Editorial: Bernie Sanders: Restoring the American dream

The intensity was there. The spark was there. The bombastic political rhetoric has never left. But at the moment Bernie Sanders stepped up to the podium late Tuesday afternoon to announce his candidacy for the president of the United States, there was something new: His voice cracked and his demeanor softened as he humbly and graciously thanked all those in the crowd and throughout Vermont’s largest city for their 44 years of support.
“This is an emotional day for me,” Vermont’s junior senator told the crowd of 5,000-plus. “Not just for what I’m going to be saying, but to see so many people here and to hear what’s been said. Thank you very much.”
It was heart-felt, and if you were in the audience, you sensed he was seeing a lifetime of political struggle culminate in a single announcement, a goal so lofty when he first started in politics more than four decades ago that now it seemed almost unreal. But there he was -— born into a lower-middle income family that lived in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, son of a Polish immigrant and a mother who died too young to realize her dream of a house of her own — making his announcement in the waterfront park he had helped create in the city he has called home since the 1970s.
It was a moment that told more than words can say.
With that, however, he launched into campaign mode and delivered the fiery speech he has been working on for much of his life. He hit all the standard progressive issues: health care for all, income and wealth inequality, the dwindling middle class, campaign finance reform, reversing climate change, creating jobs and raising wages, reforming Wall Street, providing affording higher education, protecting the most vulnerable Americans, and keeping the country out of war but strong and secure. (See story, Page 1A.) Notably, he glossed over the nation’s foreign policy conundrums, and avoided any mention of immigration — both crucial issues for any presidential candidate in the upcoming election.
But he was vintage Bernie on his keynote issues and themes, including this assessment of the state of the country and his response:
“My fellow Americans, this country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression and, if you include the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the challenges we face now are direr than any time in our modern history.
“Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we’re going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back. We’re going to take the campaign directly to the people — in town meetings, door-to-door conversations, on street corners and in social media… This week we will be in Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota, and that’s just the start of a vigorous grassroots campaign.”
He had a few good zingers in his 35-minute speech, but mainly he stuck to an outline of issues he is calling his Agenda for America — a blueprint for rebuilding America into a nation that serves the needs of all Americans, not just the wealthiest few.
“To those who say we cannot restore the dream, I say just look where we are standing. This beautiful place was once an unsightly rail yard that served no public purpose and was an eyesore. As mayor, I worked with the people of Burlington to help turn this waterfront into the beautiful, people-oriented public space it is today. We took the fight to the courts, to the Legislature and to the people. And we won.
“The lesson to be learned is that when people stand together, and are prepared to fight back, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.”
That lesson is key to Vermonters, and all Americans, today. The question is not whether Bernie stands a chance of winning the Democratic nomination and the presidency, but whether his message would strengthen the nation; whether his policies are what each of us believe in and support. If they are, the revolution Sanders is talking about is getting each American to act on that belief. What you can’t do is handicap the election by voting for the person you think is most likely to win, rather than for the candidate with the ideals you embrace.
When Sanders finished his speech and the crowd thundered with approval, the 73-year-old senatorial statesman raised a single arm into the air with a slightly clinched fist — but it wasn’t as if he were a prize fighter cutting his foe down to size, it wasn’t Bernie winning his first race as mayor of Burlington by 10 votes in 1981, it wasn’t him railing against the billionaire class and declaring war on injustice. Rather, there was a hint of satisfaction on his face, a hint of personal accomplishment that he would be able to deliver his message to the nation and that he had gained the status to be heard. He won’t rest with that thought for long, but it was a moment well-deserved.
Angelo S. Lynn

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