Reich Lists 3 Ingredients Necessary for Change that Bernie's Campaign Includes
My guest today is economist, author, professor of public policy, political commentator and former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Bob.
JB: We last spoke back in 2014. Lots has happened since then. A few weeks back, you wrote a great Op-Ed piece, The Volcanic Core Fueling the 2016 Election[1.26.16]. What is the volcanic core you're referring to? Tell us more, please.
RR: Hi, Joan. I'm referring to a large and growing commitment to wrest control of our democracy and economy back from the moneyed interests -- Wall Street, big corporations, and billionaires. It's becoming a movement. You can see it in the Sanders campaign, for example -- especially among young people who poured into the Iowa caucuses February 1st. But I also see some evidence of the same movement in Republican campaigns.
JB: You mention in your piece that there are many voters who are weighing their options and deciding between Sanders and Trump. That's counterintuitive and also astounding. Can you explain the phenomenon for us? Is it something that is particular to 2016 or have you seen it before?
RR: I've never seen anything like it before, and I was flabbergasted when I began hearing it from voters on my book tour -- mostly from "red state" voters in the South and the Midwest. When I asked them to explain, they talked about crony capitalism, political corruption, corporate welfare, the Wall Street bailout, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the escalation of big money in politics, and so on. What's so striking is that many of them described themselves as conservative Republicans or Tea Partiers, but they sounded like Bernie Sanders.
JB: That is really fascinating. And quite unexpected. You wrote in your OpEd piece, "It's about power -- whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well." I think that's exactly on target. And it may be so, but aren't candidates' actual policy plans important to the voters, too?
RR: Of course, but politicians don't have a prayer of getting their plans enacted without the public behind them. And that's why movement politics is so important. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 couldn't have become realities without the Civil Rights movement. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 wouldn't have stood a chance without the growth of a strong labor movement. Movement politics is especially important in times like these, when the moneyed interests have such a chokehold on our political system.
From flickr.com/photos/47422005@N04/21035735086/: Bernie Sanders - Caricature
(Image by DonkeyHotey) Permission Details DMCA
JB: Ultimately, how realistic is it for outsiders to challenge the system? Trump is a special case because of his unlimited funds so he has no need for Super PACS or establishment acceptance. But how about Bernie? He's an Independent, not even a Democrat and all the powers that be, in and out of the party, keep talking about his unelectability. Your thoughts?
RR: The only people capable of challenging the system are outsiders who (1) raise lots of money from small donors, (2) mobilize a small army of citizens who will continue to push for major reforms even if (especially if) their candidate succeeds but even if he or she doesn't, and (3) use the campaign to help educate the public on what's really happening. In all these respects, Bernie Sanders is doing what's necessary.
JB: You're quite familiar with both of the Democratic candidates. You've known Hillary for decades, her husband even longer, and served in President Clinton's cabinet. But you're also a progressive and Hillary, despite her protestations, mostly is not. Can you compare and contrast Bernie and Hillary, both in style and substance? I think your unique perspective will be helpful to our readers.
RR: I've known Hillary Clinton since she was a freshman at Wellesley, and have always admired her. Of all the candidates now seeking the presidency she's most ready to assume the role and do it exceedingly well. She's extraordinarily smart and disciplined, works fiercely hard, has been a senator and a secretary of state, and has virtually apprenticed for the job -- as a First Lady more directly involved in policy than any other First Lady in history, save perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt. And I think she could accomplish some important incremental changes.
But I don't think she can achieve the magnitude of change that's needed because she isn't leading a movement to reclaim our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests, as is Bernie Sanders..I've worked with Bernie for over twenty years, and know him as someone deeply committed to social justice. Yet his campaign really isn't about him, per se. If Elizabeth Warren had run instead of Bernie, she'd be heading up the same movement. The movement was already there, building steam. ( think Bernie would be the first to admit this.)