Bernie in San Jose

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

20 thoughts on “Bernie in San Jose”

  1. Things are changing fast, JE. It’s probably even money that, by the time the election rolls around, at least one of the remaining 3 old-man presidential candidates will be dead of coronavirus.


      1. Failing to address our 21st century challenges: climate change amongst other ecological catastrophes coming down the pipe; healthcare; developments in robotics and algorithms; housing crisis…Rather than dealing with reality we are fighting the old liberal v. conservative battles, which means freaking out about socialism, etc….I don’t know that the two parties really even stand for anything any longer. It’s sort of just power for power’s sake. At least that’s what it looks like when you take the party standard bearers of 2016 and now in 2020. The Right has gone full on authoritarian and the Dems now want to run a battery operated corpse as their 2020 nominee.


  2. I voted for Sanders during early votinga week, expecting it to be a tight race between him and Biden in NC on Super Tuesday. Then came the Buttigieg and Klobuchar bombshells. Did I presume that the fix was in, that the DNC had offered them some quid pro quos for bailing and endorsing Biden? I did. But their positions had always lined up more closely with Biden than with Sanders or Warren. Even so, Biden is more progressive than he used to be, and if he’s nominated he would put forward the most progressive set of policies than any Dem nominee in my lifetime. He’s moved left, and so has the Party, thanks in large part to Sanders. Is Biden mentally fit for the job? I don’t know. He always seemed the least capable candidate on the debate stage, but overall he’s made sense despite some gaffes. Trump was starting to look like he would get re-elected in a landslide, but in the last two weeks Trump’s odds have been slipping fast. I guess Uncle Joe just seems like a nice guy to those suburbanites who aren’t particularly committed to any ideological position. And I’d rather have a demented Biden that a psychopathic Trump.

    I don’t think Sanders should step down yet. In the next debate I’d hope that there could be some agreement between him and Biden about why coronavirus highlights the need for universal healthcare and childcare and sick leave, in contrast to Trump’s proposals intended solely to prop up Wall Street.

    What’s your take so far?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you probably watched at least some debates and could read Biden’s policy statements as well as I. Some planks:
      – Ban capital punishment at the federal level.
      – Support Green New Deal at least in principle; eliminate net greenhouse emissions by 2050.
      – Minimum wage $15.
      – No student debt on first 2 years of college.
      – Family leave.
      – Expand Obamacare eligibility; reduce premiums; offer public option; expand Medicaid eligibility.
      – Raise taxes on the wealthy, on corporations, on capital gains.

      He’s no Bernie, and he’s awfully militaristic, but he’s left of Obama.


  3. John, I’m not certain that the Democratic Party is very well situated to win a general election. The party is weak right now. They were too weak to win in 2016, losing (literally) at every level, from the Presidency down to state elections. They are still able to control the primary and get an establishment guy through, but that’s only because they have super delegates, control of the liberal media, and a panicked base that’s only freaked out about Trump. (This plays right into Trump’s hands, btw.)

    Joe also has baggage, every bit as much as Clinton did in 2016. We’ll see how all this plays out in the general election. For my part, I think that 2020 was kind of our last shot to take the country in a different direction. I think that the future of the U.S. will be reactive, responding to one crisis after another. The chickens, as they say, will come home to roost. So my attention will likely be elsewhere, not on electoral politics. Well except local politics.


    1. So I guess you won’t be campaigning for Biden. Will you vote for him?

      Here’s some of today’s news:

      “House Democratic leaders outlined their legislation to rank and file members at a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon. The plan includes federally funded paid sick and family leave, an expansion of food security benefits for low-income families and other proposals to encourage people with symptoms to come forward and be tested, according to several Democrats in the meeting. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., told reporters he worked on a portion of the bill that would expand unemployment insurance to provide reimbursement to states.”We are acting on a national health emergency,” Neal said. “This will encourage people to go and get tested.””

