They Want Emotion? Berners Must Explain Devastating Health Care Costs, Student Debt


If one issue in the 2016 Democratic primaries has me seething, it is the disingenuous focus on gun control.  Widely considered to be the one area where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs to the left of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), gun control has been used as a cudgel by the Clinton campaign to falsely portray Sanders as callous, uncaring, pro-Republican, and a supporter of the NRA.  The crux of the debate is Bernie Sanders’ opposition to the idea that people should be allowed to sue law-abiding gun manufacturers for gun violence.  In the wake of recent mass shootings, especially the Sandy Hook school shooting, many liberals seem aghast at America’s gun industry.

Let me be clear:  Sanders’ opposition to suing gun manufacturers has little to do with being pro-gun, pro-Republican, or pro-NRA.  It has to do with being pro-Constitution.  It has to do with being pro-principle.  Bernie Sanders knows it is wrong to sue a law-abiding company for making and selling a legal product within the guidelines of the law.  Though gun manufacturers may be loathsome to most liberals, they must be protected by the U.S. Constitution.  In America, we cannot allow businesses to be sued simply because people do not like them.  As many have explained before, allowing people to sue gun manufacturers for making legal products would open up all auto manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, brewers, and distillers to similar lawsuits.

If you want to end the legal manufacture and sale of assault weapons, such as the controversial AR-15, then change the laws.  Make it illegal to manufacture firearms that have extended magazines.  Get politically involved.  But do not try to go against the spirit of the Constitution by picking on those we deem indefensible.

What has got me seething is the continued use of misleading and hostile attacks on Bernie Sanders’ gun control votes by Hillary Clinton and her campaign.  These attacks blatantly attempt to play on voters’ emotions and falsely portray Sanders as callous and uncaring.  U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Hillary Clinton’s replacement in New York, has just made a “tearful plea” to Bernie Sanders to change his stance on guns.  A supporter of Clinton, Gillibrand has allegedly gone from being pro-gun to anti-gun…and wants Bernie Sanders to apologize for his previous positions.

She claims that Sanders lacks the “sensitivity” to understand the impact of gun violence.  This is as bad as Hillary Clinton’s outrageous and offensive tweet about Sandy Hook.  Both women should be condemned for their false and hurtful rhetoric.  As I’ve said before, you cannot accuse Bernie Sanders, a man who has dedicated his career to fighting poverty and human misery, of simply not caring.  I think the political record reveals that the Democrat who cares little for the common people is the one who is busy grubbing for “obscene” amounts of money with George Clooney.

By firing off misleading attacks about Bernie Sanders and gun control, and demanding he apologize for Sandy Hook (as odd and laughable as that sounds), Clinton and Gillibrand are attempting to torque voters’ emotions ahead of the crucial New York Democratic primary on April 19.  They are taking advantage of a high-emotion issue for political gain.  It is far easier to make a campaign ad featuring the acute horrors of gun violence than the slow, drawn-out horrors of poverty and debt.

Most Democrats condemn guns, just as most Republicans praise the military, because it is quick and easy.  Guns can be tragic, or heroic, in an instant.  Lives cut short, or battles won.  Children killed, or enemies vanquished.  Either way, tears are shed and the public is inspired to act…and vote.

By focusing on alleviating poverty and bolstering the working and middle classes through his proposals of universal health care, tuition-free public higher education for qualified students, and implementing a modern package of New Deal economic reforms, Bernie Sanders is not playing cheap politics.  He is looking for solutions.  He is not picking a scapegoat and avoiding the real problems.  Unfortunately, playing the long game and choosing to fight poverty and entrenched economic disparities is not always the stuff that excites voters.

But if Clinton and Gillibrand want to get voters all riled up, we Berners can play ball.  I have a tearful plea for Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand:

I beg you to have the sensitivity to understand how excessive health care costs devastate families.  I beg you to have the sensitivity to understand how student loan debts devastate families.  When you care more about keeping health insurance corporations and money-hungry university administrators in power than helping struggling citizens, it shows a lack of compassion.  Hillary Clinton has done nothing to change this depressing status quo.

Despite the fact that all other industrialized nations have universal health care and treat public higher education as a societal investment rather than a consumer transaction, Hillary Clinton has thrown up her hands and says we can’t do it.  I expect better from a supposed expert on foreign policy.  Our key diplomat from 2009 to 2013 apparently thinks that our closest allies, because they provide universal health care, must be Narnia and Oz rather than Canada and Britain.  This would be funny…except for the fact that lives are being ruined.

Health insurance premiums are rising.  College tuition is rising.  Families are suffering.  They are having to choose whether or not to seek medical care when sick and in pain.  They are having to choose whether or not they can pursue higher education, even though a degree is now a necessity for a decent job.  But I guess their pain is not acute enough to elicit much sympathy from Hillary Clinton or Kirsten Gillibrand.

Berners, I want you to flood the inboxes and phone lines of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) with your stories of tragedy and misery caused by health care costs, public college tuition, and student debt.  If this dynamic duo wants to appeal to voter emotion, then we need to show them that Bernie Sanders is also fighting to rescue Americans from acute misery.  If they want to try to shame Bernie Sanders into apologizing over his gun control stances, then we should shame them into apologizing for refusing to support the proposals of universal health care and tuition-free public higher education for qualified students.




Calvin Wolf

By day, Calvin Wolf is a high school social studies teacher. By night, he is a freelance writer and novelist, penning political thrillers and commentary on politics, education, economics, foreign policy, and culture. In the past, he's worked as a professional cartoonist and as a backpacking guide. He once stood between a mother bear and her cub and emerged unscathed!

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