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I have a guilty pleasure that requires penance ... and no, I'm not referring to an Ashley Madison account. My pleasure has to do with the unscripted speeches of Bernie Sanders and, dare I say it, Donald Trump. Here are two gentlemen who hail from New York City (although Bernie took a detour through Vermont), who are unconstrained by the dictates of the donor class and professional consultants. They simply go on stage, tee it up, and let it rip. No teleprompters, no hemming and hawing, no convoluted syntax designed to confuse or provide a non-answer.

Sanders and Trump

Bernie vs. The Donald: A Guilty Pleasure?—Rick Gardner

I have tried to fight this guilty pleasure. First, there was Bernie. I know that we need Hillary in the White House ... we need someone with her experience, her tact, her understanding of domestic and international issues based on years of being there in the trenches. We need a female President who can represent that half of the population who has had to fight to be heard. We broke the color barrier with an African American President ... and now we need a woman.

But there is Bernie. Here is this curmudgeon who projects outrage at the excesses of the capitalist system and how it is destroying middle class families. He will brook no dissent from the moneyed elites. I tried to not listen to him but eventually fell under his spell. I attended a video-streamed presentation of his, and then journeyed to the Los Angeles Sports Arena to see him in person. I absorbed his message, shook his hand, and I was completely sold.

But Bernie is a feel-good obsession compared to the guilty pleasures of Donald Trump. I learned years ago that I could never again vote for any Republican after one misspent vote on Ronald Reagan. No matter what their individual beliefs, Republicans can be counted on to band together to promote the most outrageous policies ... policies that seem intentionally designed to hurt people, mainly female and minority people, but others as well. I learned that Republicans will fawn over their wealthy benefactors, and everyone else will be hurt in the process.

I am incredibly turned off by the packaged candidates of today, those neatly scrubbed, well-dressed people who are vying for my vote through poll-tested statements and carefully staged photo ops.

So why am I following Trump's speeches, listening to his insult humor aimed at virtually everyone who has not acknowledged his obvious greatness ... obvious, that is, to Mr. Trump? Why am I not shutting out his bombastic utterances about "illegal immigrants" that are clearly wrong-headed with no basis in fact whatsoever?

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The truth is ... I am incredibly turned off by the packaged candidates of today, those neatly scrubbed, well-dressed people who are vying for my vote through poll-tested statements and carefully staged photo ops. I look at these people and see the pernicious influence of money, which forces them to make statements that are pleasing to the ears of their hidden big-money donors.

You see, I view big money as the biggest threat to our democracy. Our country cannot take any bold reform actions that aren't endorsed by major industry groups represented by lobbyists, because these groups pay for the elections and the candidates. The result is ... no single-payer health care, no gun control, no climate change legislation, no guaranteed leave, no increases in the minimum wage, no tax increases for the wealthy, no infrastructure improvements, and on and on. Initiatives with industry/lobby backing are constantly being promoted including ... new "free trade" treaties, more wars, attacks on unions, reduced corporate taxes, attacks on social security, and on and on.

Contrast that money-induced political fakery with Bernie and Trump calling it the way they see it. I know that Bernie is simply telling the truth in as forthright a manner as possible, just as he has been doing for his entire career ... because he is not for sale. He is calling out capitalistic abuses and prescribing mild socialist remedies, and he is doing so with a populist fervor not seen in years. I know that Trump's statements are a curious mix of truth, racism, and ego-driven fantasy. But they are unscripted, and the truth does occasionally rear its ugly head, especially when he points out the role of money in buying elections.

Sanders and Trump

So, believe it or not, I would welcome a Presidential campaign featuring Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump. Can you imagine the debates between these two, especially if Bernie is allowed to take Trump to task for his many outrageous statements? Bernie and Trump would go at it head-to-head, like the gladiators of old. And in the process I think some real truths would emerge, the kind that Americans need to hear. Some of these truths may be ugly, such as our country's continuing racism, our addiction to war, and our decline from democracy to oligarchy. But we can only work on revolutionary change, once the truth has been revealed.

So, you may ask, what happens if Trump actually wins the election? Well, let's just say that I have my eye on some beautiful property north of the border ...

Richard Gardner

Rick Gardner