Bernie Sanders (2018)
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Location 29: During my campaign for president in 2016, I stated over and over again that the future of our country was dependent upon our willingness to make a political revolution. I stressed that real change never occurs from the top down. It always happens from the bottom up. No real change in American history—not the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement, nor any other movement for social justice—has ever succeeded without grassroots activism, without millions of people engaged in the struggle for justice.
Location 45: The good news is that the American people are far more united than the media would like us to believe. They get it. They know that over the last forty years, despite a huge increase in worker productivity, the middle class has continued to shrink, while the very rich have become much richer. They know that, for the first time in the modern history of the United States, our kids will likely have a lower standard of living than us.
Location 49: The bad news is that instead of going forward together, demagogues like Trump win elections by dividing us. The bad news is that too many of us are getting angry at the wrong people. It was not an immigrant picking strawberries at $8 an hour who destroyed the economy in 2008. It was the greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street. It was not transgender people who threw millions of workers out on the street as factories were shut down all across the country. It was profitable multinational corporations in search of cheap labor abroad. Our job, for the sake of our kids and grandchildren, is to bring our people together around a progressive agenda.
Location 54: Are the majority of people in our country deeply concerned about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we are experiencing? You bet they are. Do they believe that our campaign finance system is corrupt and enables the rich to buy elections? Overwhelmingly, they do. Do they want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and provide pay equity for women? Yes, they do. Do they think the very rich and large corporations should pay more in taxes so that all of our kids can have free tuition at public colleges and universities? Yup. Do they believe that the United States should join every other major country and guarantee health care as a right? Yes, again. Do they believe climate change is real? You've got to be kidding. Are they tired of the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, falling apart at the seams, with roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, rail, levees, and dams either failing or at risk of failing? Who isn't? Further, a majority of the American people want comprehensive immigration reform and a criminal justice system that is based on justice, not racism or mass incarceration.
Location 76: I have talked to retirees and older workers in Kansas who are outraged that, as a result of congressional legislation, they could lose up to 60 percent of the pensions they paid into and were promised as deferred compensation for a lifetime of work.
Maintaining a vibrant democracy based on principles of justice has never been easy.
Location 93: As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars anonymously in ugly TV ads demonizing candidates who dare to stand up to them. Republican governors and legislatures are working overtime to suppress the vote, making it harder for people of color, poor people, and young people to vote.
Location 97: Further, recent studies show what the average American has long known. More and more mainstream media political coverage is devoted to gossip and issues of personality, and less and less to the major problems facing our country and the world. During the last presidential campaign, for example, there was almost no discussion devoted to climate change, the greatest environmental crisis facing our planet. There was hardly a mention that, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 40 million Americans live in poverty, or that we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.
Despair is not an option. This struggle is not just for us. It is for our kids, our grandchildren, and the future of the planet.
Location 106: We must create a vibrant democracy where the voices of all people are heard. We must build a nation that leads the world in the struggle for peace, and for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. And we must unite our country while repairing the damage Trump has done trying to divide us up. The struggle continues.
June 14, 2016 / Meeting with Hillary Clinton
Location 114: Starting off at about 3 percent in the polls, we ended up winning twenty-two states and received over 13 million votes. We showed that working people all over this country were prepared to support an agenda that stood up to the billionaire class and that called for the transformation of our economic and political life. Most significantly, we had won overwhelming support from the young people of our country—black, white, Latino, Asian American, and Native American. This was the future of our country, and we ended up winning more votes from people under forty than Clinton and Trump combined. Young people had shown very clearly that they were tired of status quo politics and were prepared to accept a very new vision of what our country could become.
July 9, 2016 / The Most Progressive Political Platform in U.S. History
Location 143: As part of the political revolution, our next mission was to write the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party: a platform that would live on beyond the campaign, and, more importantly, a platform that would serve as a beacon for Democratic candidates at the federal, state, and local levels. This would be a document that stated loudly and proudly what the Democratic Party was supposed to stand for. Historically, the Democratic Party's platform has been crafted largely behind closed doors, deep inside the corridors of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), by the staff of the presidential nominee. The final product is usually heavy on empty rhetoric but light on specific policy solutions. After the convention, the platform is forgotten about—and sits on a shelf somewhere, collecting dust.
Location 150: We set out to change all of that, in terms of both process and content. After all, the 13 million Americans who voted for our campaign did not do so because of my good looks, my hair, or my charming personality. Well, maybe a few of them voted for my hair. But most of them supported me because of the issues I stood for, and because they were sick and tired of a political and economic system that was rigged to benefit those on top and was being held in place by a corrupt campaign finance system.
This was the year 2016, and something extraordinary had happened—something that, frankly, I had not anticipated. Millions of Americans had stood up and demanded fundamental changes in our economic and political life. Their voices could not be ignored, and the Democratic leadership understood that.
Location 161: Our staff began to negotiate with the Clinton campaign and the DNC on how the platform would be written, who would write it, what would be included in it, and how it could be amended. After a lot of back-and-forth, we agreed that there would be a platform-writing subcommittee comprising fifteen voting members and two nonvoting members. Our campaign would select five of the voting members, the Clinton campaign would choose six, and the rest would be chosen by the DNC. Maya Harris, Clinton's senior policy adviser, and Warren Gunnels, my policy director, would be nonvoting members.
Location 182: The platform included the initiative I worked on with Clinton to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families making $125,000 or less and to substantially reduce student loan debt. This proposal, if enacted into law, would revolutionize higher education in this country.
Location 184: It also included another policy I worked on with Clinton, one that called for doubling the funding for community health centers. This initiative would increase primary care, including mental health care, dental care, and low-cost prescription drug access for an additional 25 million people. While we weren't able to include Medicare for All, Clinton's team did include a public option to allow everyone in this country to participate in a public insurance program and to allow Americans between the ages of fifty-five and sixty-four to opt in to Medicare. These ideas had been killed by then-Senator Joe Lieberman and the insurance industry during the consideration of President Obama's health care program.
Location 189: During the proceedings in St. Louis and Orlando, we were victorious in including amendments in the platform that made it the policy of the Democratic Party to fight for:
- A $15-an-hour federal minimum wage indexed to inflation;
- Breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and passing a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall Act;
- Levying a tax on carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions to aggressively combat climate change;
- Making massive investments in wind, solar, and other renewable energy;
- Requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices and making it legal to import safe and affordable medicine from Canada and other countries;
- Abolishing the death penalty, ending mass incarceration, and enacting major criminal justice reforms;
- Establishing a path toward the legalization of marijuana;
- Expanding Social Security by increasing taxes on those making over $250,000 a year;
- Preventing employers from cutting the earned pension benefits of more than 1.5 million Americans;
- Closing loopholes that allow corporations to stash their cash offshore to avoid paying taxes, and using the revenue generated by this policy to create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure;
- Making it easier for workers to join unions through majority card-check recognition and by ensuring a first contract through binding arbitration;
- Ending disastrous deportation raids, banning private prisons and detention centers, and passing comprehensive immigration reform;
- Moving to automatic voter registration and the public financing of elections, making Election Day a federal holiday, eliminating super PACs, and passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; and
- Creating the most comprehensive agenda ever to protect and expand the rights of Native Americans and indigenous communities.
Location 219: The media often worries about personality, gossip, polling, and gaffes. I worry about ideas and policy that will improve the lives of the working families of our country. The Democratic platform of 2016 is a very good blueprint for how we can do that. I am confident that the ideas expressed in that document will not be forgotten. They will, in fact, become the heart and soul of a growing progressive movement.
July 26, 2016 / The Democratic Convention
Location 223: On July 26, 2016, in a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I endorsed Hillary Clinton and urged my supporters and the American people to elect her as president. A few weeks earlier, appearing with Secretary Clinton before a packed audience in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I said, "Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process. She will be the Democratic nominee for president, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States."
Location 232: Anyone looking at our supporters could see in a moment that they were not the traditional Democratic politicians who attend conventions. They were not superdelegates. They were not political insiders. They were not wealthy. They were not governors or members of Congress. They were not well connected or movers and shakers in their own states. And they weren't cynical. These people were bold progressives who had a new vision for America and were the face of the political revolution. They had taken on the political establishment back in their own states and won the right to be a Sanders delegate at the convention. Many of them were young, electoral politics was new to many of them, and for the vast majority, this was the first political convention they had ever attended. Some of them were so strapped financially that the campaign had to establish a scholarship fund to pay their transportation costs to Philadelphia.
Location 239: The now-famous DNC emails that we later learned were stolen by hackers working for a Russian intelligence agency had been released at the start of the convention. The content of these emails, which were not a shock to me, showed that the leadership of the DNC had tilted the playing field during the primary in favor of Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Location 242: Many of my delegates, who were not great fans of Hillary Clinton or the Democratic establishment to begin with, were further enraged.
Location 244: Trump was an unmitigated disaster—a racist, sexist bigot and xenophobe who had to be defeated. He was also a phony and a pathological liar who had preyed on the fears of the American people.
Location 253: Unlike many other presidential candidates who had lost their elections, I did not intend to fade away into the sunset. We had brought new progressive ideas into the mainstream and had been enormously successful in engaging millions of people in democracy. We were not going to give up. This campaign had never been about me alone. It was about the future of the country—and that struggle had to continue after the election. We were about more than a political campaign. We were about building a movement.
In terms of supporting Clinton, not all the Sanders delegates agreed with me. In a speech to my supporters at the beginning of the convention, I was booed by some for urging them to vote for her. My response was to speak to as many state delegations as possible to make the case for what I thought was obvious.
Location 280: I was also proud that my own small state of Vermont, where I had won 86 percent of the vote in the primary, was able to play an outsized role at the convention. At the end of the state voting, the chair of the Vermont delegation allowed me to nominate Hillary Clinton by acclamation.
Location 284: "Let me begin by thanking the hundreds of thousands of Americans who actively participated in our campaign as volunteers. Let me thank the two and a half million Americans who helped fund our campaign with an unprecedented 8 million individual campaign contributions—averaging $27 apiece. Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight—46 percent of the total. And delegates: Thank you for being here, and for all the work you've done. I look forward to your votes during the roll call on Tuesday night."
Location 295: "Election Days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent—a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice—that struggle continues. And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you."
Location 309: "The Republicans want us to forget that as a result of the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some 800,000 people a month were losing their jobs. We were running up a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion, and the world's financial system was on the verge of collapse. We have come a long way in the last seven and a half years, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership in pulling us out of that terrible recession. Yes, we have made progress, but I think we can all agree that much, much more needs to be done. This election is about which candidate understands the real problems facing this country and has offered real solutions—not just bombast, fear-mongering, name-calling, and divisiveness. We need leadership in this country which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger—not leadership which insults Latinos, Muslims, women, African Americans, and veterans and divides us up."
"By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that—based on her ideas and her leadership—Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States. The choice is not even close."
Location 323: Hillary Clinton understands that if someone in America works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. She understands that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And she is determined to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure—our roads, bridges, water systems, and wastewater plants.
Location 335: If you don't believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights, and the future of our country.
Location 337: This election is about the thousands of young people I have met who have left college deeply in debt, and the many others who cannot afford to go to college. During the primary campaign, Secretary Clinton and I both focused on this issue, but with different approaches. Recently, however, we have come together on a proposal that will revolutionize higher education in America. It will guarantee that the children of any family in this country with an annual income of $125,000 a year or less—83 percent of our population—will be able to go to a public college or university tuition-free. That proposal also substantially reduces student debt.
Location 365: It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues. That's what this campaign has been about. That's what democracy is about. But I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party. Among many other strong provisions, the Democratic Party now calls for breaking up the major financial institutions on Wall Street and the passage of a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall Act. It also calls for strong opposition to job-killing free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Location 372: I have known Hillary Clinton for twenty-five years. I remember her as a great First Lady who broke precedent in terms of the role that a First Lady was supposed to play as she helped lead the fight for universal health care. I served with her in the United States Senate and know her as a fierce advocate for the rights of children. Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her here tonight.
August 24, 2016 / Our Revolution Is Formally Launched
Location 387: Election after election, the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major democracy on earth. In 2014, when the Republican Party won landslide victories all across the country, almost two-thirds of the American people didn't vote—the lowest turnout in seventy years. Voter turnout is especially low among lower-income Americans, whose lives are often the most greatly affected by governmental policy. It is also low among those under thirty years of age, the generation who will have to live with the decisions that are being made without their input. In America today, the state of our democracy is such that politics is something that "other" people engage in, not the average American.
I believe that the Democratic Party bears an enormous amount of responsibility for this sad state of affairs. Over the years, the party has closed its doors to ordinary Americans—working people, young people, minorities, and the poor, who once filled its ranks. As Democratic leadership became more dependent on corporate interests, it drifted further away from the hopes, needs, and participation of ordinary Americans. It became a top-down party, far removed from those struggling in our inner cities and rural counties. Instead of holding town hall meetings with ordinary Americans, too many Democrats spend the bulk of their time raising money from the wealthy or corporate PACs. While listening to the problems of the billionaires and CEOs of large corporations, they ignore the needs of the unemployed, the underemployed, low-wage workers, and people who can't afford health care or prescription drugs.
Location 408: At the end of the campaign, my supporters and I faced a very simple decision. Do we, as most losing campaigns do, simply pack our bags and go home? Or do we undertake the enormously difficult task of building upon what we have accomplished during the campaign and forge a powerful progressive political movement?
Location 445: In 2018, with very strong support from all of us, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, a founding member of Our Revolution, took on the entire Maryland Democratic political establishment in the primary, pulling off a major upset and becoming the party's nominee for governor. In the Bronx, New York, with the help of Our Revolution, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off an even bigger upset in defeating longtime incumbent congressman and Democratic leader Joe Crowley to win the Democratic nomination in her district.
Location 449: As important as winning races for Congress and governor is, there is something even more important when we look out into the future. And that is getting people involved in the political process at the local level. To that end, candidates backed by Our Revolution won races for school board, city council, mayor, county council, state legislature, and other local positions. They won in Houston, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Mateo, California; Wallingford, Connecticut; Clarkston, Georgia; and cities and towns all across America. They swept city council races in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. Young people, working people, are beginning to run for office all across the country, and oftentimes they are winning.
Location 454: As Nina Turner states, "One of the pillars of the transformative work of Our Revolution is to clear the path to elected office for progressive candidates, who are sometimes nontraditional candidates in that they are more diverse, often first- or second-time candidates, and often overlooked by the traditional Democratic establishment. For instance, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a breakout candidate who broke the party's rules, but scored in the minds of primary voters. Like so many of our other endorsed candidates, she chose to embrace progressive values rather than play it safe. Her victory and the success of many of our other endorsed candidates shows us that when we double down on progressive issues, pound the pavement like our life depends on it, we can win change for the people."
September 5, 2016 / On the Campaign Trail for Clinton
Location 470: In terms of helping Hillary Clinton win, and bringing unity to the party for the 2016 election, I was all in. I didn't need much encouragement to tell Clinton that I intended to do everything I could to help her become the next president of the United States. While on the campaign trail, I would also do what I could to help Democratic Senate candidates.
Throughout September, October, and November 2016, I held thirty-nine rallies in thirteen states on behalf of Hillary Clinton's campaign. In September, I was in Lebanon, New Hampshire; Kent, Ohio; and Akron, Ohio. In October, I was in Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota; Des Moines, Iowa; Madison and Green Bay, Wisconsin; four cities in Michigan: Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Grand Rapids; Keene and Nashua, New Hampshire; Bangor, Maine; Scranton and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado; Flagstaff and Tucson, Arizona; and Reno, Nevada. In November, I was in Plymouth and Hanover, New Hampshire; Portland, Maine; Kalamazoo and Traverse City, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Youngstown and Cincinnati, Ohio; Raleigh, North Carolina; Davenport, Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Phoenix, Arizona; and Las Vegas, Nevada. While the turnouts for a surrogate were obviously not as large as the rallies I held for my own campaign, I ended up speaking to tens of thousands of people across the country, helped increase voter turnout, and generated a whole lot of positive media for Clinton.
Location 499: Amy Davidson Sorkin, a writer for The New Yorker, covered a rally that I did with Secretary Clinton on November 3, in Raleigh, North Carolina. She pretty much captured my attitude toward the election, writing, "One of the many things that makes Donald Trump angry is that Bernie Sanders does not seem to hold grudges.…"Now, Bernie Sanders should be angry, right? Shouldn't he be angry?" Trump asked a crowd in Florida. He sounded a little bit puzzled—he would be so mad." Sorkin rightfully noted, "The truth is that Bernie Sanders is very, very angry—at Donald Trump. He is angry enough to have spent weeks traveling on behalf of Hillary Clinton, speaking for her in union halls and arenas, to students and activists." At that rally, I stated, "This campaign is not a personality contest. We're not voting for high school president. We're voting for the most powerful leader in the entire world." Sorkin noted, "Statements like that serve to remind Sanders's supporters that they don't need to be charmed by Hillary Clinton—he is over it, and they ought to be, too. But, if personality doesn't matter, the person does."
October 17, 2016 / Taking on the Greed of the Pharmaceutical Industry
Location 531: Why do we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs when millions of Americans cannot afford the medicine they desperately need? Why can drug companies raise their prices at any time, for any reason? Why, year after year, is the pharmaceutical industry one of the most profitable sectors in the United States? Why do CEOs of drug companies receive huge compensation packages? The answer to these questions is simple. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the wealthiest and most powerful political forces in this country. Over the past twenty years, the industry has spent more than $4 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions to get Congress and state legislatures to do its bidding. They have more than 1,200 lobbyists in Washington, DC, alone, including many former political leaders. They own the Republican Party and have significant influence over the Democratic Party as well.
Location 543: Proposition 61, the California Drug Price Relief Act, as the initiative was called, was a win-win. It would have saved the taxpayers of California about $1 billion a year, and it would have lowered the price of prescription drugs for millions of people in the state who were on Medicaid.
Location 555: In order to defeat Proposition 61, the prescription drug industry showed us what political power was all about. They also showed us the endless supply of money they have to protect their interests over the needs of the American people. Unbelievably, in one state and on one ballot initiative, they spent $131 million to make sure Proposition 61 failed. Let me repeat that. The drug companies spent $131 million to defeat one ballot initiative that would have lowered drug prices in one state. In the end, despite all of the money, the lies and the distortions the drug companies spread, and the refusal of political leaders to take a stand, Proposition 61 still received 46 percent of the vote on Election Day.
Location 561: When I talk about a rigged economic system that benefits the rich, and a corrupt political system that benefits the powerful, the campaign to defeat Proposition 61 in California tells you everything you need to know.
November 8, 2016 / Election Night
Location 564: Election night. I was tired. I had just returned to Burlington after a final campaign stop in Las Vegas. During the last week alone, I had done seventeen events for Clinton in eleven states, from Maine to Nevada. This was the most important election of our lifetime. All of us had to come together to defeat Trump. And I had done my best. On the plane back from Las Vegas, the discussion obviously centered on who would win the presidential election and which party would control the Senate. My political gut gave Clinton a 3–1 chance of winning. In other words, I thought she was going to win, but I was not going to be shocked if she didn't. In talking to Jane when I got back, it turned out that she was not quite so confident. She sensed that some people who were going to be voting for Trump were not necessarily telling the pollsters that. She thought that Trump would likely win.
On the night of November 8, we never made it downtown. We were just too depressed. Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States. Needless to say, in the following weeks and months, half the country obsessed over how Trump had won. I was one of those people. How could someone who had run a hateful, racist, xenophobic campaign be elected president of the United States? How could someone who was seen on video boasting about his assaults on women be elected president of the United States? How could someone who had been involved in more than 3,000 lawsuits in his business career be elected president of the United States? How could someone who lied over and over again in the most shameful manner be elected president of the United States? How could someone who had little interest in or knowledge of public policy be elected president of the United States?
November 16, 2016 / Part of the Democratic Senate Leadership
Location 622: I have known Chuck Schumer for twenty-eight years, going back to when we were both in the House of Representatives and served together on the House Banking Committee. We even grew up in the same Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, and although we did not know each other as kids, we went to the same elementary school, P.S. 197, and the same high school, James Madison. Chuck and I have always looked at politics from different perspectives, but we're friends and have worked well together.
Location 625: As I assumed my place in the Senate Democratic Leadership, I thought back to the strange and winding road that got me to this position, and how different my political history was compared to that of my colleagues. And it was very different. It's not just that my first visits to Washington, DC, were for antiwar and civil rights demonstrations. It's not just that I was so far removed from conventional politics that I was never inside the Capitol until after I ran for Congress. It's not that I never really knew a Democratic or a Republican Party official until I was elected mayor of Burlington. It's not just that I remain the longest-serving Independent in U.S. congressional history. It's that my political career began in a very different place than that of anyone else in Congress.
I started in electoral politics in 1971, when, as a member of a small third party called the Liberty Union, I ran for the U.S. Senate in Vermont, in a special election against a Republican and a Democrat. The Republican won easily, and I received 2 percent of the vote. That's right. No misprint here: just 2 percent of the vote. And that was pretty good. One year later, I ran for governor of Vermont and received 1 percent of the vote. In 1974, I ran for Senate again and received 4 percent of the vote, and in 1976, I ran for governor again and received 6 percent of the vote. How's that for a political success story? Not quite the well-planned path forward that most politicians take on the road to the U.S. Senate.
Location 636: In 1977, I resigned from the Liberty Union Party. There were other things I had to do. Given the fact that the party had virtually no money or establishment support, I was proud of what we had accomplished over the years. Doing newspaper, radio, and television interviews, participating in debates, and handing out literature on the streets, we educated Vermonters on some of the most important issues facing the state and the country. We may not have won elections, but we did have an impact on changing political consciousness in a state that, at that point, was one of the most Republican in the country. Members of the Liberty Union were vigorous in opposition to the Vietnam War and for a democratic foreign policy. We fought hard for economic justice and in support of unions and consumers, and strongly supported civil rights and civil liberties. We forced Republican and Democratic candidates to discuss issues they would have preferred to ignore. Further, with a number of our statewide candidates being women, we played a significant role in breaking down sexism in state politics.
Location 648: In 1979, with changing technology, I wrote and produced a video on the life and times of Eugene Victor Debs that was sold to colleges around the country. Debs was a great American who played an enormously important role in our history, but he was unknown to most people. He was one of the leading trade union leaders of the late nineteenth century, the founder of the American Socialist Party, and a six-time candidate for president of the United States. In 1920, he received nearly 1 million votes for president while he was in jail for his opposition to World War I. Many of the ideas that Debs campaigned on were later adopted by FDR and incorporated into the New Deal. Today, I have a plaque of Debs on a wall in my Senate office.
Location 654: In 1981, after I had taken a five-year break from electoral politics, a group of friends suggested that I run for mayor of Burlington, the city where I lived, as an Independent. I would be running against a five-term Democratic incumbent who had the support of the entire business and political establishment. We had no money, no organizational support, and very little name recognition. Nobody gave us a chance—and I mean nobody. But as the campaign progressed, we began putting together a diverse grassroots coalition—trade unions, low-income groups, women, environmentalists, neighborhood activists. On bitter-cold days in January and February, volunteers and I knocked on thousands of doors. And, to everybody's shock, we won. A late endorsement by the Burlington Patrolman's Association, considered to be a conservative group, probably put us over the top. On election night, the margin of our victory was 14 votes. After the recount, it was 10 votes. It was one of the great political upsets in Vermont history and a victory that the state's largest newspaper later referred to as "the story of the decade."
Location 662: In Burlington then, we had two-year mayoral terms, and I won reelection in 1983 and 1985 by defeating a Democrat and a Republican in each contest. In 1983, we almost doubled voter turnout over the 1979 election as we won landslide victories in the low-income and working-class wards of the city. In 1987, the two parties actually combined around one candidate, but we won that election as well, with 54 percent of the vote.
Location 665: In 1986, I ran for governor of Vermont against a Democratic incumbent, Madeleine Kunin, who won reelection. I came in third place, with 14 percent of the vote. In 1988, I ran for an open seat in the U.S. Congress. While I lost that election, I came in second place, losing to the Republican by 3 points, but handily defeating the Democrat, who came in a distant third. In 1990, I defeated the incumbent Republican by 16 points and became the first Independent elected to Congress in forty years. I ended up serving in the House for sixteen years.
Location 669: In 2006, Vermont's Senator Jim Jeffords retired, and I ran to replace him. My major opponent was a Republican businessman, Richie Tarrant, the wealthiest person in the state. Not only did Tarrant spend more money per vote on that election than any Senate candidate in American history, and far more than anyone in Vermont had ever spent, but he ran the most negative campaign the state had ever seen. It was nasty! I couldn't turn on the TV without seeing myself being portrayed as some kind of enemy of humanity. It turned out, however, that Tarrant's well-paid consultants forgot to tell him that the people of Vermont didn't like negative advertising. We won that election with a vote of 65 percent to 32 percent. In 2012, I won reelection against a Republican candidate, with 71 percent of the vote. And now I was a member of the Senate Democratic Leadership.
January 15, 2017 / Saving the Affordable Care Act
Location 685: My position on health care has been clear to the people of Vermont and America for a very long time. To me, health care is a human right, not a privilege. I believe our nation needs to end the international embarrassment of being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care for all in a cost-effective way. That's why I have been a longtime supporter of a Medicare for All, single-payer program.
Location 688: I voted for the Affordable Care Act because, while it did not go anywhere near as far as I wanted, it did provide health insurance for about 20 million more Americans, ended the abomination of people being denied insurance coverage because of preexisting conditions, expanded primary health care, and significantly improved health care coverage for women. This struggle, however, was not just about protecting the ACA. It was about defending Planned Parenthood. Despite polling that showed overwhelming national support for the high-quality work that Planned Parenthood was doing, the Republicans wanted to defund that organization as part of the ACA repeal process. If they were successful, over 2 million women would lose access to their health care providers, despite the fact that no federal money was used for abortions. As we discussed how best to go forward in defending the ACA, it became clear to my staff and me that we needed to mount an unprecedented grassroots campaign. In state after state, ordinary Americans needed to stand up and tell the Republicans what it would mean to their lives and the lives of their family members if they lost the health care they had.
Location 732: Grassroots activism against the repeal of the ACA was not limited to rallies. Republican congressmen, who would normally have fifty or seventy-five people show up at their town hall meetings, now saw hundreds of irate citizens at these meetings who were demanding an explanation for why they cast their terrible vote. In some congressional districts, more than a thousand people showed up, and they were not happy. They were fighting for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The meetings became very personal and emotional.
Location 774: Early on the morning of July 28, the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act finally came to the floor of the Senate. There were forty-eight Democrats in the Senate. They all voted no. There were fifty-two Republicans. Forty-nine of them voted yes. Three Republicans—Susan Collins, of Maine; Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; and John McCain, of Arizona—voted no. It was a long, hard fight. We won.
January 20, 2017 / Inauguration Day
Location 785: My most vivid memory of that day, in addition to getting booed by the Trump crowd when my image flashed on the large TV screen, was Michelle Obama walking down the stairs to her seat at the inauguration alongside President Obama. Her attire and tone said it all. The beautiful and fashionable First Lady was clearly not at this event to celebrate. Wearing a staid outfit and a serious countenance, without saying a word, she seemed to be showing the world her discomfort and displeasure with the odious man who was replacing her husband. Hillary and Bill Clinton were also there. They didn't look too happy, either.
Location 789: Trump's inaugural speech gave me my clearest sense yet as to the kind of phony and demagogue he was. Other than his racism and xenophobia, it's not clear that he really has any strong beliefs other than those that are politically expedient. As economist Bruce Bartlett once wrote about Trump, "He's been on every side of every issue from every point of view as far as I can tell." Trump was once a significant contributor to the Democratic Party and considered himself more Democrat than Republican. Now he hates Democrats. He was once pro-choice. Now he is vehemently anti-abortion. He once actually believed in a Canadian-style single-payer health care system. Now he wants to abolish the modest Affordable Care Act. He once proposed a major tax on wealth. Now he wants to give massive tax breaks to billionaires. He once supported a ban on assault weapons. Now he is a strong ally of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Location 804: But it was not only his divisiveness and ultra-nationalism that was offensive. I found one section of his speech almost laughable. He said: For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered—but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes—starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you. Wonderful rhetoric, but a total lie. The truth was that the "small group"that had most benefited from America's prosperity were many of the billionaires who had supported his campaign, whom he had invited to the VIP section that day and who were now seated a few feet away from him. It was already clear that they would be the ones who would benefit most from the policies Trump wanted to implement. In fact, Trump would end up appointing more billionaires to his administration than any president in history. Yet he had the chutzpah to tell the American people that this was their day.
February 28, 2017 / A New Way to Communicate
Location 854: Unlike Trump, I do not believe that mainstream media is "fake news" or an "enemy of the people." I don't believe that most reporters carry a grudge and intentionally try to destroy politicians. I do believe, however, as I have said many times, that for a variety of obvious reasons, multinational conglomerates that own our media are not interested in analyzing the power of big-money interests, or the needs of working families.
Location 887: In my speech, I wanted to highlight not only what Trump had said but, equally important, what he hadn't said. I wanted to contrast the views he had expressed as a candidate with what he was actually proposing as president.
Interestingly, after running a campaign promising the American people that he wouldn't cut Social Security or Medicare, he didn't mention those programs once. After a campaign in which he told us he was going to take on Wall Street and drain the swamp of special interests, he neglected to mention that he had appointed more billionaires to his administration than any previous president. After a campaign in which he promised to stand up for working people and take on the establishment, he didn't once mention the words "income and wealth inequality."
Location 893: Needless to say, he did not address such major national crises as climate change, Citizens United and voter suppression, our broken criminal justice system, or the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Location 908: Our most watched video features a brilliant Canadian doctor, Danielle Martin, responding to distortions about her country's health care being told by Republican senator Richard Burr during a Senate hearing. That video has received more than 30 million views, and it made Dr. Martin a bit of a celebrity in her home country.
