The Bernie Factor: Independent Senator's Push for VA Overhaul Shows His Presidential Prowess

Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may not hail from a populous state; and he may not benefit from the weight of a major party propelling him forward;  but he is looking more and more like a force to be reckoned with in the hallowed halls of Congress.

Sanders has long been known to be a formidable advocate for veterans' best interests.  Having assumed the role of Chairman of the Senate's Veterans' Affairs Committee in January 2013, Sander's arrival on the scene came just as that advocacy experience was called for in the wake of revelations that VA hospitals (and, by extension, the Department of Veteran's Affairs) has failed in its mission to provide promised relief to former service members who were in need of timely healthcare.

Now, it appears that Sanders and his counterpart in the House, Republican Jeff Miller, may have negotiated enough common ground to bring some much needed relief to the situation:


The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to improve veterans' health care...Sen. Sanders and Rep. Miller continued negotiating over the weekend. Aides said they "made significant progress" on legislation to overhaul the VA and provide funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals...

Amid the deliberate gridlock that has paralyzed Congress since Obama's election, and even more so over the past year; the injection of an identified 'Independent'  to lubricate the process seems to have been just what the doctor ordered.

Of course there is no question that, when veterans' rights are at issue, both major parties should be highly motivated to play nice.  But Republicans have the smell of extinction in their nostrils as they observe the changing demographics of twenty-first century America.  

That smell has prompted sane Republicans to cower in the corner, allowing the fringe to run amuck with some pretty crazy and losing positions on long-over arguments like minority civil rights, women's civil rights and even funding of essential services.  

So even when it's logically in their best longterm interest to be reasonable and allow common-sense legislation to move forward they have sometimes scuttled the whole thing for pure cussedness.

On other issues as well, Sanders' voice rises above the din to reach the ears of a public hungry for straightforward decency.  He is plain spoken and direct; never stooping to hackneyed expressions of sham patriotism or constituent flattery.

I was opposed to seeing Bernie run for president until recently.  I thought he could do more good just exactly where he is than by hitting the campaign trail, Don Quixote style.

But then I started reading how the vast sums of money going into media buys post-Citizens United will limit and shape the very conversation in the 2016 election cycle; so that things like Climate Change and poverty may be pushed right off the podium by the wishlists of moneyed special interest groups demanding expanded drilling, heterosexual hegemony, a ban on abortions, vouchers for education, military expansion; or anything simply to change the subject and monopolize voter attention.

If that is what is likely to happen when candidates face off in presidential debates, I would just like to see them try to hijack Bernie Sander's ten minutes of voter attention!

So I'm changing my tune and joining the swell of support for a Sanders presidential run.  It may be our last chance to get the people's word in edgewise.

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