A Graduate’s Thoughts on Michael Bennet

Happy Day-Before-Decoration Day, all. Hopefully those of you recently anointed with a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate are too busy avoiding goodbyes (from the awkward anticlimaxes to the drunken and dramatic) to read this post in a timely manner. As for the rest of you…

Wesleying – which has always aspired to be a forum for student voices, controversial and not – presents you with some thoughts on Commencement speaker Michael Bennet ’87 and his record as a Democratic U.S. Senator from Colorado, written by Dan Fischer ‘11.5. (If you’re looking for the full roundup, rest easy – it’s on the way.) Readers might find Dan’s observations interesting, especially in light of Bennet’s comments on the domination of narrow interests in Washington and the need for “disruptive” and “transformative” change in politics and education (click here for a transcript of Bennet’s speech). Feel free to put out your own thoughts in the comments, or in chalk in front of Obama Hill. Without further ado:

Today, Senator Michael Bennet delivered the commencement address. Roth describes him as “a pragmatic and independent thinker who embodies the values of the western state he represents, and whose work has contributed to good in the world”. I decided to do a little research and found that Bennet, as you would expect of a U.S. Senator, has also contributed to a lot of war-mongering, neoliberalization and power-concentration in the world.

Senator Bennet has shown a strong commitment, for instance, to dismantling civil liberties. He voted to extend the Patriot Act, and he voted for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which among other things authorized indefinite detention. He co-sponsored the “anti-piracy” bill PIPA, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation says would punish millions of innocent Internet users and grant service providers immunity for unlawful censorship.

He has repeatedly voted to promote“free trade,” including the Free Trade Agreement with Korea, Trade Promotion Agreement with Colombia, and Trade Promotion Agreement with Panama. Bennet voted to deploy National Guard troops on the Mexican border, voted for increased sanctions on Iran, voted against U.S. consideration of the Goldstone Report, and voted against auditing the Federal Reserve. From his 2010 campaign to now, Bennet has received $1,510,894 from business PACs and $1,126,674 from Securities & Investment industry donations. He opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, and critics have accused his education “reform” policy of containing anti-union elements, such as support for charter schools and Teach for America.

Bennet has not denounced his former employer Mayor John Hickenlooper’s violent crackdown on Occupy Denver, which included use of chemical weapons such as pepper spray and pepper balls, firing of dangerous projectiles into crowds, mass arrests and destruction of peoples’ possessions. Bennet did, however, allow unanimous Senate approval of a bill enhancing criminalization of protests at events with Secret Service. This legislation was signed into law by Obama in March and will affect, for example, people protesting Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

What do you think? I’m a little embarrassed that Wesleyan couldn’t find someone who was, well, less of a politician. I guess better him than Scalia again?

Note: Dan wrote this on Saturday, but I slacked on posting it in a timely manner, so a couple of the introductory words were changed to reflect the new temporal relationship between these comments and Commencement.

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  • Keep an open mind

    “I’m a little embarrassed that Wesleyan couldn’t find someone who was, well, less of a politician.”

    You mean you’re a little embarrassed that Wesleyan couldn’t find someone who agrees exactly with your views?

    Part of what politicians do is to seek compromise. To suggest that this is not an important job to a functional society is, well, a little silly. Maybe you would have preferred an activist for the commencement speaker, but ultimately that’s your subjective preference.

    I believe that arguing against Bennet on various points is all well and good. I also believe that bringing to light Bennet’s actions that the majority of the student body would likely oppose is important. However, I find the lack of respect afforded to this alumnus (and to politicians in general) to be dishearteningly close-minded.

    • 12

      I completely agree, part of being a Wesleyan student is being accepting of dissent and new ideas. A large part, in my mind, of “keeping wes weird” is keeping wes intellectually inclusive. 

    • Clarify something for me?

      What was disrespectful about this? The parts where he outlined, with sources, actions of Bennet’s that he disagrees with? The part where he implied typical politicians often say one thing and do another? It should be fairly uncontroversial that they do, at least in the U.S. …

      I would posit that it might be “dishearteningly close-minded” to equate pointed criticisms of things a person actually did with disrespect. “Respect”, as it’s often used in political discussions, seems more synonymous with subservience and obedience than I’d like.

      And ’12, if anyone’s dissenting here, it’s the author. What were Bennet’s new and dissenting ideas that he refused to accept?

      • OP (Adam Rashkoff ’13)

        Here’s exactly what’s wrong with the article: Fisher ‘11.5 begins by saying Bennet has contributed to a lot of “war-mongering, neoliberalization and power-concentration in the world.” Then Fisher lists several bills/initiatives Bennet has supported that he believes have contributed to these things. But nowhere does has he supported his belief that they actually have, and whether they have is incredibly debatable. To harp on one of Fisher’s weaker points: support for Teach for America and Charter Schools really produces “war-mongering, neoliberalization and power-concentration in the world”? I suppose one could argue that, but such a bold and unsupported statement such as this with which many would disagree is a little outrageous. Here we see one instance of Fisher using rhetoric to present his opinion as fact.

        Moreover, Fisher has not shown how Bennet’s support of the aforementioned bills/initiatives instance a tendency to “say one thing and do another” (your quote).
        Actually, it’s fairly unclear what he means by the word politician. What’s not unclear is the undeniably disparaging tone he uses, hence the disrespect.

        Saying you disagree with someone is fine, but it’s not a “pointed criticism” unless you explain why. And while we should all be critical thinkers and reject uses of the word “respect” when it is equated with subservience, I do not believe respect has to be understood in this way. Rather, respect in the way I was using it should be understood as appreciation: while one may disagree (strongly) with someone, the respect of which I speak will allow one to appreciate the stronger points of an opponent’s argument rather than writing them off entirely.

        • liars

          It really should be clear that the thrust of Dan’s comments serve to contrast Bennet’s posturing as a freedom-fighting, shake-things-up junior senator (including his calling for massive institutional change akin to the American Revolution) with his endorsement of policies that contribute to a security and surveillance state.

          I suspect you realize this already, and your other points strike me as pedantic and distracting. Did Bennet’s support for these measures contribute to problems Dan identifies? Maybe not, but that’s hardly the point. The senator’s intentions (his voting record) are what determine if his actions are in good or bad faith.

  • u know hu the fuck this is

    wish your wrote that urself, anwar. 

    -mad drunk in nyc right now. come holla@urboi, my damie.