Public Comment

Conversation with a Berner

Glen Kohler
Friday November 29, 2019 - 06:24:00 PM

LAst Sunday evening I received a phone text message from one Cameron, field organizer for Senator Sanders’ California campaign. This is the second call I have had from Bernie’s camp, so I decided to make my number as an Elizabeth Warren supporter right away. The following conversation is taken from my iPhone. Spelling is cleaned up. 


Hey Glen, it’s Cameron with Bernie 2020! Did you hear? We are having a California for Bernie statewide organizing call on Tuesday, November 26th at 8:00 pm to learn how each of us can help Bernie win California! Can you make it? 


I prefer that Senator Sanders step down so we don’t risk his prospective VP (who at this stage remains unnamed) becoming acting President if/when the Senator’s health fails. He should bow out gracefully and endorse Senator Warren. 


Bernie had a routine procedure and is roaring back into action on the campaign trail. From a strong debate performance on Oct. 15th to massive rallies across the country, the campaign is stronger than ever! We need someone with his bold vision to win the presidency and help transform America. That being said, would you be interested in attending our organizing call? 


Heart attacks are never ‘routine’ at any age, however you want to spin it. But the good man is 74. As for his vision, it is less clear and less complete than Senator Warren’s—whose direct aim at laissez-faire capitalism and government corruption—expressed in 40+ detailed analyses and action plans—is unmatched by any other candidate. 


Bernie is actually in the best position to beat Trump. He has beaten Trump in nearly every head to head poll since 2016. He has favorable ratings across the aisle and record-breaking popularity among young people. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans support the issues that Bernie is running on, including Medicare for All, the $15 minimum wage, combating climate change and much more. 


I seem to detect that you are not conversant with E.W.’s performance history and current plans. Perhaps if you were you would discern political opinion-molding from a serious assessment of job fitness. Warren’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau returned 11 billion dollars to people cheated by so-called financial services and banks. Since you are engaging me I will say that her town hall meetings show an impressive range of on-target critiques with honest appraisals of what should—yea must—be done in remedy. 

I voted for Mr. Sanders in the last primary. But even then the ‘Warren Wing’ of the Democratic party was the more faithful rendition of the America I grew up in. My fear is that the DNC will throw away this election to avoid real change, by means of ‘me too’ candidates to neutralize the progressive movement. Mr. Sanders’ vitality and endurance is a legitimate concern. I can’t take seriously anyone who even wants to sweep it under the rug. 


I am very aware of Warren’s polices and previous accomplishments. I just believe that she has an electability problem that Bernie doesn’t have, and does not have a global vision to improve the world. I’m very disappointed in her foreign policy remarks, and in terms of strategy, I believe a mass movement organizer in chief is what this nation needs right now. With regards to Bernie and his age, I’d like to note that Nelson Mandela was his age when he was first elected President of South Africa. It’s not impossible to have an old man like Bernie be a transformative leader, and I believe him to be the best option for any type of left future. I do believe that Warren is a decent candidate, but I have too many issues with her to fully support her in the way that I do Bernie. 


That’s no answer. If you need a top-flight surgeon to survive, as this country does, you do what you have to to obtain that person’s services. A meme like ‘electability’ is floated to prevent real thought and analysis. Buy into it and the other side has already won. At 74, just after a heart episode, Mr. Sanders could team with Warren to carry the day. We don’t win if some ‘acceptable’ VP is in the White House seven months into the next administration. ‘Anyone but tRump’ is not the definitive answer, as you no doubt are aware. 

After that Cameron had nothing further to say. 

I found Cameron to be less than perfectly candid, reaching for another thought when he found my point inconvenient—a diversionary tactic that I normally expect from the right. 

As Cameron trumpeted Bernie’s ‘bold ideas’, I reflected that Warren’s are more extensive, and she has already carried a big one through to completion. Without waiting to become President, Warren’s push to create the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau was a contemporary equivalent of the New Deal under FDR. Warren effectively retrieved and restored 11 billion dollars that were legally stolen from Americans by instituionalized thieves in the business sector.  

No other candidate has achieved anything like Ellizabeth’s coup against the inhumane greed of laissez-faire capitalism. 

Comparing Bernie to Nelson Mandela is not a one-to-one match. Mandela was a revolutionary Sisyphus whose resolute persistence pushed the rock of apartheid to the crest of the hill and down the other side to smite black South Africans’ tormentors. Bernie is not in the same class as Mandela. Few people in history are. 

The notion that Warren cannot be elected first appeared on CNN’s bottom-of-the-screen ticker tape earlier this year. By parroting this misogynist attack meme, Cameron labeled himself a shyster. Women have been elected heads of state around the world, but the Camerons in the U.S. seem resolute in their resistance to full political participation by all citizens. 

This can only be because Warren is just a little too electable to suit her opponents. What is worse, she is not vulnerable to the usual character assassination or impuning her political life. So make up a meme and pedal it. Not the most principled campaign tactic. 

Cameron’s refusal to acknowledge the implications of Senator Sanders’ heart attack sacrificed truth. Bernie’s spokesman’s effort to bluster past the reality of the candidate’s dicey health offered zero assurance that Mr. Sanders is fit and capable for what will surely be among the world’s hardest jobs. 

Bernie’s boldest vision may be of himself in the White House. Cameron did not correct my erroneous impression that Senator Sanders is 74, but in fact Bernie is 78. How likely is it that he will be able to serve a second term if elected in 2020? Given his fragile health and Warren’s strong qualifications, demonstrated legislative ability, and resolute drive, Mr. Sanders’ candidacy is hard to see as acting in the best interest of the country.