      That’s the rank-and-file Dem establishment — I’d call that way more responsive than cutting payroll taxes (that pay for Medicare and Social Security) while bailing out the fracking and airline industries and, yes, making more cheap money available to banks so they can LOAN more money to people sick or laid off because of the pandemic.


  4. From Sanders’s speech last night:

    “Today I say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them,” Sanders said. “You cannot simply be satisfied by winning the votes of older people.”

    That’s right. What are those issues? Climate change, living wage, economic disparity, shitty job prospects — what else? Healthcare might not be of that much concern to the youngest demographic. Foreign policy? I doubt it, but I might be wrong. A general sense of angst and hopelessness and psychological distress? Yes, and I suppose addressing those more existential concerns is a lot of what Sanders brings to the dais what Sleepy Joe can’t hope to emulate. Socialism addresses the economic concerns more directly, which is why I voted for Sanders.

    Here’s WaPo’s spin on Sanders’s remarks:

    “In effect, Sanders was signaling that although Biden’s advantage in the race might prove too difficult to overcome — he notably did not pledge to run against him through all 50 state contests as he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 — he intends to pressure Biden to adopt more liberal positions and has no intention of quietly stepping aside before getting a chance to take him on directly. “Bernie Sanders won so much support on the left because of his vision, and today he offered Joe Biden a blueprint of things he needs to do to bring over part of the Sanders coalition,” said Rebecca Katz, a liberal strategist. “He’s basically telling Biden what the olive branch should be.””

    So that’s the mainstream Dem Party angle — pull presumptive nominee Biden a little more solidly to the left on youth-related issues. It’ll be interesting to see whether Biden hits some of those progressive notes more solidly in the next debate now that he figures he’s won. Now, though, the coronavirus is the most pressing issue, and it’s only going to get worse. Hopefully Sanders and Biden will both hit that one hard, taking the side of the effects on people’s lives rather than on corporate profits. Universal healthcare, free college tuition, paid sick leave for all, guaranteed income for those laid off in economic downturn — all of it is best addressed by a Sanders-oriented democratic socialism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem, though, is that Joe is from the neoliberal school, which has the strategic approach of going left during the primary then shifting to the center in the general election, then shifting even farther to the right once the office is assumed (so as to stave off the barking dogs on the right wing). We know the playbook, so most of us simply will not be down with Joe, and they know that, so I am skeptical that there is an olive branch in the works. But even if there were, is that enough to address the problems of the future. No way. We need bold proposals, such as the Green New Deal, to meet the coming catastrophes that we’ve been building toward without addressing for more than 50 years. (The oil companies have known about global warming, e.g., for about that period of time.) But such bold proposals cannot be put forward by Biden because he’s getting paid by the very interest groups that programs like a Green New Deal (and Medicare 4 All) would effectively end. The programs we need would end the easy gravey train for the interest groups paying Joe to be President.

      Joe is not the compromise candidate. Joe is politics as usual. Joe is political impotence. The compromise candidate, in fact, was Bernie. Bernie isn’t a far left Castro revolutionary. He’s more akin to an FDR, but perhaps a little to the left. Still, Bernie was the only one who could have taken the current system and led a peaceful and relatively easy transition to a more sane and just society.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, Jon. I too find the status quo frustrating and stifling, and it does seem that political promises are made to be broken. Maybe it’s just my irrepressible optimism looking for silver linings haha.

      You’ll probably recall that I was critical of Obamacare when it was first rolled out, mostly because it meant that government would pay private healthcare contractors (insurers, pharmas, hospitals, doctors, etc.) without controlling costs, thereby enhancing corporate profits. So in essence Obamacare is a neoliberal enabler. Still, the program has gotten adequate healthcare to millions of people with limited financial means, and in that regard it was an effective progressive program. Arguably Medicare For All extends the reach of that program even farther, where the government foots all bills incurred by private-sector healthcare with less unproductive red tape bogging down the system. One consequence is that it lets the employers off the hook for covering workers’ healthcare, which was an explicit reason why Andrew Yang supported it. It makes the American workforce more competitive in a global capitalistic economy, which increases corporate profits. Still, if everybody gets good healthcare for small out-of-pocket costs, that’s not a bad thing.

