“The views that most of us hold are not minority views”
Image by Arnie Alpert
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Warner, New Hampshire, and Bernie Sanders didn’t need much time to warm up the sympathetic crowd outside Bookends.
“I think that old fashioned politics, I think the politics of big money dominating what goes on in Washington, the old status quo is not good enough,” began the Vermont Senator. “In my view, and I say this very seriously, we need a political revolution in this country.” The audience of perhaps one hundred people applauded enthusiastically.
Image by Arnie Alpert
Senator Sanders would sign copies of his book, The Speech, afterwards, but this is no more a standard book tour than are the recent appearances of Hillary Clinton. Bernie, as he is commonly known, is considering a run for President, and this was his second campaign-style trip to the state that hold the nation’s first primary election.
Sanders’ speech, like one he delivered at the NH Institute of Politics a couple months ago, ran through a menu of issues he referred to as the “progressive agenda.” The growth of economic inequality and its pernicious effects, the threat of global warning, the need to end wasteful military spending, the need for universal health care, and the importance of free, public education each received a couple paragraphs of stump speech, as did the importance of political reforms to take the government back from the 1 percent and the corporations they own.
“Last year alone the Koch brothers saw a $12 billion increase in their wealth struggling under the despotic Obama administration,” he said with more than a touch of sarcasm. Going on about the Kochs, he said, “When you have an extreme
ideology and you are prepared to spend as much as it takes you can buy the political system. And that is what this disastrous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United has enabled them to do.”
“Here’s what I think,” Sanders continued in his characteristic conversational style. “Number One we have to overturn Citizens United,” the Supreme Court decision that
Image by Arnie Alpert
solidified Court precedents behind the notions of corporate personhood and protection for corporate rights to spend money to influence elections.
“Second issue, equally important, we need to move toward public funding of American elections,” Sanders said.
A week before the NH Rebellion’s next gathering, in which hundreds of local residents are expected to walk from Hampton Beach to New Castle to protest the corrupting influence of big money on our political system, Sanders’ comments were affirmed by the audience.
“We are part of the vast majority.”
As a positive example, Sanders described how efforts to cut Medicare benefits and weaken or privatize Social Security have been rebuffed by organized citizens, despite the propaganda of the deficit hawks. “The reason we have a deficit today is two huge wars were not paid for and tax breaks for the rich,” he said, again getting approval from the audience.
The job of progressives, according to Bernie Sanders, is to educate people about what is really going on in the economic and political systems. And that means going outside of our comfort zones to talk to people with whom we don’t always agree. The right-wing specializes in division, he said. Progressive need to bring people together.
“One point I want to reiterate today — the views that most of us hold are not minority views,” Sanders said. “They are not strange views. Our views are what the vast majority of the American people believe in. It is the Koch brothers and right-wing Republicans who have the fringe ideology.”
“Our job politically is to rally the American people around an agenda which speaks to the needs of the vast majority. And we are part of the vast majority.”
A veteran of who knows how many dozen town hall meetings in Vermont, Bernie Sanders is clearly comfortable with the type of give and take that can animate a New Hampshire Primary campaign. Of course, he would have to join the Democratic Party in order to compete in that arena. But he’s already been to Iowa once, and when he left Warner yesterday he was headed for a fundraising dinner for the Hillsborough County Democrats