Inspired by the Orange County Women’s March today and all the passionate individuals I met volunteering for Laura Oatman (48th Congressional District) and other organizations and candidates, I am blogging this. I never got around to pitching it for publication when the book came out November, 2016. (It’s not quite final draft; it has not been professionally edited.)
Reading Our Revolution was like jumping off the high dive and hitting the surface gasping for air. Sometimes, knowledge hurts. I considered myself fairly well informed regarding politics; after reading this book I realized that I had been deluding myself, especially regarding recent key legislation that reconfigured our economy. As detrimental to most as this legislation has been, equally demoralizing has been the prevalence and influence of disinformation and an array of ignorant attitudes that are part of U.S. culture.
Part autobiography, part campaign strategy, part blueprint for progressives, Our Revolution takes you inside Congress and depicts the unlikely tenure of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (since 1949, one of only six third-party candidates elected to the House of Representatives, and one of only seven third-party candidates elected to the Senate). Sanders’ first became an elected official 36 years ago when he became mayor of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington. His Burlington legacy includes the revitalization of Burlington’s economy along with progressive municipal policies during his eight years as its mayor. The city runs entirely on renewable electricity and still boasts a large housing development that is resident owned, a supermarket that is a consumer-owned cooperative, and a worker-owned private employer.
Our Revolution also details Sanders’ unlikely bid for the presidency in 2015 and 2016. Although he did not succeed in upsetting Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, he came awfully close, and he did succeed in convincing Clinton to make her platform more progressive, such as making college education free for most.
This book is so compelling, because its voice is so plainspoken. Sanders is one of us. He seems to have written it straight from his heart and soul. Certain scenes in the book will forever haunt me, such as the public forum in which Sanders chatted with a Flint, Michigan mom who comforted her daughter, a once bright and inquisitive youngster, now a placid special ed student courtesy of lead poisoning from tainted water.
Does corporate media threaten our democracy?
Chapter 10: Corporate Media and the Threat to our Democracy opens with, “Today, a handful of multinational corporations own much of the media and control what the American people see, hear, and read. This is a direct threat to American democracy.” Sanders shares his disillusionment with the media, due to its lack of coverage of issues critical to working families. He recounts a 2013 press conference regarding the future of social security that received almost no media coverage, despite the fact the press conferences participants were representatives of organizations such as AARP, which in total represented 50 million Americans.
Does corporate media help to sabotage our healthcare system?
I write about mental health. What astounds me is that because of superficial coverage in mainstream media, depression is still such a mystery to most, despite the conclusive research that exists as to its treatment and causes, some of it decades old. It still is not common knowledge that exercise is the most effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, that depression can be a by-product of other illnesses, that many lifestyle factors influence depression, and that bipolar depression generally results from faulty circadian rhythms.
What drew me to Bernie Sanders was his advocacy of a single-payer healthcare system. I too view healthcare as a right, not a privilege. We’re not talking Botox treatments or tummy tucks here, but basic preventive, coordinated care. Sanders details how to fund this. The state of Indiana is an example of how this system could work. It embraced the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by expanding its Medicaid eligibility and coverage, and paid for the expansion by analyzing its healthcare delivery and improving preventive practices such as improving follow-up of cardiac patients that resulted in lower rates of readmission.
Has recent legislation headed the U.S. toward oligarchy?
What Sanders does so well is explain how the recent changes in several pieces of key legislation created our current political landscape. The Clinton Administration’s repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, put in place after risky and destructive bank practices led to the Great Depression, enabled large commercial banks to merge with investment banks and led to the 2008 Wall Street crash and the Great Recession.
The Supreme Court’s 2010 vote on Citizens United allowed corporations and billionaires to donate unlimited funds to “independent expenditures” such as front groups with names such as “Concerned Citizens for Tax Reform” that support candidates in return for political favors. Sanders was the only candidate not to have the backing of a super PAC or front group behind him, and he argues that since the Citizens United decision, the U.S. is headed toward oligarchy, a system in which a small group of individuals controls the entire country.
In 2013, the Supreme Court repealed key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act “that required states and local governments that have demonstrated a pattern of discrimination to clear with the federal government any proposed changes to their voting laws.” Within days of the repeal, many states passed laws that made it harder to vote, such as requiring a state-issued ID to vote, restricting early voting, eliminating same-day registration, creating fewer polling places, and aggressively purging voter rolls. These new laws mainly kept poor people from voting.
Revised legislation also expedited the redistribution of wealth. Sanders includes some startling statistics, such as “… 52% of all new income generated in this country is now going to the top 1 percent,” “… the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, and “…in 1979, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owned about 7 percent of the wealth in this country. Today it owns 22 percent.”
Creating a future with opportunity for all
As a woman, a mother, and a U.S. citizen, I was traumatized by watching Donald Trump win the presidential election — a man who got away with mistreating women, menacing his opponent and disregarding facts during the debates, boasting about filing for bankruptcy repeatedly and not paying income tax for 19 years, and so many other actions that display a willingness to do whatever it takes to make enormous sums of money no matter what the cost to individuals, communities, and the environment. Reading this book six weeks after the election comforted me and gave me hope.
Sanders’ campaign slogan was “A Future to Believe In.” “Part Two: An Agenda for a New America: How we Transform Our Country” sums up his intricate plans to reorganize the federal government in such a way as to provide healthcare, social security, improved infrastructure, and educational opportunity for every citizen. For example, he would fund free college by imposing a small financial transaction tax of .5 percent on stock trades, .1 percent on bond trades, and .005 percent on derivative trades.
Our Revolution’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, should create a shorter book out of its second part “An Agenda for a New America: How We Transform Our Country” and use more charts and graphs to emphasize the startling statistics as well as the accounting and other remedies Sanders recommends.
Sanders emphasizes that creating a future to believe in depends on grassroots organizing, adapting laws to protect the vulnerable, challenging the power brokers, and working collaboratively. He dedicated the book to his volunteers and ends his dedication to them with, “Don’t give up. The struggle must continue.”