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In Praise of Bernie Sanders

I’ve seen some commentary on the left blogosphere lamenting the loss of Dennis Kucinich’s seat in Congress to Marcy Kaptur.  Apparently, we’re all supposed to mourn Kucinich’s departure from the political scene.  For all we know, the exile is only temporary so I’m not sure what the blogosphere is getting so worked up about.

But here again, I find myself out of step with my own side.  First it was over Howard Dean.  Apparently, I was supposed to be reduced to wild paroxysms of ecstasy over his “Democratic wing of the Democratic party” single line in a single speech but all I saw was a dilettante dabbling in politics in his spare time while his wife looked after patients and tended the garden.  And the 50 state strategy, in retrospect, was a disaster because it brought so many Blue Dog Democrats into Congress.  Hardly the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.  What I learned from Howard is that you need a real moral movement behind the electoral successes you want to see.

Then there was my difference with the same left blogosphere over their support of Barack Obama vs Hillary Clinton.  I have written over 1000 posts on that disaster so there’s no need to recount it here.  What I learned from Obama vs Clinton is the value of evidence.  If you can’t find any, distrust any claims.  On the other hand, if you see behaviors that you don’t like, you’d be a fool to ignore them just because you assume the candidate is something you are divinely wishing for.  Wishing doesn’t make it so. There simply is no substitute for data and there is nothing more likely to lead to the wrong conclusions than confirmation bias.

And now, there is Kucinich and the further demise of the true liberal Democrat.  There really aren’t that many left in Congress since Steny purged Massa and Weiner and made examples of them to other progressives if they even thought about bucking their leadership.  Some people claim that Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich were the last of the true liberals.  But I would disagree whether Dennis Kucinich is in Bernie Sanders league.  What I recall of Kucinich was his anti-war stance.  And it was very popular among lefties.  Well, we don’t like war, even those of us who have family members in the Army don’t like them.  And I was the single holdout in my family who never bought into the reasons for going to war in Iraq (see above for the value of evidence), which made me popular at family dinners.  When Kucinich ran for president, anti-war was what defined him in my mind.  Oh sure, he was for single payer health care and everything but for some reason Kucinich never resonated with me.  Whatever the left ever saw in Kucinich just left me cold.

At this point, we are three for three.  I’m beginning to wonder if there is something wrong with me or the left.  Going by the track record, I’m guessing it’s the rest of the left.  They need to figure out why they keep falling for politicians who don’t deserve them.

Anyway, I want to sing Bernie Sanders’ praises.  The guy is golden.  He is a true lefty but he understands the concerns of the little guy like few politicians can.  He seems to get how difficult it is to live in this country if you’re not rich.  I think he also has a different definition of success.  Success is not necessarily measured by how much money you make.  I don’t agree with Bernie on some issues.  For example, I don’t think the constant bashing of pharma is helpful, especially for those of us who have been forced out of pharma and have to figure out how to make a living while having to work in the big pharma framework on a smaller scale and dodging the CEOs and vulture capitalists who seek to exploit us.  I’d really like it if he spent some time exploring our issues, maybe talking to some of us, getting a deeper understanding of what drug discovery means.

But then I look back on his filiBernie from last year and I am eternally grateful to him for so much of what he DOES get right.  He knows what economic injustice means and how devastating it is to our future.  And he explains the issues and argues his points to clearly and persuasively.  It’s almost a shame we have C-Span.  Before the days of cable, a speech like Bernie’s might have gotten our full attention on prime time.

And Bernie is hard working.  I can’t remember when I subscribed to his email or twitter feed but I know more about what Bernie is up to than my own senators Menendez and Lautenberg.  My senators are relatively reliable liberals too but I have no idea where they’re speaking this week, what radio shows they’re appearing on, what bills they are introducing or co-sponsoring.  For any of that information, I’d have to go research.  But Bernie’s got a crack team of people letting me know what he’s up to every minute of the day and I have to say, Bernie appears to be working his heart out.  He might be a Don Quixote tilting at windmills but damn, the dude is tilting.  He appears to be tireless.

So, I’d just like to say, thanks, Bernie.  Thanks for sticking to your convictions as well as you do.  Thanks for speaking for the working people.  Thanks for looking out for our interests.  And thanks for being so well prepared, hard working and organized because luck favors a prepared mind.  Maybe this is what sets me apart from the left.  I admire the hard work, dedication, passion and preparation of people like Bernie Sanders.  That kind of behavior isn’t as topical or trendy as being the anti-war candidate but I can rely on Bernie to dig down into an issue and base his support on principle and conviction.  It reflects a kind of integrity.  If I ever had the chance to vote for Bernie, I wouldn’t find it difficult.  I only wish I didn’t have to move to Vermont to do it.