      None of this is socialism; it’s safety-net protection against the predations of laissez-faire capitalism. I’m suggesting that there are other progressive programs that a neoliberally inclined Dem Party might support because it, like single-payer private-sector healthcare for all, benefits the corporate owners as well as a sector of the underprivileged. Free community college might be such program: government provides job training at no cost to employers. Still, free 2 years of college for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it seems like aprogressive gain to me. Free preschool would likely provide incentives for more mothers to stay in the private-sector workforce, generating more profits for their corporate owners, while the kids get a head start on later becoming more competent workers themselves.

      The Green New Deal too: the Federal government foots the bill for R&D and for job creation in renewable energy. But as I read the proposal it’s not talking about people actually working for a government-owned clean energy utility. Instead it’s talking about the government paying for training and an infrastructure that would let private-sector, for-profit energy corporations retool from fossil fuels to green power sources without suffering the ramp-up costs. Again, it would be a kind of neoliberal enabling program, but it preserves the planet and ensures the smooth transition of a new workforce into union jobs with pretty good pay.

      I don’t really understand why it seems like such a difficult task to get people to see the benefits they’d derive from a socialist-run economy in which the workers collectively control the jobs and benefit from automation. But given that it does seem so difficult, isn’t it worthwhile to find some of these opportunities for deriving progressive benefits that also benefit the 1 percent? That’s pretty much the situation with the social democracies in Scandinavia.

      Anyhow, I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s debate — Friday the Thirteenth!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t disagree with your analysis. The only thing I’d add is that it’s been easy to demonize socialism due in large part to the fact that the U.S. has never had a left-wing party. This of course is largely due to the electoral college. So the irony, today in 2020, is that the U.S. has a political system with two parties that represent corporations and the wealthy, we have two parties to represent the various interests of the bourgeoisie, we have a party that represents racists and other forms of bigotry, but no party to represent working people or the interests of the political left…..Thanks Uncle Sam!….Oops. my cynicism is showing. But that leads into the reason I replied: I’m curious what makes you optimistic. Or was that pure, unadulterated sarcasm?

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Hmm, good question. There has been more willingness from both capitalistic parties to rely on government spending to juice the economy, with less concern for balancing the budget. Quantitative easing rather than austerity, government borrowing rather than increased taxes. Since wages have remained suppressed for decades and people are already spending their whole paychecks without saving, then the spender of last resort has to be the government.

      The politicos still talk about it as “economic stimulus” for getting the private sector economy growing — Keynesian economic policy — but it’s become a chronic condition by now. The capitalist class relies on the public sector to pay for shit that their employees can’t afford, like healthcare and childcare/education. And the private sector also relies on government agencies and public universities to pay for corporate R&D and job training, while capitalist owners reap the profits.

      I was just looking at the national debt trend line, and the biggest jumps in government borrowing/spending occurred under Republican presidents Reagan and GW Bush. I’ve always assumed that the Republican gestures to get rid of Obamacare are fake news and bravado, inasmuch as the private-sector health industry is so reliant on it. Can this go on forever, with an ever-growing national debt? Maybe: as long as inflation doesn’t exceed return on investment, then a continually expanding money supply winds up mostly in the pockets of the already-rich — that’s French economist Picketty’s argument. And since the private sector has been in slow growth mode for decades, the danger of inflation remains low.

