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Bill Larsen: Consider the gamble

Other Voices
Bill Larsen

I’m not a betting man, and in the upcoming election that may be a good thing (or not). What I am, however, is a believer in Bernie Sanders and everything he stands for.

It therefore grieves me to no end to feel extremely cautious about his possible nomination.

This caution, of course, is not with Bernie, but with his electability in a time of such partisan divide and unprecedented cheating by the incumbent administration. While I would love to see Sanders in the White House, nominating him for such is a gamble I am increasingly hesitant to take. And what a gamble it would be — for reasons that are obvious (the American public’s utter misconception of “social democracy”), as well as for reasons perhaps not so obvious.

I’ve had several conversations lately with progressive friends who insist on going “all in” for Bernie in a well-principled drive to create an ideal government to foil the inhumane and destructive policies of Donald Trump. “Come hell or high water,” we want Bernie. If he’s elected, they state, it would be a sure bet that things will greatly change for the better. And I agree.

Is going ‘all in’ for Bernie the best gamble at such a perilous period in our history?

We’re in dangerous times, they say, and we need to “go for the gold” to save our democracy.

This is an argument weighted heavily on the side of both principle and optimism. But I wonder if it is wise. Is going “all in” for Bernie the best gamble at such a perilous period in our history? For that matter, with a mad man as president, do we have a right to so gamble?

One thing I notice is that many people making this argument fail to consider the other side of the bet: what if Bernie gains the nomination (if the DNC would even allow this), then loses the election? I also notice that many of these folks are well heeled enough that they won’t be the ones getting slaughtered by four more years of Trump’s evil empire. In this case, all bets are off because, as we’ve seen what this post-impeachment president is capable of. There are few limits this unhinged narcissist will go to further his agenda of creating a global oligarchy of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

Let’s be honest here. Those of us in the middle-to-upper middle class may rail against the 1% elite, but the truth is, many of us are in the 3 to 5% elite, the 8% elite. Whatever. The point is, many of Bernie’s “all in” supporters have enough wealth that they aren’t going to be savaged if Trump is re-elected. But many millions of our poor, disabled and culturally estranged (e.g. the gay, Muslim and immigrant communities) will. We’re playing with “house money” here, and have much less to lose in a worst-case scenario. Is it fair to take such a gamble? Do we even have the right to do so when we’re protected by our means, however modest they may be.

But wait, maybe I’m overly optimistic here. Trump has clearly intimated that, if re-elected, he will be coming after our (i.e. your) Social Security and Medicare, so maybe we all better pause on this one. Who knows, if Donald gets back in, we may be stepping over old folks on the sidewalk before long. For that matter (regardless of the level of elitism we imagine ourselves to inhabit), it might be time to put a reservation in on a doorway. These are unprecedented times, and reaching for a savior is a tried (and only sometimes true) strategy.

Truthfully, I cannot answer the questions I posed above. I still believe in everything Bernie stands for, but an old Buddhist story does make me pause. A guy stumbles into a village with a poison arrow sticking out of him. The villagers run for the witch doctor who says we have to get the arrow out. But the man says, “No, no, I want to know who it was that shot me” (I paraphrase).

Well, good luck with that. For the sake of our country, Trump has to go. Maybe going “all in” for Bernie is the answer. Maybe not. But we owe it to our world to deeply consider the gamble.

Bill Larsen lives in Nevada City.


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