As I See It Opinion

Bernie Sanders: A Promise Unfulfilled

Written by Richard Hack

There is nothing more disappointing than unfulfilled promise.  Such is the position in which many gays are now finding themselves when watching the performance of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders over the past several weeks.

We’re certain you’ve heard about the ad hoc group of HIV activists who scheduled an appointment with Sanders last month, only to have it cancelled two days before the event. (This after all the last minute high-priced plane tickets had been booked.)

The meeting, of course, was rescheduled last week, and seemed to have been a success until after the meeting was over. In an official release from the Sanders campaign, the campaign said that, “U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday met with national HIV/AIDS advocates to discuss the epidemic and his support for a California ballot initiative to lower prices for taxpayer-supported AIDS treatments.” Unfortunately, such was not the case. While the meeting took place, there was only a passing mention of the California ballot initiative, and that was from the ad hoc HIV advocates who are not in favor of the suggested legislation.

In an open letter from the group to Sanders, the HIV advocates said, “As 19 representatives of the coalition, nearly half of whom are either based in or affiliated with organizations in California, we are deeply concerned as this may now appear as if we were exploited for short-term political gain leading up to the imminent California Presidential Primary Election.

“Your campaign’s release title and the bulk of its content mislead readers and the press to believe that our May 25 meeting was primarily focused on your endorsement of a California ballot initiative on HIV drug pricing. By extension, it also implies that our national HIV/AIDS coalition also fully endorses this initiative. Both these characterizations are inaccurate.”

Phone calls to the Sanders campaign for explanation remained unanswered, then as now. It is obvious this candidate who claims to represent the grassroots had his own self-interest at heart in a last minute effort to attract attention to himself for the upcoming California primary—a primary he is not expected to win.

Michael Emanuel Rajner, our local activist who attended the meaning continued to reach out even as he kept traveling for the HIV cause. After attending the meeting Rajner next took to the road to attend the HIV Is Not a Crime II Training Academy Conference in Huntsville, Alabama. Hillary Clinton opens the well-attended event. Bernie Sanders was nowhere in sight. According the Rajner, he had reached out to Sanders to at the very least record a video to be played at the conference.

“I continually reached out to Senator Bernie Sanders campaign in not only the weeks and days leading up to the conference, but also during the conference to request they also provide a video message. Sanders campaign never provided such a video in the days after even though I strongly encouraged them to do so. So much for a grassroots campaign.”

According to Rajner, posting on Facebook, “The campaign has not apologized for their erroneous claims made against one of our members, nor have they returned any of my numerous emails or phone calls asking for them to meet with interested stakeholders in California to hear their concerns on the CA ballot proposition.

Personally, I was more hopeful when the meeting initially concluded, but in the days following, deeply disappointed in a campaign that claims to be more in touch with the grassroots. How much more grassroots can you get then a group of AIDS activists?”

A very good question.