Continuing my theme of pounding on New Atheism and the secular movement, here is another podcast that is worth a listen.  This one is based out of Austin, Texas and is for feminist atheists.  It’s called Godless Bitches.  The title doesn’t reflect the articulate and rational voices of the participants whose dialog is sprinkled liberally with strong Texas twangs.  The latest podcast from the Godless Bitches takes on Rush Limbaugh and the birth control debate.  In this podcast, the shock and disbelief of the attack on women’s reproductive rights comes through loud and clear.  It is inconceivable (no pun intended) to these women that this fight is even taking place in the 21st century.  I hate to say this to the Judeo Christians out there but the horse has already left the barn on contraception.  You are not going to win this one.  In fact, this is the issue that may very well be your undoing.  The backlash will be ferocious.  You can check out Episode 2.5 here.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I keep bringing up all of these atheist podcasts.  Well, for one thing, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.  There is an ocean of them and I discover new ones every day.  They come in every flavor.  There are some that are rational to the point of being dry, there are some humorous ones like the war on Christmas speech that Rebecca Watson of Elevatorgate fame gave, there are brilliant speeches by activists like Greta Christina and there are some mainstream, accessible ones like Ask An Atheist and The Atheist Experience.

My point is that this is a growing movement based on positive atheism.  You don’t have to be an atheist to appreciate their point of view and advocacy of secularism.  The movement includes freethinkers, skeptics, rationalists, humanists and agnostics.  They are speaking out, coming out and getting together.  They are the push back to the Judeo Christian right.  In the past, it might have taken decades for these groups to organize to the point where they had an impact.  In many respects, it resembles the LGBT movement that developed over several decades.  But modern technology is changing all  of that.  Plus, they are having conventions and seminars all over the country and the world.  This is going to develop much more quickly than previous movements. In a couple of years or less, it could be a legitimate threat to the religious right, which may be why the religious right is pulling out all of the stops this year.  This election year may be the last one where the Republican party is able to use the dwindling numbers of the Judeo Christian right against our secular government.  It has to get as much authoritarian crap written into law as it can before its base loses critical mass.

So, this message is to those of you who are holding back about coming out.  It’s ok.  There are a lot of us out here who have deconverted from our Judeo Christian upbringings.  You may lose some friends and family but it gets better.  You will find other people like you as more and more of us come out.  And activists like Greta Christina are advocating for physical spaces where we can connect and build our own communities what will take the place of the churches we leave.  I think that’s going to happen more and more.  For all I know, the “religious liberty” meme is directed at the New Atheist movement.  It’s trying to get ahead of the rest of the American public because this movement has the potential to have a greater impact on government than Occupy.  It’s better organized, has been in existence longer and has a clearer set of goals.

Expect to see and hear anti-atheist messaging from the right in the next couple of weeks.  The last thing it wants is for secularism to make a resurgence in this election year.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson predicts the extinction of the fundamentalist Judeo Christian:

25 Responses

  1. Howard Dean became too enamored with himself. He was a true Obamabot in ’08. He was all too willing to take the democracy out of the Democratic party in order to get an Obama win in the primaries.

  2. In total agreement with praise of Bernie Sanders. His emails reassure me that there is at least one liberal good and true left in the U.S. Congress.

    I *would* move to Vermont to bask in its authentic lefty goodness, but have no job prospects there and no money for just gadding on up, dangit!!

  3. I could not find an email address so here is this news:

    Please sign the White house petition to remove Rush Limbaugh from Armed Services Radio as a service to the women in the military who are bringing rape lawsuits. (longer post on my own blog) (the full lawsuit in on the SWAN blog)

    Rush Limbaugh’s women hating is too boring to repeat. But the law suit being waged by military women has a section on the military’s tolerance for rape and that is relevant. In the sections of their suit regarding the military’s rape culture, military women complain of being regularly called whore, and sluts, dykes, (feminazi?) and prostitutes. Behind their back and to their face.

    A Pentagon spokesman says the military’s network will continue to air Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. George Little said the American Forces Network offers a wide range of programming to reflect listeners’ interests and he is unaware of any plans to review that decision.

