Why This Superdelegate Enthusiastically Supports Bernie Sanders

Richard Cassidy

I first got involved in politics in 1970 when former Vermont Governor Philip H. Hoff ran for the U.S. Senate. The issue that drove me then was Hoff’s opposition to the Vietnam War. He lost, but I soldiered on, and I have been involved in Democratic politics ever since. I am a proud Democrat, and I cherish the values for which my party stands.

The Pulpit Rock
Philip Hoff (center) with Superdelegate Richard Cassidy on his right in 1970.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders first ran for the Senate as a third-party candidate in 1972. He was talking about the same issues then that he talks about now: income inequality, racial justice, gender equality and real popular democracy. He also argued that the Democratic Party was not significantly better than Republicans at protecting the interests of ordinary people.

I agreed with Sanders on the issues, but on the parties, I did not. I believe the solutions Sanders has sought are core democratic priorities, and that’s why Vermont Democrats have enthusiastically supported him in Congress over nearly three decades.

Sanders remained true to Democratic values, even as the face of the national party shifted. It was President Bill Clinton who led this change when he ran as self-styled “New Democrat” in 1992. His overall political strategy, of which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a major architect, was triangulation: beat the Republicans by moving to the right, supporting free trade reform, and increasing “tough-on-crime" sentencing.

It was a successful short-term electoral strategy, but with devastating long-term consequences.

It might have proven to be successful if Republicans had triangulated back. Of course, they did not. Instead, the Republican response was to charge further to the right, a trend that has continued into the present election cycle.

Under the sway of New Democrats, we have tried the incremental-reform approach espoused by the Clintons. It has not been a success. The rich get richer. They buy more influence, and then, they get richer still. Everyone deserves a measure of comfort and financial security, but if we continue to let wealth buy power, we risk democracy itself.

I was an early and enthusiastic supporter of President Barack Obama, and I admire how he pulled us out of the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression. But Obama’s noble effort to reach across the aisle and engage Republicans in a cooperative governance was rejected. Compromise with the Republicans has left the financial reins of the nation in the hands of the Wall Street forces that nearly ran us into the abyss.

The Democratic Party can’t afford to compromise with the radical right any more. We need to the hold our values up to the light and show average Americans that the Republicans are not on their side. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders best reflects those values, and that’s why I voted for him on Super Tuesday and why I’ll be voting for him at the Democratic National Convention in July.

Richard Cassidy is a superdelegate as the Democratic national committeeman from Vermont.