Ever since Bernie Sanders announced he's in the race to be the Democratic Party's nominee for president of the United States, I've noticed he's come in for a lot of ridicule. Commentators make fun of him and his candidacy, essentially writing him off as a goofy longshot.
At first, I had to agree with these folks. After all, Mr. Sanders is not your usual middle-aged, tightly-scripted, blow-dried office-seeker. He's old, a bit wild-eyed and definitely wild-haired. In fact, he looks more like the Christopher Lloyd character from the movie Back to the Future than a bona fide presidential candidate.
Commentators dismiss the Vermont senator's campaign as a bit of a joke. At best, he's described as someone seeking to push a progressive agenda on Hillary Clinton. At worst, he's a laughingstock. For example, one recent editorial cartoon shows Bernie Sanders, Bernie Madoff and Bernie Getz competing on Jeopardy in the category "Bernies who will never be president."
Yet there's something about Bernie Sanders that appeals to me. I figure that any American who's a self-described socialist and yet a twice-elected senator must have something going for him. So I took a closer look at his positions on the issues of the day and found that basically Bernie is America's Canadian candidate.
Having reviewed his website, I can confirm that Mr. Sanders is about as close to a Canadian candidate for the U.S. presidency as you can get. He says healthcare is a right not a privilege and he wants to move to a single-payer system or what most Americans call socialized medicine and what most Canadians call common sense.
Sanders' goal is high-quality, universal healthcare coverage administered in a cost-effective way. What other candidates dismiss as a dangerous, crackpot idea is already a workable system throughout Canada.
Senator Sanders also wants to make college affordable for all. Instead of students paying $30,000 or more a year in tuition, he wants to see measures taken to allow them to pay for their schooling without going into massive debt. Sounds like our Canadian university system where tuition averages less than $6,000 a year.
"Crazy" Bernie also wants to double the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour over the next few years. Most Americans think that's nuts but it sounds reasonable to most Canadians since the minimum wage in my home province of Ontario is already $11 an hour and bound to increase again soon.
Mr. Sanders adopts what some call radical positions on topics like the social safety net. In an era where many are calling for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, he says these programs should be expanded. What sounds like insanity to much of the American commentariat is just business as usual for us here in Canada.
Bernie Sanders has all kinds of other wacky positions like breaking up the giant Wall Street financial institutions that have endangered the American economy. Like revising trade policies to avoid the ongoing loss of jobs to overseas markets. Like growing the trade union movement by removing barriers to labor organizing.
After reviewing the Sanders platform, I'm no longer making fun of the Vermont senator. The more you read about this guy, the more he makes sense, at least to us Canadians.
Political commentators can dismiss Bernie as a crazy socialist and a wild-eyed radical but all Americans have to do is look northward a bit to see many of his "crazy" ideas in action. Maybe it's time for Sanders to label himself "the Canadian candidate" and give Hillary Clinton a real run for her money.
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