    Of course. @#**%#

    Get this misogynist off the tax payer funded Armed Service Radio. Right now, just get that asshole off our tax payer funded Armed Services Radio Network.

    Sign the petition here…Look at the bottom of the page, your right side .. create an account .. its easy:


  4. Local news last week said Kucinich is entertaining a run for one of the congressional seats from Washington State.

    • Washington State? Even if that is legal, is that really right and proper? Shouldn’t a Representative be “of the culture and region” of those he/she presumes to represent?

  5. On the topic of atheists: “You may lose some friends and family but it gets better” 🙂 In my family, there is greater likelihood I will walk away from their bible pushing, judgmental ways before they decide to give up trying to convert me. They can’t have contrary opinions or they suffer from questioning their faith.

    • I feel your pain. Seriously. But in the near future, you should be able to find more people like you and your family will start to realize that religion isn’t as popular as they think. I think it’s incredibly disrespectful for family members to not take no for an answer. It’s like telling you that your thoughts are unimportant to them and their love is conditional. I think it’s mean.

  6. I agree on Bernie. I was with the group wishing he’d replace Obama in 2012. Of course he isn’t running but it didn’t stop my hopeful thinking! Kucinich was set up to lose with the way his district was cut up. There must have been a reason that the Repubs wanted him gone. He probably was fighting more than we were seeing. However, I distinctly remember a plane ride he took with Obama that seemed to shut him up. I’ve often wondered what he was threatened with. At the time he had been on Obama heavy.

    • The Ohio GOP carved up districts all over the state to reduce the chance of Democrats winning. Kucinich, knowing he had little chance in a district with more Republicans, tried to unseat Marcy Kaptur, a loyal Democrat who has done a lot for her constitutency. He was handed his hat which was fine with me. He should have bucked up and made a fight in his own geographical area instead of going a third of the way across the state looking for easy pickings.

      Bernie Sanders is a gem as is Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  7. Haven’t read this post and can’t wait to do so, but I’m so pumped about this talk by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein:
    [audio src="http://www.ffrf.org/uploads/audio/Con11/mp3/RNGoldstein.mp3" /]

    Here’s a money quote in a goldmine:

    It’s a fact that slavery is wrong. It’s a fact despite that fact that no religion was able, without the input of secular philosophical arguments, to discover that fact…. Just as it’s a fact that the voice of a woman, whether speaking or singing, is not to be regarded in itself as a sexual incitement. And if it is so regarded that’s not the moral problem of the woman who’s speaking.

  8. More from the Goldstein talk, which I’m gratified dovetails perfectly with RD’s post so far:

    It is no sign of moral or spiritual strength to believe that for which one has no evidence, neither a priori evidence, such as in math, nor a posteriori evidence, such as in science. Quite the contrary. It’s a violation, almost immoral in its transgressiveness, to shirk the responsibilities of rationality, the obligations that are placed on us by being propositional creatures able to form truth-valued propositions, to consider them, to reflect on them, to assert them or deny them and then to act on our considered beliefs when those beliefs are such as to support actions.
    —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

    The method of postulating what we want has many advantages. They are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil.
    —Bertrand Russell

    To paraphrase Russell, the practice of believing on faith what we want has many advantages. They are the same as the advantages of theft over honest toil.
    —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

    [There are] dark forces of the ego that incline us toward wishful thinking and fantasizing so that we come up with visions of the world that flatter our own senseless sense of self-importance in this world so that we come up with world views that flatter our own egos and that also incline us towards divisiveness because we’re all coming up with these views that will try to do justice to our own sense of importance.
    —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

    A habit of basing convictions upon evidence and of giving to them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants would, if it became general, would cure most of the ills the world suffers.
    —Bertrand Russell

    There is no disagreement [among philosophers] that the moral point of view requires a certain disassociation from ones own situation, that insofar as one is being moral, one ought not to allow ones own particular identity in the situation–what you have to win or gain from that situation be decisive–but rather, we’re required to abstract as best we can from our own self-interested point of view and see ourselves from the vantage point of just one among the many.
    —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

    It’s a fact that slavery is wrong. It’s a fact despite that fact that no religion was able, without the input of secular philosophical arguments, to discover that fact…. Just as it’s a fact that the voice of a woman, whether speaking or singing, is not to be regarded in itself as a sexual incitement. And if it is so regarded that’s not the moral problem of the woman who’s speaking.
    —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

  9. I fully agree – I fell in love with Bernie years ago – he is gold, far and above all the rest. Can’t praise him enough

  10. Bernie is the best. Both Kucinich and Ron Paul share a common genome. They’re both Hobbits, one of the left, and one of the right. Look at any pix of the two and you’ll see what I mean.

