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Bernie Sanders for the win

Sen. Bernie Sanders is in the presidential race; this is wonderful news. The dissatisfaction people feel with what the government is doing and where we are going as a country has been the conservative's territory to exploit, but no longer. Fear is growing that the opportunities for the richest Americans to buy the 2016 election, from the president on down, have never seemed better.

But Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, cannot be bought. And as president he can bring helpful, healing answers to address that dissatisfaction. Recently I talked with him about health care reform. He had just gotten off the Senate floor after another attempt to instill some thought into a debate. The issue was whether large employers should be able to avoid providing health coverage to employees by changing the definition of full-time work from 30 hours to 40 hours a week. Senator Sanders — forceful, energetic, full of camaraderie and common sense as always — declared that in other countries people would not have the faintest idea what the senators were talking about.

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"The argument of whether you provide health insurance for people who work 30 hours a week or whether they work 40 hours a week — whoa!" Mr. Sanders said on the floor. "In every major country on earth, health care is a right of all people."

At the Senate hearing that morning he got three witnesses, two of them Republicans, to agree with him about the advantages of a national health care program. The educator from Maine, the restaurant CEO and the pizzeria owner, the only Democrat, agreed that their efforts would be better if they did not have to provide health care for their employees as well. Said the restaurant CEO: "From your lips to God's ear."

In talking with Senator Sanders, author of the Senate single payer health care bill, I could see his clear unremitting view of what's wrong in the country and where to go. The country needs to hear his convictions — and really listen.

He understands that financiers and their business cronies exploited and evaded government intentions, broke the bank for almost everyone in 2008, and have not been punished for their actions. If the U.S. had ramped up needed spending on government projects, the anemic recovery from the Great Recession could have been far better for us — except maybe for the richest 1 percent. And Republican gerrymandering has already rendered many more districts automatically red for the 2016 elections, as it appears on the charts right now, at any rate.

We need Senator Sanders to intervene. In spite of the improvements achieved by the Obama administration, we still have the highest joblessness in recent history, minimal opportunity for our disadvantaged to get housing and education, millions of citizens still without health care coverage and nearly unchecked, expensive American violence across the globe, which only worsens our best international interests.

The straightforward Sanders approach involves appropriate government intervention where needed. No market-based democracy can be sustained without government rules to keep it in line with the interests of the country. This is contrary to the Republican mainstream in principle, although if you mention roads, food safety, Medicare — or, of course, defense — their opposition to government involvement melts away. That makes no sense.

Bernie Sanders makes sense. That is why I, as a medical doctor, support his views on health care reform and why he will be a great president. And we must not let anyone representing the 1 percent get us hung up on the label during the primaries. He is certainly not a socialist. As a Democrat I agree that he embodies the best in that party, but even if you call him an independent, he has the best interests of 100 percent of the country in mind. And he has the vision and political craftsmanship to achieve his goal.

All it will take is just over half of the voters choosing Mr. Sanders. Of course it has to be the majority that will tip the electoral college, and no interference from hanging chads and so on. The country needs everyone to get out and vote for Senator Sanders in this one to overcome those past heartbreaks. In spite of our troubles, we have made real progress in the past eight years. We cannot afford to let that promise slip away.

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Dr. James Burdick is a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is writing a book detailing his plan for patient-centered health reform. His email is jburdic1@jhmi.edu.

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