The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “OUR REVOLUTION: A Future to Believe In” by Bernie Sanders from Part Two: “An Agenda for a New America: How We Transform Our Country” from Chapter One: “Defeating Oligarchy” on page 185 and I quote: “Democracy is about one person, one vote. It’s about all of us coming together to determine the future of our country. It is not about a handful of billionaires buying elections, or governors suppressing the vote by denying poor people or people of color the right to vote. Our job is to stand together to defeat the drift toward oligarchy and create a vibrant democracy.
Democracy should be easy. It should be ingrained in the soul of every American. Getting involved, being active in the political process, knowing that your voice matters in helping shape the future of your community, state, and country should be the essence of our way of life. It should be taught in the schools, discussed at the family dinner table, and celebrated on national holidays.
We should be forever grateful to Jefferson, Adams, Payne, Washington, Madison, Franklin, Hamilton, and all the other revolutionary leaders who founded our country. With incredible courage, they put their lives on the line to create a very different kind of society.
Democracy is the right of a free people to control their destiny. Not kings or queens or czars, but ordinary people who come together in a peaceful manner in order to determine the future of their society. Democracy means that the government belongs to all of us and that it is our inherent right to elect people who will represent our interests. After all, this is what our Declaration of Independence proclaims when it profoundly states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Their just powers from the consent of the governed.
What, in our day, does democracy mean? To my mind, it should mean one person, one vote. It should mean an equal opportunity for all who wish to seek public office. It should mean that the wealthy don’t have undue influence over the election process. It should mean that voting and participating in the political process is as easy and convenient as possible, and that barriers are not erected to prevent groups of citizens from exercising their right to participate. It should mean that poor people, old people, young people, and people of color are not discriminated against when they want to vote. It should mean that the United States has one of the highest voting turnout rates in the world, not one of the lowest. It should mean that political consciousness is high and that people are aware and well informed about the major challenges our nation is facing.
THE FIGHT FOR A VIBRANT DEMOCRACY – All of us know the rocky and torturous road that American democracy has traveled since the founding of our nation, when colonial revolutionaries took on and defeated the king of England and the enormous power of the British Empire. Determined that the decisions that impacted their lives should be made by the people themselves, and not by an autocratic monarch three thousand miles away across the Atlantic Ocean, the revolutionaries fought to create a new kind of society, a democratic society, unique in the world of its time.
We also know, however, that the Constitution they drafted, while revolutionary in its day, reflected the values and mores of the 1790s: slavery and racism, rigid class lines, and a deeply rooted sexism. We know that since then, amidst bloodshed, struggle, and turmoil, the American people have sought to expand democracy and make it more inclusive. To quote Lincoln at Gettysburg, our goal has been to create “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
The abolitionists, not just Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison but the countless thousands who supported their cause, fought to abolish slavery and grant the rights of citizenship to all Americans, regardless of their race. A great war was fought, in part, to insist that this nation treat black Americans as having the same rights as white Americans. That struggle brought us the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed equal protection under the law for all. It brought us the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the use of race in determining which citizens could vote.
And, in more recent years, that’s what the demonstrations and sit-ins of the civil rights movement were all about. That’s what people were jailed for, were beaten for, and were sometimes killed for. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington was about. These were determined efforts on the part of millions of Americans, black and white, to demand that our government fulfill the dream of democracy for all. That struggle was successful in pushing Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by Lyndon Johnson, to finally assure that all citizens of this country, regardless of race, have the right to vote.
Struggle brought about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the government from denying women the right to vote. The amendment did not just appear: It was the fruit of the struggle of the suffragettes, led by such figures as Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the mid-nineteenth century. In similar fashion, the women’s movement of the later twentieth century continued that struggle: It brought about greater rights for women, greater equality for women, more possibilities for women. Women by the millions, along with their male allies, made it clear to all that women in the United States would not be second-class citizens.
Voting is a right, not a privilege. How could we have a real democracy when poor people were denied the right to vote because they couldn’t afford to pay a poll tax? Struggle against the dominance of the wealthy and the landed class led to the passage of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited citizens from having to pay in order to vote. All people must have the right to vote, regardless of their economic status. Voting is not just for the wealthy.
How could we send young people off to war, to get killed and maimed fighting for democracy, when they couldn’t even vote on whether or not there should be a war? The experience of American soldiers in the Second World War, Korea, and Vietnam led to the adoption of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which lowered the voting age to eighteen. All adults must have the right to vote.
THE POWER OF MONEY – We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.
–SUPREME COURT JUSTICE LOUIS BRANDEIS
Over the last 230 years we have made significant progress in making our country a more democratic and inclusive society. We have made significant progress breaking down barriers of race, gender, class, and age in terms of giving all Americans an equal voice in governing their country. In fact, the many struggles to expand the right to vote have been at the very heart of the American experience. They define who we are as a people.
Even though we have far to go to “perfect our democracy,” sadly, today, there are people of incredible wealth and power who, instead of moving forward, want to undo the progress we have made and roll back the clock of history. These oligarchs are threatened by what ordinary people can accomplish through the democratic process. In order to protect their vast financial holdings, they utilize their incredible resources to make us a less democratic society.
They want more power for themselves, and less power for ordinary Americans. While they don’t announce their intentions on the front pages of newspapers, their goal is clear. They want to move our country toward an oligarchic form of society in which almost all economic and political power rests with a handful of multibillionaire families. They are not content with controlling most of our economy and owning an outlandish percentage of our national wealth. Now they want to own our government as well. They want to make it virtually impossible for ordinary Americans to make the changes necessary to improve their lives.
Tragically, they are succeeding. Our democracy, the ability of ordinary people to shape their own future, is becoming weaker and weaker every day.
In America today, instead of one person, one vote and equal voice for all, we are seeing a small group of extraordinarily wealthy people pump billions of dollars into the political process to buy elections for politicians who will be beholden to them. Further, we are seeing a massive and coordinated effort by Republican politicians to suppress democracy by making it harder for minorities, the poor, the elderly, and the young to vote.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 5-4 Citizens United decision of 2010, pushed by legal organizations funded by powerful special interests and Republican leaders, the wealthiest people in this country, and the largest corporations, can now spend unlimited sums of money on “independent expenditures.” The result: A huge amount of advertising from coast to coast–television, radio, and online–is coming from phony front groups owned and controlled by a handful of billionaires. In fact, in many elections, “independent expenditures” now play a more important role than that of the candidates.
In state after state–in races for the U.S. Senate, for the U.S. House, for governors, for state legislatures, for city councils and county commissions, for school boards and judgeships–big-money interests have successfully determined the outcome of elections through their massive expenditures. As I write, a handful of billionaires are spending $100 million to try to win a Senate seat in Ohio–$100 million to win a single Senate seat in a moderate-sized state. For these billionaires, these expenditures are pocket change and very good investments. For these barons of the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street and banking, defense contracting, the pharmaceutical industry, and more, the policies supported by the candidates they elect will yield a very profitable return on their investments, many times over.
And, by the way, for these oligarchs, Citizens United did not go far enough. Citizens United allows for unlimited independent expenditures. A donor can spend as much as he/she wants on a campaign, but cannot coordinate activities with the candidate. This is a very inefficient way to buy elections. It would be much easier and more effective for the donor to control and coordinate the campaign if he/she could just give unlimited amounts of money directly to the candidate.
The oligarchs understand that creating a right-wing judiciary is very important to their goals, and they are spending lavishly to get judges elected or appointed who are sympathetic to their point of view. At the same time, they are fighting in the courts to overturn virtually all existing campaign finance restrictions and regulations, and for their right to make direct contributions to the candidates of their choice. If that happens, if billionaires are freed to give unlimited sums of money to candidates, it will mean in no uncertain terms that those candidates become nothing more than the paid employees of their sponsors. That, of course, is exactly what the billionaires want.
The political power of the oligarchs goes well beyond their campaign contributions and ability to influence elections. As a result of their ownership of media, think tanks, university chairs, and political front groups, they influence American public opinion and domestic and foreign policy in ways that few realize.
According to virtually the entire scientific community, climate change is a planetary crisis of extraordinary magnitude that will directly impact the lives of billions of people throughout the world. The scientists believe that we have to move boldly and transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. But that is not what the billionaires who own the fossil fuel industry want. They are far more concerned about their short-term profits than the future of the planet. As a result, they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating a “climate denial movement” that has obfuscated and lied about climate change research. They have also used the influence of their massive advertising budget to limit media coverage of this vitally important issue.
When you hear about a person from an “independent nonpartisan think tank” telling us that climate change is just an unproven theory, or why we should give tax breaks to the rich, or why we should not join the rest of the industrialized world in guaranteeing health care for all, are their conclusions influenced by the billionaires and insurance companies who fund those think tanks? Let’s not be naive. Of course they are.
Often, in the media, you will hear from spokesmen from organizations called “concerned citizens for this” or “concerned citizens for that.” Invariably, these “concerned citizens” want to cut or privatize Social Security, Medicare, the Veterans Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, or any other entity that protects the interests of working people. Next time you hear from these “concerned citizens,” check out which particular group of billionaires funds their activities.”
(THE FOLLOWING IS ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND I QUOTE:
BERNIE SANDERS ran as a Democratic candidate for president of the United States in 2015 and 2016. He served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, for eight years before defeating an incumbent Republican to be the sole congressperson for the state in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. He was elected to the Senate in 2006 and is now in his second term, making him the longest-serving Independent in the history of the Congress. He lives in Burlington, Vermont, with his wife, Jane, and has four children and seven grandchildren.”
MY COMMENTS: BERNIE SANDERS HAS A GREAT BACKGROUND AS A SENATOR RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT EVEN THOUGH HE DIDN’T WIN THE PRIMARY. SO, HE WOULD MAKE A GREAT SPOKESMAN FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE THE MINORITY PARTY, THERE ARE ISSUES THAT EVEN THE REPUBLICANS WOULD AGREE ON, SO THE FILIBUSTER IS ESSENTIAL. ONE OF PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP’S BIGGEST LIE IS THAT HE’S GOING TO GIVE INCOME TAX BREAKS TO THE WORKING PEOPLE, WHICH, ACCORDING TO A TIME MAGAZINE ARTICLE FROM THE NOVEMBER 28 – DECEMBER 5, 2016 ISSUE ON PAGE 28 TITLED “OVERHAULING THE TAX CODE” BY HALEY SWEETLAND EDWARDS, DONALD IS LYING WHEN HE ELIMINATES THE $18,550 DEDUCTION WHICH MUST BE FILIBUSTERED.
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen Member and USAF Veteran