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Republicans for Sanders

Bernie Sanders greets supporters at a campaign event in Indianola, Iowa, on Sunday. Jim Young/Reuters

There really are Republicans (and former Republicans) who want Bernie Sanders for President. I wrote about this phenomenon about a month ago, and at the time I only knew of two such persons. But Everett Clifford, who was part of the first article, assured me that there were others besides him, and he's right. There are several Facebook pages called “Republicans for Bernie,” and I found what I hope is a representative sampling.

If Republicans want Bernie, this confronts the sure-to-come GOP claim that Bernie Sanders is unfit to be President because he is a “democratic socialist.”

Why is this important? If Republicans want Bernie, this confronts the sure-to-come GOP claim that Bernie Sanders is unfit to be President because he is a “democratic socialist.” Thus far, the attacks on Bernie's character and platform have been either lame or of little persuasive value to Republican voters. For example, a Superpac supporting Martin O'Malley, former Democratic governor of Maryland, asserted that Bernie was “soft” on gun control. This claim was made despite the fact that the NRA rates him anywhere from a D- to an F. Moreover, the gun nuts are still after him.

But Republicans, who are doubtless less proactive on gun control than Democrats, wouldn't fault Bernie for being balanced on gun control. Neither will many Democrats. After all, he comes from a rural state where there are a lot of guns (but very low murder rates with firearms), so his attitude is understandable. He has said that “guns in Vermont are not the same thing as guns in Chicago or Los Angeles. In our state, guns are used for hunting. In Chicago they are used for kids killing other kids or gang members shooting at police officers, shooting down innocent people. We need a sensible debate about gun control, which overcomes the cultural divide that exists in this country, and I think I can play an important role in this.”

So who are these Republicans who want a very left independent for President? Take Darren Remington, age 49, from Memphis, Tennessee. He is a college graduate and ex-military, registered Republican in 1994 when he left the Air Force, and describes himself this way:

“I am an Eisenhower Conservative. My personal outlook is most closely aligned with that of three presidents (two Republican, one Democrat): Teddy Roosevelt ("Square Deal"), Truman ("the buck stops here"), and Eisenhower (five balanced budgets out of eight, understood that we must have adequate infrastructure to support a thriving economy).”

And why is Remington for Bernie Sanders?

“He's an independent who has spoken up for veterans' issues, rebuilding a strong middle class, and re-introducing the "common sense" that Thomas Paine wrote about into our modern government. Bernie Sanders seems to me to be to the 21st Century what Teddy Roosevelt was to the 20th Century.”

And does the word “socialist” bother him?

“I will support anyone who not only "talks the talk" but also "walks the walk" regarding the issues that I consider to be important. With that in mind, the phrase "democratic socialist" does not bother me—because I happen to know that two of the most prosperous nations in Europe are "democratic socialist" (Denmark & Sweden.) There is nothing intrinsically wrong with“socialism”—all effective government is socialist to some degree: Public Education; Public works (utilities and roads); Public institutions such as museums, theaters, and libraries. Social involvement does NOT equate to control of society.”

Karl Hubert, age 40, from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is likewise a college graduate but never was in the military. He is still a registered Republican:

“I had the pleasure of living in Vermont for nearly a decade and became familiar with Senator Sanders then. His progressive policies were sound. He respected gun rights since there's folks in Vermont that will starve through winter without game meat. He warned us all about the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. And it amazed me that this "flatlander" (a non-native to Vermont) kept getting re-elected—first as Mayor of Burlington, then Representative of Vermont, and then the junior Senator from the Green Mountain State. Since the financial craziness of 2008, Sanders has been wanting to break up the oligarchy and set this country back onto a path similar to FDR's New Deal, and after 30 years of rampant greed from the banksters and their bought-and-paid-for politicians, this country needs some real change.”

Would Hubert vote for any of the current Republican candidates?

“Not even on a dare. Which is sad—I loved my party once.”

How about Hillary Clinton?

“I will never vote for a Clinton—Bill, Hillary, Chelsea, their dog Buddy if he's still around, or even Socks the cat if he's still kicking. They're part of the problem—corrupt capitalists who will do whatever it takes to get the job, then line their coffers while telling us what a great job they're doing.”

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And what about Bernie being a “democratic socialist”?

“I have absolutely no problem supporting Bernie, regardless of nomenclature. And as a kid, "socialist" bothered me considering my mother fled East Berlin from that sort of regime. But the way it has been bandied around about anyone who disagreed with George Bush or agreed with Obama has really desensitized me to the point that I laugh when someone calls me a socialist. My usual response is something like, "Yeah, Socialist. Like the Scandinavian countries where people have free healthcare, free school, and are generally a lot happier than here in 'Murica."

Another Republican for Bernie is Paul Loebe, 31, who lives in Indiana. He is ex-military, has finished some college and is working towards getting a law degree. He was always a registered Republican, registered as a Democrat to vote for Obama in the 2008 primary and then re-registered as a Republican. He thought that he would vote for McCain but changed his mind when Palin became McCain's running mate. He voted for Ron Paul in the 2012 GOP primary (but he does not favor Rand Paul over Bernie Sanders and at the moment does not favor any of the GOP candidates). Here's what he says about his politics:

“I am an Eisenhower Republican. Not all Republicans are radical theocratic fascists. Many of us who have been disenfranchised by the GOP have stayed silent because we haven't had a movement. Now with the emergence of Bernie Sanders and the amazing viral response by the nation we are inspired to step up and take our party back. We need to push the radical extremists in the GOP back to the fringes where they belong, and any pandering GOP politicians who sell out to the oligarchs and those fringe followers. Many GOP went Independent or abandoned the party for the Democrats. I think it can be salvaged. If not, I refuse to let them continue on this path of self-destruction without fighting them from the inside.”

Why does he support Bernie Sanders?

“Bernie and I may not see eye to eye on all issues, but he's not a pandering, lying, negative ad-campaigning pundit. He's the Real Deal. He says what he means and he is extremely consistent. Additionally, although the Tea Party base may pretend to care about reducing spending and the deficit, their plans only create a more disastrous financial mess.”

And does it bother him that Bernie is a “democratic socialist”?

“The word socialist does not bother me. Only uneducated or ill-informed Americans should be afraid of the term socialism. Unfortunately, the current GOP has pushed a platform of shaming education and promoting ignorance. Socialism and capitalism are twin brothers that need to be nurtured and encouraged to grow together. So long as one does not overpower the other, a strong balance will be maintained. It must be overseen by their mother—a fair free and open democracy in order for that relationship to succeed.”

Loebe would favor any of the present Democratic contenders over any of the Republican contenders, although Hillary is his last choice. If Rand Paul were to modify a few of his positions he would favor him over Hillary but not over any of the other Democratic candidates.

I received a lot more material from Ren, Karl, and Paul than I can put here. Moreover, I have sent out inquiry letters to lots of other Republicans for Bernie and am just waiting for them to write, too. So I'm going to publish this article, and then if I get enough additional material, I'll do a follow-up.

And what's to be learned from this?

The most important thing for me is that the word “socialist” doesn't really frighten people any more. They can look at Bernie Sanders, know that he's honest and straight-forward, and understand that what he is proposing just reins in the rampant oligarchy that has emerged in the past 15 or so years. We would get a government that is a government for the 99%, not the 1%.

They don't see Bernie Sanders as someone who would destroy enterprise but make it better. They do not seem to be bothered by the idea of raising taxes to eliminate government debt and do not see it as anti-conservative to do so. In fact, they seem to favor Bernie's social programs even as they understand that people will have to pay for it—only on a more egalitarian basis than at present.

I look forward to writing more about this. I think that the Sanders campaign should run its own Republicans for Bernie advertisement and make the country understand that his is a campaign for all, not just for progressive Democrats.


P.S. After I finished writing this article, I went to an organizational meeting where I met a man who had read my first “Republicans for Bernie” article and who himself used to vote Republican. This phenomenon isn't that rare.

Michael T. Hertz