Debating Bernie Sanders in Huntington Woods

Jan 18, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Presidential candidates provoke strong opinions. You either love them or hate them. These days, it almost seems like that's a prerequisite for a shot at the Oval Office.

But does anybody draw more varying points of view than Bernie Sanders? His use of the word "socialism" is enough to draw haters from the right. His opposition to the inequality has drawn fierce supporters on the left. But his status-quo views on foreign policy and the military have others on the left asking a lot of questions — and dismissing the candidate's supporters as "Bernie Bots."

If this sounds like the right mix for a vigorous debate over the merits of Sanders, you'd be right. The good people of the Huntington Woods Peace, Citizenship and Education Project hope to have a discussion about the candidate this Wednesday. It's a conversation that's sure to interest Sanders' opponents, as well as the Sandernistas. It will take place 6:45-8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at the Huntington Woods Library, lower level, 26415 Scotia, (5 blocks south of 11 Mile Road), Huntington Woods. For an idea of the substance of the talk, see below.


Huntington Woods Peace, Citizenship and Education Project

An open letter to Bernie Sanders:

We are delighted that you have become a major candidate for president because of your focus on the plight of middle-income and working-class Americans and your themes of inequality, corporate power, and the domination of our government by the 1%. Further, we agree with your understanding that climate change remains “the biggest national security threat facing the U.S” and that America’s energy policy is “rigged to boost profits of the big oil companies” and in fact benefits the one percent rather than 99 % of ordinary Americans.

But your clear understanding of privilege and power in America vanishes when you turn to our military involvement, endless wars, and outlandish military expenditures. For several months we have been waiting for you to apply the same unflinching analysis you use for domestic affairs to foreign policy, and we think it is urgent that you begin doing so.

Syria and Iraq - In response to the horrible terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS, France, Russia, and the US have escalated air strikes. These strikes, which have hit civilians in Raqqa, medical clinics, and a stadium, will not defeat terrorism—they create more recruits for ISIS and other terrorist groups. You should call for a cease-fire, an international arms embargo, and diplomacy that includes the Syrian government, rebel groups, and all of their international sponsors.

Military Spending - Although you speak about closer oversight of military spending, you should specifically address the Overseas Contingency Operations Budget that funds America’s wars. In our eyes, it serves the needs of the military industrial complex, dominated by the 1%, more than it does U.S. security. This includes the base Pentagon budget, which rose dramatically during our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and has not yet come down.

Nuclear Weapons and the New Cold War - We are pleased that you have supported the Iran deal, President Obama’s call for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and Secretary of State Kerry’s push to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Still, we worry about your embrace of the New Cold War against Russia. Given the reality of ISIS, you should be encouraging dialogue and cooperation between our two countries in the interest of solving the crisis in Syria.

Israel and Palestine - We appreciate that you have tried to take a balanced position regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict by calling for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and the Palestinians’ right to a homeland in which they control their political and economic future. A consistently balanced approach, however, would also call for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, freezing and eventually dismantling Israeli settlements there, and ending the blockade of Gaza.

Win or lose, we congratulate you for having already succeeded in catalyzing the most significant progressive electoral movement seen in a lifetime. You have convincingly argued that democratic socialism is a viable way of attacking injustice and inequality. You have given hope to millions of Americans by calling for a “people’s revolution” against the 1%. Win or lose the election, we are prepared to continue your revolution.