Location 915: The overall goal of our social media efforts is to educate the American people about the issues that are most relevant to their lives, ones often ignored by corporate media. And I am proud to say that we are succeeding. Since early 2017, videos produced by my office have been viewed more than 1.2 billion times. That's pretty good.
April 26, 2017 / Introducing the $15-an-Hour Minimum-Wage Bill
Location 920: During the course of my presidential campaign, I stated over and over again that if any person in America works forty hours a week, they should not be living in poverty. That's fair. That's just. That's what a wealthy democratic society should be about. Unfortunately, that vision is far from today's reality. Sadly, in our current economy, we have tens of millions of people who work forty, fifty, or even sixty hours a week but who continue to struggle to pay for the basic necessities—food, housing, child care, health care, clothing, and transportation. They work hard but fall further and further behind.
Location 924: I will never forget being at a farmers' market in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met a young man who worked at the local emergency food shelf. He told me that the vast majority of people who came to the food shelf were not unemployed. They were working people who just didn't earn enough to buy the food their families needed. And that is true all over the country.
Location 928: At a town hall meeting I held in Detroit, I met with young workers who described what it was like to live on $7.25 an hour working at McDonald's. One young man there was working twenty hours a week in one restaurant, getting on a bus to another McDonald's, and then getting on another bus to a third job. That should not be happening in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world. The bottom line is that we need economic policy in this country that improves the lives of all Americans, not just the people on top. While labor productivity has more than doubled since the late 1960s, pay for workers generally and for low-wage workers in particular has either stagnated or fallen since the 1970s. With 52 percent of all new income going to the top 1 percent over the past decade, many workers are now forced to work two or three jobs to survive. They live with incredible stress. One way to make certain that all Americans have a decent standard of living is to have a minimum wage that is a living wage, a wage that allows our lowest-wage workers to live in dignity. Incredibly, despite growing income and wealth inequality, Congress has not passed legislation to increase the federal minimum wage since 2007, and its purchasing power has significantly declined. No one can deny that today's minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is nothing more than a starvation wage.
Location 938: On April 26, 2017, I announced that I was introducing legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by 2024; thereafter, the minimum wage would be indexed to the median wage. Importantly, this legislation would also eliminate the loophole that allows employers to pay tipped workers—waiters, waitresses, bartenders, barbers, hairdressers, taxi drivers, car wash assistants, and valet parking attendants—a shamefully low $2.13 an hour. This raise would increase the minimum wage to a purchasing power that would be the highest since 1968. If passed, this bill would give more than 41 million low-wage workers—almost 30 percent of the U.S. workforce—a desperately needed raise. Further, a $15 minimum wage by 2024 would generate $144 billion in higher wages for workers, benefiting their local economies.
Location 975: Like every other important struggle, the "Fight for $15 and a Union"campaign began at the grassroots level when, in 2012, as Terrance Wise said, 200 fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City to demand $15 an hour and union representation. And, with the help of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the movement spread. Today, cities across the country, including Seattle; Washington, DC; Minneapolis; San Francisco; Los Angeles; and the states of California and New York, have passed $15-an-hour legislation, and millions of workers have seen substantial wage increases. We are making progress in the fight for economic justice. The struggle continues.
May 31, 2017 / Off to Germany, England, and Ireland
Location 992: All over the world, traditional left parties are in rapid decline. Facing major crises, these parties have not responded effectively. The old political leadership and their ideas have grown stale and have alienated working-class and young people who have historically supported them. In an increasingly complicated and uncaring world, people are searching for meaning and community. They want to make a difference. They want real change and a better world for themselves and their children. They are prepared to take on powerful special interests and get involved. Our campaign, and the energy, hope, and excitement it created, lit a spark of interest in countries throughout the world.
September 21, 2017 / A Progressive Foreign Policy
Location 1054: As I made clear in my debates against her, and in other opportunities over the years, I had as a young man strongly opposed the disastrous war in Vietnam, one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of our country. I had also spoken out against U.S. coups and invasions that overthrew democratically elected governments in Chile, Guatemala, the Congo, Brazil, Iran, and elsewhere.
Location 1057: As a freshman congressman in 1991, I voted against the first Persian Gulf War, which laid the groundwork for our future involvement in the Gulf. In one of my earliest speeches in Congress, I went to the House floor and said:
"Despite the fact that we are now aligned with such Middle Eastern governments as Syria, a terrorist dictatorship, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, feudalistic dictatorships, and Egypt, a one-party state that receives $7 billion in debt forgiveness to wage this war with us, I believe that, in the long run, the action unleashed last night will go strongly against our interests in the Middle East. Clearly, the United States and allies will win this war, but the death and destruction caused will, in my opinion, not be forgotten by the poor people of the Third World and the people of the Middle East in particular … I fear that one day we will regret that decision and that we are in fact laying the groundwork for more and more wars in that region for years to come."
Location 1064: In 2003, I did everything I could to prevent George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq—a war that Clinton supported. In one debate, when Hillary Clinton cited Henry Kissinger as a friend and mentor, I suggested that he was a terrible secretary of state, a war criminal, and would play no role in a Sanders administration.
Location 1067: The first Iraq War did lay the groundwork for more wars to come. This, of course, is the result of U.S. foreign policy meddling, in particular in the Middle East. As part of our Cold War efforts, we overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, and installed the Shah, a brutal dictator. This led to the Islamic Revolution, the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy, and our current hostile relationship with Iran.
Location 1070: Ultimately, the first war in Iraq led to a second war in Iraq, which led to the rise of ISIS. Our foreign policy actions have consequences and reverberate for decades into the future. Let me be clear: I am not a pacifist. I do believe that military force can be a necessary tool when applied in appropriate circumstances. The question is when that should be.
Location 1073: From my time as mayor of Burlington, I believed it was critical that Americans reach out and play a constructive role in the world community. That is why, as mayor, I did what very few mayors do: develop a municipal foreign policy under the banner of "think globally, act locally."
Location 1075: I traveled to Nicaragua to oppose U.S. efforts to overthrow the Sandinista government and helped create a sister-city relationship with a town there called Puerto Cabezas. Along with a delegation of Burlingtonians, I also visited what was then the Soviet Union and helped establish a sister-city program there with Yaroslavl. I believed then and believe today that people reaching out to people, forming bonds and connecting, is the beginning of understanding and peace. I will never forget high school students from Yaroslavl, part of a country that was then our major enemy, walking in a Burlington park with kids from Vermont. They were having a great time. It was hard to tell the kids from our "enemy" country from the locals.
Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." And he also reminded us that "every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than thirty cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete highway…"
Location 1164: So when we talk about foreign policy, and our belief in democracy, at the very top of our list of concerns is the need to revitalize American democracy to ensure that governmental decisions reflect the interests of a majority of our people, and not just the few—whether that few is Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, or the fossil fuel industry. We cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it vigorously here at home.
Location 1180: Today I say to Mr. Putin: We will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.
Location 1203: When I was mayor of Burlington in the 1980s, the Soviet Union was our enemy. We established a sister-city program with the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a program that still exists today. I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world. Good foreign policy means building people-to-people relationships.
Location 1207: We should welcome young people from all over the world and from all walks of life to spend time with our kids in American classrooms, while our kids, from all income levels, do the same abroad.
Location 1212: The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of "America First." Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.
Here's a truth that you don't often hear about in the newspapers, on television, or in the halls of Congress. But it's a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power have produced unintended consequences that have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long-term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:
- In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, Iran's elected prime minister, and the reinstallation of the shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal, and unpopular government.
- In 1979, the shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?
- In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost twenty years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans—and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.
- Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
- In Vietnam, based on a discredited "domino theory," the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 Americans also died in that war.
- More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we'll be dealing with for decades to come.
Location 1235: Now let me give you an example of an incredibly bold and ambitious American initiative that proved to be enormously successful and in which not one bullet was fired—something that we must learn from.
Location 1238: Think about it for a moment: historically, when countries won terrible wars, they exacted retribution on the vanquished. But in 1948, the United States government did something absolutely unprecedented. After losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the most brutal war in history to defeat the barbarity of Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism, the government of the United States decided not to punish and humiliate the losers. Rather, we helped rebuild their economies, spending the equivalent of $130 billion just to reconstruct Western Europe after World War II. We also provided them support to reconstruct democratic societies. That program was an amazing success. Today Germany, the country of the Holocaust, the country of Hitler's dictatorship, is now a strong democracy and the economic engine of Europe. Despite centuries of hostility, there has not been a major European war since World War II. That is an extraordinary foreign policy success that we have every right to be very proud of.
Location 1252: First, I would mention climate change. Friends, it is time to get serious on this: climate change is real and must be addressed with the full weight of American power, attention, and resources.
Location 1258: President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was not only incredibly foolish and shortsighted, but it will also end up hurting the American economy.
Location 1269: Inequality, corruption, oligarchy, and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who, once in power, use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.
Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other.
October 27, 2017 / I Visit Puerto Rico
Location 1350: The people of Puerto Rico, like the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, are full American citizens. Unfortunately, their political status as a U.S. "territory" denies them meaningful representation in Washington. They are not able to vote in the general election for president of the United States. They have one nonvoting member in the U.S. House and no members in the U.S. Senate.
Location 1357: During my presidential campaign in 2016, I not only visited Puerto Rico but met with leaders of the Puerto Rican community who were living in New York and elsewhere. And I learned a lot. As a result, I spoke about the tragic reality that, since 2006, Puerto Rico had lost 20 percent of its jobs, and that about 60 percent of Puerto Rico's adult population were either unemployed or had given up looking for work. In other words, Puerto Rico remained in the midst of a major and prolonged depression. I talked about how, over the last five years alone, more than 150 public schools had been shut down, and how the childhood poverty rate had shot up to 57 percent. At a time when the rich are getting richer throughout the United States, Puerto Rico now has more income inequality than any state in the country.
Location 1385: While in San Juan, I also stressed that it would be absolutely absurd and counterproductive simply to rebuild Puerto Rico to where it was before the storm. There was no sense, for example, in rebuilding an electrical infrastructure that was expensive and inefficient, while not taking advantage of the ample supply of solar and wind energy available. It would be equally stupid to replace destroyed housing without making certain that the new structures were storm-resistant.
