Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review -- Outsider in the White House

Outsider in the White HouseOutsider in the White House by Bernie Sanders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They say the mark of integrity in a man is consistency. Bernie Sanders is the world's most consistent man.

It's 1996 and Bernie Sanders is running for Congress for a fifth time, but this time it's different. The Republicans are out for blood. Bernie has been making waves in Washington standing up for ordinary citizens, and the Republicans feel they must end this precedent of an Independent Congressman with progressive ideals. They throw millions of dollars at his Republican opponent Susan Sweetser. Sweetser hires a professional firm to create negative TV ads and mass mailings telling Vermonters essentially that Bernie is an evil socialist who isn't good for their state.

All seems bleak, doesn't it? But Bernie Sanders isn't a quitter. He continues to campaign like he always has, attending parades and town hall meetings, shaking hands and listening to what the voters have to say. He'll admit that he's had some extremely close races in the past. In fact, he won his first bid to be mayor of Burlington by a whole ten votes! His first run for Congress wasn't easy, either, but these hard-won victories have taught him a lesson: Stay the course, and keep your constituents and their concerns foremost in your mind.

Of course, Bernie regained his seat in 1996. Outspent and out-advertised, he won it handedly over Sweetser and her wealthy backers. How? Simply put, the mud Sweetser slung at Bernie didn't stick. Vermonters didn't believe a word of it and felt insulted anyone would try such a low-handed tactic. After all, they knew who the real Bernie Sanders is, a man who keeps his word and fights for what he believes in without resorting to negativity and mudslinging, always doing his best to help his fellow man. The voters were too smart to fall for the lies of an expensive, slick ad campaign based on the empty promises of the Republicans.

Outsider in the White House is a second edition of Bernie Sanders' 1997 book Outsider in the House, but its contents are more relevant than ever. The first part of this edition shows how much of a scrapper the senator from Vermont is, how tough a campaigner, no matter how great the odds or the dirty tactics his opponents use. As the only Independent in the House--and now the Senate--he's fought hard to be taken seriously by his fellow legislators and has made friends in both of the major parties. Neither Republican nor Democrat, Bernie has been able to use his outsider status to form alliances for the benefit of the American people, one recent noteworthy cross-aisle alliance being his work with Sen. John McCain to improve veterans' access to health care.

The second part of the book Bernie tells us how he sees America's challenges. Remember, this book was written in 1997. You'd assume he's changed his positions somewhat, right? Wrong! Bernie Sanders is still talking about our growing income inequality between the workers and the CEOs, America's loss of jobs due to NAFTA (and now the threat of TPP), the need for universal health care, the crisis in our educational system and the necessity of protecting our environment. He even warned us in '97 about the corporate media and how a handful of billionaires can dictate information we receive as they deem fit, preventing the American electorate from becoming knowledgeable and informed voters.

On page 279 he warns us that we're in danger of becoming an oligarchy, where only the rich are represented and their wants and desires catered to at the expense of working Americans. Eighteen years later, this very nightmare has come true in the 2008 mortgage crisis and in the form of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. Why oh why didn't we listen to Bernie earlier?

A foreword by Bernie and an afterword by John Nichols bring the narrative up to the present day, detailing the excitement and enthusiasm generated by Bernie's run for the White House. Bernie's desire to help all Americans live healthy, peaceful and productive lives explodes from the page and is contagious. You can't help but cheer "Yes! Go Bernie!" after every point he makes.

Integrity, consistency, positivity and honesty attract voters. Lucky for us, Bernie Sanders possesses these characteristics in abundance. To become a part of his "future to believe in", read Outsider in the White House and get out and vote in your state's Democratic primary in the coming weeks. You--and all of America--will be glad you did.

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