Curb your Bern

May 4, 2016 at 9:50 am
Curb your Bern
Photos by Amanda L. Hay

Bernie Sanders is never going to be president. America was ready for a black guy and now possibly a woman, but it sure isn’t ready for a 74-year-old Jewish socialist with a thick Brooklyn accent. I don’t mean to sound shallow, but America has repeatedly demonstrated it has an image of its presidents. It may finally be expanding that image to include women, but in the era of TV, it is not going fat, bald or older Jewish socialist.

Don’t get me wrong, America loves its elder Jewish population. From “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to “Old Jews Telling Jokes” (an actual website and book), the market for older Jewish entertainment is bullish. So it makes sense in a year of entertainment-politics that the circus of the right is counterbalanced by the finger-wagging, disheveled-grandfather, yelling-at-the-TV, sitcom-character on the left.

That’s not to say that Democrats who are feeling the Bern aren’t serious. That is not to say that Sanders’ mission and message is not without merit or importance. For over a quarter-century in the federal government, Bernie has been a true warrior for the working class. The fruits of his tireless advocacy were felt as thousands prepared to feel the Bern at Waterfront Park this week.

And I love the Bern, too. I love the Bern as if he were one of my uncles at the Seder dinners of my childhood. Bernie is a phenomenal (albeit, non-traditional) messenger. The success of his candor demonstrates that authenticity is the most important characteristic in a politician. The appeal of his idealistic vision for free college tuition and universal healthcare is irrefutable and undoubtedly infectious. But he is not presidential. He is a great salesman but not suited for management. His sales pitch is better than any other candidate’s: Here are all of the problems in America, here is who is to blame and here is what it should be like.

Yes, but how? After 25 years in Washington, it takes serious chutzpah to claim outsider status. Further, it takes a suspension of belief to think that now, somehow, a 74-year-old Sanders can bring the most ambitious legislative-reform agenda ever promised during a presidential campaign to reality.

Sanders is correct in his assessment of the problems facing America. He is correct that the political and economic influence is too concentrated among too few. He is also right that America should provide universal healthcare, that we must do something to save our environment and it would be great if college were free. But where are the answers? If you can’t do that, what else can you offer?

Bernie is a one-dimensional candidate applying for the ultimate multi-dimensional job. In all likelihood, the next Congress will not be much friendlier to work with (Sen. Mitch McConnell will still be the most loathsome, self-interested, destructive force in American politics). So what’s Sanders’ second gear? Say he is successful in raising taxes on big corporations and billionaires … what’s next?

Here is what would inspire me to feel the Bern — here is what would demonstrate to me that Bernie has a second gear and is more than just a representative for those who are disillusioned with politics: Prove to me that you don’t just have a great sense for the pulse of voters — something you can get by watching Bill Maher — but actually have real, pragmatic path to solving America’s problems. How about proposing something truly transformative, like not sending 50 percent of all discretionary spending to the military? Bernie can tax big corporations and billionaires all he wants, but if half of that money continues to feed our military complex, he won’t solve many problems.

I love Bernie. I believe in his message and vision for America. But after eight years under a pragmatic, methodical president— who faced complete Republican recalcitrance — I am not ready to risk the progress of Obama for the radical reforms of Sanders. Sure, Bernie could be the ultimate liberal crusader progressives want. He also may jeopardize all of the progress of the last eight years. He may even lead to America to electing a President Trump.

Bernie has over-promised on his ability to deliver his agenda. Of course it would take a political revolution to buy what he is selling. But don’t forget the political thirst for a political revolution just eight years ago. Don’t forget, the most charismatic, inspirational political figure in American history, in the middle of two wars and a depression, could not maintain his momentum of change for more than two years. So if anyone thinks that a 74-year-old democratic socialist with a thick Brooklyn accent can lead the revolution for change Bernie is promising, I have something else to sell you.