When Bernie Sanders announced he was going to run for president again, he was asked by Face the Nation host, John Dickerson, what would be different this time.
In his distinctively baritone Brooklyn accent, the Senator from Vermont replied succinctly,
‘We’re gonna win.’
And for brief, glimmering moment, it really looked possible.
He won Iowa (despite ALLEGED CIA shenanigans), he won New Hampshire, then he crushed Nevada. Joe Biden was far, far behind in every single one of these contests. Nobody comes back from FIFTH place in New Hampshire to be the nominee. Nobody who wins the first three states doesn’t get the party’s nomination. That’s the rule, it’s always been that way.
Until it wasn’t.
This was supposed to come out a lot sooner but much like The Last Jedi, life has a way of subverting expectations – and badly too. When this was supposed to come out, the economy was good, the worst crisis we thought would happen this year is Trump’s re-election.
Then the pandemic hit – and Joe ‘30330’ Biden was already the Democratic nominee in all but name.
America was in crisis before Coronavirus hit. Poor, predominantly black neighbourhoods in Chicago, Milwaukee, Newark and Flint have had
Yet if there is one issue, above all else, that encapsulates everything that is wrong with the American, that exposes the hypocrisy of the American Dream – it’s the national shame that is the American, employer-based, private healthcare system.
The pandemic, which has seen hospitals overflow, treatment and testing nearly impossible to obtain except for the uber rich, and medical staff ill-equipped to treat COVID patients safely; and its resulting depression has exposed a fundamental truth with the market-based healthcare system that few who defend it will openly admit.
The system is working exactly as designed.
The throngs of people unable to be tested in the early stages of the pandemic, the nearly 40 million(!) Americans without a job and therefore health insurance, those with a job but no paid sick leave, the hospitals unable to cope with rising demand because they weren’t designed to treat even a modicum of the general populace – only those who pay a premium may have the privilege of treating their diabetes or seasonal flu.
Free healthcare clinics that see protracted queues from 5.30am and can only provide limited care to the multitude of people that see them – old and young, single and married, unemployed and two full time jobs – are not a sign of the safety net at work, they are a fig leaf of care for the shame that is inequality.
Bernie Sanders was the first presidential candidate since President Franklin Roosevelt who challenged the underpinnings of the modern United States – human misery. The only presidential candidate who was unashamedly for universal health care, free at the point of service, a humane foreign policy – prepared to challenge the group think of unending war and ignoring human rights abuses when convenient – who saw human beings as humans, not as votes to be collected or stock to be discarded.
Anyone who says there is no possible way that Bernie Sanders could have become president probably said the same about the reality TV show host with Cheeto skin, and maybe even the black guy with the middle name Hussein.
Alas, it didn’t happen.
The Democratic electorate and establishment, like they are so often prone to do – went for the safe choice, just like they did in 2000 (where they lost), 2004 (where they lost) and 2016 (where they lost).
The safe choice who tells a group of wealthy donors ‘nothing will fundamentally change if I’m President’. The safe choice who won’t even promise to restore the still unequal taxation levels pre-Trump’s obscene reverse Robin Hood wealth redistributive tax cut. The safe choice who says America can do anything – except seemingly take care of its working people, its sick, its homeless, its historically marginalised.
Bernie Sander’s campaign may have died, but its legacy will live on.
Not only did young people, by definition the future leaders, flock to the democratic socialist’s message – according to exit polls he won the age groups up to 44 (thoroughly middle aged). Even in the midst of Biden’s landslide wins post-South Carolina, the majority of every electorate agreed that the government should be responsible for the provision of healthcare in the United States – an unfathomable proposition even for Democratic voters just 12 years ago.
Even when losing, Bernie had some big wins. The minimum wage was increased to a liveable wage in many states (right and left leaning). In his role as a senator he was able to work across party lines to pass a resolution to end the US involvement in the barbaric war in Yemen. More and more congressional and presidential candidates are saying no to corporate lobbyists and big money fundraisers. There is a future generation of leaders ready to take the mantle as a champion for all people, for an end to human misery.
Bernie Sanders campaign may have died but his legacy will live on.
Watch Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 2019 NYC Queens Rally speech here: