Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Vermont spoke this morning (10/18/13) at a union hall in Atlanta to an enthusiastic full house. The points he made in his talk and the town hall-like Q & A, though pretty wide-ranging, highlighted a couple items: extremist republican ideologues look around and realize, hell, we can’t ask people to vote for us so we can gut social security, medicare-medicade, veterans benefits, ship U.S. jobs to China and cut taxes for the wealthy. The people in poll after poll show that the country is united by large majorities in favor of these programs, want them protected, and oppose tax-cuts for billionaires and corporations. Even the tea party opposes social security cuts, individual members, not the billionaire-funded “leadership”. So, how can we divide them, they say, and get them to vote against their own interests? The best they can come up with, and it has been working so far, are the issues of gay rights and abortion.
Now, Bernie says, we can agree to disagree and argue about gay rights and abortion, but when it comes to social security, medicare-medicade, we are together and we shouldn’t let them divide us. And that message will resonate with voters. That of course is why you don’t hear it in the corporate media. Bernie holds a press conference with the president of the AFL-CIO, a union representing 12 million workers. No coverage. Yet billionaire-funded thinktanks are consulted everyday for their manufactured opinions. One person pointed out that though people are often opposed to Obamacare they support the Affordable Care Act, (one and the same of course) a testament to the effectiveness of corporate, right-wing propaganda. Bernie’s opinion is that the Right’s hysteria comes out of a fear that the Act might actually work and be popular. That would send the wrong message, from their point of view, that government can actually benefit working people. In Georgia, the governor is refusing to participate in a program that would cost the state zero funds and provide health care for hundreds of thousands of people. Is denying gay rights worth trading for health care? Obviously they have to frame that one in a way that exploits people’s prejudices or ignorance.
And here is the indictment of the extremist agenda: they actually believe that there should be NO minimum wage, NO social security, NO veteran’s benefits, NO environmental protection, NO regulation of banks or corporations, NO free education, No healthcare, and NO taxation for the wealthy class. This ideology comes from the billionaires who spread it by funding right-wing think tanks and exploiting discontent to create The Tea Party, funding buyable candidates and opponents of non-buyable politicians. The Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision has made this anti-democratic effort even more effective.
When someone has more money than they, and even their heirs, could spend in a lifetime, what drives them to want more and to push policies that impoverish everyone else? To Bernie, this is a mystery but we, the progressive community, are, to use a football metaphor, on the ten-yard line trying to prevent their greedy and ghoulish goal.
How did a socialist get elected to the senate in Vermont? They have the money and the influence that can buy elections, stack the courts, own the media and so control the discussion but we have the grass roots. Sanders said that he knocked on every door in Vermont and that’s what it takes, that kind of organizing. He’d go into homes, sit down, say shut off the TV and let’s talk… talk about those issues that unite us, jobs, social security, fairness. We are all mostly workers and we are being screwed. 95% of the profits that have come from increased productivity over the last ten years have gone to the 1%. 38% of the wealth in the U.S. is in the hands of the 1% while only 2% is owned by the bottom 60%. Many workers are making less in wages than they were making twenty years ago, with longer hours, less benefits, less pay, more work. We’ve got to stop sending people to congress who will perpetuate these inequalities. Bernie’s trip south is an attempt to defy the status-quo assumption that the south is “red” and jump-start a movement to reverse the march backward towards a pre-New Deal nation, and the third-worldization of the whole world.