BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
There is so much going on, especially in Turkey, that it was difficult to choose an issue to address. But the chaotic, not-yet-assessable, turn of events in, around, and about our homeland’s occupier led me choose another very timely, but not yet complete matter, the U.S. presidential elections, whose Primary election season has now run roughly 50% of its course.
We will be in non-stop-elections mode for more than another year: the November U.S. election, Spring 2017 local elections in the LA basin where the large Armenian population is impacted and can impact the results, and finally Armenia’s first parliamentary elections under the newly adopted system, also coming next Spring. They all deserve, and will receive, much attention.
But, for now, let’s start at the top of the ticket and address legislative elections separately at a later date. There’s lots to cover.
My point is not to bash any of the presidential candidates. It’s too easy to do, and when it comes to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, it has been overdone, inordinately and off the mark, with form overwhelming substance (e.g. “Hillary is a liar” and “Trump is a lunatic”).
Let’s look at these candidates through Armenian lenses, based on the records compiled by the ANCA. Unfortunately, I know effectively nothing about the minor party candidates, who they are, or their Armenian records. This is a sad reflection on the state of democracy, the media, and the tyranny of a two-party system. But, as they say, if you’re stuck with a bunch of lemons, make lemonade.
Of the five remaining candidates (of the original 20) Trump has no Armenian track record (but may tilt pro-Azerbaijan because of business interests there). Clinton and John Kasich have decidedly mixed, and slightly more negative, Armenian records. Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz have positive records. Sanders, who has been in office far longer than Cruz, has a more extensive one.
So, we only the last two are even worthy of consideration. Of the articles I’ve seen about these presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders has been touted as the best choice from an Armenian perspective. This proposition has also generated fervent negative response, but without advocacy of a better alternative. I have to agree that Bernie is best for us, while recognizing that once in office, he would still be confronted with the inertia of the decades-old State and Defense departments’ pro-Turkey bias.
Why is Bernie best? He is the most honest, most constructive, most consistent, most correct in his analyses, and most importantly – most committed to doing the right thing for the people of the country.
His policies and approaches are time tested. They work. They are popular. They have led to much economic growth and much uplift of people out of poverty. But, because they put a crimp in the money-mongering elites’ greedy feeding tube, they are slowly being dismantled. That which pulled the world out of the Great Depression and rebuilt after World War II has been severely undermined, which is why so many people in the developed world have faced stagnating and even declining standards of living over the last two-three decades. Meanwhile, the developing world is filled with people who aspire to better lives, but are kept in near-poverty while being used to erode all that makes life good in the developed world, through unfair competition.
A president such as Bernie Sanders would take the first steps (at least) in reestablishing some degree of economic justice. When people feel reasonably economically secure, then they produce more in their non-working lives. They have more time to be civically engaged. They are more inclined to support other struggles for justice, such as those of Armenians.
Supporting and voting for Bernie is the best course for Armenians since the ideology he espouses is rooted in justice. It opens doors for us, if we are willing to engage. Given Turkey’s re-descent into injustice, authoritarianism, massacres, and possibly even civil war, with someone who is viscerally motivated to be just, we may get an unimaginable opportunity to start restoring what was taken from Armenians.
Some may contend that “America will never elect a socialist” because of its history or the intense anti-socialist propaganda to which Americans have been subjected for three generations. That might be true. But, what’s interesting is that when socialist policies are presented to Americans in surveys without being labeled “socialist,” they are well received. Many very popular programs in the U.S. – 5-day workweeks, Social Security, Medicare, public schools – are socialist born. It’s just that decades of time and propaganda have masked that reality.
But now, with the economic insecurity foisted on an overwhelming majority of citizens through a quarter century of poorly crafted trade agreements and the dismantling of economic safety measures, people are ready to listen. That’s why demagogues such as Trump and Cruz get so much support. They are addressing people’s fears, but with the wrong diagnoses and the wrong solutions.
Look at it this way. What have we to lose as Armenian citizens of the United States? The presidency has been the strongest anti-Armenian redoubt in the federal government. Let’s go for Bernie and see what we get. None of the traditional candidates of the last three decades has held such promise.