  11. I so hate the term “progressive”. The word is just an empty vessel to fill with whatever evil sh*tpile the politicians and supporting propagandists decide it should include

    • Liberals who have been shamed out of calling themselves liberals have retreated to calling themselves “progressive” in hopes that the anti-liberalitic defamation campaign won’t make the word “progressive”
      a badge of dishonor as well. One wonders how “liberal” became a badge of dishonor and to whom and at whose behest. And one wonders if anything can be done about that. The subject deserves some thought and study at some point.

      • Hillary is one who is avoiidng the word ‘Liberal’ and calling herself a ‘modern Progressive’, or at least she was around 2007, iirc. Heidi Li Feldman used the word in the header of her blog, something about ‘because progress never goes out of style.’

        (Mm, remember the Friday night parties?)

        • Clearly, “liberal” has become a leprous word, dripping with radioactive pus in the eyes of many. So, the question arises . . .
          how did that happen?

  12. I realize Marcy Kaptur is with the Ladies Against Women in terms of being anti-choice. But she is for America against Free Trade and that
    is also a brute-survival issue here in the semi-ex-industrial Midwest. Here is a public TV interview of Congresswoman Kaptur by Jack Lessenberry ( a Michigan-based political analyst). Those who want to get a long look into Kaptur’s thinking about things and stuff might
    watch this interview. ( And wouldn’t you know it . . . thanks to Microshit Shitsplorer which our bosses give us NO choice about here at work, I will have to put that link in a sub reply).

    • And here is the link.http://www.wgte.org/wgte/watch/item.asp?item_id=787

      I have not studied her career, but I suspect she is just as real a Democrat as Kucinich, and she may have been more effective about various things. She certainly seems to have understood “horizontal power and entrenchment” within the Congress in a way that Kucinich never seems to have quite been able to do. And the Greater Toledoans seem to think she has used that power to the survival benefit of Toledo at least.

    • And by the way . . . I still find myself reading Digby once every two or three weeks despite my ongoing displeasure over her decietful secret banning and secret censorship policy. Some of the remaining commenters seem to be good at times.

      Someone named Bruce Webb gave a detailed explanation of why he felt a particular recent Kucinich health-care-coverage bill to be a frivolous pose-striking effort as against someone else’s serious bill attempt of some years previously. It gets into the deep weeds of inside policy baseball. Someone who can understand these things might well find that comment and read it, and then Kaptur’s record on these matters to Kucinich’s , and see what they think. Kaptur won their recent tire-iron fight by making Kucinich lose and that counts for something in politics right there.

  13. If Sanders were to kick off and lead a third party movement by, in part, running for President on it; I would vote and work for him. I am afraid he won’t do that, though. I suspect he would consider it a kind of showmanly stunt and not entirely serious. The Democrats would never permit him onto their ticket. And so he won’t be running. I do not predict, but I do suspect, that he will decide to lend some support to the Obama campaign one way or another, as a very coldly pragmatic avoidance of the greater social class-economic evil which any Republican Administration would in his view inflict upon the non-rich majority. We shall see. (By the way, I repeat my firm prediction that the Roberts Court will rule the Baucus-Obama Forced Mandate to be fully Constitutional. You-all can laugh at me if I get that wrong).

    I remember the term Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party first coming from Real Democrat Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. He used it over and over. Perhaps Dean got it from him. Perhaps Vermonters could say how useful Dean’s presence in Vermont’s governorship was to Vermont. I know I liked Dean’s appearance at the national level. I wonder whether Dean really meant for the 50 State strategy to mean packs of blue doggies or whether it was Rahm Emmanuel and oterh Emmanueloids who biased the effort towards blue doggies in particular. But I really don’t know.

  14. He’ll get my praise when he stands up against the right wing policies coming out of this administration. Until then he is useles.. Yes, sorry I know that’s not what you want to hear but it’s the truth.All the dems act like the bills they oppose fell out of the sky by a stork and get signed by a garden gnome, that way they don’t need to do the *gasp* uncomfortable thing of calling out their own party.
    Party Unity My Ass and all of that.

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