December 19, 2017 / The Looting of the Federal Treasury
Location 1418: According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, by the end of the decade, 83 percent of the tax benefits in Trump's tax plan would go to the top 1 percent. Even more incredibly, the top one-tenth of 1 percent would receive 60 percent of Trump's tax breaks. Meanwhile, 92 million middle-class Americans would actually be paying more in taxes over a ten-year period, including 8 million in the first year alone. Why is that? Because the tax cuts for middle-class families expire by the end of 2025, while the tax breaks for large corporations would be made permanent. In other words, we have a situation in which the wealthy, who need tax breaks the least, will benefit the most, and many millions of struggling working-class and middle-class families will end up paying more in taxes. How crazy is that?
Location 1424: My Republican colleagues tell the American people that trickle-down economics will expand the economy, create new jobs, and bring in so much revenue that it will magically pay for itself. But the simple truth is that trickle-down economics is a fraudulent theory. It has never worked. When Ronald Reagan slashed taxes for the rich in 1981, economic growth went down by 1.9 percent the following year, and the unemployment rate increased from 7.5 percent to 10.8 percent. The 1981 tax cut was so "successful" that Reagan had to increase taxes eleven times after that.
For my Republican colleagues, deficits are unacceptable when they result from investments in health care, education, affordable housing, or virtually any program that benefits working people. But when it comes to tax breaks for the billionaires and large corporations, deficits are no longer a problem. What hypocrisy!
January 23, 2018 / We Take Medicare for All Directly to the People
Location 1490: Political consciousness in the United States is low. Many people don't vote, while many others don't have a clue as to which political party controls the Senate or the House. Most Americans have very little knowledge about the national budget and how their money is spent, the kind of agenda that members of Congress are supporting, or how U.S. economic policies differ from those in other countries.
Location 1493: While many people may not know much about how their government functions, tens of millions do know that they are hurting, and struggling hard to keep their heads above water. Their wages are too low, the cost of housing is too high, and health care and affordable medicine are often inaccessible. And these people ask: Why doesn't anybody in government understand my pain and care about my needs?
Location 1496: One of the great impediments we face as progressives in terms of raising political consciousness and getting people to stand up and fight for their rights is our inability to communicate directly with our constituents about their issues of concern. The truth is that it is very difficult for people to understand what's going on in our country economically or politically, or to imagine an alternative vision, if the corporate media is their major source of information.
Let's be very clear. Corporate media is not "objective"; they are not the "referees" trying to provide "all sides of the story." Corporate media are profit-making entities owned and controlled by the ruling class and some of the wealthiest people in the country. And, like all private corporations, they have an agenda.
Location 1506: When elected officials are on TV, they're often asked questions about Trump's latest tweet, or about a natural or man-made disaster, or about what is referred to as the "news of the day." While many of these questions might be interesting and important, they very rarely deal with the reality of life that millions of Americans experience.
Location 1520: And, despite my long-term involvement on health care issues, not one mainstream journalist has ever asked me why the United States is the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care for all, and why we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care. Pretty amazing, isn't it? Not if you think about who's paying them hundreds of millions in advertising dollars.
Location 1523: Further, in terms of health care, the power of the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry is such that, throughout the entire and endless debate over the Affordable Care Act and every other recent piece of legislation on health care, there has not been one congressional hearing about a simpler, more cost-effective, and more popular approach: Medicare for All. Medicare is the most popular health insurance program in the country, and recent polls suggest that a strong majority of Americans support Medicare for All. Nonetheless, Medicare for All is not an issue to be discussed in Congress. Medicare for All is not an issue to be discussed in the media. Well, I intended to change that.
Location 1567: Dr. Fegan told us that 36,000 people died in 2016 in this country alone as a result of having no insurance. She gave some examples of what life is like when you can't afford health care, including the copayments: the fifty-six-year-old cook with hypertension but no medication who had a stroke on the way home from work; the sixty-four-year-old salesman, also with hypertension, who thought he could tough it out until he was sixty-five and could get Medicare, but who developed kidney problems and now needed dialysis; and the fifty-four-year-old nurse's aide who came in with difficulty swallowing and was found to have advanced esophageal cancer. She wanted to schedule her radiation treatments at certain times of day so she could still work and pay the bills, because nothing else mattered.
January 31, 2018 / The Biggest Challenge
Location 1625: In my view, given the extraordinary wealth and power of the oil, gas, and coal companies and the general cowardice of politicians to oppose them, the activism of these students is one of the major forces that has the potential to save this planet from the calamity that will occur if we continue along the present course.
Location 1639: It is hard to keep track of the outrageous and destructive behavior of Donald Trump. However, the greatest long-term threat caused by his administration is that not only is it failing to take action to stop climate change, but it is actually taking steps to make the problem worse. The tragic and undisputed truth is that the Trump administration rejects science, ignores the reality of climate change, and pursues policies that are directly leading to more carbon emissions and a major exacerbation of the crisis. On behalf of its friends in the fossil fuel industry, the administration is doing exactly the opposite of what must be done.
February 15, 2018 / An Ugly Day in the Senate
Location 1694: As the son of an immigrant, who came to this country with limited education and skills and who might have been denied entrance to Trump's America, I feel very strongly about this issue. The day before the vote, I was on the Senate floor. I stated, "Mr. President, this whole debate over immigration and the Dreamers has become somewhat personal for me, because it has reminded me that I am a first-generation American, the son of an immigrant who came to this country at the age of seventeen without a nickel in his pocket, a high school dropout who knew no English and had no particular trade." I continued: "But the truth is that immigration is not just my story. It's not just the story of my wife's family who came from Ireland. It is the story of America, and of tens of millions of families who came from every single part of this world."
Location 1707: The immigration system in this country is acknowledged by almost everyone to be a disaster. It has not been overhauled for thirty years. And it is not just DACA. Millions of undocumented people have been in this country for decades, living in the shadows, fearful that on any given day they could be arrested and deported, while nonetheless working hard, raising families, and, according to Forbes, paying more than $11.5 billion in state and local taxes.
February 16, 2018 / More Children Killed by Guns
Location 1732: There are hundreds of millions of guns floating around this country, including some 5 million military-style assault weapons designed solely to kill human beings. In a nation facing a severe mental health crisis, where life expectancy is in decline because of alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide, there are thousands of people walking the streets in every state in the country at their wits' end—suicidal and/or homicidal, with no place to turn. We are a nation with a dysfunctional health care system and have nowhere near the mental health treatment capabilities we need.
Location 1748: An October 12, 2017, Quinnipiac University national poll found that: American voters support, by 94 percent to 5 percent, requiring background checks for all gun purchases. Voters in gun-owning households support universal background checks 93 percent to 6 percent. Support for other nationwide gun measures is:
- 79–19 percent for a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases;
- 64–32 percent for a ban on the sale of assault weapons;
- 86–12 percent for a ban on the sale of guns to people convicted of a violent crime;
- 58–38 percent for stricter regulations on ammunition sales;
- 64–34 percent for a ban on high-capacity magazines that hold more than ten rounds.
American voters say, 63–27 percent, that it's possible to make new gun laws without interfering with gun rights. Republican voters say, 51–37 percent, that it's possible to make gun laws that don't interfere with gun rights, and voters in gun households agree, 57–33 percent.
Other polls show similar results. In other words, by large numbers, the American people support commonsense gun safety legislation. Why, then, aren't we going forward? The answer, sadly, is that Congress is not listening to the American people on this issue. They are listening to the very well-funded NRA, an organization with enormous political power. The NRA has long ceased being a gun rights advocacy group. It is now an integral and powerful part of the Republican Party infrastructure. Trust me. When the NRA speaks, the Republican members of Congress listen, big time.
Location 1769: And let me repeat that. The time is long overdue for the Republicans in Congress to stand up to the NRA and protect the children of this country.
February 23, 2018 / On the Road Again
Location 1772: At the end of the day, the best way to change minds, activate people, and win elections is to communicate with your constituents face-to-face.
Location 1777: I often get amused by my colleagues in Congress and the pundits on television who keep asking, "How can we turn Trump's working-class supporters around? How can we make them understand that Trump's agenda is for billionaires, not for them?"Well, here is a wild and crazy idea not very often acted upon. Why don't we go out and respectfully talk to them in the communities in which they live?
Location 1799: I love Iowa. It is a small rural state like my own state of Vermont, with down-to-earth, hardworking people. Today it is a state strongly controlled by the Republican Party. Its two senators are Republican. Its governor is Republican. Its state legislature is Republican. In my view, it is a state not so much won by Republicans as lost by Democrats, who have not been bold enough in standing up for the working people of that state.
Location 1828: There is a reason why the billionaire class loves Ryan, and that is because his ideology is that of a right-wing extremist. He worked hard to repeal the Affordable Care Act and supported efforts to throw as many as 32 million Americans off the health insurance they currently have. He helped write the Republican tax bill, which provides massive tax breaks to corporate America and provides, at the end of ten years, 83 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent. He has been one of the most aggressive members of Congress in trying to cut and privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. There is virtually no federal program that benefits working families, the elderly, children, or the sick that Ryan would not cut.
March 11, 2018 / Politics and Baseball
Location 1889: have never believed the pundits who talk about "red states" and "blue states." Never accepted it—just not my experience. On the contrary, I have always believed that so long as there are working people who are struggling, so long as there are candidates who have the guts to take on big money and speak to the realities facing the working class, those candidates can win—anywhere.
Location 1892: This "red state" mythology is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Democrats think they can't win in particular states, they don't put resources into those states, and, shock of all shocks, they lose in those states. Tragically, this is true even in some of the poorest states in the country, where working people are suffering terribly under right-wing Republican rule.
Location 1909: The event in Lubbock, however, was more important in that it told me everything I needed to know about the ineptitude of the Democratic Party and why Donald Trump was president. Texas is a supposedly conservative state, and Lubbock is one of the most conservative parts of Texas—which is precisely why we went there, at Jim's suggestion. And what happened is that in this supposedly conservative area, we had a large, standing-room-only rally with enormous enthusiasm.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported, "Progressives on the Panhandle/South Plains hadn't had a political rally like what took place Saturday afternoon at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center in a long time, if ever."
