How I came to support Bernie Sanders
By Dan Riker
I grew up during the golden years of the 50s and 60s when one income supported families. College education was financially feasible. Life seemed to be improving for almost everyone. It certainly was for me. I am a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of Baltimore School of Law. I've had several careers - in journalism, in the big corporation, and as an entrepreneur. I was the CEO of a wireless company, a bookseller and I have written four books.
Like many in my generation, I focused most of my time and energy on my various careers and business activities as well as my family. For much of our lives we lived the American Dream - something that seems mythical to today's young people.
While I was not paying attention, that "Shining City on a Hill" that Ronald Reagan talked about was looted by some of his powerful supporters. Our country was hijacked, and along with it, the futures of our children and grandchildren. I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to find a solution to our economic and political problems. There is no better way to learn about something than to write a book about it. And that's what I did. In so doing I discovered that the solution – like Edgar Allan Poe's famous short story about the Purloined Letter - was hidden in plain sight - in our case, in our history.
Not counting wars, we have had three major crises in America since 1900 - all the result of Republican policies. Progressive leaders and policies brought America safely out of two of them.
Fearing there would be a revolution in the United States over the enormous abuses of the Gilded Age robber barons and Republican Party laissez-faire policies, Theodore Roosevelt embraced Progressive ideas. He saw them as taming the worst features of capitalism and saving capitalism from itself.
Franklin Roosevelt’s progressive New Deal saved America from the second great crisis, the Great Depression.
We now are living through the third crisis. Even though Democrats have held the White House for 15 of the last 23 years, neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama reversed the devastating trickle-down, supply-side, economic policies implemented by Ronald Reagan. We have the worst economic inequality in our history. Nearly all income and wealth are going to the wealthy. The middle class now is less than 50% of the population. Half of all wage-workers are not making enough money from their fulltime jobs to support their families. 30% of children live in poverty. We are the only developed nation that has these problems – and there is no reason we should have them.
My principal conclusion in my book, reached long before Bernie Sanders decided to run for President, is that to overcome our current crisis we have to have a new progressive movement. For that movement to be successful, there has to be national progressive leadership and a following by millions of people over an extended period of time - maybe several elections. Bernie repeatedly has said he cannot do it by himself, that what he is trying to do is lead a progressive movement to take control of governments across the country.
Bernie is one of the leaders I was looking for. Elizabeth Warren is another. They have the right vision for America. Even though Bernie calls himself a democratic socialist, most of his platform comes straight from the progressive platforms and programs of Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.
Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt both supported bank regulation and FDR imposed restrictions on Wall Street. FDR said education was a human right, Both Roosevelts supported health care as a right. Both supported a living wage. FDR’s investments in infrastructure helped the recovery from the Depression. Bernie wants to make massive investments in infrastructure now. Bernie wants to end our current Prohibition – the war on drugs. FDR ended the last one. Bernie wants to tax corporate profits hidden offshore. Corporate tax revenues as a percentage of all taxes were three times higher under FDR than they are now.
Bernie’s program is not radical, or even socialist. It is “as American as apple pie.”
Bernie Sanders has proven he is a great leader by inspiring the massive movement we need. He has thousands of volunteers across the country - hundreds of Bernie groups that spontaneously sprung up. He has overwhelming support among younger voters - particularly the millennials and even younger voters. They are our future. If they are with Bernie - and with his progressive ideas - and if they have the patience and fortitude it will take to bring those ideas to life - I think we can win.
And, I believe we have to succeed. We cannot say it cannot be done. It has to be done. We must fix America. We, the people, can do it. Let's do what must be done so that we carry out our duty to our heritage and to those who will come after us. Let's make America work for everyone.
And if we achieve this, if we elect Bernie Sanders, and with him a whole lot of other progressive Democrats, we will do just what progressives always have done, we will save the country by saving capitalism from itself.