On Thursday (November 19, 2015) Bernie Sanders delivered one his best and most remarkable speeches to date, which took place at The Institute of Politics and Public Service at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.
Georgetown students had lined up since 5:30 a.m. to hear the presidential candidate deliver his much anticipated 2 p.m. speech on what it means to him to be a democratic socialist in America — as well as his vision for creating an American future based on economic and social justice.
Bernie Sanders made some very astute contrasts to what the progressive Franklin D. Roosevelt advocated for 70 years ago to what his own vision of America should be today. Bernie's views (despite being "a self-described democratic socialist") were strikingly similar to one of our most popular all-time Presidents.
So it was odd that, unlike Donald Trump's speeches, no major media outlets (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, etc.) broke away from their regular programming to cover Bernie Sanders remarks today, as they remained focused on the many other distractions — most likely because the major media prefers a "moderate" Democrat or a Republican-LITE.
Although the New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times wrote mostly neutral reports on the speech afterwards, Campaign for America's Future posted a very good article; and there is an excellent post at Mother Jones as well: The Most Important Moments From Bernie Sanders' Speech Defending Democratic Socialism.
He did something unprecedented for a major candidate: He made the case for democratic socialism ... The address, which Sanders wrote himself, had been in the works for weeks, and in it Sanders embraced a label that has most often been used to attack him ... He railed against Wall Street, the "ruling class," and the billionaire Koch brothers. But he tied those stances to an ideology that he contended was an essential part of the United States' heritage.
But (IMHO) the best article (to date) was written by John Nichols at The Nation: Can Democratic Socialism Pass the Electability Test? It Already Has (Excerpts below)
When Sanders delivered his much-anticipated address on democratic socialism at Georgetown University Thursday, he linked his vision to that of a repeatedly-elected Democratic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who did not identify as a democratic socialist, but who borrowed freely from the platforms of his Socialist Party rival, Norman Thomas. In particular, Sanders connected his contemporary vision to the one outlined by FDR in the 32nd president’s 1944 appeal for a “Second Bill of Rights” that would guarantee:
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
- The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.
FDR ran for a fourth term in 1944 advocating for that program, and arguing that “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.”
In his speech at Georgetown, Sanders quoted FDR’s words and declared that his democratic socialism “builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.”
FDR did not identify as a democratic socialist but borrowed freely from the platform of Norman Thomas.
Sanders recalled that “almost everything (Roosevelt) proposed was called ‘socialist.’ Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was ‘socialist.’ The concept of the ‘minimum wage’ was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as ‘socialist.’ Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as ‘socialist.’ Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.”
In 1932, Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas appeared on the cover of Time magazine, earned daily coverage from The New York Times and won almost 900,000 votes—gaining more than 150,000 in New York State alone. That fact did not go unnoted by the winner of the election, New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who invited Thomas to the White House for conversations about how best to respond to the challenges posed by the Great Depression. Thomas encouraged the new president to consider programs that the Socialists had advocated: to create jobs, to make it easier to organize labor unions, to establish programs to insure social security, to end discrimination in employment and education.
Roosevelt listened, and so did others. The influence of Thomas and his brand of democratic socialism was felt in the New Deal era and for decades afterward, as democratic socialists organized great unions such as the United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, as they organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as they emerged as essential figures in the struggles for civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights.
But we don't hear much about Bernie's appeal for FDR's ideas in the media. Billionaires own the media, and they control the information, and they pay their pundits millions of dollars to spoon-feed us their agenda on our TVs every day. So their lack of reporting on Bernie Sanders came as no surprise; but nonetheless, their silence today was deafening. Maybe after they decide how to digest Bernie's latest remarks, as usual, they'll spin some of the excerpts from his speech to fit their own agenda with some corporate propaganda later today or tomorrow (as Bernie predicted in his speech today).
Most of the mainstream Democratic politicians and delegates (to date) and the national labor union leaders (although, maybe not the actual union members) have endorsed Hillary Clinton, with most saying it's because of her so-called "electability" (despite what they think of her honesty and trustworthiness). The media and the corporate-sponsored polls have been working very hard to influence public opinion on behalf of Clinton over Sanders. (And it's becoming almost laughably obvious, but sadly, it's not at all funny, because they are subverting our democracy.)
Bernie Sanders' remarks today also included some very specific ideas on U.S. foreign policy, how the U.S. can lead the world in defeating ISIS, and a long-term strategy to promote a safer and more peaceful world. His speech covered a very wide range of topics (in great detail) — from healthcare, to taxes, to college tuition, to the justice system — and on almost every other topic that mostly concerns Americans today. No doubt, it was a home run speech by anybody's standard.
Bernie Sanders usually comes across very intense in his speeches on the floor of Congress, in his TV interviews and during his campaign rallies — but that's because he feels very passionate about the issues he discusses — and he abhors the media when they distract from these issues, and why he said "enough about those damn emails" in the first Democratic debate. (Mother Jones: Bernie Sanders Hates the Media Just as Much as Republicans Do)
Bernie Sanders had admitted during his recent appearance at Rachel Maddow's forum in South Carolina that he realizes he may come across as a bit "grumpy" sometimes. But during his speech today, one can also catch a few glimpses of his great sense of humor too. And one can easily tell, Bernie is truly authentic — there is nothing he says that ever sounds rehearsed or contrived. Bernie is the "Real McCoy" (the real deal) when it comes to advocating for progressive values.
