AOC's endorsement of Bernie is a betrayal of gun safety and a capitulation to corporate influence in politics


Members of Congress can endorse whomever they want for president. But their endorsements speak about their values, their aspirations, and what they think is really important. There is always a cloud of betrayal that hangs over elected officials who say they believe in something and then go and back up political figures who personify the opposite.

For example, it is difficult to trust the sincerity of Republican politicians who say they oppose the Russian invasion of American elections when they back the greatest beneficiary of such invasion, Donald Trump. It is hard to have faith in the seriousness of politicians who say they are against corruption in government and yet keep excusing every move by every corrupt, self-serving official in the Trump administration, the president included. It strains credulity to credit the veracity of those who claim to care about homelessness but are hell-bent in their opposition to a shelter or transition housing being built in their own neighborhoods.

Progressives have used this principle effectively to their advantage in many cases. You shouldn't trust those who take money from oil companies to fight climate change, they assert. We should be adamantly for collective bargaining, they rightly say, because you cannot trust corporate management - bound only to shareholder gain - to look out for the interest of workers. Industry insiders and executives ought not be appointed to government positions responsible for regulating the same industry, they persuasively argue.

So why should you trust a politician who says she supports gun safety reform but shows up to support a candidate for president who has spent most of his career in the bag for the gun industry? Why should you believe a politician who says she's for universal background checks but supports a charlatan who voted - five times - against background checks and waiting periods? Why should you put faith in the honesty of a politician who says she's against the NRA but shows up to back a candidate for president who would never have been a member of Congress were it not for the blessing of the NRA?

And finally, why should you believe a politician who says she believes in corporate accountability but paints with lavish praise a presidential candidate who voted with Republicans and the NRA to give special immunity to the only industry that manufactures products that, when used as directed, causes murder?

Why, indeed, should you trust the honesty of a politician who says she's a progressive but shows up to support a candidate for office who began his career in Congress - a career that longer than she has been alive but devoid of any significant accomplishments - by trashing progressives through his spokesman?

Anthony Pollina, the Chief of Staff to the then-newly minted Congressman from Vermont's sole House seat, Bernard Sanders, upon being confronted over Sanders's votes to stop effective gun safety legislation in 1991 said bluntly that it was not Bernie's job to represent liberals and progressives. Sanders punted to a much-familiar states rights argument when it came to his early votes against gun safety, arguing that, well, people liked guns in Vermont.

That would be bad enough, but as it turns out - and as we have reported - the backstory for Bernie's position is linked much more to the NRA than to Vermont's gun owners. Bernie Sanders was nothing more than a fringe, quixotic, quirky figure in Vermont politics - running for offices and garnering votes generally in the single digits - until someone named Wayne LaPierre sent a letter to then 12,000 members of the NRA in Vermont in support of Bernie Sanders. Suddenly in 1990, Sanders won the seat in Congress he'd lost just two years earlier, after the Republican Congressman representing Vermont at the time dared to stand up to the NRA.

And when he took office, his office put out the word that Bernie was in Congress to represent the NRA, not progressives.

As a new member of Congress, Bernie Sanders voted again and again against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which required background checks as well as a national waiting period for the purchase of firearms so that those background checks could be completed. Sanders said then that he wanted the waiting period to be left up to the states (a familiar refrain), but that he was for an "instant" background checks. To no one's amusement but Bernie's, the technology to conduct instant checks did not exist at the time.

By the time the Brady bill became law with President Bill Clinton's signature at the end of 1993, Bernie Sanders had proudly voted 'NO' five times. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

If you thought Sanders's affair with the NRA was just a 90s summer flick, get ready to be disappointed. In 2003 and 2005, Bernie Sanders voted with George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans to give gun corporations special immunity from lawsuits. As late as 2015, Bernie's campaign was telling reporters that he would have cast the same vote were it held a decade later. Sanders only reversed his position in early January of 2016, just as Hillary Clinton made the issue too hot an inconvenient for Sanders as the Democratic primaries were about to begin.

Voting against background checks? Check. Voting against waiting periods? Check. Voting to shield corporations from lawsuits? Check. Change positions due to political calculations? Check.

This is the man who is supposed to be the pro-safety, anti-corporate, anticorruption panacea for the Democrats? I don't think so. Bernie Sanders's votes are directly responsible for NRA's power and our inability to hold the gun lobby responsible for mass shootings. Directly. But that's the man AOC supports.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement of Bernie Sanders is a sad - but perhaps cunning - betrayal of gun violence victims that AOC says she supports, as well as the progressive movement's campaign against corrupt corporate influence in politics (of which the NRA is the greatest example).


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