In the midst of the summer congressional recess, Congressman Bernie
Sanders asserted today that the United States needs nothing less than
a “political revolution” that will revitalize American democracy and
move the country toward social justice.
“At a time when more and more Americans are giving up on the political
process, and when the wealthy and multi-national corporations have
unprecedented wealth and power,” Sanders said, “it is imperative
that we launch a grass-roots revolution to enable ordinary Americans
to regain control of their country.
“ The tragic consequence of millions of low income and working
people losing faith in the ability of the government to respond
to their problems, is that today the United States has, by far,
the lowest voter turnout of any major country. Meanwhile, the rich
and multi-national corporations are pouring billions into the political
process and both major political parties. The obvious result is
that many candidates who are elected end up being more concerned
about pleasing their wealthy benefactors than representing the needs
of working people, children, the elderly or the poor.
“It is no accident,” Sanders continued, “that while pharmaceutical
and insurance companies donate huge sums of money into the political
process, American citizens must pay, by far, the highest prices
in the world for prescription drugs. Those same companies and their
political donations ensure that the United Stares remains the only
industrialized nation that does not have a national health care
program providing health care to all.
“The rich hold $25,000 a plate fundraisers for their candidates.
Why would they pay so much for a chicken dinner? The answer is,
they want access and special favors. It is no accident that after
raising more money from the wealthy for his campaign than any candidate
in history, President Bush and the Republican leadership passed
a $1.3 trillion dollar tax bill which provides $500 billion in tax
breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. It is no accident
that, rather than raising the minimum wage, the President and congressional
leadership are providing billions in tax breaks and subsidies to
the major oil, gas and coal companies. It is also, sadly, no accident
that almost 20 percent of our children live in poverty, schools
throughout the country are physically deteriorating, college graduates
begin their careers deeply in debt and millions of working class
people are unable to find affordable housing.
“We need a political revolution in this country,” Sanders concluded,
“one that will revitalize American democracy and move us toward
social justice. We should make every effort to achieve the 60-80
percent voter turnout that takes place in most European countries,
rather than the 36 percent who current estimates say will vote in
2002. Americans must – all Americans – enjoy a decent standard of
living, rather than having, as at present, the most unfair distribution
of wealth and income of any major nation. It is time for a political
revolution to revitalize American democracy and move the country
toward social justice.
“Freedom and justice don’t come easy. As the great black abolitionist
Frederick Douglass said; ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.
It never did and it never will.’ We can learn from Douglass, and
from many of our ancestors who like he fought against the slavery
inflicted on black Americans and the genocide and suffering perpetrated
on Native Americans. Americans fought for decades for a democracy
in which all people could vote, rather than just the rich and landed
gentry. Women struggled for a century before they could fully participate
in the political process. Working people fought for the right to
organize labor unions.
“In my view, the major struggle that we have now is for economic
and social justice. Once again, Frederick Douglass anticipated the
need for struggle:
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess
to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want
crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder
and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its
We have the wealth and resources in this country today to end poverty,
make health care available for all, and provide the best education
in the world. We won’t accomplish those goals, however, unless all
Americans reclaim their democratic heritage by fully participating
in the political process: by using the power to vote and speak and
act for social justice.
HELEN LANGAN at (202) 225-4115
Editors Note: Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has the best
web site of any member of Congress - http://bernie.house.gov/