Bernie Sanders: champion of environmental racism

Radioactive waste barrels (MIHAJLO MARICIC VIA GETTY IMAGES)

There’s a lot of elation about Sanders’ wins in Washington, Hawaii, & Alaska & photos of thousands attending his rally in Seattle, with lines a mile long waiting to get in to hear him. Impressive. He’s bungled so many questions–especially those involving racism–& still by comparison to Clinton he comes out smelling like a rose.

But why the illusions? Why do seasoned activists utter nonsense like ‘he might save Palestine’ when he defends Israel & a Jewish-only state with such vehemence? Why are some of Sanders’ supporters castigating Blacks who voted for Clinton & uttering crap like “What the black voter did to Sanders is unforgivable”? Why are people swooning over his campaign video featuring Hawaiian Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, who blames Islamic theology for conflict in the Middle East & is a supporter of the BJP, Indian Prime Minister Modi’s right wing nationalist party?

Why the unwillingness of Sanders’ supporters to address the realities of his long tenure in office & instead make him an icon of principled politics when the congressional record is clear: he is massively compromised on all the big questions like war, US militarism, Israeli apartheid, undocumented immigrants/refugees, & the environment. In some circles, where the truth is spoken bluntly, he is called a blowhard.

His large following is not a testimony to idealism but to the triumph of credulity & burying your head in the sand as a political strategy. An examination of his record shows him to be hopelessly compromised & even outright corrupt.

Let’s take just one example: his co-sponsorship in 1998 of H.R.629, the Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Consent Act. It was an agreement between Texas (under the governorship of George Bush), Maine, & Vermont to ship radioactive nuclear waste from Main & Vermont (a state 95% white) to Sierra Blanca, Texas, a small city near El Paso & the Rio Grande River. Sierra Blanca was over 70% Mexican-American with the highest poverty levels in the country & without political representation. Then president Bill Clinton signed H.R. 629 into law despite years of public opposition to the nuclear dump site.

The Sierra Blanca site was owned by Harold Simmons, a tycoon powerful in Texas politics as a major donor to the GOP who made his fortune by hiring lobbyists & buying politicians. One Simmons company was responsible for the lead poisoning of an impoverished Black community in Cadillac Heights, Texas & for other toxic dump sites which cost US taxpayers $4.4 billion in Superfund monies.

This is what is called ‘environmental racism’–going on at the same time as Indian reservations were being bribed to become radioactive waste dumps. Sanders co-sponsored H.R. 629 with Texas congressman Joe Barton, a rightwing politician who continues to distinguish himself for idiocies & treacheries on environmental matters, including his assertion that wind is a finite resource & his support for the Keystone pipeline.

Sanders’ congressional speech supporting H.R. 629 typifies his ability to speak out of both sides of his ass. He first stated opposition to nuclear power & acknowledged the problem of radioactive waste. Then he argued for moving Vermont’s radioactive waste to Sierra Blanca, saying: “No reputable scientist or environmentalist believes that the geology of Vermont or Maine would be a good place for this waste.” Would any reputable politician not marinated in white supremacy then suggest it be dumped in Texas among poor brown people with limited access to healthcare?

In the end, it doesn’t matter if people support Sanders; what matters is the political method used to justify doing so. People who want to make this world suitable for human beings to live in ought to be ruthless with the truth & not accept false prophets & saviors.

(Photo by Mihajlo Maricic/Getty Images)