Why the Nation’s Nurses are Supporting Bernie Sanders for President

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Why the Nation’s Nurses are Supporting Bernie Sanders for President

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) received the endorsment of the National Nurses United this week because of the "rare opportunity his campaign represents to not just speak truth to power, but to join movements together to change our country." (Photo: National Nurses United/flickr/cc)

The more than 100,000 people who have jammed into arenas in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Madison, and other cities should be a wake up call for anyone still on the sidelines in the critical 2016 election campaign.

National Nurses United, I’m proud to say, has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for many of the same reasons that have brought those 100,000 people to their feet.

Bernie Sanders aligns perfectly with nurses on the most critical problems facing our nation, from income inequality to guaranteeing healthcare to all to holding Wall Street and corporations to account to opening the doors to college education for everyone to racial justice to the climate crisis.

"All the establishment pundits who are scrambling for ways to dismiss the outpouring of excitement for his campaign and to marginalize those who have filled the stadiums increasingly look like cranks trying to stop an approaching train."

Those are the same issues that animate nurses when we talk about voting for nurses’ values – caring, compassion and community to Heal America.

But we also support the Sanders moment also because of the rare opportunity his campaign represents to not just speak truth to power, but to join movements together to change our country.  To stand as a social movement against the obscene wealth that controls our lives, starves our communities, destroys our people, and expand a populist movement that put human life before profit. 

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All the establishment pundits who are scrambling for ways to dismiss the outpouring of excitement for his campaign and to marginalize those who have filled the stadiums increasingly look like cranks trying to stop an approaching train.

The myths

Bernie can’t win. Exactly what they said about Barack Obama at this parallel point in 2007.  American history, of course, is filled with examples of change that could never occur, until it does – abolition of slavery, votes for women, ending legal segregation, the right to same sex marriage. Sanders is used to the naysayers. They said he couldn’t win running for mayor of Burlington, as an independent running for Congress and then Senate, and he won them all. That’s why we have elections – to let the voters, not the “experts,” decide.

He’s not drawing black and Latino voters. As his campaign and platform become better known, that is changing, evident in the multi-racial crowd at his overflow Los Angeles rally and support from young artists like Lil B and Killer Mike. At a time when Cecil the lion evokes more outrage than the death of Sandra Bland, Bernie is increasingly speaking out, and has advanced a platform with a call for a “societal transformation” to end police violence, mass incarceration, and “institutional racism.”  Nurses hold every life in their hands. Nurses know why Black Lives Matter needs to be amplified, and so does Bernie Sanders. 

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He’s an “avowed democratic socialist.” That fear mongering has lost much of its resonance. What does democratic socialism mean in America?  It’s how we teach our children, put out fires, pay for our libraries, and for building our roads, bridges, highways, and street lighting. It’s how we inspect our food to make it safe, to provide oversight for clean air and water, develop life saving medications and vaccines, and of course, provide Social Security and Medicare. Every governor, mayor, and school board member who uses public funds to pay for basic services could be called a socialist.

As nurses, an organization of predominantly women, I have been asked, don’t you want to break the glass ceiling with Hillary Clinton?

Yes. We’d love it if Hillary had Bernie’s politics, his unequivocal opposition to a dreadful Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that would expand big pharma’s monopoly control over high priced drugs and hand corporations increased ability to overturn public protections. And if she opposed the toxic polluting, climate disaster known as the Keystone XL pipeline.

"While other candidates are intrinsically tied to Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce, Bernie not only calls for repeal of Citizens United and public financing of campaigns he is the only candidate not taking money from big corporations and PACs."

And we’d especially love to see her standing up for single payer, Medicare for all at a time when millions remain uninsured, skipping needed care or facing bankruptcy due to inflated medical bills.

But, at a time of the greatest income disparity in nearly a century, Citizens United corruption of our political system, an all out assault on workers lives, and a threat to our planet and our future, our first challenge today must be to break the Wall Street, corporate stranglehold over our economy, our politics, our nation.

“You’ll never have to wonder which side I am on,” he says. While other candidates are intrinsically tied to Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce, Bernie not only calls for repeal of Citizens United and public financing of campaigns he is the only candidate not taking money from big corporations and PACs.

Bernie wants to take money from Wall Street too – by taxing them to fund a civil society with the health care, the jobs, the housing, and the environmental protections people need.

Bernie Sanders knows that his campaign is not about him. It’s about all of us. And it will take all of us to change the course of history. It’s time to start now.

RoseAnn DeMoro

RoseAnn DeMoro

RoseAnn DeMoro is executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses, and a national vice president of the AFL-CIO. Follow RoseAnn DeMoro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NationalNurses

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