s current Federal minimum wage) an ordinary working person finds herself working virtually ALL THE TIME — sometimes two or three jobs, especially if there are children or other dependents in the picture. So where’s the time for any real, meaningful discussion? What little time an ordinary worker earning that little spends off the clock we can expect to be divided between television, drinking, popular novels, the internet, and “quality time” with friends and family (such as it is under the capitalist order; long-gone are the days of Ruskin’s “fireside humanity” though I am thankful for the embers that remain). The point is, today’s American worker is TOO NUMB from his or her job to explore “cultural” issues in any meaningful detail. This is not news to my fellow Socialists. Does my ex-coworker imagine for an instant that a President Santorum or Trump or Bush III would be foolish enough or even CAPABLE of overturning Roe vs. Wade or rolling back the recent watershed decision of coast-to-coast Marriage Equality? Maybe she entertains such fantasies — if so, the really tragic and ironic thing is that the numbing, alienating work she does for hours and hours with so little reward is the very thing that keeps her from examining such misconceptions — and she just keeps on voting for the liars who enslave us all.
Children are supposed to dream of college. In the case of “Liberal Arts Education” we have a sense that, in these four magical years, a student has the time, encouragement, and resources to become a well-rounded and informed citizen. Those who’ve been-there-done-that will tell you that the socializing and drunk fun are a little distracting, but the aforesaid ideal is definitely within reach of students who understand what’s at stake and who take higher education seriously. But the majority of these little dreamers will NEVER be able to afford it under the current conditions unless they agree to grasp the hand of the sneering usurer and take out a student loan.
As I’ve said many times before in private discussions, both in person and online, at 17 years of age, when one cannot buy tobacco or alcohol, cannot legally consume the latter, cannot rent a car, cannot buy a lottery ticket or men’s magazine, and cannot enlist in our armed forces – when his brain is not even completely developed – how is it he is supposed to be able to consent to a student loan?
I speak from experience. When I signed myself up, I barely understood what was happening and was horrifically naive about the financial headache that would follow graduation.
If Bernie Sanders is elected and his platform is actualized, my country will see the tuition at State Schools fall to NOTHING for residents of the states in question. If I am a resident of New York State, for example, and I wish to study visual art, Sanders’ is promoting the idea and proposing the policy that I should be admitted to SUNY Purchase at NO COST.
If your reasons for opposing him are “cultural” in the sense I’ve defined above (and not based on worries over taxation and spending) don’t you think you or your children would benefit from access to the deeper understanding offered by higher education, no matter the particular “side” with which you align your opinion? With a more educated populace, more of us would rise to a level above “this is a routine and purely private women’s medical issue” vs. “God wants these potential babies to be born.” There are more complex and nuanced roads we need to travel to arrive at any kind of lasting consensus. Higher education (which a President Sanders would work to transform from a privilege to a RIGHT for every American citizen) would open these roads and we might actually get some thinking done.
Senator Sanders also desires a single-payer healthcare system, “Medicare for All” is a slogan one sometimes hears, which might oversimplify things a bit but which makes the moral point that healthcare is something to which an American citizen is ENTITLED by virtue of his very EXISTENCE.
It is not something one should have to sweat and labor for and worry over and fight with his spouse about. One should NOT have to pay through the teeth or suffer agonizing but treatable conditions he cannot afford to remedy when the technology and money are ALREADY HERE. Does anyone disagree?
Again, if your reasons are based on armchair macroeconomics then we could argue about taxes and government spending. That is not the point here — the point is that if you oppose Sanders because you are Pro-Life or critical of Marriage Equality or something like that, then my imagination is literally incapable of seeing a valid reason for opposing Healthcare Reform along his lines. Please let me know if the fault is with me or if I’m right in suspecting that no valid reason can exist for opposing what cynical shills, “useful idiots,” and the tragically misinformed have long derided as “socialized medicine.”
If you dare disagree with me on this point then I hope to God that you and those you love remain blissfully free of the health crises which befall working Americans everyday and are often literally “a matter of life and death.”
If I haven’t persuaded you by now of the futility of putting our “culture war” and your particular beliefs regarding any of its component questions over Senator Sanders’ more important proposals regarding education, healthcare, and especially wages, then I doubt further elaboration would make any difference. So let me conclude with the following hypothetical scene, which illustrates my point perfectly.
Rick Santorum is a Christian chauvinist. He is also pro-Life and homophobic. However (at least in his presentation and media-image) he is commendable for his focus on ordinary American workers and their families; his emphasis on falling wages, unemployment, and my country’s rapidly vanishing manufacturing sector is laudable. If he were more sincere and a deeper thinker, he’d resemble his intellectual predecessor, Patrick J Buchanan,
I am not deeply familiar with much of Santorum’s specific economic platform but I strongly suspect that it doesn’t hold a candle to that of Senator Sanders. But suppose that they were analogous. What if Santorum, with all his bigoted socially conservative nonsense, proposed the kind of liberating and empowering things that Sanders has, promising to fight for a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour, single-payer healthcare, and free higher education?
If the Presidential election were held TOMORROW; were I in the booth and I could choose either Santorum or Mrs. Clinton — it would perhaps be a difficult and painful choice.
But in the end, I am quite sure that I’d vote for the candidate who would double my wages, shatter forever the interwoven nature of financial and medical anxieties, and sweep aside the crippling student-loan debt keeping whole generations in chains; the candidate who will help ALL OF US to continue our search for a just society and lasting solutions to the decades-long controversies of America’s “culture war.”
I tell you that despite my pro-choice and LGBTQ-friendly sensibilities, I’d take my own advice and vote for the candidate who promises a BETTER LIFE for ALL working families and indeed, for all Americans.
How about you?