Bernie Sanders spoke Saturday night at the People’s Summit in Chicago and the Vermont senator touched upon the issues of social and economic justice that are central to his progressive vision to build a better society.
Sanders started his speech by thanking his many supporters for all the hard work and dedication they put into his bid to become the 2016 nominee for the Democratic Party.
“You guys look beautiful and it looks like we are going to make a political revolution,” Sanders told the audience before thanking his supporters, both those in attendance and those who were not at the event. “You understood something they didn’t, that the American people are profoundly sick and tired of establishment politics and establishment economics.”
Despite not winning the 2016 nomination, Bernie Sanders used the recent success of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in the recent election in the United Kingdom to illustrate the need for a strong progressive vision moving forward and to point out that the movement for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice is growing worldwide.
“The Labour Party won 30 seats not by moving to the right or becoming more conciliatory,” Sanders said. “But by standing up to the ruling class of the U.K. and all of us congratulate Jeremy Corbyn and his team for what they’ve accomplished.”
I am delighted to see Labour do so well. I congratulate @jeremycorbyn for running a very effective campaign.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 9, 2017
Bernie Sanders pointed out that much of the success of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in that election can be attributed to a strong youth vote. According to the Independent, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party gained 31 seats in what was one of the largest single-election gains in British history. In that election, 63 percent of people aged 18-35 chose Labour, with turnout dramatically increasing in that age group compared to the 2015 election. Sanders noted that similar enthusiasm among the youth buoyed his campaign as well, though not enough to defeat his challenger, Hillary Clinton.
“Together in virtually every state we won the votes of young people under 40,” Sanders said. “Young people who are black, white, Latino, Asian-American and Native American – we won those votes by overwhelming numbers, getting almost twice as many votes as Clinton and Trump combined among young people. And what that means, and please do not forget this, is that our ideas and our progressive visions are the future of this country.”
It’s true that young people are largely rejecting the neoliberalism promoted by the Democratic Party establishment and the “old guard” of the Labour Party, personified most notably by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The youth (and many who are not so young) are not buying into the idea that government needs to be subservient to business interests. They are embracing progressivism, and more and more they are embracing socialism. Lifelong activists and advocates for such policies such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are offering something the establishment neoliberals are not: government that works to meet the needs of the people rather than the corporate interests and the desires of the extremely wealthy. According to the Chicago Tribune, the general sentiment at the People’s Summit is that the Democrats either need to move to the left or get out of the way.
To borrow a campaign slogan from Jeremy Corbyn, they want government “for the many, not the few.”
In his speech, Bernie Sanders did not shy away from criticizing current President Donald Trump, who Sanders described as possibly the worst president in history.
“What i find particularly disgraceful about trump is his incredible hypocrisy,” Sanders said. “This is a man who ran for president telling the people of this country that he was going to stand up for the working class. That he was going to stand up against the political establishment. Then when he was elected, without a second of hesitation he brings more billionaires into his administration than any president in history and hires the former president of Goldman Sachs to be his chief economic advisor. Then he pushes some of the most destructive legislation in the history of our country that will cause intense suffering and pain for working people.”
Bernie Sanders did not excuse the Democratic Party during his speech for their role in giving Americans Trump, echoing comments he made about what he sees as the colossal failure of the Democratic Party.
“Trump did not win the election; the Democratic Party lost the election,” Sanders said, repeating a statement he has made in the past. “Let us be very, very clear: the current model and strategy of Democratic Party is an absolute failure. This is not my opinion. This is the facts. You know we focus a lot on the presidential election but we also have to understand that Democrats have lost the House, the Senate, and Republicans have almost two-thirds of governor’s chairs. Democrats have lost almost a thousand legislative seats across this country. In almost half the states the Democratic Party has no political presence at all. If that’s not a failed model, then i don’t know what a failed model is. The Democratic Party needs fundamental change. What it needs is to open up its doors to working people, young people, and all people who are prepared to fight for social and economic justice. The Democratic Party must finally understand what side it’s on and that can’t be the side of wall street, the fossil fuel industry, or the drug companies.”
Sanders touched upon several key issues during his speech, such as campaign finance reform, the need for a single-payer Medicare for all healthcare plan, immigration reform, and laws that will make it easier for workers to form unions. He ended the speech with a reminder that though the mountain may seem insurmountable at times, it is vital that his supporters keep moving ahead.
“When we stand together there is nothing that will stop us,” Bernie Sanders told the crowd.
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images, Chris J. Ratcliffe/Getty Images]