Location 1914: The population of Lubbock County is about 35 percent Latino and 9 percent African American. Wages in the area for workers are notoriously low, and Texas Tech University, a school with 37,000 students, is located there. Despite all that potential support—a large minority population, a whole lot of students, and workers earning starvation wages—Republicans completely dominate politics in the area, from the local and state to the federal level. In fact, Donald Trump won the county with 66 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton received 28 percent. How is that at all possible?
Location 1919: Lubbock County Republicans have stated that the continued GOP domination in the county is a validation of conservative ideals. I doubt that very much. Ask the people of Lubbock whether they want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Ask them if they think that health care should be a right, not a privilege, or whether public colleges and universities should be tuition-free. Ask them whether they support comprehensive immigration reform and major changes to our broken criminal justice system. I doubt very much that their answers will be conservative.
Location 1923: The problem is that the Democrats have not shown up and asked those questions. They don't educate. They don't organize. They don't have aggressive voter registration campaigns or get-out-the-vote efforts. And those few Democrats who do try to do the right thing get very little, if any, support from the national Democratic Party. Lubbock, Texas, and hundreds of counties around the country like Lubbock are invisible to national Democrats. For some inexplicable reason, Democrats have thrown in the towel and conceded these areas to right-wing Republicans.
I told the audience that progressives haven't made their message clear enough in rural America, and that it was the job of everyone there to make their own needs clear, because when 4.5 million Texans have no health insurance, and their state government does not want to expand Medicaid, and their senators voted to end the Affordable Care Act, then the people of Texas should not be voting Republican.
Location 1952: When the team moved to Los Angeles, I experienced one of my first moments of recognition of the power of corporations and wealthy individuals. Up to then, it had never occurred to me and my friends that an institution like the Brooklyn Dodgers could leave Brooklyn, any more than the Brooklyn Bridge or Prospect Park could leave Brooklyn. It turned out that for the owners of the Dodgers, there was something that mattered more than community: money. It was a lesson I never forgot.
March 23, 2018 / A Hell of a Two Weeks
Location 1969: In conversations with Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, and in several editorials, I argued that we should highlight a select number of issues that made a clear distinction between the reactionary Republican agenda and what we were trying to accomplish. We had to let the people know that we were fighting to address some of the major problems they were facing. Senator Elizabeth Warren worked with me on this approach. Schumer was in agreement. Last night the results came in and, given Republican control over the Senate, House, and White House, we did well. Our strategy worked. Much of what I and other progressives fought for was in the bill.
Interestingly, the Department of Defense is the only major agency of government not to have completed an audit, as required by law. Few contest the fact that waste and fraud within the Defense Department cost us many billions of dollars a year. This is an enormously important issue that most members of Congress are not eager to talk about. I will.
Location 2018: My criticism of the corporate media is not that it is "fake news," that it lies all the time or tries to destroy people—which is what Trump believes. My critique is that the corporate media pays relatively little attention to the most important issues facing the working people of our country and increasingly treats politics and government as if they were entertainment or a football game. Over and over again we hear about which politician is "winning" or "losing," or about something stupid that someone said. We hear about the latest polls, Trump's latest tweet, who got fired from the White House this week, and who is arguing with whom in Washington.
Why are so many people working longer hours for lower wages? Why are we the only major country on earth without guaranteed health care for all? Why are so many Americans living in extreme poverty? What is the impact of climate change on our planet? Why do we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?
Location 2034: As I said to our friends in the corporate media during the discussion: start paying attention to the reality of how many people in our country are struggling economically every single day—and talk about it.
Location 2047: Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution is very clear. It is Congress that has the responsibility to declare war and send our armed forces into harm's way. Over the years, Congress has, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, abdicated that responsibility and given it over to the president. The time is long overdue for Congress to regain control over this vitally important process, as the founding fathers mandated.
The issue of which body has control over war making and when we send troops into battle is not some abstract intellectual debate. It is of enormous consequence. Anyone who understands the history of American foreign policy knows that, over the years, many of our wars and military interventions were based on lies and deceptions coming from the White House. I'm not just talking about the 1953 CIA/British toppling of Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, and what that has meant to Middle East instability and U.S.-Iran relations. I'm not referring only to the CIA's overthrow of democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende, and the fascism that the people there had to endure for years as a result. I am not talking only about the unjust invasions of small countries like Grenada and Panama.
Location 2060: On March 20, 2003, the war in Iraq, which I had strongly opposed, began, and the bombs started falling on Baghdad. Today, it is widely acknowledged that the Iraq War was a tragedy of enormous magnitude, and that our entry into that war was based on a series of falsehoods. Despite what the Bush administration said, Iraq had no role in the 9/11 attacks, and it did not possess weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States.
The lesson that must be learned from all of this is that foreign policy disasters occur when presidents refuse to tell their people the truth, and when Congress abdicates its constitutional responsibility to get that truth.
April 3, 2018 / Remembering Dr. King
Location 2096: "Right to work" means the right to work for lower wages and inadequate benefits and allowing workers who benefit from union contracts not to pay union dues. Few doubted that the Republican majority on the Supreme Court would rule against the unions.
Location 2114: Dr. King was a nonviolent revolutionary who wanted to see our nation undergo "a radical revolution of values," against not just the evils of Jim Crow and segregation but also the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism. Let us never forget that, in an act of incredible courage, King denounced the war in Vietnam. He demanded to know how we could spend billions abroad killing people in an unjust war while ignoring the suffering of millions of people in our own country who were living in dire poverty. He wanted to know how he could advocate nonviolence in America but not oppose the incredible brutality of that war.
Location 2119: His speaking out on the war in Vietnam greatly antagonized the Johnson administration, and alienated much of King's political and financial support from the liberal community. It also engendered mainstream media attacks from those who criticized him for going beyond the only role that they had determined he should play: "civil rights leader."His bold leadership also made mainstream America uncomfortable. A 1966 Gallup poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Dr. King.
Location 2129: Dr. King always understood that the "inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice."As he stated in 1968, "What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn't earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?"And let us never forget that the great March on Washington that Dr. King led in 1963 was called the March for Jobs and Freedom. For Jobs and Freedom. And we must also remember that the project Dr. King worked on in the last months of his life was the Poor People's Campaign: an effort to bring low-income blacks, whites, Latinos, and Native Americans together to change our national priorities and to create a society where all people could live with dignity and security.
Dr. King understood that the only time we bring about real change in this country is when we mobilize people at the grassroots level. Thirty-second TV ads may help win some elections, but they are not going to bring about the fundamental change our country needs.
Location 2159: Politically, based on its racial history, it goes without saying that Mississippi is a very unusual state. In 2012, Barack Obama received almost 44 percent of the vote in Mississippi for his reelection. This happened despite the fact that the national Democratic Party put little money and energy into the state. While Obama won the overwhelming percentage of the black vote, he won only 10 percent of the white vote. This is absurd. There is little doubt in my mind that if Democrats develop a fifty-state strategy, and stop ignoring states like Mississippi, we can both increase black voter turnout and win a much higher percentage of white votes.
April 13, 2018 / The Political Revolution Is Looking Great
My view is, and has always been, that campaigns are not just about the candidate. They are about understanding that real change never comes from the top down, but always from the grassroots on up.
Location 2186: During my remarks, I urged the candidates to focus on a few basic things. First, talk about the issues that are relevant to the people you hope to represent. More often than not, those concerns related to decent-paying jobs, health care, education, and the environment. I also suggested, if they were running for local office, that the most important thing that they and their campaign co-workers could do was to knock on as many doors as possible, because there is nothing more effective than face-to-face contact. TV, radio, and digital ads are important, but having a discussion with a constituent in his or her kitchen is far more impactful.
Location 2191: I also urged the candidates not to become overly reliant on consultants and pollsters—people who often make large amounts of money from campaigns and who usually bring forth tired, old boilerplate concepts. I told them to trust their own instincts, be themselves, and bring as many people as possible into the campaign.
April 16, 2018 / Jumping into Controversy
Location 2214: Democrats, for good reason, vehemently oppose almost everything Trump proposes, but when he asks for a huge increase in military spending, there are almost no voices in dissent.
Location 2228: The "war on terror" in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen has cost the United States thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. These wars have caused massive destabilization in the region, the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of people there, and the displacement of millions who were driven from their homelands. Further, these wars have significantly impacted Europe, which has seen the rise of right-wing extremist movements in response to the mass migration of refugees into those countries.
Location 2232: For decades now, in the extremely volatile Gulf region, the United States has determined that our major "ally" in the region is Saudi Arabia, a despotic autocracy controlled by an extremely wealthy family that treats women as third-class citizens, jails dissidents, ruthlessly exploits the foreign labor that keeps its economy going, and has exported the extremist Islamic doctrine of Wahhabism around the world. Why have we continued to give them unconditional support while they and their Gulf allies work diligently to suppress democracy across the region? Why have we continued to sell them billions of dollars' worth of sophisticated weapons while they wage a ruthless war in Yemen?
Location 2237: How does it happen that there is almost no debate as to why we have determined that Saudi Arabia is the "good guy" in that area while Iran is the "bad guy"? This was the position of the 2016 Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton. This is the position of the Republican president, Donald Trump. Is it the right position?
J Street is a liberal Jewish organization. It was founded in 2007 to provide an alternative voice to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful conservative Jewish organization whose views on Israel have enormous influence over Congress. Its goal is to promote American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.
Location 2246: In my remarks, I stated a view that very few in Congress, Republican or Democrat, are prepared to express, for fear of being called "anti-Israel." My speech was an effort not only to shine a new light on how we should address the never-ending conflicts in the Middle East, but also to open up a debate on this issue beyond the one-party approach that is now dominant.
And let me also say this. As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel's right to exist, and to exist in peace and security, as someone who as a young man lived in Israel for a number of months and is very proud of his Jewish heritage, as someone who is deeply concerned about the global rise of anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, we must say loudly and clearly that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel.
April 19, 2018 / The Fight for a Moral Economy
Location 2280: I believe that my friend Dr. Cornel West is right when he states that "William Barber is the closest person we have to Martin Luther King Jr. in our midst."
