Bernie Sanders Calls for "Political Revolution"

Arnie Alpert on February 03, 2015
In the crowded dining room of an old Victorian house in Concord, NH, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told listeners the country's problems include but go well beyond the military-industrial-complex. "You are taking on a ruling class in every area," he said. Cutting military spending is one component of an agenda to restore the middle class and turn away from oligarchy.

It was a frosty afternoon in Concord, but that didn’t keep people away from a house meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders.  Groups of twos and threes bundled into the living room of an old Victorian, took of their coats, and crowded into the dining room. 

When the Vermont Senator arrived, he took the mic and said, “I’m giving thought to running for President of the United States.” 

“The top of my agenda,” he said, “is the need to restore democracy in this country, prevent us from moving toward an oligarchy where billionaires can buy elections. We’ve got to overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections.”

When it came to questions, the first two were about the power of the military-industrial-complex. In response to one about halting the trillion-dollar F-35 program, “it’s a little late for that,” the Senator replied.  That doesn’t mean he’s uncritical of the Pentagon’s unquenchable thirst for bigger budgets or the contractors’ never-ending quest for more weapons to build.

“The United States spends more money on defense than the next nine or ten countries,” he said.  “$600 billion a year.  That is enough.  Maybe we should spend money on education, maybe we want to spend money on infrastructure.  We want to spend money on rebuilding the middle class.  So I will fight to lower the military budget.”

Questioners would not let up, however, on the issue.   But the problem isn’t limited to the military-industrial-complex Sanders insisted.  “The military-industrial-complex is enormously powerful, no question about it.  You have on Wall Street six financial institutions that have assets that are equivalent to sixty percent of the GDP of the United States.  You have big energy companies who are unbelievably powerful.  So I think what you have is a ruling class in America.”

Big defense, big pharma, big banks, big insurance, and big energy own the political agenda.  As an example, Senator Sanders cited the power of insurance and drug companies that have blocked creation of a single-payer health care system to protect their own profits.  

Sanders wound up his pitch with a call for a political revolution, by which he meant an outpouring of voters strong enough to take on the billionaire class and the oligarchy.   “Are the American people ready for that fight?” he asked.  That question was still hanging in the air as the crowd gathered their coats and returned to the frigid outdoors. 

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Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert is co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program, which he has led since 1981.  In that time he has been involved in movements for economic justice and affordable housing, civil and worker rights, peace and disarmament, abolition of the death penalty, and an end to racism and homophobia.