Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes!’

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If the choice in the 2016 Presidential election had been between Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders, I believe now, as I did then, that Sanders would have won.

What the two had in common was that they were “outsiders” to the political status quo. Both spoke about strengthening the working class, creating jobs, bolstering the economy with infrastructure investment, getting Washington, D.C. out of the Wall Street bedroom, refusing to take big donor money. Both spoke with passion. Both sometimes spoke like unvarnished straight-talking guys comfortable in the “no B.S.” Truck Stop locker rooms. They said what they meant and they meant what they said.

Bernie was the first democratic socialist since Eugene Debs to capture the attention of the American electorate. Many believe his socialist views, the opposite of the billionaire capitalist, would have condemned him to defeat in the 2016 election.  I argued that, to the contrary, Bernie would have exposed Trump as a fraud, a phony whose business record proves him to be the opposite of the working class – a spoiled brat member of the Billionaire Class, a 1 % beneficiary of crony capitalism. Bernie was the straight-talking common man and woman’s candidate who spoke truth to power and presented himself as the candidate who would take back the power on behalf of a fairer society.

The straight-talking democratic socialist Bernie was and is my guy.

But listening to him on “State of the Union” yesterday, I found myself wanting to whisper into his headset: “Just let your ‘Yes’ be a simple ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ a simple ‘No’; anything more than this has its origin in evil” (Matthew 5:37, CJB).

Like the political insiders he had opposed, Bernie wasn’t answering the question.

“State of the Union” Moderator Jake Tapper’s question was simple and direct.

“Are you going to give your list (of campaign donors) to the Democratic National Committee so that you can help them become more grassroots?”

I hoped for a straight ‘yes or ‘no’, followed by an explanation, but got neither. Bernie was answering like a politician with an answer that, in effect, said ‘no’ without saying ‘no’, playing the cat-and-mouse game straight-talking truck drivers and folks at the union hall and the neighborhood bar-and-grille voted against in the 2016 election.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men,” said Lord Acton (1834-1902) more than a century ago. Bernie is a good man. But he was exercising his power against corruption by controlling the large list of small donors who had contributed to the campaign of the candidate whose ‘yes’ was ‘yes’ and whose ‘no’ was ‘no’.  And while the DNC and the Sanders campaign engage in a political trade war over the list, the Billionaire Class that controls the DNC, the RNC and Congress, and the billionaire behind the desk in the Oval Office obfuscate reality, refusing the hear that “anything more than (‘Yes’ or ‘No’) has its origin in evil,” and contributing further to the erosion of trust and hope for something better.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 17, 2017.

 

 

 

Who has the edge? Bernie or Hillary?

Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times Op-Ed piece “2 Questions for Bernie Sanders” asks:

Can you translate your bold vision into reality?

Can you get elected? Or would your nomination make a President Cruz more likely?

Both good questions. Serious questions raised by a journalist who first talked with Bernie after Bernie had been elected Mayor of Burlington, VT. It was a phone conversation with someone in the Mayor’s Office. Mr. Kristof, an intern with the New York Times, ended the conversation by asking the aide for his name. “Oh, I’m Bernie Sanders.” That was 1981.

Kristof’s editorial cites a Gallop Poll from a year ago that seems to give the edge to someone else: to Hillary in the Democratic primary, and to a Republican opponent in the general election. Why? According to the Gallop Poll one year ago, Americans show the most negative bias toward socialists (50%) and atheists (40%) when asked how various factors would affect their vote for a presidential candidate.

As a retired minister of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I have supported Bernie Sanders from the day he announced his candidacy for President. I support him because he boldly proclaims a social vision that is consistent with my faith. Democratic Socialism is not, as often supposed, an oxymoron. Democracy is a political form of government in which the people rule. Not corporations. Not big money. Not oligarchs. The people.  Socialism is a form of economics that places emphasis on a fair standard of living, quality of life for all, and that narrows the gap in the distribution of wealth. A Democratic Socialist is someone who promotes 1) the return of the integrity of the electoral system to the general population (big money out of politics), and 2) the general wellbeing of everyone in the society rather than leaving it to be settled by the vicissitudes of the free market.

My religious tradition puts the public square front and center as a matter of faith and ethics. The first question of any candidate is what s/he would do if elected. It is not whether they profess my religious faith. “Would the world be a better place?” is the most important question. As I listened to Bernie speaking at Liberty University, I was struck again by how deeply he represents the best of the Jewish-Christian tradition and how respectful he was of the evangelical audience he was addressing. Both his demeanor and his thoughtful engagement of common ground with his audience’s Christian faith and practice defined the meaning of civility and respectful discussion. The atheistic Jewish Democratic Socialist was the opposite of the fears that paint any socialist as an anti-religious demagogue. His message could have been delivered from the pulpits of many churches and synagogues in America.

