Old Is the New New
Obama, McCain, and the politics of change.


While voters in other, less-progressive jurisdictions are swooning over Barack Obama and the “change you can believe in,” many of us in Vermont are thinking, “Seen that old dog, and it won’t hunt.”

We have been hearing the “change” mantra for a long, long time here in the Green Mountains. Bernie Sanders has made a living off it, first as mayor of Burlington — where he developed his own, pro-Nicaraguan Contra foreign policy — then as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years, and now as a senator. Sanders once described himself as a “Socialist” and that’s plainly where his heart is. Officially, his party is Independent, but he is approximately as “independent” as, say, Harry Reid. The word is just a way for Bernie to announce himself as something special and different and daring.

Sanders, according to himself, is the tireless, fearless defender of working families, and he is perpetually “outraged” by violations of their rights. All this outrage is exceedingly self-serving, as Sanders’s vote on the recent gargantuan farm bill demonstrated. Sanders proclaims, endlessly, his opposition to welfare for the rich and special favors for the corporations.

So he voted for a bill that gives subsidies to farmers making up to $750,000 a year ($1,500,000 for couples); pays sugar producers $21 a pound when the world price is $12; sets support prices at current levels so that if prices fall, farmers keep raking in the cash at taxpayer expense; and gives subsidies to a land company with a $7 billion market cap, and tax breaks to racehorse breeders.

The bill is such a grotesque example of everything that is wrong with Congress that even the New York Times urged President Bush to veto it. Which he did.

Bernie was outraged. Nobody in Vermont was surprised — that’s how he rolls. But there did seem to be a lesson that those living elsewhere might notice and act upon. When the test came, our self-proclaimed opponent of the old way of doing business and politics as usual crowded in at the trough with all the lords and ladies of pork. Bernie had promised to go down to Washington and fight for change (that’s what a man does when he is outraged), but when he got the chance, he caved and voted just like any ordinary R or D.

And so did Barack Obama. Who said of the farm bill:

I applaud the Senates passage today of the Farm Bill, which will provide America’s hard-working farmers and ranchers with more support and more predictability. The bill places greater resources into renewable energy and conservation. And, during this time of rising food prices, the Farm Bill provides an additional $10 billion for critical nutrition programs.


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