Sanders Against the System: A Teaching Moment

02/09/2016 02:42 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2017

On the same night, I heard two different pundits equate Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. According to this false equivalency, since Trump can pay for his own campaign, and Sanders is relying on small contributions and not Super-PACs, they are both rebelling against the system. From this perspective, there is no difference between a million people volunteering to give a candidate money and a billionaire using his own resources to fund himself. The logic behind this argument is that a billionaire businessman has the same political power as a million citizens.

In another great false equivalency, Howard Dean has argued that Democrats like Sanders have their own Super PACS in the form of union donations. Dean went as far as arguing that,"For Bernie to say he doesn't have a super-PAC...labor unions are super-PACs. Labor unions are super-PACs Democrats like so we don't go after labor unions." The implication here is not only that unions are equivalent to wealthy billionaires, but the Democrats should go after unions and politicians who receive money from unions. Moreover, Dean feels that Hillary Clinton getting millions of dollars speaking to Wall Street tycoons is the same thing as Sanders giving free speeches to union members: "I don't hear anybody asking Bernie Sanders for transcripts of some speech he made for a labor union."

How can we understand this incredible attack on unions and Bernie Sanders from someone who many considered a progressive leader? One answer is that Dean is now a paid lobbyist for a healthcare firm that is taking a strong stand against a single-payer system. In other words, Dean is enacting the very thing that Sanders is trying to change: politicians being bought by the highest corporate bidder.

Clinton's only defense against her Super PACs, Wall Street financing, and lucrative speeches to corporate insiders is to say trust her because she would never be influenced by all of this money. But why are all of these companies paying her so much? As Sanders has insisted, the answer is that we have a system of indirect bribery in American politics. Since the Supreme Court has ruled that money equals speech, and you cannot censor the political speech of citizens, you cannot regulate the use of money to buy votes and politicians.

What is amazing is that the Supreme Court is likely to rule this summer that public unions can no longer make all of their members pay for union representation because everything a public union does is political. Like Dean, the Supreme Court believes that unions are as powerful as Wall Street and the billionaire class, and so the unions have to be stripped of their power so the wealthy can finally be set free.

This logic makes me want to do a Dean Scream!