Outspoken Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has already expressed his frustration with some of the Republican presidential candidates. But as the musician noted on Twitter, "I'm happier and more productive when I stay positive." The Chili Peppers have been longtime supporters of Bernie Sanders, going so far as to headline a benefit show Friday night in Los Angeles to raise money for his campaign.
In an exclusive essay for Rolling Stone, Flea outlines why, despite having "absolutely no interest" in politics, he was drawn to the candidate and his ideas.
I first learned about Bernie Sanders through a teacher of mine who lived in Vermont. He was telling me that the state, in most categories, has the highest standard of life in the United States in terms of employment, education, health care and all the things that you measure a standard of life by. He told me about Bernie and how much he admired him, so he's been on my radar for a while.
When we first started hearing about the Democratic [presidential] hopefuls, I saw that he was running and I just started paying attention. When I heard that he wasn't taking money from any corporations, didn't have any Super PACs and was doing it with a lot of small donations, I was amazed. The concept of a president in this country who is not beholden to corporate lobbyists is such a beautiful idea.
A year ago, nobody really cared about Bernie Sanders or knew who he was. And here's a guy that is not relying on fear-mongering or Super PACs or billions of dollars. He's just talking about issues that really affect us as human beings, like caring about each other and evening the playing field.
People try to demonize it like, "Socialism is the next step to communism." That's just insane silliness. Bernie isn't talking about eliminating the spirit of capitalism in terms of the competitive spirit of people being able to lift themselves up by their bootstraps through discipline and hard work and creativity and ingenuity. He's not trying to eliminate making something great of yourself and being part of the American dream. He's just saying, "Let's even the playing field so everybody can get a decent education and have an opportunity to get health care and take care of themselves and educate themselves." That's what civilization should be about.
"[Bernie] is just talking about issues that really affect us as human beings."
The bottom line is that everybody deserves to get a good education. This country is completely capable economically of providing a high-grade education for everybody regardless of their economic class. And everybody deserves to have a high grade of health care regardless of their economic class. That is what's going to help [reduce] crime and poverty. That is what's going to make this country a beautiful, vibrant place.
People can still get rich, but it's just giving everybody a chance that everybody deserves. I'm for Bernie Sanders all the way. I believe in him; I believe in what he says. I relate to people who realize that we're all connected, and who realize that we have to look out for each other and love each other. And that's what Bernie's about.
Beyond economic issues, the thing that drives my interest the most in any presidential candidate is the one that's least likely to go to war and least likely to start some bloodthirsty murderous war campaign in order to keep the Military Industrial Complex going and make billions for the corporations at the expense of human life. I think Bernie is the least likely to start a cockamamie war.
I just don't care [that critics call him "unelectable"]. I think saying he's unelectable is a silly thing. Clearly, he's electable. He's a guy who's getting votes and just showed in Iowa that he's neck-and-neck with Hillary. Consciously electing someone based on being a human being with integrity who actually speaks for the people of this country and the things that concern them — and not fear-mongering — is an amazing concept that's really inspiring. And it gives me a little bit of faith in the political process.
The Chili Peppers are doing a show for Bernie this weekend and it's something like $30,000 to rent the venue. We said, "Oh, we'll pay for the cost of the venue rental." And he wouldn't accept it! He said, "We can't accept you guys; you're a group — you're incorporated — so I can't accept that money." He can accept the ticket cost because each one is a small donation, but the 30 grand? "No, I don't accept money like that."
"The concept of politics itself is of absolutely no interest to me. The concept of human beings caring for one another holds great interest to me."
If he's elected, I would hope that a Sanders presidency would make it so 1) he wouldn't go off into any wars unless if it really was to protect other human beings, 2) that he would make high-quality health care accessible to everybody regardless of how much money they have, and 3) that he would make higher education available for everybody. And that means everybody. That means people who live in very poor communities and are struggling who deserve as good as an education as people in rich communities. The playing field is rigged. And if you're poor and a minority, you don't have a chance, man. Or your chance is like a needle in a haystack. I want everybody to have an equal chance.
The concept of politics itself is of absolutely no interest to me. The concept of human beings caring for one another holds great interest to me. I care about the welfare of people. I care about love and kindness and empathy and reaching out to those who are less fortunate and struggling to get by in a really difficult world. The candidate who actually represents the well-being of human beings in the United States and cares about people is Bernie Sanders, and that's why I stand by him.
As told to Jason Newman