      So maybe I’m not so much optimistic as realistic in seeing the likelihood that the backers of both parties will continue to grow the public spending sector. It’s become integral to latter-day capitalism.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Coronavirus exposes the inadequacy of the status quo: on healthcare, on emergency responsiveness, on medical leave, on sick pay, on childcare when kids are sent home from school and daycare. As far as the disease itself, the most vulnerable demographic aren’t the young but the elderly — Biden’s most loyal supporters. I’d hope that Sanders will hammer his points home in the debate and while he’s still actively campaigning. Maybe he can sway more suburban middle-class moderates who are less directly affected economically by the plague because they’ve got good jobs and health insurance or are retired and on Medicare, but who will be collateral damage of the widespread systemic failures.

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    1. Speaking of the fragility of capitalism, here’s what was going through my head on this morning’s walk… Let’s say I get coronavirus. Given my demographics there’s maybe a 20% chance that I’d wind up in the hospital. Under Medicare my hospitalization costs would be limited to maybe $2K, which isn’t so bad assuming I survive the ordeal. I have a Medicare Advantage plan, which means that a private insurer (Aetna in my case) assumes the risk for my healthcare in exchange for my fixed monthly Medicare premiums of around $2K per year. The average cost of a hospitalization is around $25K, so Aetna would have to eat around $20K of my coronavirus hospitalization costs.

      From what I understand, it’s not if we get coronavirus but when we get it. The older you are, the more severe your symptoms are likely to be. There’s something like 110 million Americans aged 50 and above, most covered by private health insurance. If all of them eventually get infected and 10% of them get hospitalized, that’s $2.8 trillion in hospital costs. For perspective, total US healthcare costs are around $3.5 trillion annually, so the virus will likely double that number. The federal government can absorb the hit, but the private health insurance companies can’t — they’ll go bankrupt. So even if there were suddenly enough hospital beds and doctors and nurses to take care of the enormous demand, who’s going to pay?

      If Trump plays it like GW and Obama did during the housing bubble, then he’ll bail out the insurers to cover their extraordinary virus-related costs. Next year, after the election, insurance premiums will go through the roof and the financial burden on the populace will be worse than ever. If on the other hand the federal government were to absorb the failed health insurers into Medicare, then the country could transition into a single-payer system over the next 12 months.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep. That’s what we hope for. It’s what would happen, certainly, if we had government representatives who gave a shit about people and weren’t so deeply in bed with the health insurance industry.

        It was super frustrating last night to hear Biden’s idiotic point (at last night’s debate w Bernie) that Italy has a single-payer system and it didn’t help. Clearly Biden is being carefully coached by the health insurance lobbyists. They know that there are a lot of us who want to start building the guillotines, so to speak. Well, some of my more radical comrades actually are building literal guillotines. And on that note,Bernie did call for Big Oil Executives to face criminal prosecution for their lies and cover-ups and profiteering during climate change.

        I’m not sure people are going to take it lightly if Biden or Trump treat the corporations with kid gloves like Obummer did in 2008. These assholes are literally taking the world down. I mean, their just being good capitalists, but in my book they ought to be criminally liable….


    2. I suppose the silver lining (just call me Mr. Brightside) is that Biden would intervene to keep people from going broke covering their coronavirus health costs. In the online plan he talked about in the debate, he calls for:

      A decisive public health response that ensures the wide availability of free testing; the elimination of all cost barriers to preventive care and treatment for COVID-19; the development of a vaccine; and the full deployment and operation of necessary supplies, personnel, and facilities… Ensures that every person, whether insured or uninsured, will not have to pay a dollar out-of-pocket for visits related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, preventative services, and any eventual vaccine. No co-payments, no deductibles, and no surprise medical billing.

      It is the case that Biden would compensate both the populace and the health insurers for their corona-related costs while only making minor alterations to the system. Still, it’s a far better response than GW and Obama came up with for the housing bubble, where they bailed out the financial institutions while letting the people who couldn’t cover their mortgage payments go under. And it’s far more comprehensive than the current virus relief bill approved by Trump and the follow-up bill that the Congress is currently putting the finishing touches on. In general Biden and Sanders agreed on what needs to be done now, and on the fact that Trump isn’t doing it.

      Liked by 1 person

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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