Peter Cavanaugh

And then along comes Bernie

He has the same chance as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.

Although my personal choice for election next year to our nation’s highest office remains Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, I’m happy Bernie Sanders is now in the race.

Although Bernie has announced his candidacy as a Democrat, he has acted and voted in Washington as an Independent from Vermont since 2007 – the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.

In identifying his political philosophy through the years, Senator Sanders allies himself with such notable American icons as Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Jack London, Lucille Ball, Harry Belafonte, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, James Baldwin, Woody Guthrie, Ernest Hemingway, Walter Reuther, Kurt Vonnegut and Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bernie Sanders is an avowed “Socialist.”

And – what is “Socialism?”

I’ve avoided quoting Webster’s Dictionary since junior high and Sister Vincent de Paul’s admonition that doing so should be “the last resort of a first class mind,” but will do so here for purposes of political purity.

Webster says: “Socialism is any of various theories or systems of ownership and means of production and distribution by the society or community rather than by private individuals, with all members sharing in both work and product.”

A critical key to understanding this general definition is the word “various,” since “Socialism” comes in many different flavors and varieties – like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or Campbell soups.

Bernie Sanders describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist.”

Democratic Socialism seeks a delicate, cooperative balance between individual and collective ownership, matching the rewards of private enterprise with the priority of common good as fairly and efficiently as human nature allows.

Those are my own words, Sister de Paul. I can feel you smiling up in Heaven.

We already “own” many things together. That’s where the word, “Commonwealth” comes from. In America, we all share ownership of the police, the military, public schools, our roads, our courts, and so on. You get the picture.

Forget what we’re being fed on FOX. Here’s what Bernie the Socialist believes.

* Government should belong to the people. When certain folks say, “Government is bad,” they speak for rule by wealth – however unknowingly. Even though he surely knew better, Ronald Reagan had it down to a science.

* America today witnesses the most unequal income distribution of any major country on earth -- worse than at any time since the 1920s. This must change.

* We need a massive federal jobs program that puts millions of our people back to work and brings about an end to disastrous trade policies that have sent so many jobs overseas.

* The minimum wage should be a living wage with pay equity for women.

* The United States must lead the world in combating climate change and transforming our energy system to efficiency and sustainability.

* Every person in this country who has the desire and ability should be able to get all the education they need regardless of family income.

* The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people. Health care should be a right, not a privilege.

* In a democratic, civilized society -- no one should be hungry or live in desperation. We need to expand Social Security, not cut it.

* We should insist on real tax reform that makes the rich and profitable corporations pay their fair share, not hide loot stashed away in the Cayman Islands.

* As a result of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, American democracy is up for sale to the highest bidder. It must be overturned – if necessary by Constitutional amendment.

When Bernie Sanders formally announced his bid for the presidency, these were his exact words:

“Ever since I was a kid I never liked to see people without money or connections get put down or pushed around. When I came to Congress I tried to be a voice for people who did not have a voice – the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. And that is what I will be doing as a candidate for president.”

Every major political pundit says the poor guy doesn’t have a chance. He’s up against it all: not owned, yet not owing, and not afraid. He looks like a mad professor. But what makes Bernie mad makes me angry too.

In researching this column, I just discovered an amazing thing. Bernie Sanders and I were both born on September 8, 1941 – the first day of The Siege of Leningrad by German forces in World War II.

This was before Pearl Harbor. At the time, most folks thought there was no way the Nazis wouldn’t win.