Sanders Brings ‘Democratic Socialism” Into the US Presidential Race
NEW DELHI: United States Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who has made some impressive strides in recent weeks to join---and some say even beat Hillary Clinton---for the top position has brought “democratic socialism’ back into American debate. A known socialist Sanders has climbed the presidential candidate charts by sticking to his guns, with a new audience clearly digesting what he has been saying for some years now with renewed interest.
Sanders speech that did draw predictable flak, but also unexpected support from within the US has basically spelt out a democratic socialist agenda that is a new and highly significant addition to the US presidential polls this time around. And he did not shy away from controversial issues but laid out an alternative plan for West Asia, where he said that the fight against the Islamic State could not be won without the full support of the Muslim nations in the region. And he spoke of countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others saying they had not done enough for the Syrian refugee crisis. And spoke of a new order to fight the IS that included Russia, and wider cooperation.
Sanders topped his foreign policy agenda with, “Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.”
He drew evocative parallels with the Great Depression wherein, as Sanders put it, “President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.
He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life.
He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them day by day.
He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.
He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions.
He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.
And he acted.”
And the action was the implementation of a series of programs, Sanders said, 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 then came the punch line, “And that is what we have to do today.”
Cutting into the predictable criticism Sanders said that everything Roosevelt did for the people was dubbed as “socialist”; and the 74 year old listed social security, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, abolishing child labour, the 40 hour work week, deposit insurance and more as all the pro-people schemes that were criticised as a ‘radical intrusion’.
Sanders in what was an intricate and highly political speech drew a new plan for the US based on what it had rejected over the years. Building on “the reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low” he touched chords this time when he said, “the rich must get richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer.”
“We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it,” he said. “The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.”, words that clearly make more sense to the US today.
Sanders quoted Pope Francis to reject the “worship of money” and spoke of an America that clearly, given his popularity ratings now, seem to be grounded in reality.He spoke of the flow of funds to the top one percent “unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent;
where millions are working three jobs just to survive;
where the median family income today is less than it was in 1999;
where more than half of older workers have no retirement savings;
where 47 million Americans are living in poverty;
where 29 million Americans have no health insurance and cannot afford prescriptive drugs;
where youth unemployment is over 35 per cent.
And using this as the backdrop Sanders recalled a Roosevelt quote, “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.” He said it was a vision that had not been achieved in the 70 years since and “it is high time we did.”