He may have even converted a few open-minded Republicans today, had they watched his speech today. Following his address, the progressive Democratic Party presidential candidate responded to questions from Georgetown University students in a Q&A by the GU host. The speech was originally streamed LIVE and starts at this mark at YouTube: https://youtu.be/YNR-ik3hohQ?t=4095
Whatever it's called ("democratic socialism"), it's far less important than what it seeks to accomplish — which is removing barriers to a more democratic society. The full speech is here in six segments: Part 1 (13 minutes), Part 2 (13 minutes), Part 3 (11 minutes), Part 4 (10 minutes), Part 5 (10 minutes), Part 6 (10 minutes) — and the transcript is at VOX and at Bernie Sanders' website (but he elaborates a bit more).
Below are just a few of highlights where Bernie specifically mentions "democratic socialism" — but you'd be much better informed by taking the time to watch his entire 1½ hour speech (IMHO, I imagined it might have been just as inspiring as listening to a FDR fireside chat back in the old days.)
* Note: The post below was done yesterday as a separate post (before Bernie's speech), but because it was relevant to the topic, I decided not to make it a separate post it, and included it here — so make that second cup of coffee right now ;)
Real Socialists aren't very Happy with Bernie Sanders
The Democratic Party of the United States is a participant of an international group called The Progressive Alliance. Other participants include the Social Democratic Party of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (to name but a few) — and also includes Socialist and Republican parties as well. Wiki notes the Progressive Alliance lists the parties as having been (at some level) "participants" in their conferences, and not necessarily "members" of the alliance.
About The Progressive Alliance: The progressive, democratic, social-democratic, socialist and labour movement is based on a common commitment to human rights and the joint pursuit of freedom, justice, social equality, including gender equality, sustainability and international solidarity. The present day and age is marked by rapid change and historical, economical and political upheaval. Many countries around us are battling with huge economic problems, while in other parts of the world people are enjoying better prospects for the future than ever before. With globalization, the social matter has come to the fore again in a new guise, as inequality in our societies and between the rich and the poor states of the world has increased. This new social issue must be addressed in order to make participation possible, prevent distribution conflicts and ensure the ecological balance of our environment.
In the U.S., the Congressional Progressive Caucus was co-founded in 1991 by U.S. Representatives Ron Dellums (D-CA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Thomas Andrews (D-ME), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In 2012, former Tea Party Representative Allen West (R-Fl) made the startling claim that many of his fellow members of the House were members of the Communist Party. PolitiFact: "Pants on fire!"
Senator Bernie Sanders is the Independent of Vermont who calls himself a "democratic socialist" (although he may be more of a social democrat). But either moniker may be just another terminology for describing a "progressive" ideology — a belief that President Franklin D. Roosevelt also advocated. FDR wasn't a Socialist, but he allied with the Communist/Marxist leader of Russia to defeat Nazi fascism (National Socialism) in Germany.
But "moderate" Democrats, Republicans and the mainstream media wants us to believe that Bernie Sanders is more like Joe Stalin (the dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) rather than FDR (a progressive), when Bernie is almost exactly like FDR — the U.S. President who won 4 consecutive elections by a landslides (It was a "political revolution" in the 1930s!)
During the first Democratic debate, the CNN moderator Anderson Cooper (Pictured above) wanted to continue to pound on the head of the "socialist" moniker with his big media hammer (as if we haven't heard it 1,000 times in the media by now) in an attempt to make Bernie out to be less than qualified for the job of President by inferring Sanders was a big bad boogie-man "socialist/commie". From the debate:
Bernie Sanders: I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. (APPLAUSE)
Anderson Cooper: Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at. You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist. Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?
EDITOR'S NOTE: In 1956 President Eisenhower launched a program that a decade later would be called Sister Cities International, a program still in existence today. The idea was to promote peace and understanding through connections between cities in the United States and Russia. In 1988, Bernie's hometown of Burlington "sistered" with the Russian town of Yaroslavl, a city 160 miles north of Moscow. That was the same year Sanders married his second wife, Jane. In fact, the day after they married, they headed out to Yaroslavl. So, one could call it a honeymoon — and the pair have both done so — but only jokingly and in a sarcastic way. The Sanders' had been in Russia on official government business — and they didn't go alone. There were 10 other people from Burlington who went with them. It was a trip dotted with diplomacy, official meetings and numerous interviews. (Also, read my post: Who said the U.S. should be like Denmark?)
As a part of a group of progressives who values the principals of FDR and the New Deal, Bernie describes himself as a democratic socialist — but as PolitiFact points outs, based on his values, technically Bernie might be a social democrat. But either way, we know for sure he's not advocating for the type of socialism there was in the old the U.S.S.R. (My post: Bernie Sanders is not Vladimir Lenin or Joseph Stalin)
The Socialist Party USA (SPUSA) is not endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders. While Senator Bernie Sanders claims to be a "democratic socialist" of the type we see in the democracies of Western Europe (governments that the U.S. help build after WWII), as an "Independent", Bernie is a really a "Progressive" (just like FDR was). Bernie Sanders caucuses with "Progressives", something that even real socialists acknowledge:
Sanders shared a newly styled “progressive” mantle with [Senator Elizabeth] Warren, and together they became household names sounding a clarion call for the comeuppance of the “1 percent.” From there, a new populism centered around new “progressive” faces began to grow out of a community of left-leaning liberals and post-Occupy adherents ... When socialists support the trendy, progressive faces of liberalism, they not only contravene the principles of socialism itself, but also reinvigorate a position that has historically hurt and bifurcated parties like the SPUSA. And let’s make one more thing clear from the start: Despite any claims otherwise, Bernie Sanders is not a democratic socialist."
The Socialist Party USA will hold their 2015 National Convention on October 16-18, 2015 in Milwaukee, WI. (Their websites are here and here). Bernie Sanders won't be there. He'll be at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July 2016.
For decades primaries have been used to help raise the hopes of working people that the parties of their bosses have some place for their aspirations, that corporate party machines are subject to popular control, and even that they can be transformed into instruments of liberation and progress. The expectations are inflated each cycle by a Eugene McCarthy, Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown, Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, or Dennis Kucinich. Those who take the bait find themselves without any political vehicle of their own when the show is over. They move from one pragmatic step to another, finally backing the next Humphrey, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, or Obama. This time around, the position of sheepdog is filled by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Democratic Party campaigns like Sanders’ are so disastrous for our movements [Socialists], not simply because they take up our time, but because they teach people to trust in the power and the values of the capitalist class. Before he convinces supporters to re-enter the Democratic Party, Sanders will teach them to place faith in the bourgeois state and its institutions. These are the ideas he will spread in the coming months. Countering this sophistry is reason enough to oppose Sanders’ campaign.
From The New Progressive Alliance (NPA) No Party Affiliation:
The New Progressive Alliance (NPA) is a grassroots organization founded in 2010, entirely online, in response to the Democratic Party’s complete and final forsaking of its role as the leading voice for Progressive ideals and reform in America ... The Democrats survived by convincing enough voters that they represented the lesser of the two evils – the other being the Republican Party – which owned American politics. For many Progressives, the final straw came in early 2010. Despite control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats failed to enact nationalized health insurance, or even to provide a publicly funded alternative to the high-cost “coverage” offered by profiteering, benefits-denying insurance companies.
From the NPA: Don’t Let These Politicians or Organizations Fool You
Arguments democrats use to defend their records:
- Lesser of Two Evils: At least they are not republicans.
- Half a Loaf of Bread: Getting something is better than getting nothing. This hides the fact that what the democrats frequently get is nothing disguised as a real improvement.
- Republicans are Worse: Just look at their rhetoric and ignore our actual results.
- False helplessness before minority republicans: Contrast with Bush Jr. who despite a democratic majority in both houses still did whatever the hell he wanted to.
- Progress not perfection: This is said to hide the lack of progress. "This is the most important election ever!" or "This election is just too important!"
- Voting third party is wasting your vote. In fact voting for the Uni-party means you are wasting your vote and insuring the country stays on the wrong course (Even though Third Parties have long history of shaping American politics).
By contrast, during the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton (the self-proclaimed "moderate") flip-flopped and claimed she was a "progressive" — because Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders' progressive ideas are much more popular with the American people. As Warren had said, "The American people are progressives." (Or "social democrats". After all, what's in a name?)
The portion of the first Democratic debate related to the topic of Socialism
COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?
SANDERS: Well, we’re gonna win because first, we’re gonna explain what democratic socialism is. And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent — almost — own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have — we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth. Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. (APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Denmark is a country that has a population — Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that’s what I’m trying to get at. You — the — the Republican attack ad against you in a general election — it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you’re not a capitalist. Doesn’t — doesn’t that ad write itself?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, let’s look at the facts. The facts that are very simple. Republicans win when there is a low voter turnout, and that is what happened last November. Sixty-three percent of the American people didn’t vote, Anderson. Eighty percent of young people didn’t vote. We are bringing out huge turnouts, and creating excitement all over this country. Democrats at the White House on down will win, when there is excitement and a large voter turnout, and that is what this campaign is doing.
COOPER: You don’t consider yourself a capitalist, though?
SANDERS: Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don’t. I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires. (APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Just let me just be clear. Is there anybody else on the stage who is not a capitalist?
CLINTON: Well, let me just follow-up on that, Anderson, because when I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families. And I don’t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself. And I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have. But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system. But we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world. (APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course, we have to support small and medium-sized businesses. But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn’t mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. So what we need to do is support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake...not just for billionaires.
COOPER: We’re going to have a lot more on these issues. But I do want to just quickly get everybody in on the question of electability. Governor Chafee, you’ve been everything but a socialist ...
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