Then there’s Hillary Clinton, who by the measures of the Gallop Poll, is much more electable than Bernie. Hillary’s not a self-proclaimed socialist, not Jewish, and not an atheist. She’s a Christian heavily influenced by the United Methodist youth group she credits with turning her from right-wing politics into a social gospel progressive. On that question of electability, Hillary holds the edge.

But there’s another edge to Hillary that people are reticent to address. Although she has the edge on Bernie by the Gallop Poll measures, she has “an edge” to her that is off-putting, an air of self-righteousness that reduces her likability.

Remember the 2007 presidential primary debate in which Obama quipped “You’re plenty likable, Hillary”? Candidate Obama was criticized at the time, and rightly so, for being condescending. Nevertheless, his sarcastic quip exposed a truth about Hillary’s likability.  She’s not. Too often her facial expression is smug and condescending. Research in the communications field reminds speakers that 90% of what people take away comes from the speaker’s body language.  That’s a problem. It’s a thing she does with her eyes and mouth that seems to disdain those who disagree or ask a hard question. Hillary’s “edge” gives Bernie the edge on likability.

Bernie also gets the edge for his consistency over 35 years in public office. People are seeing in him a quality nearly absent from ordinary politics. What you see is what you get. When you believe that what you’re seeing is what they’re going to get, you’re much more likely to trust that person. Whether or not you like such a candidate, you view him or her as trustworthy. Hillary not so much. Edge to Bernie.

Turning from the question of electability to the question of Bernie’s and Hillary’s respective abilities to get things done, the edge tends toward Hillary.

Both she and Bernie are experienced politicians, but their experiences are different. Bernie’s only executive experience was years ago as Mayor of Burlington, VT. Congresspeople and Senators are legislators, not executives. The transition to the Oval Office from the Senate Office Building is a steep climb into another set of skills, power, and authority. Hillary is familiar with the Oval Office and executive responsibility. She occupied the White House for eight years, watching the patterns, discussing the most vexing problems with her husband and the press, and she served as Secretary of State managing the Department of State. On the level of executive experience, the edge goes to Hillary.

Although a fighter like Bernie, Hillary is connected by history and experience with congressional Representatives, Senators, Governors, party operatives, and leaders in the private sector on Wall Street and beyond. People owe her – even the most unlikely supporters like Senator Al Franken (D-MN), as close to Bernie’s democratic socialism as they come – because she came to their sides in hard-fought campaigns. Bernie, the Democratic Socialist, on the other hand, has always maintained his partisan independence while allying himself with the Democratic Caucus. Bernie would bring few IOUs to the White House. Edge to Hillary.

If politics is the art of the possible and the do-able, Hillary seems to have the edge. In the current oligarchic world of un-democratic American politics and capitalist economics, a more likable and trustworthy Democratic Socialist will have a tough time hold his edge. And that’s a crying shame.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 11, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Night’s Iowa Caucus Results

What a difference a year makes. Last night, Senator Bernie Sanders virtually tied Secretary Hillary Clinton in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses. In April 2015 a Views from the Edge post began:

Ted Cruz, Ron Paul, Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton are taking their places in the starting gates for the horse race to the White House in 2016. Smiles and frowns all around, emails asking “Are you IN?“ with requests for money from the partisan Yea-Sayers and Nay-Sayers. But the fact is that every horse they ride – conservative and liberal – is owned by Wall Street.

I’m not “IN” until a candidate rides a different horse into the starting gate. Until someone acts and sounds like Floyd B. Olson….

“I am not a liberal. I am what I want to be — a radical,” said Governor Olson to the 1934 Farmer-Labor party convention. A radical is not an ideologue. It’s a person who insists on going to the root of things. Olson was the nemesis of Wall Street, a champion of the people.

Most Americans have never heard of Floyd B. Olson, the popular Minnesota Governor regarded at the time as President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s successor before his untimely death. The Views from the Edge piece concluded:

“If and when someone like Floyd B. Olson rides a different horse into the starting gate for the 2016 White House horse race, I’ll be IN with both feet. Until then, I’m not IN.

That was before Bernie Sanders came on the scene.

Last night’s Iowa Democratic Caucuses resulted in a dead heat between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. Unlike all other candidates, Senator Sanders is not funded by Wall Street. He’s supported by over 3,000,000 small donations by people drawn to his clear message, unwavering consistency on the issues, integrity, courage, and a populism like that of Floyd B. Olson.

