Selling Politics Is Not The Same As Selling Chicken

It’s too bad Bernie Sanders isn’t related to Colonel Sanders, because he’d probably be better off selling chicken. I just can’t buy everything Mr. Sanders says and claims to stand for.

I understand that politics is rife with contradiction and paradox.

For instance, Republican candidates lusting for Evangelical votes tote Bibles at campaign rallies, cite the role of God in their political decisions, and describe Christian morality as playing a central role in their lives. Yet they (consider Ben Carson) spew rhetoric about keeping Muslims out of office, for fear they might allow religion (“Sharia Law,” said Carson) to shape their decisions as commander in chief. “A violation of the Constitution,” they claim, by putting religion before country. Yes: The same candidates who place one hand on the Bible point the index finger of the other at non-Christians who might bring religion into presidential politics.

Then, there are those who say that government-implemented gun control violates privacy, personal freedom and the “right to bear arms.” But the same group believes men in Washington should be allowed to restrict a woman’s right to choose (they must have the copy of Constitutional Law 101 that neglects to mention Roe v. Wade).

And then there’s Bernie Sanders. He claims he is not an establishment candidate, and that he will shake things up in Washington with his progressive “socialist” approach, “outsider” status and consistent approach — unswayed by expediency — to legislation. Yet here is a man who has involved himself in politics since running for mayor of Burlington in the 1970s, entered Washington, D.C. in the 1980s and voted against the Brady Bill (a pro-gun control measure — an issue he now flaccidly supports) in the 1990s so as to maintain his credit among the aforementioned gun-owners of his home state. Outsider? Please.

On the Brady Bill: I understand that he desired to represent Vermonters’ rights to own guns for hunting. But when it comes to national law, a national congressman must consider the interests of his state relative to the needs of the entire country. Now, he says that passing “major new legislation” on gun control would be impossible in Washington, and a measured, state-by-state approach is best. Yet Sanders promises policies to make public colleges and universities free (talk about “impossible” legislation in the current Congress). Sorry, Bernie: If you think you could achieve progressive tax reforms as president, I should think it feasible to expect the same of a major legislation change regarding gun control. Sounds like you might have to forgo the expedient claim of representing your home state, convenient as it may be when it comes to retaining your senate post should you lose the presidential primary.

Also, Sanders assails Hillary Clinton as an establishment candidate with deep ties to the Democratic Party. He portrays Clinton as someone who sacrifices her values for political expediency, changing positions on the Iraq War and gay marriage. But could one not say the same about Sanders for labeling himself independent all these years, when he really believed himself a “socialist?” If we have seen the Green Party produce a platform separate from both Democrats and Independents, why did he not create a socialist party on which to run in Vermont?

I am guessing, based on Vermont’s many gun owners and states’ rights advocates, it was more politically expedient to campaign under the ambiguous “independent” label, rather than face voter disapproval for running as a socialist in 1990s Vermont.

At least Hillary owned that she stood for the Iraq War, or the Pacific Trade Deal, and later changed her mind — like any human being might with changing circumstances. Face it: A politician will do “politically expedient” things — such is the nature of the position. But good politicians must be willing to accept their mistakes or change their views to change alongside a changing culture.

Sure, had Sanders changed with the tide, he might have lost some votes by standing up to his Vermont constituents in the name of the safety of the greater electorate. But background check legislation might have passed sooner, gun manufacturers and dealers would be subject to tort law, and thousands of deaths would likely have been saved. Yet with the desire to remain popular among his base, Sanders voted down the Brady Bill, and still believes gun control is best handled by states. Guns are sold on the Internet now, Mr. Sanders, and they cross state lines as easily as an independent who decides it better (more expedient?) to run as a Democrat. It is, therefore, a national issue.

As a member of Congress for decades, now, Sanders is no less “politician” than anyone. How can he claim that his moving down the National Mall from Capitol to White House would be any more “change” than a woman elected to the White House? Bernie, I do appreciate your stances on reforming the financial sector and increasing access to higher education. I cannot, however, look past your hypocrisy when you position yourself as an outsider who avoids political expediency. Try selling chicken instead.