COMMENTARY: Since June 2015 Las Cruces for BERNIE has been in operation in our community as a nonprofit, independent volunteer political organization unaffiliated with any party or candidate. Our purpose is to work to get Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont elected President of the United States and to further the political revolution that he has called for.
We believe that Sanders is the candidate that many Americans have been waiting a long time for. Wall Street corruption, corporate-purchased politicians, a do-nothing Congress and vast wealth inequality have frustrated and turned off voters.
Bernie Sanders has offered an extensive list of reforms and a detailed plan for how he would pay for them — principally targeting economic and social justice issues that are totally in line with the wishes of the American public, as shown in poll after poll. Examples are single-payer health coverage, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, increasing Social Security benefits, and providing a free college education at public universities to qualified, motivated students.
One reason that Las Cruces for BERNIE has been working to get the word out about Sen. Sanders is, frankly, because the popular media, both the press and TV, has enforced a near total blackout on reporting on his campaign from the outset. Ninety percent of the media in the United States is owned by just six giant corporate conglomerates. Sanders’ populist message to the American people is assertively anti-corporate and anti-Wall Street. He holds them directly responsible for the serious decline in our middle class, the destruction of the main street economy, and for the worsening conditions and stagnant wages of working people.
The media correctly perceives that to give serious exposure to Sanders’ campaign would amount to cutting their own throats. To publicize his progressive agenda would be a foolish decision from a business standpoint.
Sadly, the news media are no longer in the business of news — that is, responsibly informing the public of matters vital to their ability to participate knowledgeably in the civic life of their community and nation. News programming traditionally was not a money-making endeavor for TV networks. It was considered an important public service that was paid for by their entertainment divisions.
Media consolidation brought with it a greater emphasis on profits; hence, news programming was sacrificed, replaced by “infotainment,” an additional profit center for the corporations.
Fortunately, the overwhelming public response to Sanders’ authenticity, truthfulness and concern for the needs and aspirations of regular people has more than compensated for the media’s neglect. His campaign’s deft use of social media has further made up for the lack of traditional media coverage.
Locally, Las Cruces for BERNIE is helping our neighbors learn about Sen. Sanders in a number of ways. We distribute informational literature at various venues around town, including the Downtown Mall, on both campuses and on periodic Sundays when we have a literature table at the Mesilla Vendors Market. Our volunteers participate in community events, such as marching in the Veterans Day Parade and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March; Toss No Mas, and the Oye Festival, where we talk to people about our candidate and distribute literature. In February we held two Rally for Bernie events at the corner of Main and Picacho, both of which had very enthusiastic support. We recently offered a free public screening and discussion of a new and very topical documentary film that deals with what has become of the American Dream. It is entitled “Dream On.”
We hold monthly meetings to which the public is invited, where we offer updates on events and actions we engaged in; seek public input into our work and plan future activities; offer informational talks on issues relevant to voter registration, the New Mexico primary nomination and election process and the like. We make available volunteer-designed and locally union-produced Bernie T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers in exchange for donations to support our work. The meetings also present an opportunity to enlist new volunteers into our organization.
Our very active Facebook page– /lascrucesforbernie –now has over 2,100 “Likes” and many followers locally, around the country, and internationally as well. We use the page to disseminate current information about the campaign, sharing posts from numerous websites and Facebook pages, including berniesanders.com and New Mexico for Bernie. We post relevant news reports, articles and blogs, some of which are written by our volunteers. Check our events listings on the page to view our schedule of upcoming activities.
We are dismayed that no reports of our work have appeared in the local newspapers. Las Cruces does not generate so much news that important developments such as the appearance and work of Las Cruces for BERNIE cannot be accommodated. We have repeatedly invited the papers to our events to no avail.
We invite interested people to our next public meeting on Saturday, March 19 from 2-4 p.m. at the Branigan Library in the Roadrunner Room.
Max Mastellone is a long-time activist, Las Cruces resident and supporter of Bernie Sanders for president.