Tuesday, February 09, 2016

#BernieSanders, #NHPrimary

Is America ready for a Jewish president?

US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is getting serious in public opinion polls. It is so exciting to watch debates, polls, and speeches, on CNN, NBC, ABC, and BBC TV channels early in the morning our time, similar to watching a football match.

Bernie Sanders (74) is a New York native, Jewish American born in 1941. He received his graduate diploma in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Formerly, he was a mayor and member of the House of Representatives, and he is currently serving as Vermont Senator, as he has been for the last two terms. Public polls rate him better than both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders has received humble donations from workers, their trade unions, and from individual voters. Hillary’s donations are from major corporations, big banks, and financial institutions, which are called super PACs.

During the Vietnam War, a young Bernie Sanders declared himself a "conscientious objector" and did not participate in the Vietnam War. Thus, we know that he is against war. In congress, he voted against the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and even against to war in Syria. In personal armament he is quoted saying, "Guns alone do not kill people, the people who use gun kills other people, so you must protect people's mental health." That is a practical approach since his constituency in Vermont is located in forest land and gun ownership is important for personal safety in Vermont.

He offers to promote the general health insurance system for all to facilitate full access. He says he is a "self-declared socialist, or social democrat, proud to be Jewish but not too religious." In his youth, he spent three months in an Israeli kibbutz in summer time. He speaks basic Hebrew. Occasionally, he is against Israeli war policies but he agrees that Israel has the right to defend its citizens.

He does not have a lot of experience in world politics. His career has focused on domestic politics. No matter whether or not Bernie Sanders will be the next US president, his rival Hillary Clinton will probably be the foreign minister (Secretary of State).

If elected president, care for the environment, global warming, and climate change will most likely be of extreme importance. "Climate change is the greatest security threat to the United States," he says. The Environment Impact Assessment will have extreme importance to EIA standards, in order to increase the new investments for thermal power plant environmental equipment. Bernie Sanders will promote investments in renewable energy, hydro, wind, and solar.

There will be a pollution tax on coal and fossil fuel firing thermal power plants. That will discourage new thermal investments. Investors will escape from fossil fuels and shale gas (fracturing) investments will be discouraged. Environmental, water, air, and soil contamination will be prevented. Long distance gas transmission pipelines (Keystone) will be stopped.

His paternal family and his mother were Ashkenazim East European Jewish immigrants at the turn of 20th century. His paternal relatives that remained in East Europe during World War II disappeared in the Holocaust. Bernie has been married twice. He has an adult son from a woman he dated between his two marriages. He has three stepchildren from his current wife, whom he calls his own.

He has a practical approach to nuclear energy. In Vermont nuclear plant wastes in their selection, he supported the decision to transport nuclear waste from Vermont nuclear plant to the Texas town of Sierra Blanca, which is a poor Hispanic community.

Immigrant American citizens who have recently arrived (including Turkish Americans), disadvantageous minorities, women, the elderly, and retirees vote for Democrats. Weapon manufacturers and rich whites are Republican. Democrats generally remain distant from Turkey, whereas Republicans are closer to Turkey. If Hillary Clinton wins, she will continue the same policy of Barack Obama, she does not offer anything new. But still, she has been unable to give an account on the Benghazi Libya events, in which she was responsible for the loss of the US ambassador.

The US is preparing to have a Jewish senator become the next president, but is the world ready for it? Is our region ready? Jewish Americans have run for president twice, but have failed to succeed in the past. We all are tired of the same family names. Bernie Sanders, with his pacifist tendencies, may be a better choice for our geography for cooling down our unnecessarily bitter relations with the Russians in Syria. Who knows, opportunities may arise for a new formation in the warming relations with Israel, Egypt, and with our neighbors.

Could the castle of capitalism, the US, be run by a socialist/social democratic/Jewish president? Large companies, powerful banks, owners of fossil fuel power plants – would they allow the election of such a man? While the Communist Soviet Union has dissolved and is switching to a market economy, is it likely that the US will be led by a socialist president? Maybe we'll organize panels, invite foreign scholars, and even call US embassy officials to talk.


Haluk Direskeneli is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public and private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, and sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as a freelance consultant/energy analyst with thermal power plants and basic/detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of the ODTÜ Alumni and the Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

Ankara, 28 January 2016


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