In Minnesota many people ask, “What would Wellstone do?” referring to Sen. Paul Wellstone who demonstrated the same straight-talking as Floyd B. Olson, and who, like his progressive predecessor, died too early to run for President.

What would Wellstone do? What would Floyd B. Olson do? Ask Bernie Sanders.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 2, 2016

Sanders TRUMPED by media coverage

abc-nbc-cbs-tv-logo1Donald Trump dominated news coverage this week.

During a CNN interview, he acknowledged he hadn’t needed to spend a nickel for ads or PR, thanks to free media coverage.

Today Bernie Sanders noted the disparate coverage of the Trump and Sanders campaigns in an email to Sanders supporters. It reads as follows:

I’ve always been interested in media and have always been concerned that corporate media doesn’t really educate people in this country. They refuse to talk about the serious issues facing our country.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised yesterday when I saw this headline: “Report: ABC World News Tonight Has Devoted 81 Minutes To Trump, One Minute To Sanders.”

It’s no shock to me that big networks, which are controlled by a handful of large corporations, have barely discussed our campaign and the important issues we are bringing up. They’re just too busy covering Donald Trump.

We can’t allow the corporate media to set the agenda. We have got to get the real issues out there. And that’s why I’m asking you to join me in a major petition to the big networks.

Add your name to our petition to tell ABC, NBC and CBS to cover our campaign — and more importantly to cover the issues we are bringing up.

This is what the corporate media is all about: more Americans support our campaign than Trump’s according to recent polls, but still ABC’s news program has spent 81 minutes on Trump and only 20 seconds talking about us. NBC Nightly News only spent 2.9 minutes covering our campaign. CBS? They spent six minutes.

The point is: our political revolution certainly will not be televised. It’s more important than ever for us to hold the large corporations that control the media accountable.

Please sign our petition to tell the big networks to put aside their corporate interests and allow for a free and fair debate in this presidential campaign.

I know we can win this fight if we all work to get the message out there.

Views from the Edge readers support a variety of candidates. We post this Sanders material with links because the issues Sanders raises are real and disturbing, and because it provides opportunity to express our desire for fairer coverage.

There is no good reason for Sanders or any other presidential candidate to be Trumped by the corporate towers of Babel.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Dec. 12, 2015.

 

The Presidential Debate

The pundits focused on Hillary and Bernie. They ignored a third candidate on the stage who fared well. His name is Martin O’Malley. He didn’t hit the home run the gurus said was required to bring him into the race, but he represented his record clearly with poise and with the dignity the American people have a right to expect of the person in the Oval Office. He had the stature of a President.

The Bernie-Hillary show was a media creation, a script which, to his great credit, Moderator Anderson Cooper did not follow. Cooper asked hard questions to every candidate with the first questions of the evening. Cooper was a professional journalist, working for the American people to flush out the inconsistencies and push for the truth of what a candidate really stands for. Bernie danced a jig on his poor record on gun control and his votes on the Brady Bill; Hillary danced on the email controversy, her Iraq War vote, and her change of opinion on the TPP trade agreement. Cooper was the consummate moderator, insisting that candidates answer the question they were asked, but respectful and fair.

Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were like minor leaguers on a Major League field in the early playoffs. There were five candidates on stage but only three major leaguers.

Webb performed poorly as the most conservative candidate who suffered from a shirt collar that made him look tight as a tic. He looked like the kid whose parents dressed him in a tux for the senior prom – very unnatural, ill at ease, unable to be his winsome self.  Chafee  stood by his progressive voting record and admirable credentials as a former U.S. Senator and Governor of Rhode Island, but his facial eccentricities and persona do not help his candidacy. Although he might make a great president, he’d be very hard to watch for four full years.

O’Malley, on the other hand, looked and sounded the part of a presidential candidate. Or, perhaps, Vice-Presidential. Like Joe Biden, O’Malley is both smart and tough, seasoned and fresh, just the kind of running mate Hillary or Bernie might choose, if either of them wins the Democratic Party nomination. The problem, of course, is that O’Malley is another Easterner, which all but eliminates him according to the prevailing wisdom that the best ticket is geographically balanced.

But, if in the debates ahead, Bernie and Hillary should falter, Martin O’Malley is someone to watch. If I were Bernie or Hillary, I’d sleep with one eye open. Remember the tortoise and the hare.

  • Gordon C. Stewart (Bernie supporter), Chaska, MN, October 14, 2015.

