Skip to main content

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from a Bernie 'Skeptic'

Ultimately, what I'd like to know is that you and your team of advisers have taken the time to do the diligence of mapping out a detailed, step-by-step strategy to achieving what you're promising.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Dear Senator Sanders,

Congratulations on your success so far. It's not an insignificant feat to gain so much ground on Hillary Clinton in such a relatively short period of time. You and your supporters should be extremely gratified by your victory in New Hampshire and the precipitous tightening of the national polls.

Enough of that crap. Let's get down to it.

I want to vote for you. I honestly do. But you haven't convinced me yet.

Before I get into exactly why, here's some background. The Great Recession was one of the most difficult times of my life, and that's understating the horrendousness of it all. Simply put: I experienced nearly every conceivable downside of an economic depression short of prison or suicide. Within three years, the collapse of the economy forced me to shut down two businesses, one of which I owned for 10 years; I had to short sell a business property; my house fell into foreclosure; my cars were repossessed; I was uninsured; creditors harassed me around the clock; I had to file Chapter 7 to dissolve copious business debt; I went through a divorce; I couldn't pay my taxes and a lien was filed on my property; and it took me several more years to recover my credit rating and, more importantly, my personal income. I went from owning in a 3,000 square foot house to renting a 700 square foot studio apartment. And, yes, it was all due to the very same Wall Street millionaires and billionaires you've spent so much of your life fighting against.

Knowing all this, I owe it to my 2009 self to vote for you. More specifically, I owe it to myself to vote for your ideas. Seeing the new film The Big Short solidified this notion for me as I watched a dramatic re-enactment of everything that nearly destroyed my life -- the very same corruption your campaign seeks to eradicate.

Yet I remain firmly and frustratingly ensconced in the undecided category. Allow me to explain.

In 2008 and again in 2012, I proudly and vocally supported Barack Obama. He remains arguably the greatest chief executive of our time for innumerable reasons. I don't mind saying Obama was "my guy" in the political sense. He represented the kind of president I had hoped for throughout my adult life: a hyper-disciplined pragmatist with progressive values and interminable thoughtfulness.

Likewise, in 2008, I vocally opposed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton for many of the reasons your supporters cite today. I don't dislike Clinton, and I will surely vote for her if she's the nominee (sorry). But I recognize her downsides as well as the baggage she brings to the table. However, as you know, she's pledged to continue and build upon the Obama legacy, and this is quite attractive to millions of Obama voters like me.

I also recall how, way back in 2006, you and Thom Hartmann repeatedly warned us about the imminent financial meltdown. I wish I had taken your warnings more seriously. I might've avoided some of the harsher beatings I endured during the recession. Suffice to say, you deserve more credit than you receive for being prescient enough to recognize what was coming.

At the same time, I still have reservations about voting for you.

I think you can guess some of the usual gripes, so I won't reiterate them here, save for one. Frankly, I don't see how you intend to implement your legislative agenda, much less a broader political revolution. Worse, none of your surrogates, supporters or your own stump speeches have satisfied my understandable curiosity about how you intend to pass single-payer and so on, even with a Democratic supermajority in both chambers of Congress.

So far, there's been nothing by way of a proposed Sanders legislative road map to passing single-payer or reinstating Glass-Steagall or winning universal college education and all the rest of it. And whenever I ask out loud, I'm either shouted down as a Hillary shill or I'm told that the political revolution will -- PRESTO! -- magically take care of everything. It's simultaneously a defensive and murky set of responses we're hearing out here, and ultimately the blame has to be attributed to your campaign, unfortunately.

I'd like to know the answer to two simple questions, with a contingency that I'll emphasize presently:

1) How do you intend to whip the votes for your agenda without at least a 70-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a wide margin in the House? Where will the votes come from given the existence of moderate, red-state Democrats who will never vote for single-payer, not to mention your other democratic-socialist agenda items, as evidenced by the fact that Blue Dogs nearly killed the Affordable Care Act due to the public option?

2) How do you intend to deal with the economic repercussions of breaking up the big banks while undermining the corporate healthcare sector? Have you considered the possibility that it'd precipitate another deep recession?

Neither of these questions have been answered, even by Thom Hartmann and Robert Reich, each of whom reside among smartest and wonkiest of your A-list supporters.

But you know what? They don't necessarily need to be answered. No need to tip your hand now, especially knowing how nefarious the Republicans have been.

Ultimately, what I'd like to know is that you and your team of advisers have taken the time to do the diligence of mapping out a detailed and step-by-step strategy to achieving what you're promising. Even if the strategy fails and your agenda has to be compromised, the very fact that you took the time -- now, not later -- to outline your path forward shows that your platform isn't just wishful thinking or empty populism. I'm sorry to say, in absence of a plan, much of what you're proposing sounds like the latter.

This can't be underscored enough. Without knowing that there's a plan to bring your agenda to fruition, I can't help but to think you're merely winning votes by cynically telling your audiences what they want to hear -- those audiences being composed of many first-timers to the process who might not realize the practically insurmountable obstacles in the path of what you're promising.

Additionally, knowing that you have a plan for passing a Sanders administration agenda shows me and many other pragmatists that you have the character and fortitude -- the attention to detail -- to dig deeper than just the Big Ideas. Put another way: it's the existence or nonexistence of this legislative plan that bridges the chasmic breach between your idealistic agenda and the practical congressional implementation of those ideas. It's the difference between empty promises and fully realized ones, with a road map in hand.

I suppose I should mention that, yes, I've considered the same questions regarding the Clinton agenda. Clearly, though, her proposals are decidedly more moderate and therefore would have a greater chance of winning the critical support of Blue Dogs and the like. I'm more concerned about a president whose entire platform has been more or less unheard of in modern times. If the Clinton team were proposing a similarly far-reaching slate, I'd be equally as skeptical. But, again, that skepticism will dissipate when we hear that you've done the hard work of determining your path to achieving what your most activated supporters expect.

Some other time I'll ask you how you intend to compete against a billion-dollar-plus Republican opponent in the general election while only accepting individual donations.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for putting these issues on the table. At the very least, your presence in this campaign will make it easier for centrist and center-left Democrats to embrace liberal solutions that've been lacking in the party for more than 45 years.

Best of luck in Nevada and South Carolina.

Bob Cesca
The Daily Banter
February 17. 2016