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Hullabaloo


Saturday, November 21, 2015

 

A dose of sanity

by Tom Sullivan

A dose of sanity in a minute, I promise.

Donald Trump is America's crazy, right-wing uncle—and he's coming for Thanksgiving. His Thursday comments about creating a Muslim database had me fantasizing whether Trump isn't secretly asking himself just how far he can go before his Real American fans balk. Is Trump wondering, "What if I slipped lines from Mussolini into my speeches? Would they still cheer? What if I called for putting Muslims in camps? Would they pump their fists in the air?" Finally, Trump would throw up his hands and say, "Look at you idiots! This is the United States of America we're talking about. You would really do it. Whatta buncha losers!"

I know. Not gonna happen.

Even though Trump tried to walk back the "unconstitutional, morally repugnant" comments, it was a Kinsley gaffe. In response, Chris Hayes recalled President George W. Bush's "Islam is peace" speech at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. days after the September 11 attacks, and Jeb Bush's people pounced:

So it was a breath of fresh air to hear about Bernie Sanders' "democratic socialism" speech the same day at Georgetown University. I haven't had a chance to listen to the entire 90-minute speech, but Mother Jones extracted some key points from Sanders' speech, calling it a "preemptive strike against those who would use the s-word" against him:

Almost everything [Roosevelt] proposed was called "socialist." I thought I would mention that just in passing. Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country, was defined by his opponents as "socialist." The concept of the "minimum wage"—that workers had to be paid at least a certain amount of money for their labor—was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as "socialist." Unemployment insurance (the idea that if you lose your job at least you have something to fall back), abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining (the rights of workers to engage in negotiations with a union), strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as "socialist." Yet as you all know, all of these programs and many more have become the fabric of our nation and in fact the foundation of our middle class.

Thirty years later after Roosevelt's speech, in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson fought for Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this country. Today Medicare does not seem to be such a terribly radical idea, to say that once they get old they should have medical insurance, but when it was proposed once again we heard right-wing forces describe these programs as socialistic and a threat to our American way of life.

In defining himself, Sanders went after the nativism of the Trumps and their ilk, but with a veiled dig at Hillary Clinton:

The next time you hear me attacked as a socialist—like tomorrow—remember this: I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families of this country who produce the wealth of this country deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.

I do believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America, companies that create jobs here rather than companies that are shutting down in America and increasing their profits by exploiting low-wage labor abroad.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally start paying the taxes that they should.

I don't believe in special treatment for the top 1 percent, but I do believe in equal treatment for African Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice of which we have been hearing a lot in recent months, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life. I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

As the song says, Which side are you on?

Here is Sanders' speech in full: