When primaries are contested, a newspaper often states a preference for a candidate from each party and then later endorses one or the other for the general election, and normally we would follow suit.  But this election cycle is different.

In our opinion, there is no candidate running in the Republican primary who is remotely acceptable.   The bizarre circus of the Republican presidential campaign is so deeply fractured, negative and discriminatory, and so out of touch with reality that we believe any of the Republican candidates, should they become president, would prove disastrous for the country.  Thus, we choose to focus on the May 17th Oregon Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders, in our opinion, is the only major candidate telling the people exactly what they need to hear.  Corporations do have far too much power and influence.  Wall Street possesses almost total control over our finances.  The middle class has definitely been hollowed out.  Financing of health care and education needs complete reform.  A consequence of all this is unchecked expansion of income and wealth inequality.  And so on…  We agree with his contention that a political revolution is necessary to create a sustainable economic model that benefits all of our citizens.

Bernie Sanders takes on the wealthiest established institutions in our nation, and calls foul on the hegemony they have had on the working class, the environment and our financial system.  He shines a bright light on the link between poverty and race, poverty and class, and poverty and education – or lack of it.  He embraces a politics of inclusion which shuns the demonizing rhetoric that characterizes so many other candidates.  Further, he has effectively made his case without corporate contributions.  This has taken a dedication to ideals that we believe is both an inspiration and a direction this country needs to take.

No other candidate has the courage to make this case.  Hillary has been too close to the ruling establishment for too long to attempt this, and the Republicans all invoke the conventional angry “run against Washington” mantra, but simply call for us to “tear it down” without offering any constructive replacement policies.

Three major points cement our support of Sanders.  First, a bullet-point listing of his main campaign planks almost exactly mirrors the historic Democratic Party platform. It is deeply ironic that a technical “outsider” like Bernie could actually serve to return the party to its roots.  If the party were to embrace him along with this concept, the refreshingly obvious repudiation of the much criticized Politics As Usual could re-energize the Democratic Party and give them a landslide victory.  To support this opinion, we note that he is the only major candidate in either party whose authenticity and integrity have never been questioned.  He says what he believes, and always has.

Second, public opinion polls show strong majority support for Bernie’s positions on all major issues, such as Social Security, Wall Street reform, campaign finance, and the like.  If a “slate” for each candidate were proposed with no names, but just a list of positions on issues, his slate would likely dominate, and in all regions of the country.  He is, in reality, a “majority” candidate – in the absence of any labeling.

And “labeling” brings us to our third and final point.  What about the “Socialism” thing?  Public schools are socialist.  Police and fire departments are Socialist.  Public parks, libraries, city streets, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, all of them, are socialist programs.  When AT&T recently leaked toxic chemicals into Salem’s watershed, it was a Socialist program that monitored your water to make sure you and your family were not being poisoned.  Each of these programs enjoys broad public support.  It’s time we get over the outdated Cold War scare tactic rhetoric and simply seek creative ways for government to improve people’s lives.  A vision of a positive role for government, along with a rebirth of a sense of the commons, is desperately needed.  Most of the world’s serious problems, such as climate change and rampant inequality, have been caused by excessive private sector influence, and they will not be solved without decisive government actions.

In conclusion, Bernie Sanders is the best choice by far to deal with the root causes of our problems and democratically reinvigorate a strong middle class society that works for everybody.

Salem Weekly editorial board members:  Russ Beaton, Jim Scheppke, William Smaldone, Naseem Rakha, A.P. Walther.