On Thursday, Bernie Sanders stood before a crowd in New York City and gave a lengthy speech about his political revolution. The speech was billed “Where We Go From Here.” He first described how change has always started with everyday people rising up and working to change things. He described the efforts of the trade union movements, the women’s suffrage movement, the LGBTQ movement, and Civil Rights movement, and how each one was a small revolution that manifested through hard work and dedication.
He told his supporters that the political revolution is not about any one person or politician, it is about everyone.
“What the political revolution means is that you are the revolutionaries.”
Sanders’ speech then caught fire and he passionately blasted both the Democratic and Republican parties for their voter suppression efforts.
He reminded supporters that in New York state, more than 3 million people were denied the right to vote in both Democratic and Republican primaries due to draconian, un-democratic voter registration requirements.
“I mean, it doesn’t take a politically sophisticated person to figure out that that whole effort on the part of the Democratic and Republican leadership in this state is about making it harder for people to get involved in the political process.”
His speech took a turn against Democrats in particular, as he sharply criticized the Democratic primary system.
“We have five people on … great people on the [Convention] Rules Committee, and one of the issues we are going to be fighting for … is to end closed primaries.
“It is also a fight to end the absurd situation where superdelegates can ignore the will of their constituents. We, in some states, won 70, 80 percent of the vote, and you got superdelegates who are not respecting the democratic will of their people.”
Sanders expressed disgust and outrage at income inequality and the massive debt many Americans are forced to incur just to survive, and how so many children are homeless. He emphasized that his ideas are not radical. On the contrary, they are mainstream, pragmatic ideas.
“Some people think that it is idealistic that, that it is utopian to talk about creating a moral economy in which the function of the economy is to provide well for the children and for the elderly and working families and the middle class. I don’t think that that is idealism. I think that is the practicality of what we’ve got to do and do it now.”
Sanders’ speech was interrupted several times with standing ovations as supporters went wild over his defiance and scathing criticism of a corrupt political, economic, and social justice system.
Sanders tied together the feelings of despair and hopelessness that has become more common in the last several decades. And he drove home the sad statistics directly related to the corrupt political and economic system.
He mentioned Pine Ridge Reservation, where the life expectancy is lower than some third world countries. He discussed McDowell County, West Virginia, where life expectancy is 18-years lower than that of Fairfax County, Virginia.
In places throughout the United States, the life expectancy of people is also lower than that of their parents.
Alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, and persistent poverty: all of these are tied to what Sanders, in his speech, called “despair that so many people are seeing” due to high unemployment, low wages, and poor resources for those in perpetual poverty. People are giving up.
Throughout his year-long campaign, Sanders sought to highlight this sense of despair throughout Democratic Party primaries. While the mainstream media focused on Donald Trump’s antics and fawned over Hillary Clinton, they largely ignored Sanders’ concerns for the well-being of the American people.
Sanders also reminded the crowd of one important aspect of being a revolutionary.
“Never lose your sense of outrage.”
And in one of the most emotional moments in his speech, Sanders discussed the results of an analysis done on the people who contributed to his campaign. And what they found is most of his contributors are people who are subsisting at incomes below the median. Unemployed folks, the disabled and elderly who live off less than $12,000 per year, and these contributions meant the more to him than a large donation from a wealthy donor.
This phenomenon should give the political establishment a wake-up call.
The poor are rising up. They are rising up against the Koch brothers, who have contributed tens of millions of dollars on political campaigns. The poor are rising up against a system that constantly puts them against the ropes and tries to knock them out. Many of Sanders’ campaign donors made a sacrifice: give him a donation or put gas in the car? Give Bernie $5 or buy gallon of milk? For many, the choice to sacrifice what little money they had speaks volumes of how badly Sanders’ supporters hunger for a positive change of direction in this country.
A $10 contribution from someone living in poverty sends a powerful message that says Americans are ready to rise up and break the shackles of this rigged system and defeat the politics of oppression.
The day after his fiery speech, Sanders appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program and said he would vote for Hillary Clinton in November if she becomes the nominee. It is something he has said from the beginning, but many supporters had hoped he would revisit the promise after a contentious primary season. Although Sanders may believe Trump is worse than Clinton, many of his supporters feel differently.
In any event, Bernie Sanders’ speech on Thursday was all about Americans keeping the revolution alive by getting involved in the political process. So far, with more than 20,000 people interested in running for office, it seems to be working.
[Photo by Mike Groll/AP Images]