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Senator Sanders a heroic figure
by Jake Highton
Dec 25, 2010 | 631 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.”

— Ibsen in “An Enemy of the People”

Bernie Sanders is the strongest man in America. He stands alone. But in his case, as Ibsen writes, “the minority is always right.”

Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, puts President Obama to shame, as a headline in Rolling Stone declared. Obama “punts on first down,” Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota observes. Online columnist Robert Kuttner writes bitterly: “Obama is finally getting the bipartisanship he craves — but entirely on Republican terms. Republicans win three ways: They have a Democratic president doing their work for them, destroying the Democratic capacity to use affirmative government to address dire national problems and annihilating his own party.”

Justly furious about Obama’s vigorous waving of the white flag, Sanders recently spoke for eight hours and 37 minutes in the Senate. He denounced the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, tax cuts that will doubtless be made permanent by the new reactionary Congress. As a campaigner in 2008 Obama repeatedly vowed to rescind the handout to the rich. Obama’s deal-making underlines his betrayal.

Sanders castigated Republican hypocrisy, declaring that the GOP pretends concern over debt and deficit yet pushes Obama’s $900 billion plan.

“I want no more lectures from GOP senators about spending,” Sanders said.

Tax loopholes for the rich and powerful were a special target of his outrage.

“Exxon-Mobil had a very bad year in 2009,” Sanders said. “It made only $19 billion in profit. Yet Exxon-Mobil paid nothing in taxes while getting a $156 million refund from the IRS.”

Meanwhile he noted that America has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. Wall Street asks: So?

“What we saw is people on Wall Street operating from a business model based on fraud, on dishonesty,” Sanders said. “Their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior destroyed the economy.”

Nevertheless the financial behemoths were deemed “too big to fail.” So they got bailed out. Citizens paid.

Another thing about the nefarious Obama deal: The Social Security tax cut next year probably means privatization, a long-sought aim of the GOP. Privatization means medical costs go ever higher. It means the elderly will be particularly devastated.

Right now Social Security has a healthy surplus for the next 27 years. But the retrograde GOP goal is as always: starve the beast.

Sanders rightly complained about “the grim realities” of America’s fossil fuel addiction, a nation that refuses to focus on alternative energies like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

As Truthout notes of Sanders: “His words penetrate to the heart of what ails us as a nation.” Matt Taibbi, in a recent paean to Sanders in Rolling Stone, is one of the few politicians who pass the “common decency/honesty test.” 

Sanders has honor. He has spine. He has principles. As Taibbi notes, most pols are “careerist hacks who don’t stand for anything.”

Sanders reminds you of those wonderful closing lines of Tennyson’s “Ulysses”: “heroic hearts … strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.”

Cheers for Doonesbury

“Doonesbury” is the only comic strip worth reading. But actually it’s not a comic strip.

It’s social commentary. It’s politics. It says much about the dismal American psyche. It is sometimes funny, often insightful and frequently biting.

Garry Trudeau, author of “Donnesbury,” has just published a book marking 40 years at the professional drawing board. It contains 1,000 strips culled from 14,000.

Yes, Trudeau suffers the fate of all political cartoonists: The issues they once drew so fervently fade into “ancient history.”

But as Michael Cavna of the Washington Post has written, the Trudeau strip is “expansive, with multigenerational branches and character story lines that gather the force of comic literature.”

Trudeau knows how young people really talk, knows the perspective of GIs in the Middle East. He draws with anguish of gays and lesbians being drummed out of the military.

He draws about the endless wars. But in the strip President Bush never worried about wars. Instead he lost sleep over “the cries of stem cells.”

Trudeau started drawing for the Yale News in 1968. Just seven years later he won the Pulitzer Prize, the first comic strip artist so honored.

Unfortunately, the strip is rejected by too many dimbulb editors because it is “too political.” Moreover the size of the strip keeps shrinking shamefully.

Too many editors don’t know genius when they see it.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at
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