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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 12/22/19

Okay Boomers, Wake UP!: Sanders is the person you used to be but forgot about

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By Dave Lindorff

I keep reading that polls show young people - the so-called Millennial Generation aged 23-38- are overwhelmingly backing Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination (along with even younger voters) while the so-called Baby Boom Generation of people now aged roughly 55 to 75 are going for Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg or some other ossified mainstream Democratic pol.

Speaking as a 70-year-old Baby Boomer myself, and increasingly an admirer of Sanders, I gotta ask: OK Boomers, what's happened to you?

Think back: What were you doing back in the late 1960s when you were in your teens or early 20s as the Civil Rights Movement was finally winning the right to vote for Black people, when the Vietnam War was raging and classmates of yours were coming home in body bags? Where were you when President Nixon in 1970 urged Ohio Republican Governor James Rhodes to send the Ohio National Guard onto the Kent State Campus to put down a student protest against his illegal invasion of Cambodia, expanding an ugly war to yet another country, and the "heroic" guardsmen shot and killed four unarmed students? Where were you when we were all shattering the walls of prudery, experimenting with sex, the mind-freeing wonders of marijuana and yes, even LSD? Where were you as women and their male supporters suddenly stood tall and said that just having the vote wasn't enough; they demanded equality with men on the job, in the home, in politics and in their relationships?

We Boomers have been maligned in the media and by politicians since back when we were wearing bell-bottom jeans and sandals, when women were putting flowers in their usually long or frizzed-out hair, and when any guy with the slightest facial hair grew a beard or at least a mustache (lately, the attackks are that we're keeping jobs from young people by not retiring, or that we're hurting our children's retirement future by opposing any cuts in our own benefits!) More importantly we were marching against war, against nuclear weapons and arms spending, and condemning the empty consumerism of our parents. In obtaining our attire from thrift stores and traveling the roads by thumb, we were challenging the premise of capitalism itself, saying that it wasn't the trendiness of what you owned that defined you, it was what you stood for.

We were reading the Realist, R. Crumb Comix, New Times and Ramparts, as well as writers like Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Herbert Marcuse, Betty Friedan, Malcolm X, Marshal McLuhan and Henry Thoreau for our worldview.

And we were, for the most part I would argue, happier and freer than we are today.

Somehow, in the intervening years since the victory of the Vietnamese over the country's US invaders, the impeachment hearings and resignation of Nixon, the end of the draft, passage of the Voting Rights Act and creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and the at least partial liberation of women, we've lost our way. We got married, raised families, fretted over the size of the IRA and 401(k) plans we and our weakened trade unions if we still had them, were forced to rely on instead of the real pensions workers in an age of stronger unions used to have. And even worse, we became consumers instead of people, morphing into better-off versions of our own parents. Some of us even became Republicans or Neo-liberal Democrats, worried more about our own gain than about those who were being left behind or crushed by what we used to call the "System," and ignoring what our nation was and still is doing to the world.

During all these intervening years, as we've lost our way, Bernie Sanders has stayed the course. Four years too old to be officially a Baby Boomer, Sanders, born in 1941, hails from that demographic cohort that, during the Nixon years, to its undying disgrace, came to be known, and even to self-identify, as the Silent Generation consisting of those born between the wars or during WWII. Sanders, though, has never been silent. He protested and faced arrest as a student defending the rights of American blacks and opposed both US apartheid and the Vietnam War. He then entered politics as a socialist, winning election as mayor of Burlington, VT (which under his leadership become known jokingly as "the People's Republic of Burlington" " and admiringly as one of the best US cities to live in). Later he moved on to Congress, first as a representative and then as the state's junior senator - a position he still holds.

Bernie Sanders, my fellow Boomers, is the person we had intended to be as we grew older and wiser: Obstinate and outspoken defenders of the downtrodden, rejectors of consumerism, and advocates of the notion that we all are better off when we demand that government help those who are the neediest, not those who are the most wealthy and powerful. Sanders may have on occasion failed to remember our Edwin Starr mantra "War: What is it good for? Absolutely Nothin!," but he seems to be coming around to that view again in this race for the presidency.

We Boomers as a group need to do the same. In fact, those of us who are not supporting Sanders in this coming election year need to do some soul searching about who we really are and what we really stand for.

Maybe my insurance plan (at a significant cost ) is really great , but that is no reason for me to oppose expanded and improved Medicare for All as proposed by Sen. Sanders. Not only would Medicare for All cost me a lot less than I pay now for healthcare coverage, but with Medicare for All I would know that everyone else in this nation - all my fellow citizens - would have the same access to free high-quality health care as me.

Maybe if the government subsidized the installation of point-of-use electrical generating equipment (wind, geothermal or solar panels) on all US homes, I'd be paying higher taxes, but our air would be vastly cleaner, our cars would all be electric and virtually cost-free to drive, and we'd no longer have power bills from climate-change-inducing and pollution-causing power plant operator. A Green New Deal that promises to find jobs for those displaced by the urgent shutdown of greenhouse gas polluters, as advocated by Sanders, even if jarring for some, would be good for everyone.

If we ended our national imperial policy of endless wars and slashed military spending, maybe the US military and the arms industry would lay off a lot of people, but Americans would be viewed a lot better by the rest of the world, and our nation would be able to spend a trillion dollars a year or more in productive rather than destructive ways - like engaging in a crash program to save the earth from human-caused mass extinction.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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7 people are discussing this page, with 16 comments


Dave Lindorff

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One thing missing is a strategy to win on the first ballot, so the convention doesn't get taken over by bribes and other chicanery. I think the best solution is for Sanders and Warren, who like each other and are not attacking each other, to go ahead and campaign their hardest for votes, double teaming the mainstream/conservative opponents they both face, with a public agreement that, whichever of them ends up with fewer delegates will ask that delegate pool to switch over to the one who garnered the most delebates. Between them they should have little trouble coming up with a majority of delegates. If they make such a deal, one of them WILL be the Democratic Party's nominee to face Trump in the fall.


