I attended Bernie Sander’s rally at the Los Angeles Coliseum in June. So did 12,000 others despite the short notice. Most seemed under 35. He spoke on social, racial, environmental and economic justice.
Here are the salient economic points:
- In recent years, 85 percent of all new income has been earned by the top 1 percent
- The top one-tenth of 1 percent now own 90 percent of the nation’s wealth
- The top 20 (yes, twenty) wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the entire nation
- This extreme inequality holds back America’s economic growth by throttling consumer demand
- Trade unions created America’s middle class
- But Republican attacks on unions caused it to shrink
- And Reagan’s “trickle-down economics” seriously harmed workers’ prosperity
- Corporate profits are at record levels
- A person working 40 hours a week should therefore not need welfare to survive
- The minimum wage should be $15 per hour
- Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar a man earns and now “they want the whole damn dollar!”
- Above all, America’s economy should work for everyone, not just those at the very top
To cheers he said, “If you want to stand up to corporate interests you cannot take corporate money.” He got donations only from ordinary people averaging $27 each.
Americans overwhelmingly support his policies: College education as a right; Medicare for all as a right; expanding Social Security; reforming campaign financing; ending tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy; ending subsidies to hugely profitable corporations; ending the relentless offshoring of jobs by so-called “free trade”; promoting workers’ rights; reforming the broken justice system; reforming immigration laws; and, most importantly, acknowledging global warming and investing in green energy.
Seven weeks later, at the National Convention, he gave a gracious speech endorsing Hillary Clinton. So, did he shine brightly but then burn out like a meteor?
Certainly not: All of the above issues still matter and will not go away. Sanders pushed them on to center stage. Right-wing Democrats like President Barack Obama and Hillary ignored the Occupy Wall Street movement. It died. But Bernie will not die. He will continue to shine. His 8 million donors and his 13 million voters showed that the Democratic political vehicle, depending on corporate donations, is as obsolete as cars with tailfins.
Campaign finance has long been a problem. To even get in the game, Bill Clinton and Al Gore needed insane amounts of money. Trade unions no longer had it. As a result, Democrats had no option but to copy Republicans and pursue corporate donors.
But he who pays the piper calls the tune. Democrats became overly friendly to corporate ideas such as ruinous “free trade” deals, privatized prisons and financial “reform.” In economic matters they became lightweight Republicans. Many Democrats therefore stayed home and did not vote. Yet when Democrats vote, Democrats win. So how can they increase turnout by voters?
The answer is blindingly obvious. On Madison Avenue they say it doesn’t matter how brilliant your marketing campaign is … if the dogs won’t eat the dog food.
Bernie showed that voters will come running if the food is better. He said he was beating Donald Trump by “double digits” in “every poll” — at a time when Hillary was struggling — because people are energized when “they have something to vote FOR” (his emphasis). Remember, this was without Hillary’s name recognition or the $2 billion in free media coverage given to Trump. Though he had no email issues hounding him, Bernie’s coverage was mostly negative.
Sanders connected the dots to show how Democrats could become an unstoppable force:
- Stop cozying up to corporate interests to get money
- Get donations from real people, $27 each, using the Internet
- Then there would be no need to promote corporate-friendly policies
- Instead, serve up economic policies to benefit actual people
- People will then run to vote for them
- This is the exact opposite of the current system of targeting the mythical “center” and then begging for votes with junk mail and “phone banks”
Many pundits say Bernie made Hillary move towar the “left.” For example, she now opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership. This is a proposed “free trade” agreement whose purpose is to boost corporate profits at the expense of … you. But both Bernie and Trump have shown that the divide today is not between the traditional “left” and “right.” The true divide is between corporate interests and ordinary people. This is America’s new political landscape.
So, in short, Bernie Sanders gave Democrats the map to navigate the new political ground.