Bernie is the answer

It looks as though the DNC will do anything to keep from accepting Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner in this election. Last week, he could not win Nevada because Medicare For All would take away hard-won union healthcare benefits. Today, he is a communist for questioning our country’s systemic brainwashing that communism, in all forms, is inherently evil. 

“But you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders told host Anderson Cooper on last Sunday’s “60 Minutes.” “When Fidel Castro came to office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” 

Castro started a huge literacy program in 1957. Critics argue that this program’s agenda was to indoctrinate Cubans with political propaganda. Nonetheless, Castro implemented a program to teach people how to read and write, particularly those in impoverished rural areas who had limited access to education. The high school and college students who went out to teach those in abject poverty saw the terrible conditions in which they were living, and the impoverished saw tangible evidence that the government cared for them. According to the World Bank, Cuba’s literacy rate today is at 99.8%. Sanders was commenting on this aspect of the program, which gave the poor access to education and knowledge. 

Unfortunately, “communism” and “Castro” still trigger the fears of the Red Scare. It is very important to realize that the U.S. has pushed the narrative of communism’s evils to maintain our capitalist economy. After its liberation from Spain in 1902, Cuba became an auxiliary colony of the U.S. The U.S. exploited Cuban labor as well as all of its natural resources to bolster our economy. The only time Cuba saw economic growth was during times of U.S. economic turmoil, i.e. the Great Depression. After gaining formal independence from the U.S. in 1940 and undergoing the communist revolution from 1953 to 1959, Cuba once again saw economic growth. U.S. intervention in countries with communist governments or countries “at risk” of having communist governments has not been fueled by benevolence to the citizens of these nations, but more as a precautionary measure to squash the greatest threats to capitalism.

Communism is a good political theory, and there is much we can garner from it. But it is not good in practice, because in order to reach a communist utopia, there must be a dictator to put it in place. In my opinion, humans are so power-hungry and full of greed that this utopia will never be realized. 

It is important to note that Sanders does not condone the tactics of Castro. He added on “60 Minutes:” “I have been extremely consistent and critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world including Cuba, including Nicaragua, including Saudi Arabia, including China, including Russia. I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism.”

There is no doubt that the Trump administration will continue to run with the Sanders communist narrative if he becomes the Democratic nominee, and the media is only helping to strengthen that narrative. 

Sanders has been attacked from every angle since his rise in the polls, starting with Hillary Clinton on the first day of the Senate impeachment hearing. Since then, Elizabeth Warren has accused him of not believing a woman can become president in 2018, even though he proposed to her that she run for president in 2016. It is not a coincidence that that information was leaked after Sanders’s rise in the polls. If this was such a pressing issue, why not bring it forward two years ago? Why only now?

I am sure these attacks will not stop until the Democratic National Convention this summer. Even then, I am not sure if the whole party will rally behind Sanders. His electability is consistently called into question. It is important to remember that we went with electability in 2016 with Clinton, and we saw how well that worked out. Winning the popular vote is not enough — the Democratic candidate must demolish Trump. I believe Bernie is the only candidate who can. My position on Warren, meanwhile, has changed since she backed away from Medicare for All, as well as after her accusations of Sanders and considering her history of embellishing the truth of being a nursing mother during the bar exam, her father’s occupation and her Native American heritage.

For many, Sanders’ platform is a pipe dream, an unimaginable future that no logical person would deem possible in this political climate. But for the rest of us, he is our only hope.

I know my perspective is not unique, but it seems so within current political discourse where the white elite has the loudest voice. Growing up in Milwaukee and going to Milwaukee public schools, the disparity of wealth is so much more apparent to me. My sibling transferred from MPS to schools in Wauwatosa in seventh grade. Their and my high school experience are significantly different. By my senior year, our entire school was granted free or reduced lunch. Our student body was already at least 90% free or reduced lunch, so a program where everyone had it was cheaper overall. Everyone I knew had jobs and/or side hustles and worked for everything they had, while kids in Wauwatosa appeared to come from a place of privilege where such work was not a necessity. My sibling became more and more frustrated with how it seemed that their peers did not need to work for anything. 

Many of my friends did not go to college after high school because the cost was just too much, despite scholarships. If they did go, it was only for a few years before they left because of untreated mental health. Many then relocated to Riverwest, where they became part of a close-knit community plagued with substance and sexual abuse. Some became heavily addicted to coke, crack and/or heroin. Now, folks have either moved away and steered clear of heavy substances, are heavily addicted or overdosed. Many do not have a financial safety net with their parents and scrape money together from food service, retail or trades that slowly wear down their bodies. They do not have healthcare. They cannot afford medications or go to therapy. They cannot go back to school. Some of them have to choose between eating and getting hormones for their transition. My family is scraping to get me and my sibling through school, and I am very lucky that I can lean on them for a place to stay, food, healthcare and support. Both my sibling and I are pursuing degrees in the arts, which do not have much financial return, but we cannot see ourselves doing anything else. 

 We do not have the option of supporting another candidate. With Sanders’ plans, we would be able to pay for school. I could go to graduate school and pursue programs focusing on improvisation and contemporary music in cities with high costs of living. My friends could go back to school. We would all get paid more and not live in the tight grip of our financial anxieties. We could go to the doctor. We would not have to pay $8,000 in copays. We would be able to breathe. 

I am trying not to get my hopes up for a Sanders win, because the disappointment would be too great to bear. For a lot of us, Bernie is the answer. He is our only hope for survival.