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Thu Apr 25, 2019, 02:37 PM

Bernie Sanders and the Song of America

Unlike any other politician in modern U.S. history, Sanders has revived a language of social and democratic rights

April 25, 2019
Thomas J. Adams


More than any single person alive, Sanders has revived a language of social and democratic rights. The right to health care, living wages, a job, and higher education were not on the table of conceivable choices in American politics until four years ago. It’s fitting Bernie Sanders should add to that smorgasbord the rights of the largest number of legally disenfranchised American citizens.

The funny thing about Sanders’ political strength and his candidacy though—in opposition to most political commentators and politicians in both major parties—is that it is deeply built on the language of Americanism. The story we tell ourselves about ourselves it that we are a country of universal rights. Our progress as a nation, in narratives from both the left and the right, is about living up to these ideals. Whether one sympathizes with this American exceptionalist framework or not, it has always been, to invert Walt Whitman, our democratic chant, our acceptance of “nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.”

As his rivals offer dazzling arrays of policy proposals, some with deep merit while others boilerplate technocratic, Sanders is often criticized for his lack of policy minutiae. This is wrong-headed to say the least. America’s most sacred policy documents and its most popular policies throughout its history are not innovative new ways to train software engineers, tax credit proposals, or health care subsidies. They are the Bill of Rights, the 13th and 14th Amendments, the right to age gracefully and elderly health care, and of course the right to vote. When lived up to these are rights that all Americans enjoy regardless of race, gender, religion, and ability or lack thereof to pay. They are intended to be universal for all Americans and the heart of the way virtually all of us understand what is good about America.

The rumpled old crazy-haired kooky Jewish socialist with a funny Brooklyn accent did not become the most popular politician in America by suggesting that some rights should be means tested or that health care should be “affordable.” The right to vote is, to use Sanders’ words, “inherent in a democracy.” One would be hard-pressed to suggest that most Americans disagree with him on that point. Whether pundits and the Democratic Party have noticed it or not—and judging by their rhetoric, they haven’t—Bernie Sanders does quite well when he gets to be the one talking about the rights we should all get by virtue of being Americans.


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Reply Bernie Sanders and the Song of America (Original post)
Donkees Apr 2019 OP
Donkees Apr 2019 #1

Response to Donkees (Original post)

Thu Apr 25, 2019, 02:39 PM

1. Every American citizen should have the right to vote, even if they are in jail.

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