Dave Lindorff

founding editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net


Submitted on Monday, Dec 23, 2019 at 2:23:52 AM

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Susan Lee Schwartz

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I have been thinking g along these lines... but I do not see it happening.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 4:40:35 AM

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Don Smith

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Sanders and Warren combined have more support than Biden, who polls under 30%. Let's hope Sanders and Warren don't continue to divide the progressive vote, throwing the nomination to a centrist Dem.

I love Bernie's policies, and I think that even many people who say that he's unelectable love his policies. But they see that billions will be spent to oppose him (or Warren) if he gets the nomination.

My biggest complaint about Sanders is that he continues to call himself a socialist when he's really just a social democrat. What a mistake! Bernie, please stop calling yourself a socialist. You're a social democrat!

Submitted on Monday, Dec 23, 2019 at 7:54:22 PM

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Dave Lindorff

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Reply to Don Smith:   New Content

I disagree Don. The definition of Socialist is someone who wants to increase public ownership of key parts of the economy, particularly those that are inherently non-competitive. At the same time, the definition of Socialism is a system that expands democracy to include the workplace.

a democratic socialist is a tautology as is a social democrat (actually more of a party name than an ideology).

The real concern is that in the US, decades of propaganda have blurred the distinction between socialist and communist as well as failing to draw the distinction between a Communist with a Capital C, and a communist -- someone who believes in democratic worker control over the means of production. The horrors and excesses of Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China were used to tar the ideal of communism, which was actually trashed in both those companies long ago.

Sanders is making socialism okay for respectable discourse, and for that he is to be commended, not criticized.

I'll add that Social Democratic parties, like those in Germany, France and the Labour party under Tony Blair, have given the term a very bad name by acquiescing in war-mongering as lackeys of the US. True socialists abhor and opppose war, recognizing the brother/sisterhood of all working people. A nobel sentiment that we need to insist upon.

Sanders appears, especially these days to be doing that.

Dave Lindorff

founding editor of ThisCantBeHappeing.net

Submitted on Monday, Dec 23, 2019 at 8:42:15 PM

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Socialism is economic policy. Communism is a political process. The 'spin' used by those who need to tarnish the issue of providing for the common good, is to equate social policies with Soviet Communism. Ignorance prevails, and thus Finland -- which is NOT a communist country--educates all its children, and provides medical care for all-- as do most modern nations...except us.. where predatory capitalism and corporate lobbyists rule.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 4:38:57 AM

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David, did you even READ my article? Numerous experts, including Noam Chomsky and Professor Frances Fox Piven, the honorary chairperson of the Democratic Socialists of America, say that Bernie is not a socialist. Don't try to change the meaning of words!

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 6:31:17 PM

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With all due respect to Noam and Francis, Socialism must be democratic or it's not Socialism. Social democracy is a tautology. The effort to draw a line between them is dancing on the head of a needle.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 7:34:59 PM

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Thanks so much for writing this. You've done a great job saying some of the things I've been thinking and some of the things I hadn't thought of.


It is really embarrassing that our generation have become so shortsighted or, worse florid Trump supporters drinking the Trump Cult Koolaid.


Submitted on Monday, Dec 23, 2019 at 9:42:58 PM

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What galls me most are the liberal Boomers who have gone over from 'peace and love" hippies to self-satisfied libertarians. They may detest Trump, but they also sniff at the idea of "socialism."


In fact, socialism is the political manifestation of the '60s dream of from each according to their ability and to each according to their need.


The libertarian creed in contrast is to each according to their ability to get it, and from each if they feel like it.


Glad you liked the piece, and thanks for top listing it for a while on the OpEd site! Happy holidays to you and everyone at OpEd including the readership!


Dave Lindorff


Submitted on Monday, Dec 23, 2019 at 11:25:28 PM

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Love it. Merry Holiday.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 4:32:45 AM

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Bernie was president of my Madison High School senior class.... 'I studied "The Federalist' and American history in the same social studies class taught by Larry Storch!

I would put our yearbook photo here, but there is no way I can post any photo on this site.

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 4:28:22 AM

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The F Troop corporal? That is an interesting coincidence.

Submitted on Thursday, Dec 26, 2019 at 5:16:51 AM

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Well, Super-dupe'r Demo Delegates will probably be the Deciders, or do I digress?

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 6:39:55 AM

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I think what happened is that a minority of the baby boomers drove getting out of vietnam, voting and civil rights and that it was strong enough to be a deciding factor to change the narrative for a day. Were the left and center left ever a majority that could sustain the 60's egalitarian framework through our cline? I don't think so. The sucking sound of fiat arrived in '71 with the rejuvenated new deal reactionaries and their new racist civic structures and the Lords of Capital. Baby boomers jumped on the capitalist bandwagon riding it through low wage capitalist countries as we trashed unions with hypocritical surveillance state leadership and alowed ouselves to be duped into equating debt as credit.

There were warning phenomena all over the place. The congressional black caucus was one. It changed from a slightly progressive force to a sold out dictatorship of misleaders...misleading blacks to sit in the front of the bus instead of driving the miscreants on the bus over the cliff.

What we have today is a result of the old guard reenforcing the sustenance of Nixon's "silent majority".

Submitted on Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 at 12:08:36 PM

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Well done, Dave Lindorff.

Submitted on Thursday, Dec 26, 2019 at 5:20:36 AM

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David, Forbes had an article in 2016: Bernie's Democratic Socialism Isn't Socialism, It's Social Democracy.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jan 1, 2020 at 5:19:13 PM

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