Location 2296: It is Reverend Barber's deep conviction that there should not be a separation between one's religious beliefs and sense of morality and one's approach to politics. In fact, he stated in his podcast with me that "I was taught that there is no separation between justice and Jesus. Any attempt to separate the two is heresy." During our conversation at Duke, his harshest words were aimed at those religious figures who preach the Bible every Sunday, but somehow turn a blind eye to the pain, suffering, and injustice that take place in their communities and in their country.
- We can't talk about an economy doing well when 21 percent of African Americans are living in poverty, a poverty rate that is two and a half times the rate for the white community.
- We can't talk about a strong economy when 34 percent of black children live in poverty, almost three times the rate for white kids, or when the infant mortality rate for black infants is more than double the rate for white infants.
- We can't talk about a healthy society when black high school graduates have a real unemployment rate of 42 percent.
- We can't talk about justice in this country when the median white family has $171,000 in wealth, while the median black family has just $17,000 in wealth—a wealth gap of ten to one.
- We can't talk about real economic progress when 53 percent of black workers make less than $15 an hour.
- And we can't talk about being a nation of opportunity when social mobility is so much easier for young whites than young African Americans.
May 4, 2018 / Criminal Justice, Politics, and Pennsylvania
Location 2409: Lethal force should be the last response, not the first response. Almost all Americans have been shocked and dismayed by video after video on TV showing police officers shooting unarmed people, often black or Latino. Police officers spend far, far more hours learning how to use their weapon than learning de-escalation tactics or how to deal with mentally ill people acting out. That has got to change.
Location 2433: In my experience, the best way to deal with those trying to disrupt our events is to ignore them and speak right over them. I have the microphone. They don't. Plus, I'm pretty loud in any case.
May 18, 2018 / A Busy Weekend in Vermont
Location 2481: In fact, many colleges have strong financial aid packages, and it was important for kids to understand that those programs existed.
For many low-income kids, the struggle to obtain a college education is not just financial. It also has to do with self-esteem issues. Many do not believe that they have the intelligence or the ability to succeed in college. As the son of working-class parents who never went to college, I was not unfamiliar with those feelings.
Location 2497: As a longtime member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and as the former chair of that committee, I have worked for years with the veterans community in Vermont and around the country on issues of concern to them. I am proud to be the recipient of the highest national awards offered by the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for my work on veterans' issues.
Location 2517: We should also understand that a lot of the criticism directed at the VA health care system has nothing to do with the quality of care provided but everything to do with politics. Let's be clear. The VA is a socialized health care system, owned and operated by the U.S. government. It provides free or inexpensive care to millions of Americans and enables them to purchase prescription drugs for a very low price. In case you haven't noticed, there are a lot of Republicans who are not wildly sympathetic to socialized medicine. (In fact, these are the same people who tried to throw 32 million Americans off Obamacare and want massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other public health programs.)
In my view, the long-term goal of Republicans is to significantly privatize the VA health care system. They want to cut back on VA-provided services and push veterans into private care, which they'll do, I suspect, by converting the VA into a voucher system, with veterans picking up a larger and larger percentage of the cost. In fact, Dr. David Shulkin was recently fired by President Trump as secretary of the VA because he was not moving the privatization process fast enough.
Location 2540: If our government can provide a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and expand military spending by $165 billion over two years, we can surely provide high-quality public education from pre-K through college.
May 20, 2018 / Doing the Sunday News Shows
Location 2561: Progressive ideas are now mainstream in America. That's what the people want, especially Democrats. Further, a progressive agenda is not only good public policy; it is what winning campaigns are all about. Democrats usually do well when voter turnout is high. Republicans usually do well when voter turnout is low. In 2014, in the midterm elections, the United States had the lowest voter turnout since World War II. Republicans won landslide victories. The only way that turnout goes up is when candidates speak to the needs of working people, lower-income people, and young people—people who are marginal voters. When there is political excitement in the air, when ordinary people sense hope for the future, they will come out and vote, and Democrats will win. The simple truth is that "moderates" or "centrists" do not generate that level of excitement.
May 28, 2018 / Running for Reelection to the U.S. Senate
I have run for office in Vermont as an Independent since my 1981 campaign for mayor of Burlington, and I am now the longest-serving Independent in congressional history. In Vermont, that is what I have always done, and what Vermonters expect me to do, and what I will always do. Meanwhile, in Washington, I have been a member of the Democratic Caucus in the House for the sixteen years I served there and a member of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate for the last twelve years. Today, of course, I am a member of the Democratic Senate Leadership team. All this creates a somewhat unusual dynamic for my election efforts in Vermont, a situation that is not fully understood by some national media and intentionally distorted by political opponents.
Location 2592: In Vermont, I am strongly supported by the Vermont Democratic Party and have helped lead the effort to get Vermont Democrats elected to office, including the state's last Democratic governor, the present lieutenant governor, and many members of the legislature. My campaign has made significant financial contributions to Vermont Democratic candidates, as well as large donations to the Vermont Democratic Party's coordinated campaigns. Given that reality, the state Democratic leadership and I agree that it would be absurd to have a Democrat run against me in the general election, split the vote, and open the possibility of a Republican winning. How do we address this situation? It's not complicated. For my last two Senate races, I have run in the Democratic primary, won it, respectfully declined the nomination, and appeared on the ballot as an Independent. This is a strategy that works well for Vermont Democrats, for me, and for the state's progressive movement.
Location 2600: But to complicate matters further, we have the strongest progressive third party in the country, the Vermont Progressive Party. It grew out of the political movement that I helped lead when I was mayor of Burlington, and it has elected more candidates to the legislature than any other third party in America. I have been strongly supportive of the Progressive Party and its agenda and have done my best to see that Democrats and Progressives work together as closely as possible and do not act in a way that benefits Republicans.
June 2, 2018 / Taking on Disney
Location 2615: While Republicans have been increasingly vicious in their attacks against working families, I have long been convinced that Democrats have been much too weak in taking on corporate power and standing up for employees. The rich get richer, the middle class gets poorer, and Democrats remain much too silent. Too many Democrats spend too much time raising money from the wealthy and corporate interests and too little time fighting for those who are being economically exploited. Come election time, Democrats ask workers for their support and continue to be surprised when these workers don't show up to vote or, even worse, vote Republican. The bottom line is that if you don't stand up for your constituents, they're not going to stand up for you.
Location 2626: Disney is a $150 billion corporation and made $9 billion in profits in 2017. It received a $1.5 billion tax break from the Trump tax giveaway to the rich and, unsurprisingly, has received hundreds of millions in local tax breaks from the City of Anaheim. Further, I thought it ironic that, while paying its workers extremely low wages, the Disney board had recently reached a four-year compensation agreement with its CEO, Bob Iger, for an estimated $423 million. And yet, while Disney's profits soared, and its CEO received an unimaginable amount of money, the wages and benefits for the workers at Disney were atrocious. The people who walked around all day in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck costumes, the workers who prepared and delivered the food, the men and women who collected tickets and managed the rides made wages so low that they were barely surviving.
Location 2640: Reports and statistics are one thing. Hearing real human beings describe what's going on in their lives is another, and the testimony we heard from the six Disney employees was both heartbreaking and mind-blowing. Glynndana Shevlin sat next to me onstage. The fifty-eight-year-old food and beverage worker and member of Unite HERE Local 11 has worked at Disneyland for thirty years. Over the past decade, she's seen her wages go up a whopping $2. "I go hungry most days on one meal a day," she told the crowd, according to the Washington Examiner. "I work in the most beautiful room in the Adventure Tower at the Disneyland hotel.… I feed these guests the most amazing gourmet food you've ever seen that at the end of the day gets thrown in a recycle bin. If I eat that food or even try it[—]they call it separated from the company[,] like we're family—you're going to be shunned. They freakin' fire us if we eat one little crumb."
The bottom line is that if you work forty hours a week or more, you should not be living in poverty.
July 11, 2018 / The Supreme Court Matters
The Supreme Court has helped create a corrupt campaign finance system that substantially benefits the rich and the powerful against the needs of working people:
Location 2741: Whether you are a progressive or a conservative or somewhere in between, you know that there is something profoundly wrong when a small number of billionaires can spend many hundreds of millions of dollars to try to buy elections. That is not what American democracy is supposed to be about, and the American people know it. What most Americans don't know, however, is that this situation was created by a 5–4 Supreme Court vote in the Citizens United case of 2010, which struck down parts of the comprehensive bipartisan campaign finance legislation that Congress had passed. That decision paved the way for corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited sums of money on political campaigns and undermine the foundations of American democracy.
The Supreme Court has helped deny millions of lower-income Americans the health care they desperately need:
Location 2751: In 2012, the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act legislation was challenged by a conservative business group. While the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, it ruled, by a 5–4 vote, that the important provision expanding Medicaid could be optional for states. The result: seventeen states have still not expanded Medicaid, leaving millions of the poorest people in our country without health insurance. As a member of the committee that helped write the ACA, I can assure you we never intended that provision to be optional.
The Supreme Court has made it easier for states, once again, to discriminate against people of color in terms of voting:
Location 2759: In 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court claimed that major parts of the Voting Rights Act were outdated and struck them down. This decision opened the floodgates for a massive campaign of voter suppression, as Republican state officials immediately began to enact voter restrictions targeted at black people, poor people, young people, and other groups who don't traditionally vote for them.
- Time and time again, Judge Kavanaugh has sided with the interests of corporations and millionaires and billionaires instead of with the interests of the American people.
- He has sided with electric power utilities and chemical companies over protecting clean air and fighting climate change.
- He argued that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was unconstitutional because its structure did not give enough power to the president.
- He argued against net neutrality.
- He dissented in an Occupational Safety and Health Administration case, arguing that Sea World should not be fined for the death of one of its whale trainers because the trainer should have accepted the risk of death as a routine part of the job.
July 22, 2018 / Which Way Forward?
Location 2883: July 21, NBC News Sanders' wing of the party terrifies moderate Dems. Here's how they plan to stop it. Party members and fundraisers gathered for an invitation-only event to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement. COLUMBUS, Ohio—If Bernie Sanders is leading a leftist political revolt, then a summit here of moderate Democrats might be the start of a counterrevolution.
