On Thursday, Bernie Sanders gave a major speech on democratic socialism, channeling his inner Franklin Delano Roosevelt and referencing the Depression-era president as an inspiration for America today.
Sanders began his speech noting the frustratingly familiar economic inequality in America with which FDR was elected to reverse.
“And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country. And that is what we have to do today.”
The speech is a powerful one, and cements Sanders’ role as the most influential socialist in America since Eugene V Debs. In it Sanders articulates his campaign’s focus on the social justice needed to combat America’s renewed economic inequality. He cites Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote, “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor” in calling for replacing America’s corporate socialism with democratic socialism.
Sanders also explains that the essence of his presidential campaign is the idea that America needs to finally realize the equality for which FDR and MLK, Jr. strived decades ago: “I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.”
Specifically, Sanders calls for several reforms throughout his speech:
- a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system
- tuition-free public colleges and universities
- a government employment opportunity in rebuilding infrastructure in place of mass incarceration
- minimum wage increase to $15 over several years
- paid family and medical leave
- ending the fossil fuel industry’s destruction of our planet
- progressive taxation for the wealthiest people and corporations
- the end of offshore tax havens to bring profits back to America
- the taxation and regulation of the Wall Street derivatives market
- preservation of the estate tax
- automatic voter registration
- the overturning of Citizens United and movement toward publicly funded elections
And toward the end of the speech Sanders discusses foreign policy, and he pledges to do the following:
- reflect that American unilateral military action—whether rushing to war, as seen in Iraq, or inciting regime change via American-led coups—neither works successfully nor makes us safer.
- create a new NATO to confront 21st Century security threats, including Russia and members of the Arab League to collaborate on fighting ISIS and violent extremism
- make rich Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE contribute more to the fight against terrorism
- support the Syrian-led political transition of Bashar al-Assad from power with open and fair elections
“If we are serious about transforming our country,” Sanders says, repeating his call for populist democratic socialism, “if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.”
I am sure that Sanders will be the target of much political smearing in coming months, but remember that Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate not taking super PAC money. He will certainly be attacked by people who do not adequately understand the political terminology of “communist,” “socialist” and “fascist,” but Sanders’ socialism (for the people) is democratic (of the people).
“I don’t believe government should own the means of production,” he explains, “but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.”
With a truly publicly-funded campaign, Sanders is the only ethically legitimate candidate, and he is attempting to give back America from the greedy hands of corporate and super rich oligarchy to the people. This speech articulates his passion for equality, democracy, and America. Read the whole thing.