July 6, 2012

Sanders voted yes

Alexander Cockburn wrote in The Golden Age Is In Us (1995), entry from September 6, 1994:

I thought the point of having an independent socialist in Congress was precisely that: to be an independent and a socialist. Instead of which we have Bernie Sanders (supposedly the ‘independent socialist’ from Vermont), hack Democrat. He voted for Clinton’s budget, and now he’s voted for the crime bill, a milepost in the development of the repressive corporate state.

This summer we passed, for the first time, the million mark for people in US prisons (not counting city and county jails). Steve Whitman of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown calculates that the imprisonment rate for blacks is now 1,534 per 100,000, compared with a white rate of 197. The central aim of the crime bill, passed on August 25, is to lock up even more black people. ...

People designated as gang members can have their sentence for certain offenses (even those unconnected with gang membership) increased by up to ten years. ... There's no medical or scientific distinction between the two substances, but poor people use crack and rich people use powder. ... Get five years for first-time possession of more than five grams of crack; get no jail time for possession of the same amount of coke powder. The crime bill did nothing to alter such inequities.

This is to pass over the rest of the fascist panorama of the bill: the three-strikes provision, the enhanced mandatory sentencing, the stripping of federal judges of their power to enforce constitutional rights of prisoners, the ending of Pell grants which provide funding for prisoners to get higher education, the car searches, the hysterical and unjust treatment of sex offenders, and on and on, through the expansion of the death penalty to cover more than fifty crimes.

... Sanders voted yes. I asked him why and he faxed me four paragraphs of pitiful blather — almost all other ‘Progressives’ had voted yes; rejection of this bill would have meant a worse one down the road ...; there was money in the bill for cities and towns and for battered women's shelters.

For over a decade I've listened to the rap from Sanders and the Progressive Coalition in Vermont about the need for an alternative to the two-party system. Some alternative! Sanders’ record is scarcely more liberal than that of Vermont’s Republican senator, Jim Jeffords. To their everlasting shame, not one squeak, so far as I can ascertain, was raised by the Vermont Pwogwessives abut Sanders’ crime bill vote. I suppose the money for battered women’s shelters caused them not to notice one of the most rabid expressions of racism in the nation’s legislative history.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, Vermont