Location 2890: That anxiety has largely been kept to a whisper among the party's moderates and big donors, with some of the major fundraisers pressing operatives on what can be done to stop the Vermonter if he runs for the White House again. The article continues: The gathering here was just that—an effort to offer an attractive alternative to the rising Sanders-style populist left in the upcoming presidential race. Where progressives see a rare opportunity to capitalize on an energized Democratic base, moderates see a better chance to win over Republicans turned off by Trump. The fact that a billionaire real estate developer, Winston Fisher, co-hosted the event and addressed attendees twice underscored that this group is not interested in the class warfare vilifying the "millionaires and billionaires" found in Sanders' stump speech.
Location 2911: Well, here's the answer: The Democratic Party will never succeed if it continues to concede half the states in the country to right-wing Republicans. It cannot be a party of the East Coast, the West Coast, and a few states in between. It must be a fifty-state party, and, last I heard, Kansas was one of those states.
Our common humanity as human beings far outweighs any superficial differences we may have.
July 27, 2018 / A Step Forward for Economic Justice
Location 2961: In a nation where unemployment today is reasonably low, many millions of workers remain employed at wages that are simply unlivable. When you earn $9, $10, or $11 an hour, you just can't afford housing, health care, child care, transportation, decent food, or other basic necessities of life. This should not be happening in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, which is why I introduced legislation last year to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.
August 25, 2018 / Reforming the Democratic Party
Location 2981: A clear manifestation of the top-down nature of the Democratic Party had everything to do with the role of superdelegates. The Democratic National Committee, in its wisdom, had designated 716 political insiders as superdelegates—delegates to the national convention who could support any candidate they wanted, regardless of how the people of their state had voted in their primaries or caucuses. In other words, the Democratic leadership had created the absurd and undemocratic situation that allowed 30 percent of the votes needed for the presidential nomination to come from the party elite. In 2016, this grossly unfair situation became very apparent when Secretary Clinton received the support of some 500 superdelegates before the first popular vote was cast in the Iowa caucuses. The presidential primary contest was almost over before it had begun. What kind of message does that send to ordinary Americans about democracy and citizen participation?
Location 2988: That is why, at the end of the 2016 primary process, I urged Secretary Clinton to work with me to form a Unity Reform Commission. This body would address the problem of superdelegates as well as other issues that would make the party more open and democratic. Secretary Clinton agreed. Secretary Clinton; the newly elected chair of the party, Tom Perez; and I each appointed members to the commission. My appointees were a group of strong progressive activists who represented different elements of the party. They included former CWA president Larry Cohen, as the co-chair of the body; my campaign manager, Jeff Weaver; former Ohio state senator and future Our Revolution president Nina Turner; former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores; Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party; activist Nomiki Konst; Jim Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute; and former Berkeley mayor Gus Newport. Hillary Clinton appointed a number of experienced and knowledgeable Democrats, as did Tom Perez. The Unity Reform Commission held four public meetings around the country throughout the summer and fall of 2017. Finally, in December of 2017, the group unanimously passed a resolution that would significantly reduce the power of superdelegates, open up primaries, reform caucuses, and make the internal workings of the party more transparent.
Only a party that welcomes ordinary people into the process and stands up and fights for their rights will generate excitement and energy—and win elections.
Where We Go from Here
Location 3019: My goal has been to bring the American people together to fight for a government that represents all of us and not just a handful of billionaire campaign contributors. There have been ups and downs in this struggle, but few can deny that the progressive movement is making enormous progress.
The political revolution is about thinking big. It's not about one election, one candidate, one issue. It's about creating a movement that will transform the economic, political, social, and environmental life of our country. That is not easy, but it's what has to be done.
Location 3042: We are making progress in creating a more just economy. And by the way, when we talk about a fair wage, we cannot forget that women still earn some 80 cents on the dollar compared with men. There is overwhelming support in this country for pay equity—equal pay for equal work—and that is the right thing to do. Every man in this country must stand with the women to win that fight.
Location 3047: Today, the American people understand that there is something fundamentally wrong when the United States remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to every man, woman, and child as a right, not a privilege. They also understand that it is absurd that we pay almost twice as much per capita for health care as any other nation, including the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, while our health care outcomes are often worse than other countries'.
Location 3055: Make no mistake about it. With Wall Street and the health care industry making hundreds of billions a year in profit from our current dysfunctional system, the fight for Medicare for All will require a monumental political struggle.
Location 3057: Now we have got to step up our organizing efforts. We have got to demand that any candidate we support has the guts to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and support Medicare for All. We have got to bring doctors, nurses, patients, and businesspeople together into a broad coalition that helps lead the fight for universal health care. We need a national campaign, touching every city and town in the country, that proclaims loudly and clearly that health care is a human right. This is a fight we can win, and a fight we must win.
Location 3085: Young people want and need meaningful and decent-paying jobs. They need affordable housing. They care deeply about combating climate change and creating a clean environment. They believe passionately in a woman's right to control her own body. They are in vigorous opposition to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.
The political reality of today is that a heavy percentage of older, more conservative people go to the polls. Young and progressive people tend to vote in much lower numbers. That has got to change. Young people are the future of this country. They need to stand up and fight for their future. They must get involved in the political struggle. Increasing voter turnout among young people must be a major priority of the progressive movement.
Location 3123: While the progressive agenda is gaining momentum, we've got to continue expanding our vision and search for new ideas that address the needs of working families in a rapidly changing economy. In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, every able-bodied person should have a decent-paying job. We can and should have a full-employment economy. Way back in 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt talked about the right of every American to have a job. That was true then. It is true today. A decent job not only provides a worker and his or her family with adequate income, but it does something more. It provides meaning in life. It enables one to be part of a community. Too many Americans today are falling through the cracks. They become alienated from society. They become destructive to others or self-destructive, turning to drugs, alcohol, or even suicide. What does it mean that in our country today life expectancy is actually going down? Guaranteeing a job for all will lower the crime rate, improve mental health, and create a stronger sense of community. It will create a much healthier and happier America.
Location 3131: A full-employment economy is not some wild utopian proposal. The truth is that in this country today there is an enormous amount of work to be done. We need millions of workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure—roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, rail, and affordable housing. At a time when our early childhood education system is totally inadequate, we need hundreds of thousands of workers to provide quality care to the young children of our country. As the nation ages, we will need many more workers to provide compassionate care to those who are reaching the end of their lives.
Location 3135: What should be clear to every political observer is that, today, we have a Republican president and Congress who, on issue after issue, are doing exactly the opposite of what the American people want. It really is pretty crazy.
- The majority of Americans want health care for all. The Republican leadership wants to throw 32 million people off the health care they already have.
- The Americans people want the wealthy and large, profitable corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes. The Republican leadership has provided billionaires and corporations with huge tax breaks.
- The American people want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. The Republican leadership wants to keep it at $7.25 an hour or even abolish the concept of the minimum wage altogether.
- The American people want to make public colleges and universities tuition-free. The Republican leadership wants to cut federal Pell grants, making college even more unaffordable.
- The American people want to expand Social Security benefits. The Republican leadership wants to cut them.
- The American people want to protect Roe v. Wade and the right of a woman to have an abortion. The Republican leadership wants a Supreme Court justice who will end that protection.
- The American people want to address the crisis of climate change, cut carbon emissions, and move toward sustainable energy. The Republican leadership does the bidding of the fossil fuel industry.
- The American people want commonsense gun safety legislation. The Republican leadership offers thoughts and prayers.
Location 3155: That's why the Republican Party pushed the Supreme Court to overturn important voter protections under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and why Republican state officials are now aggressively pursuing voter suppression—making it harder for poor people, people of color, and young people to vote. Instead of wanting more people to be involved in our democracy, their entire "election reform" effort is to have fewer people vote. How's that for political cowardice.
Our job is not just to fight back against the voter suppression and extreme gerrymandering that are undermining the foundations of our democracy. We must move forward to universal voter registration. If you are eighteen years of age and an American citizen, you are registered to vote. End of discussion. No state can be allowed to deny anyone that basic democratic right. We must also make it easier for people to vote by moving Election Day to a weekend and increasing early voting opportunities. And we must end the outrage of millions not being able to vote, many of whom are people of color, even after they've served their time in jail for having committed a felony. We must strive for the United States to have one of the highest voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest.
Location 3164: In the United States, the essence of our democracy must be one person, one vote—not the amount of money you have. Billionaires should not be allowed to buy elections. Candidates should win elections based on their ideas and character, not by the size of their chief backers' bank accounts. The current campaign finance system is corrupt, and most Americans, regardless of their political views, understand that. Increasingly, as the costs of campaigns soar, we are seeing more and more "self-funders" running for office. These multimillionaires and billionaires are running for president, they are running for the Senate, they are running for the House and for governor. And those candidates who are not personally rich are increasingly dependent upon super PACs funded by the very wealthy.
The disastrous 5–4 decision in Citizens United must be overturned, and we must move to the public funding of elections. We cannot allow a handful of very rich people to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect those who support their interests.
Location 3194: Real change and the fight for justice always begin at the grassroots level. Real change takes place when ordinary people start questioning the status quo and ask, "Why not? Why can't we create a better society? Why can't we live in a world of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice?" And, at an unprecedented level in the modern history of our country, that is exactly what is happening.
Location 3201: I know that we are living at a pivotal moment in American history. It's a time in which millions of Americans have been left behind in a changing economy and many of them are living in despair. Amid vast wealth, the wages they earn are unlivable. Despite exploding medical technology, their health care is inadequate or nonexistent. At a time when most well-paying jobs require a higher education, their kids cannot afford to go to college. These Americans believe, correctly, that much of the political and media establishment has ignored them and in many ways has held them in contempt. The very rich get much richer, and nobody much cares about them.
Location 3210: The monumental struggle we are engaged in today is not just about our lives and our generation. It is about the kind of world we leave to our kids and grandchildren. In terms of climate change, it is about whether the planet we leave to them will even be healthy and habitable.
This is not a time for despair. This is not a time for depression. This is a time to stand up and fight back. Please join us.