Bernie Sanders and Civil Rights

A blogger I follow has said he is voting green again. I have no problem with that whatsoever. But the specific reasons he gave were unconvincing, not to mention unfair. He writes that,

“Sanders to his credit has condemned Emanuel. I’m just not sure what to make of a northeastern senator that thinks he deserves ally cookies for being involved in the Civil Rights Movement a half century ago. The Sanders campaign has not actively reached out to non-white voters, instead expecting them to fall in line behind him because of his past. That’s not good enough. I’m also not sure what to make of a senator that was too politically cowardly to endorse marriage equality in Vermont in 2006.”

I feel a need to respond. What he wrote is dismissive and uninformed. Sanders has never asked for ally cookies. That is tearing down a straw man.

I prefer third party candidates myself. And I voted for Nader in the past. There are endless reasons to despise the two party system. I very well might vote Green this coming election as well.

Yet for the moment I’m supporting Sanders’ campaign because it forces many issues into public debate that would otherwise be ignored. If not for Sanders long and extensive personal history and voting record on civil rights issues, the mainstream media (and Hillary Clinton) wouldn’t even be talking about it.

I may not vote for Sanders in the end. But, either way, I want him treated fairly. To dismiss him is to play right into the hands of those who also dismiss third party candidates.

Plus, don’t ignore economic issues, as if they are separate from civil rights issues. MLK understood how inseparable they were. MLK wasn’t selling out or giving up on civil rights when he decided to focus on poverty that harmed all Americans, including many whites.

Before deciding, look at all the info and analysis. Sanders civil rights involvement has been continuous over the decades. It wasn’t a one time involvement a half century ago. I don’t deny that Sanders could do more, but that goes for all of us. Besides, he has done more for civil rights than most people complaining about him.

In US history, there has never been a major presidential candidate that was stronger than Sanders on civil rights. This is a historical moment, simply for his ability to get such massive support. This will permanently change the debate. Civil rights is Sanders strong point.

If you genuinely want to criticize Sanders for plausible reasons, you’d be better off focusing on his foreign policy record. The reason many of his critics don’t focus on foreign policy is because on that issue Hillary Clinton looks truly horrific.

Sanders is a moderate in this area. He isn’t a pacifist by a long shot. And he isn’t going to speak in the language of anti-authoritarianism, anti-statism, and anti-imperialism. But he did speak out against the Vietnam War. And he voted against wars of aggression such as the Iraq War. Considering wars of aggression are both unconstitutional and illegal, that isn’t a minor issue. Sanders, unlike Clinton, doesn’t take lightly the act of the US military killing people. He is much more supportive of diplomacy and multilateralism. This is an extension of his civil libertarian approach to politics.

Anyway, it is on foreign policies that third party candidates really shine, far beyond even an independent like Sanders. To me, that is an extremely important issue. It very well might lead me to vote Green. My point is that, if just going by civil rights, I’d find arguments against Sanders less compelling. All you have to do is look at his record. I’m not sure why so many people don’t bother to look closely at any of this. It’s not hard to find.

I get the sense that some people are looking for a reason to dismiss Sanders. It’s not limited to people who are attacking him because of another candidate they prefer. It seems that it is hard for quite a few to imagine that something good can come from an old white guy who is a professional politician, especially when he is running in one of the major parties. They can’t get past this in order to consider his record on its own terms.

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Where does Bernie Sanders stand on civil rights?

Bernie Sanders on Civil Rights

12 Examples Of Bernie Sanders Powerful 50+ Year Record On Civil Rights And Racial Justice

20 ways Bernie Sanders has stood up for civil and minority rights

Here’s What Bernie Sanders Actually Did in the Civil Rights Movement

The radical left has Bernie Sanders all wrong

Sanders wins nod from noted communist leader

Bernie Sanders Was Slapped for Supporting Jesse Jackson in ’88

Jesse Jackson Comes to Sanders’ Defense on Civil Rights: ‘The Movement Was So Broad Based’

MLK associate and Civil Rights Icon Rev. Harold Middlebrook endorses Bernie Sanders


Watch Bernie Sanders Shut Down a Homophobic House Member in This Video From 1995

Bernie Sanders Was for Full Gay Equality 40 Years Ago

32 Years Before Marriage Equality, Bernie Sanders Fought For Gay Rights

NBC’s Chuck Todd: Bernie Sanders was ‘there’ on same-sex marriage 20 years ago

Rachel Maddow: ‘There Is a Difference’ Between Sanders, Clinton on LGBT Rights

Lawrence O’Donnell: Fighting For Gay Marriage

This caught my attention for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, Zach Wahls is very well spoken in this speech. I have major respect for him after hearing this. I’m rarely inspired by something I hear in the media.

Secondly, Zach Wahls lives in the same town I live in (Iowa City). From what I read, he has lived here for much of his life. I don’t know if I’ve ever met him, but I think I’ve seen some of his articles before (here is an article he wrote about gay marriage).

In his speech, he mentions going to church. I was curious what church he went to. Iowa City is a very liberal town with many liberal churches, but of course it turns out he goes to the most liberal church in town (a Unitarian-Universalist church). I used to attend that church some years ago. It speaks well for the UU tradition that he was raised in a UU church.

I’m not sure how much coverage his speech will get, but I did notice that he was mentioned last year in an article from The New York Times.

Anyway, I must admit it makes me a bit proud to live in a town that produces such high quality individuals. It also makes me proud of Iowa in general. I really like Iowa. Listening to his speech, I was touched by his expression of Iowa values. I get tired of all the radical politicizing from the Southern states. Iowa is truly the middle of the country, both geographically and ideologically. The Midwest is called the Heartland for a good reason. Some people think of this as just flyover country or just another backwoods rural state, but Zach Wahls’ speech reminds the rest of the country why Iowa has always been one of the most politically influential states.

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I noticed another blog post about gay marriage (by combscp who commented below) and I thought it relevant to Zach’s speech. What is interesting is that Zach is making a conservative argument for gay marriage. From that post, here is Ted Olsen’s article making the case for gay marriage and the following is a video of Maddow interviewing Ted Olsen and David Boies:

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If you want to hear his response to all the attention his speech has received, here are a couple of videos with interviews: