I was very happy last night to see Senator Bernie Sanders’ evolution of his position on the immunity given gun manufacturers. His new position is good for him, good for the Democratic Party, and a great boost for gun safety advocates.
I sent the private letter below in early November, two months before last night's debate in South Carolina. The letter was never answered. I did not oppose his campaign or attack him. My concept of conflict resolution favors the improvement of a candidate's position, not the usual tactic of attacking a candidate until they change position and then triumphantly accusing them of flip-flopping to take advantage. There's a big difference between evolving and flip-flopping. So Bernie should be thanked for his good judgment. This is good for our party and the country.
More to come...TOM
Letter to Senator Bernie Sanders and Jane Sanders
Dear Bernie and Jane,
Your campaign is doing exceptionally well, already bringing benefits to our country and the progressive future. Your debating skills and presentation are steadily improving, and you have become a folk hero. Barbara and I looking forward to your opportunity to educate voters about clear and persuasive differences with Hillary on Nov. 14 in Des Moines. Then you can keep building from there!
As an old veteran of many campaigns myself, I write to share with you a problem that is beginning to arise and possible ways to adjust to it.
In this year of wanton mass shootings, the problem of gun control has become extremely important to Democrats and many independents. It will not go away. It advantages Hillary in the primaries and the polls. What to do? The answer is not to double down and make the problem more problematic. There are better paths to a positive outcome.
Your problem is your defense of the liability shield given gun manufacturers and distributors by an NRA lobbying campaign a decade ago, which is inconsistent with your views on big business and big money. It provides, as Hillary keeps noting, a unique immunity for the gun industry over any other.
It’s not "flip-flopping" to review and revise long-held positions, especially ones that are dear to a politician’s base constituency. You can be an advocate of gun-owners’ Second Amendment Rights. You can emphasize the unique qualities Vermont shares with other rural constituencies. And say straightforwardly that repealing a policy of corporate immunity unity for one industry has become a more important and consistent philosophical priority to you than it was ten years ago in Vermont. Framing the issue as one of a monopoly for a single industry of for-profit gun manufacturers only fortifies your criticism of monopolies against the little guy, in this case the many individuals who have tried to sue the industry giants for harm they have done. For example, companies like Brownells, Barrett profit from making and selling firearms linked to recent mass shootings.
I am personally avoiding an endorsement of either yourself or Hillary only because of my passion for progressive and Democratic unity, as well as a desire to avoid the mental madness that comes with the media’s spin cycle. That said, it’s the case that Hillary has some serious contradictions in her own views on gun control. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2000 she was a, “…forceful advocate of creating a National Gun Registry.” But then eight years later, "She positioned herself as more conservative,” than Barack Obama. (Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2014)
What would Tim Carpenter say in this discussion? He would say if you got a problem, fix it.
There’s always a problem in delaying with a repair job. Stop the public hemorrhaging. It’s not a problem to revise a position that arose from local Vermont politics ten or fifteen years ago, not in light of the current public attention to mass shootings and police violence. Maintain your original [and understandable] principle of allegiance to the citizens of Vermont. Announce a new position consistent with where you are on monopoly profiteering. It’s not about the Second Amendment so much as profits, campaign donations and grease-the-wheel lobbyists in DC.
Friends like myself can be helpful by keeping this letter private now and later, not issuing a public Call that stirs and mixes up progressives and reporters. Instinctively, of course, I’d like to keep a record rather than keep correspondence on a public issue private. But releasing this letter now can be useful o all parties.
Finally, there’s a public moment and possible opportunity for you ahead on this. Our close friend Robert Greenwald is near finishing an exciting documentary on the NRA as the lobbyist for the profit-seeking gun industry, which makes ten percent of its revenue from selling advertising to the industry, and received $40 million of its revenues from the industry in recent years. The film will premier in DC, New York, the Bay Area and far beyond. If Robert wants to invite you to speak, it would be the best possible context for you to state your position. I urge you to think about it.