Columnist: Why Detroiters should vote for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders by Gage Skidmore.
Bernie Sanders by Gage Skidmore.

By Michael Betzold
For Motor City Muckraker

Severe income inequality in Detroit is easy to see. Just look at the blocks along Kercheval on either side of Alter Road.
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The landscape shaped by wealthy industrialists and their cohorts in government is painfully familiar. The freeway that destroyed the African American neighborhood of Hastings Street is named after Walter Chrysler. The ditch named for Edsel Ford decimated many old ethnic neighborhoods.

Friends of the rich in local, state, and federal government facilitated the auto industry’s abandonment. They still use precious resources to build casinos and sports arenas but can’t find the money to care for parks or even to tear down thousands of homes ruined by the flight of dollars and jobs out of the city.

Bernie Sanders wants to end the growing inequality in our country and the corrupt influence of money in politics. He seeks to end the mass incarceration of our citizens, restore a living wage and decent jobs, and reform our militaristic police and broken criminal justice system.

Nowhere is his agenda more urgent than Detroit.

While this spring Hillary Clinton tries to echo Sanders, if nominated she’ll just shift her positions back to the center of the political spectrum. Her history shows that her commitments blow with the political winds. Whereas Sanders has been a leader in the civil rights, anti-war, and economic justice movements for half a century, Hillary Clinton in the 1990s lauded her husband’s notorious crime bill—the one that made mass incarceration of low-income minorities possible—by parroting the right-wing rhetoric of the day, talking about the supposed “super-predators” in the cities and saying: “We have to bring them to heel.” She backed her husband’s cruel “welfare reform” bill that threw millions of people deeper into extreme poverty.

You can see the results of such policies all around you—brave families trying to survive in a devastated economy, homeless people begging at every freeway entrance and exit, thousands of Detroiters locked away for years for minor offenses, proud neighborhoods bereft of basic services and struggling to survive.

As a senator, Hillary Clinton voted for the disastrous Iraq war and as secretary of state, she supported regime change—from Afghanistan to Libya to Syria—that put Americans at the top of terrorists’ hate lists worldwide. Those foreign misadventures cost billions that should have gone to help the war zones of our cities.

The Clintons’ policies may have been good for Wall Street, but they certainly didn’t bring Detroiters much help.

Bernie Sanders is honest, consistent, and firm in standing up to the rich and powerful and fighting for working people and the poor. He believes health care should be a universal right and college should be free.

What’s more, polls show he would have a better chance than Hillary Clinton of defeating Donald Trump (or any other potential GOP nominee) in the general election. There are too many people in this country who, whether for valid or debatable reasons, would never vote for Hillary. Her highly negative ratings among many likely voters could sink her campaign and give us the worst president in the history of this country. Gambling on her as the Democratic nominee is too big a risk.

This country—and especially Detroit—needs the progressive policies, vision, and integrity of Bernie Sanders. He can build on and expand the gains Barack Obama has made, and he will fight the misguided priorities of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical and energy industries, and the super-rich—the very people who have donated to Clinton’s campaign. The Bernie Sanders campaign, unique in modern American history, is funded entirely by small donations from millions of citizens.

On March 8, vote for the candidate who has the real interests of Detroiters at heart: Bernie Sanders.

Michael Betzold

Michael Betzold is a former Free Press reporter and longtime area freelance journalist. He wrote Queen of Diamonds, a history of Tiger Stadium. He lives on Detroit’s east side.

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