 

 

Bernie Sanders at Liberty University

The very thought of Democratic Socialist candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaking at a compulsory convocation at Liberty University, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell who also founded the Moral Majority, seemed far-fetched until it happened. What happened is an example to follow: a genuine, face-to-face, civil discussion about America, the meaning of morality, and what the Bible has to say about justice in our time.

C-Span’s coverage of the complete 1 hr. 5 min. convocation, including Christian evangelical praise music, and prayer before and after Sanders’ presentation, is all the more remarkable.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN 55318

The Honesty Factor

What helps explain the unexpected rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the polls?

E. J. Dionne’s Washington Post piece “Don’t look now, but Sanders is Rising” contains a clue to the difference between public perception of Trump and Sanders, on the one hand, and most other candidates for President, on the other.

It’s pretty simple, as it was when the people of Minnesota shocked the world (and themselves!) by electing Jesse Ventura, the former professional boa scarf wearing wrestler and straight-talking, no holds barred, Minneapolis radio talk show host, as Governor.

E. J. Dionne cites a poll by WMUR-TV in New Hampshire trying to get a handle on the primary race between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Of all the questions, the one that stood out from the standard questions about one’s position as liberal, moderate, or conservative was this simple question: “Who is least honest?”

Thirty-one (31) percent answered Hillary Clinton. Only three (3) percent picked Bernie Sanders. To put it positively, 97 percent trusted Bernie as the straighter shooter.

Watching the Republican Presidential Candidates Debate last night, something similar was on display. I scratched my head wondering how it happens that Donald Trump was the highest rated candidate in the polls that led to the top 10 Republican candidates. When asked whether he would support the eventual party nominee, Trump said he would not make that pledge. He was booed by many in the audience. But I suspect the audience and those watching on their televisions and iPads would rate him as low on the “least honest” factor last night as the New Hampshire Democrats answered for Bernie.

Jesse Ventura was elected by Independents, Democrats, and Republicans who were disgusted by the less than honest answers of the two experienced politicians on the stage of the debates. Jesse did full Nelsons, pinning the more experienced “less honest” (i.e., more skilled at obfuscation) Skip Humphrey and Norm Coleman to the mat.

E.J. Dionne ends his column with this observation:

“As for alienation from the system, Trump and Sanders do speak to a disaffection that roils most of the world’s democracies. But their way of doing so is so radically different – Sanders resolutely pragmatic, Trump all about feelings, affect and showmanship – that they cannot easily be subsumed as part of the same phenomenon. Sanders’ candidacy will leave policy markers and arguments about the future. Trump’s legacy will be almost entirely about himself, which is probably fine with him.”

I would add that the American electorate understands feelings and affect, and that, in an entertainment culture, we have come to expect to be entertained. In the Donald and in Bernie we see and hear two men who stand against the odds, and the one thing (perhaps the only thing) that links them in the hearts of those who watch and listen is that they are “the least dishonest”.

But honesty and showmanship alone do not a good governor or president make. We need to bring our minds as well as our hearts to ringside.

Our Common Home: Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders

Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si‘: On Care for Our Common Home has caught the world’s attention. (Scroll down for the Encyclical Letter’s opening paragraphs.)

In our view, Pope Francis and Bill McKibben of 350.org are prophetic figures, i.e., they seem to utter a Word not totally their own. So does Sen. Bernie Sanders (I, VT), who is, not by accident, Bill McKibben’s close friend from Vermont, and the ONLY candidate to place climate change action among the top priorites of his presidential campaign. He speaks boldly, and his message echoes the cry of Luudato Si‘ for action now for the sake of the planet. There is no obfuscation.

“The United States must lead the world in tackling climate change, if we are to make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels, and towards energy efficiency and sustainability.” – Excerpt from Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign priority on Climate Change and the Environment.

Religion, science, and politics each deal with reality, superstition, and obfuscation. The Pope’s call for global action requires political legs to make it walk. Political engagement is not optional at this moment in the history of planetary development. In that regard, no other presidential candidate is so clear on climate change and sustainability as Bernie Sanders. No other candidate speaks with such passionate conviction or knowledge. Pope Francis is a man of God, a modern John the Baptizer appearing in the wilderness, following the lead of Bill McKibben, the scientific consensus, and The Pontifical Academy of Sciences’s research and counsel.

The Pope’s position on nature, born of a more ancient wisdom than the mechanistic “man over nature” view of postindustrial society, is thoroughly catholic, the0logically classical, and steeped in scientific research.  “Man over nature” and “history over nature” are figments of our imagination. Nature always wins. We ARE nature and nature is us.

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.[1]

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

[1] Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN. July 28, 2015