Feelin’ the Bern

By Sheryl Hamlin

In a critical 1958 interview between Mike Wallace and Aldous Huxley, whose futuristic novel Brave New World written in 1932 foretold a dystopian, information driven top-down society ruled by an oligarchy of propaganda creators, Huxley cites the oligarchy of the Soviet Union whose members had a high standard of living filled with perks, while the rest of the citizens who fought for the revolution, did not share in the benefits of the new society.

Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic candidate for President of the United States, fears that the United States is also becoming an oligarchy ruled for and by an elite oligarchy. His solutions include raising the minimum wage, free public college, pre-kindergarten education, a return to Glass-Steagall, break up the big banks and a massive infrastructure fund to create jobs and improve the country’s failing systems.

Not discussed at the event were specifics of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was implemented in 1932 during the Depression in order to regulate banks and protect depositors. Repealing Glass-Steagall allowed banks to combine consumer deposits with investment banking funds and products, such as financial derivatives. The legislative repeal was signed by President Bill Clinton who claimed the law was “no longer appropriate” and still contends this is true. The Clinton era gave rise to the brilliant Wall Street quantitative mathematicians. Called “quants”, these mathematicians demanded and received high salaries and bonuses for creating financial products. The most famous was profiled in this Wired article who is now working in China and has left the United States.

On July 28, 2015 Bernie Sanders launched the first live event of his unique campaign which he calls “a true people’s movement”. According to the first speaker, a young African American woman, over 100,000 people in more than 3,700 homes are attending this first live event. She cited Bernie’s concern for police brutality, unaffordable higher education, economic gains going to the 1%, no progress on immigration, climate change and civil rights, saying Senator Sanders had the “best civil rights record of any candidate”. She also highlighted the fact that Bernie Sanders is not beholden to Wall Street.

The 25 attendees at the meeting to which I reserved a spot fit the demographic which appears to mirror Sanders’ constituency nationally: non-Hispanic, white and educated. In conversations with people at this meeting, there was a clear feeling of estrangement between themselves and the political process. Who is Washington serving?


Senator Sanders took the podium with a few sheets of crumpled, yellow ruled papers, but seemed to talk without using them. He thanked everyone for being part of “political history”, saying that his campaign had over 300,000 individual contributions averaging about $35.00. Why is this happening? Because, says Sanders, “enough is enough”.


Americans, Sanders says, have had enough of a handful of billionaires running the country and benefiting from its wealth, unequal distribution of income and wealth, major corporations who pay little or no taxes, a decline in the middle class for the last 40 years, longer working hours with lower wages and a real unemployment of 10.5%. In fact, he states that youth unemployment is creating a generation of desperation with 35% white, 36% Hispanic and 51% African American unemployment for high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20.

The United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, so why cannot students attend higher education? He proposes free tuition in public college which will send a message to disadvantaged youth that it IS possible to move up the ladder if you stay in school and learn something. He also proposes refinancing student debt to very low levels, so that the government is not profiting on these loans. America must lead with the best educated population in the world.

He revisits the Citizens United decision numerous times: “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), is a U.S. constitutional law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations. The United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.”

Though not mentioned, the Citizens United case was actually brought on by the 1992 McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law which allowed the creation of the Super Pacs (Political Action Committees) where candidates can collect unlimited sums from organizations who are not required to disclose their donors. This law was signed by President George W. Bush.

Other topics Sanders mentioned quickly were illegal immigration and health care, saying that millions living in the “shadows” must be given light and that there are still 35 million people without health care in the United States. Most importantly, he said, is that “no President can do it all” because the military-industrial complex, the corporations, insurance companies dictate the process of government, control the media and can contribute unlimited funds legally to their causes.

Senator Sanders ended saying that citizens must talk to one another and create a “Political Revolution”. Now is the time to transform the system into one that works for everyone.

Larry Cohen, past president of the CCWA, spoke of his 20 year relationship with Bernie Sanders. Cohen says that Sanders represents the values of the people and that they have enlisted 1.3 million volunteers nationally. To volunteer, one can go to this link where many jobs are available. Interestingly enough only one union has endorsed a candidate thus far, which is the teachers’ union who endorsed Hillary Clinton. At this point, candidates are jockeying for this endorsement. Can a union endorse a candidate who threatens to remove their ability to donate without limits to political candidates?

For a history of Sanders’ political evolution, this New York Times’ article provides the history of Bernie’s “revolutionary roots”, as they are called.

History has shown that disenfranchised populations lead to revolutions and revolutionary candidates. Can it not be said that the country has seen disenfranchised voters before, but the “mainline” system has battled back. Study the 1912 election when Teddy Roosevelt left the Republican Party to run as a third party candidate and beat the Republican, but lost to the Democrat. Ross Perot in 1992 ran against George H.W. Bush and most recently Donald Trump is leading the polls in the GOP primary. Why? Disenfranchised voters.

Is it possible that a disenfranchised citizenry can put Senator Bernie Sanders in the White House? As this Atlantic article points out, the frustration level since 1992 has grown considerably. And that frustration level could just start a political revolution.


Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

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