How Kerry Can Win

Bernie Sanders

The great polit­i­cal cri­sis in our coun­try is the extent to which mil­lions of Amer­i­cans vote against their own eco­nom­ic inter­ests. We can under­stand why CEOs and mil­lion­aires will vote for Bush and con­tribute to his cam­paign. But why would some­one who makes $8 an hour, lacks ade­quate health insur­ance and is unable to send his or her kid to col­lege vote for a pres­i­dent who so clear­ly rep­re­sents the inter­ests of the rich and the super-rich?

At the root of this problem is a Democratic Party that has been, for at least 30 years, wishy-washy on economic issues facing working families.

Why would, accord­ing to polls, a major­i­ty of white work­ing-class cit­i­zens sup­port some­one who works against their best inter­ests — tak­ing away over­time pay, encour­ag­ing com­pa­nies to move jobs abroad, work­ing to pri­va­tize Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare, and cut­ting ben­e­fits for vet­er­ans? The future of this coun­try depends upon whether that ques­tion is ade­quate­ly answered and addressed.

At the root of this prob­lem is a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty that has been, for at least 30 years, wishy-washy on eco­nom­ic issues fac­ing work­ing fam­i­lies. Hav­ing received large cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from the wealthy and the pow­er­ful, many Democ­rats have refused to stand up to the cor­po­rate inter­ests wag­ing vicious class war­fare. While many Democ­rats have focused on such impor­tant issues as women’s and gay rights, the envi­ron­ment, civ­il lib­er­ties and war and peace, the needs of work­ing fam­i­lies have not received ade­quate atten­tion. The result is that a major­i­ty of low­er-income Amer­i­cans no longer votes, and of those who do, many don’t see a clear dif­fer­ence between the two major parties.

With Repub­li­cans hav­ing almost noth­ing of sub­stance to say about eco­nom­ic or health­care issues, they will attempt to make gay mar­riage, oppo­si­tion to the war, flag burn­ing, affir­ma­tive action, the Pledge of Alle­giance, prayer in schools, abor­tion and guns the major issues of the cam­paign. If they are suc­cess­ful, and they will have a cor­po­rate media to help them, George Bush will be reelected.

Are you one of the 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple who lost a man­u­fac­tur­ing job in the last three years? Are you angry and frus­trat­ed that you can’t find a job that pays a liv­ing wage? Fight back! Vote for some­one who sup­ports a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to ban gay marriage.

Are you one of the 43 mil­lion Amer­i­cans with no health insur­ance who hes­i­tates to go to the doc­tor when you get sick? Fight back! Vote for a can­di­date who wants to make it impos­si­ble for a woman to have an abortion.

Are you one of the 25 per­cent of seniors unable to afford the med­i­cine your doc­tor pre­scribes because of out­ra­geous­ly priced pre­scrip­tion drugs? Fight back! Vote for some­one who wants to elim­i­nate the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.

Repub­li­cans are work­ing fever­ish­ly to divide men from women, straights from gays, whites from black, native born from immi­grant, and urban inhab­i­tants from those who live in rur­al Amer­i­ca. Pres­i­dent Bush ran for elec­tion in 2000 as a uniter not a divider.” The truth is the Repub­li­can Par­ty is doing every­thing it can to devel­op hot-but­ton issues that will divide us as nev­er before.

What is the anti­dote? John Ker­ry and every can­di­date run­ning for office has to make it clear that he/​she stands with the mid­dle class and work­ing fam­i­lies against cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca and the big-mon­eyed inter­ests sell­ing us out.

Some of the issues that must come front and center:

We must revise our trade poli­cies that have cost us mil­lions of decent man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, and we must address the hor­ren­dous pos­si­bil­i­ty that the out­sourc­ing of good-pay­ing infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy jobs will cost us mil­lions more.

We must raise the min­i­mum wage to a liv­ing wage so that no one who works 40 hours a week lives in pover­ty. We must change our unfair labor laws so work­ers who want to join unions are able to do so. We must put mil­lions back to work rebuild­ing our dete­ri­o­rat­ing phys­i­cal and human infra­struc­ture — roads, bridges, mass trans­porta­tion, schools, child­care facil­i­ties and com­mu­ni­ty health cen­ters. We can pay for this real eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus by rescind­ing Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and the tens of bil­lions we cur­rent­ly spend on cor­po­rate welfare.

We must join the rest of the indus­tri­al­ized world and pro­vide a nation­al health­care pro­gram guar­an­tee­ing access to all. A sin­gle-pay­er approach can pro­vide care to all that doesn’t cost more than we present­ly spend.

Stand­ing strong on eco­nom­ic issues is not only good pub­lic pol­i­cy; it is good pol­i­tics. The mid­dle class of this coun­try is shrink­ing, pover­ty is increas­ing, and the gap between the rich and poor is widen­ing. Amer­i­cans want can­di­dates pre­pared to fight for them against pow­er­ful spe­cial inter­ests. If Ker­ry can make that case, he’s the next pres­i­dent. If not, wel­come George Bush back for anoth­er dis­as­trous four years.

Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) was elect­ed to the U.S. Sen­ate in 2006 after serv­ing 16 years in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He is the longest serv­ing inde­pen­dent mem­ber of Con­gress in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Elect­ed May­or of Burling­ton, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 elec­tion as Ver­mon­t’s at-large mem­ber in Con­gress, Sanders lec­tured at the John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment at Har­vard and at Hamil­ton Col­lege in upstate New York. Read more at his web­site.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH