If you watched any portions of the recent marathon CNN Town Hall with college students in New Hampshire, featuring five of the Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, you’re undoubtedly aware of the bombshell that Sanders unloaded — much to the surprise of his fellow candidates and the nation.
Maybe Brother Bernie’s been listening a little too much to The Gap Band — you know, “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” baby! Sanders, known for staying on task with a platform that has included healthcare for all and climate control, announced on Monday, April 22, that he backs voting rights for “terrible people” currently incarcerated — even the Boston Marathon bomber and those convicted of sexual assault, saying “the right to vote is inherent to our democracy.”
I can only imagine the shudders that came from his staff and volunteers, as well as those who have, so far, given financial contributions and their unabashed support to him in his second run for the White House. Sanders brings the kind of rhetoric, speculations and suggested policies that we have come to expect, given his stance as a socialist and third-party candidate. But in his effort to shake up the waters, he’s committed a faux pas resulting in a muddying of the waters for the Democrats who desperately want to unseat the monarchy of Donald Trump.
Maybe Sanders actually thinks he’s on to something, but I can’t see how. Rather than proposing something as controversial and absurd as allowing the incarcerated to vote, it seems like he’d be more focused on ensuring that those eligible to vote, and who are not inhabitants of the prison industrial complex, can exercise their right without the carefully-crafted strategies of those, dare I say the Republican Party, hellbent on maintaining voter suppression and their seat of power.
If Sanders is serious, and I cannot believe he is, then we’d give the vote to white supremacists and other hatemongers (black, brown, yellow and polka-dot) who engineered or carried out the murders of those like Martin, Medgar, Malcolm X — even young Emmett Till — as well as the cowardice mass shootings and murders of innocent youth and adults from Sandy Hook to Las Vegas and Orlando. We’d allow white collar convicted criminals with white skin and white constituencies, some of whom have robbed innocent Americans of their life’s savings, to vote for judges, members of Congress and the president while resting comfortably in federal prisons.
One of the things that happens when a person commits a crime and is convicted, is they relinquish many of the rights that are “supposedly” guaranteed to all citizens of the U.S. I say “supposedly” because we know that voting, while an assumed right for all, continues to be obstructed for reasons, none of which have any validity, and maintained through insensitive, biased forms of legislation.
Bernie would do better to help America come to grips with its various forms of voter suppression — from poll taxes to correctly predicting the number of balls in a jar or the double-checking for one’s signature required in some states to be exactly the same to the way they marked their John Hancock when they first registered to vote.
Meanwhile, Harris showed us how well she can hedge when presented with questions that she’d prefer to refrain from answering. On several occasions during her Town Hall appearance, she said, “I think we should have that conversation.” As the child from a family of strong Black women, I know that whenever my mother, my grandmother, my older sister who thinks she’s my mother — even my aunts, babysitters and adopted moms, would say something similar to Harris’s pat response, they were really telling me, “No!”
Shakespeare did not say this — it was Sir Walter Scott: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
Bernie needs to wake up and stop perpetrating. As for Harris, she needs to get off the fence.
And for the record, Warren’s notions of free education for all and the reduction of student loan debt have great merit. But let’s make sure that both public and private schools would share in the free education deal. Because if, as she currently is spinning the proposal, only public schools would be the beneficiaries which would automatically eliminate around half of the 101 historically Black colleges and universities who are private institutions. Wrong answer, Ms. Elizabeth!