In an emphatic statement, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called for a “fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party.” He believes that Democrats have become too cozy with the country’s liberal elite, and that the party must connect with working-class America once again.
Sanders spoke at the Our Revolution Boston Rally at the Orpheum Theatre on Friday night, in which he and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren rallied support for national and local progressive goals. Despite the wintry mix of rain and snow that fell over Boston, 1,600 people packed into the ornate theater to show their support for causes in Massachusetts and across the country.
The rally was sponsored by Our Revolution, an organization founded to continue the political movement which finds its roots in Sanders’ presidential campaign. Our Revolution was paired with several advocacy organizations—such as Raise UP Massachusetts, and the Jobs Not Jails Coalition—to highlight issues pertaining to the Bay State, such as the establishment of paid sick and medical leave; the fight for a $15 minimum wage; and statewide immigration and prison reform.
Sanders emphasized the necessity of the Democratic Party becoming a “50-state party,” with reach from coast to coast—as well as the states in between. He believes that reaching out to people in typically red states, such as Kentucky where thousands received health care for the first time because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), promoting a vision that appeals to all people, and remaining united are essential for the success of the Democratic Party.
In her speech, Warren hailed the increased efforts and participation of Americans in politics following the victory of President Donald Trump. She celebrated the recent defeat of the Republican plan in Congress to repeal and replace the ACA, which she called “the biggest assault on health care in this country,” and credited the nationwide public opposition to the plan as the reason for its failure.
Sharing her experiences from rallies and events in Boston, such as the Women’s March, Warren thanked the crowd for their efforts, and implored them to continue working for progress at home.
“The Republicans have the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the number of tools we’ve got down in Washington on our side [is] limited,” Sanders said. “But that means exactly one thing. We aren’t going to be able to do it by ourselves in Washington, it’s going to take all of us to be in this fight.”
Warren then discussed the need for a change in perspective. Recognizing that much of the criticism surrounding the current administration has been on the character of Trump’s cabinet members and other appointments, Warren called for a shift in focus toward the overarching “extremist, right-wing agenda” that she believes Republicans are working toward.
“The real point is not who Donald Trump is, it’s not what kind of person he is, the real point is what Donald Trump and the Republicans in Washington are doing,” Warren said. “We stay focused on what they are doing to American families. These are people who said over and over that they were going to fight for working families, that they were going to fight for those who are left behind, and look what they’ve done since they got to Washington.”
Warren explained that she grew up in a different America, which, although imperfect, provided each child with the opportunity to do better than his or her parents. She criticized the influence of large corporations that has altered the country’s political landscape, and stripped opportunity away from the average American. Speaking passionately, Warren declared her intent to fight for a country that provides opportunity for everyone, and condemned the high price of education, opposition to making healthcare more accessible, and the denial of the existence of climate change.
“I stand here tonight ready to fight, ready to fight for an America that believes in the dignity of every human being,” Warren said. “An America that believes in opportunity not just for some of our children, but opportunity for all of our children.”
Shortly after Warren declared that “Democracy is not for sale,” Sanders joined her on stage, and an uproar of cheering, applause, and chants of “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” erupted from the crowd.
Sanders called for massive changes to be made to the current political and economic systems in America. Touching on a familiar theme, he condemned the influence and greed of the country’s wealthiest citizens, and explained that Americans are in a war of “monumental proportions.” According to Sanders, the only solution is uniting the rest of the country to stand up to inequality and injustice.
“Despair is not an option,” Sanders said. “Yeah, they’ve got the money. But we have the people, and our job is to organize the people, and when we do that, we are going to create the nation that all of us know that we can become.”
He painted a critical portrait of the current level of inequality in America, as much of the newly created wealth is funnelled to the rich. Sanders travelled across the country while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, and spoke to many Americans about their struggles. The time for progressive changes—such as raising the national minimum wage to $15, achieving equal pay for women, and decreasing long work weeks and student debt—is now more than ever, he said.
Sanders also touched upon his plans to introduce two pieces of legislation in Congress later this month. The first is the Medicare for All bill, which seeks to provide universal healthcare for Americans. The second is a proposal that would make public colleges and universities tuition free, funded through a tax on Wall Street speculation, and substantially reduce student debt, honoring one of his promises from the campaign trail.
“Today, hundreds of thousands of bright, young kids, kids who did well in high school and want to go to college, are unable to do so because of the income of their families. On top of that, we have millions of people who have graduated college $50, $60 thousand dollars in debt, graduated graduate school, medical school, dental school, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt who are spending decades paying off those debts” Sanders said. “Our job is to encourage our people to get the best education they can, not punish them for doing that.”
While many people may be quick to stereotype Trump supporters, Sanders believes that this is unfair. He stated that it was not Trump who won the 2016 presidential election, but the Democratic Party who lost it.
“Some people think, that the people who voted for Donald Trump are racist, sexist, and homophobes, and just deplorable folks. I don’t agree” he said.
Instead of furthering the divides between parties and demonizing opposing viewpoints, Sanders encouraged attendees to unite with their fellow Americans, regardless of class, gender, or political alignment.
“Together, we are going to tell Mr. Trump and his friends: ‘Sorry, you are not going to divide us up. We are going to stand together’ … We are going to go forward, and we are going to transform this country,” Sanders said. “We are going to create an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor