When some friends of ours RSVPed for the Bernie Sanders rally on July 26, I knew immediately Kurt and I had to attend. I know quite a few people on the Bernie train, so not only did I want to see what all the fuss was about, but I figured this would be good material to use in my Civics classes when we talk about running a campaign. Don’t worry, in my classes, I try to keep as unbiased as possible and most of my students have no idea which political party I tend to lean toward. I try to always vote people, not parties, and have voted broadly across the political spectrum. With that in mind, I’m hoping that more Presidential hopefuls will make it down to New Orleans, because I would love to hear what each one has to say in person.
Back to Bernie. We showed up to the Pontchartrain Center a little early, but had to wait outside until about 5:45pm. Once the doors opened, we sat front row. As more and more people streamed into the Center, people started crowding around the podium. The two couples next to us left to stand close to the stage, but we decided to stay seated. Then they opened the other side of the bleachers. People filled almost every seat, in addition to crowding around the stage. Some people had homemade signs, but the Bernie volunteers also handed out signs (we got a white one and a blue one). Finally, the volunteers and some handpicked audience members were escorted to stand up on the stage behind the podium. After a brief introduction, and to thunderous applause and a standing ovation, Bernie Sanders made his way to his podium and waved gregariously to the crowd.
Below is Cristina’s notes of the speech. While it’s not a transcript it should be read as it Senator Sander’s ideas and not ours.
Bernie began by exclaiming that the media helps people get deflected from real issues. Politics is not about Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton, it’s about YOU. It’s about the issues that impact the 300 million Americans on a day to day basis and how we move forward as a country. What exactly are those issues that impact us? For one, there is a redistribution of wealth – it’s just going the wrong way. Trillions flow up to the top 1% and we’re going to reverse that flow back down. His campaign is not fueled by billionaires and millionaires, but by ordinary people. Our country is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and there is nothing that we can’t accomplish.
His main issue, if you couldn’t already tell, is income and wealth inequality. He claims that almost all wealth flows to the hands of a few – the country is at its worst since 1928 – and that this is the greatest moral, economic, and political issue of our time. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty on Earth. There is something profoundly wrong when the top 1% own almost the same amount as the bottom 90%. The top 14 wealthiest own the same as the bottom 40%. He wants to change that flow and create an economy that works for working families and not just the very wealthy. Companies cannot get huge tax breaks when children in American are hungry. There should not be any jobs going to China when people in America are searching for one. Companies cannot hide profits in the Cayman Islands when there are so many unmet needs in our country. Even though our official unemployment rate is 5.3%, when you count the people that simply stopped looking for a job or that work part-time but want to work full-time, our real unemployment is well over 10%.
He then delves into the crisis of youth unemployment. If you are a high school graduate between the ages of 17-20, for white youth the unemployment is 33%, for Hispanics it is 36%, and for African-Americans, it is 51%. There is a definite correlation between youth unemployment and having more youth in jail than any other country. It makes way more sense to invest in jobs for kids, jobs and education, not more jails or incarceration. He wants America to have the best-educated workforce, better than any other country.
He now shifts slightly to wage earning. Millions are working at inadequate wages. Minimum wage at $7.25 is a starvation wage. We need a living wage of 15 bucks an hour. This is not a radical idea to say that 40 hours a week does not equal poverty. 40-50 hours of work a week with no money to feed your family has got to change. In addition, women still make .78 cents to men – let families live in dignity.
Now that he’s brought up women, he moves to family values. He proclaims that Republicans love talking about family values (much laughter from the audience). They say women cannot control their own bodies – he disagrees. They say women aren’t smart enough to buy contraceptives – he disagrees. They say our gay brothers and sisters can’t enjoy the right to marriage – he disagrees. We’ve made some progress in the this country, but we need to continue with it. He’s been married for 27 years, has 4 children and 7 grandchildren…he thinks his family values are just different.
The USA needs to stop being the only major country to not guarantee paid medical/family leave. Moms/Dads are separated from the momentous moment of a child’s birth to go back to work sometimes 4-5 days after the birth of a child. That is not a family value. Forcing moms to be separated from baby is not a family value. He wants 3 months of paid family leave.
Additionally, people do not have guaranteed paid sick leave. He doesn’t want a guy that has the flu handling his hamburger (which happened to us at Steak-N-Shake in Orlando once. I felt so bad for the guy but we were all a little disgusted). U.S. workers work more than any other country’s workers – 162 hours more than Japanese, 260 hours longer than the British. 85% of men and 65% of women work more than 40 hours a week, with 0 vacation time. He wants every American worker to have at least 2 weeks paid vacation.
To help combat unemployment, we need a federal job infrastructure, working on bridges, waterworks, roads, etc. This could create 13 million jobs if we invest 1 trillion dollars over a couple of years. Additionally, our trade policies need to change. We need to demand that American corporation invest in America. We need to stop losing jobs to China. Also, banks should not have 60% of America’s GDP. It’s time to break them up. If they are too big to fail, they are too big to exist.
The Supreme Court allowed a bill to buy U.S. government with Citizens United v. FEC. He promises (one of his very few actual promises) that no Supreme Court nominee will go forward unless they say they’ll vote to overturn Citizens United (loud stomping, chanting, applause).
He wants American to have the highest voter turnout in the world, not the lowest.
He doesn’t want ordinary people to beg wealthy people for campaign contributions. He wants to move to public funding for elections. The Koch family will spend $1 billion this election, more than either Democratic or Republicans. This is not a democracy, it’s an oligarchy. We need to defeat the oligarchy to maintain our democracy.
We need the best educated workforce to succeed to the world. Hundreds of thousands of people can’t go to college because family lacks the income. This is unfair and dumb if we’re talking about the future of America. We need to introduce legislation to make public college and universities tuition free. If you study hard and do well you will have the opportunity to get an education.
The climate change debate is OVER. Almost unanimous scientific studies proclaim that it is real and causing problems. We need to get our act together for the future of our planet right now is dangerous. We’re having more extreme weather disturbances, rising sea levels, global conflict for limited resources, and it’s only going to get worse. We have a moral responsibility to lead the world to change our energy, away from fossil fuels to wind, sun, and water. We also need to protect the people who will lose their jobs because of this and help them get new jobs.
We are the one country not guaranteed healthcare as a right. Everyone should have healthcare. Medicare should be for all, in a single payer system.
Conclusion – change does not take place without struggle. We’ve made lots of progress, but we all know the struggle continues. Sandra Bland mention to illustrate that we still need serious change in our criminal justice system.
He’s worked closely with the police as a mayor for 8 years and he knows that police is a super tough job. But we have to make sure the police department are a part of the community, not seen as a threat to us. Also, non-violent offenders should not be locked up.
There are 11 million undocumented people in this country. Inside of demonizing them and making racist comments, we should provide them a path toward citizenship.
We need a grassroots political movement of which he hopes you become a part of.
Do not allow his opponents to divide you among race, gender, sexuality, country of origin – stand together. On 12/8/41, we were unprepared to enter World War II and fight that new style of war. But, we came together to help win WWII. If we could do that then, we can do that now – especially with healthcare, creating the best childcare system in the world, giving every kid an education regardless of family income, expanding Social Security so that the elderly and disabled have a minimal standard of living.
Come together as a nation, stand up to greed of Wall Street and billionaires, and there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
Now, our thoughts. First, this is a rally so Senator Sanders is preaching to the choir. Obviously, the crowd cheered him on every step of the way. As you can tell, he was very long on what he wants to do and why he wants to do it, but never really stated how he will accomplish his goals. His oratory style is conversational, roll up the sleeves kind of speaking. Like with every candidate, he said stuff we liked, and said stuff with which we have disagreements. He truly is running for President because he wants to be the change he sees in the world. However, his idealism can leave you scratching your head if he doesn’t start explaining how he is going to do this.
We hope more candidates, from all parties, make stops in New Orleans. Don’t worry, we won’t turn this into a political blog and we won’t endorse any candidate on here. However, listening to Senator Sanders speak kind of reminded us of how this use to be entertainment before the invention of television. Stump speeches would draw crowds because it was frankly something to do. It was entertaining to watch Senator Sanders and the crowd. It was fun going sit on the lakefront levee and listening to people of all ages breakdown what he said after the rally was over. In our own nerd kind of way, that is what we truly enjoyed about this evening, and why we want to see all candidates make a stop in New Orleans.