By Tom McDonald
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Opinion: Sanders' brand of change attractive to many


Last updated 3/18/2023 at 11:47am

It was 2016 and my brother Don called from Tennessee. It was primary election day there and he wanted to talk about it.

He started with praise for a renegade candidate running on the Republican ticket, the billionaire businessman Donald Trump. He said he kind of liked his tactless approach to the issues of the day.

I went off on him. “He’s a liar and a cheat,” I summarily declared before itemizing all the reasons I felt Trump would make a terrible president.

But my brother cut me off. “Hey, I didn’t say I voted for him,” he said. “I voted for Bernie Sanders.”

That was the first time the similarity between Sanders and Trump hit me. Both were running anti-establishment campaigns, both calling for radical fixes to a broken political process. And both were drawing crowds like nobody else running.

The differences between Trump and Sanders, however, are far more stark. Trump is an example of the worst side of capitalism while Sanders is an unabashed democratic socialist. And while we all saw firsthand the disaster of a Trump presidency, we will probably never see how a Sanders presidency would fare.

Still, I wonder.

Back in the 2016 race for the presidency, I was a terrible prognosticator. I thought Trump was nothing but a fringe candidate, until he wasn’t. Then I figured he could never win, until he did. I also thought Sanders was a fringe candidate who would run out of steam faster than he did, and that Hillary Clinton was going to cakewalk her way into the presidency.

Nor would I have expected we’d be where we are today, with an ousted Trump looking like an old punch-drunk boxer who doesn’t know when to retire and a defeated Hillary now retired into the also-rans of history. And Bernie? Well, he’s still preaching a fervent anti-capitalism message.

“It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism” is Sen. Sanders’ latest book. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to. He had me at “angry.”

First, let me say, I’m a capitalist. I own a business and I seek to make a profit, and if I ever get rich off my enterprises, I’ll gladly keep the money.

But I also think some things are more important than money.

Like health care. Here we are in the wealthiest nation on earth (the wealthiest nation ever, as Sanders puts it) and yet health care is not a right for our citizens.

I’m angry that profit is placed above lives, not by the health care professionals who take care of us but by a weighted health care system created by profiteers who make a killing off the medicines we take and the care we need. Health care isn’t just for the rich, you know.

I’m also angry at the billionaires — you know, the poster children for capitalism — who pay a lower tax rate than just about everybody else. I have no respect for someone who has more than they need and yet intentionally hides their money from government programs designed to support our elderly, care for our vulnerable and nurture our children. There must be a special place in hell for such people.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt was running for a second term in the depths of the Great Depression, his greatest political challenge wasn’t necessarily from the right, it was from Huey Long, a Louisiana politician who was pushing a socialist “Share Our Wealth” plan that frightened the capitalists to no end. He pushed FDR and the Democrats further to the left, which actually made FDR a better president.

Perhaps that is Sanders’ role in the history of our time. A revolution to overthrow capitalism in our country won’t likely happen, but we’d be foolish not to pay attention to the anger out there. After all, Sanders’ brand of radical change is still attractive to many, even to those who once liked Trump.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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