On Tuesday, May 26, Sen. Bernie Sanders gave his official campaign kickoff speech in Burlington, VT. He spoke for about thirty-five minutes, first describing the problems of the United States and then outlining his agenda to fix them. In the video clip below, he takes the stage at around 40:00.
One of the things that stood out to me was his perception of the American political process. Early on he proposed, “Now is not the time for thinking small. Now is not the time for the same old, same old establishment politics and stale-inside-the-beltway ideas.” Given that many pundits and policymakers have argued either the U.S. is in decline or others are catching up, we need big, bold reforms. The U.S. is no longer “Number 1” in many areas (especially social indicators).
Even though the U.S. is stagnating, Sen. Sanders has a plan to “revitalize American democracy.” The national voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections was around 36 percent- the lowest since the Second World War. The Pew Research Center conducted a poll in the wake of the midterms, part of which looked at reasons why non-voters did not vote. Here is what they found:
Although he probably did not plan on it, Sen. Sanders addressed the “Didn’t like vote choices/didn’t care/didn’t know enough” crowd during yesterday’s speech. He talked about the lack of confidence and feeling of cynicism pervading the American electorate and how he wanted to reach out to voters. His campaign, he argued, “will not be driven by political gossip or reckless personal attacks.” He went on to say that the problems facing the U.S. require “serious debates,” and the media must not turn the campaigns into game shows or soap operas. This kind of talk (and subsequent action) should help decrease that 20 percent who didn’t care or know enough.
Among the issues that ail the U.S., Sen. Sanders focused on wealth and income inequality, poverty, the decline of the middle class, campaign finance, and climate change. He proposed to increase the current minimum wage of $7.25 (a “starvation wage”) to $15 (a “living wage”) over the next few years and to introduce a progressive tax system. One way to create good-paying jobs, he said, is to invest in infrastructure. Additionally, Sanders discussed the idea of universal pre-K education and making public universities tuition-free. He lashed out at conservative donors the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson for their role in distorting the democratic process and argued for public funding of elections.
Sen. Sanders introduced his agenda as a “simple, straightforward progressive agenda which speaks to the needs of the American people” which would bring about a “very different America.” If people took the time to listen to Sanders and read about his ideas, I think they would realize that he is exactly what America needs right now. No other candidate has such a clear vision and agenda. It is indeed time for a political revolution.
Thanks for reading.