By Bernie Sanders
What a year it was!
Yes. We all know that we have seen a president take office who is the most dishonest, bigoted, divisive and reactionary president in the modern history of our country.
We have also seen a right-wing extremist, Republican Congress attempt to throw up to 32 million Americans off of the health care they have, give hundreds of billions in tax breaks to the richest people in our country and the largest corporations, destroy environmental legislation and work overtime to deny women the right to control their own bodies.
Yes. We have seen all of that and much more. But we are also seeing something else that, from an historical perspective, is far more important. We are seeing the American people come together, fight back and win important victories all across the country.
Political Revolution from the Bottom on Up
During my campaign for president in 2016 I stated over and over again that the future of our country was dependent upon our willingness to make a political revolution. I stressed that real change never occurs from the top on down. It always happens from the bottom on up. No real change in American history, not the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, the environmental movement or any other movement has ever had success without grassroots activism, without millions of people engaged in the struggle for justice.
That’s what I said when I ran for president. That’s what I believe now and that’s what millions of us have been working to accomplish over the last several years. At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality, when our nation moves closer and closer to an oligarchic form of society, we are working hard and effectively to create an unprecedented grassroots political movement to defeat the greed of the billionaire class and the politicians they own.
Unmistakable Progress on Many Fronts
And the good news is that we’re making progress. In state after state ordinary Americans are successfully taking on establishment politicians who are more concerned about protecting their wealthy campaign contributors than the needs of the middle class or working people they are supposed to represent.
In 2017 we made progress when millions of people, in every state in the country, took to the streets for the Women’s March in opposition to Trump’s reactionary agenda. We made progress when an unprecedented grassroots movement elected a young African-American as mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. We made progress when tens of thousands of Americans turned out in rallies and town meetings to successfully oppose the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and we’re making progress when more and more Americans are joining the fight for a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.
We’re making progress when governors and local officials in every part of the country announce, in response to student demands, tuition-free public colleges and universities. We’re making progress when states and communities from coast to coast adopt legislation which provides a minimum wage of $15 an hour.
We’re making progress when, on Election Day, Nov. 7, 2017, in local and state elections all across the country, Trumpism suffered a major defeat as hundreds of progressive first time candidates from every conceivable background ran for school board, city council, state legislature and other local offices – and many of them won.
We’re making progress when, on Dec. 10, 2017, a strong Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country.
The American People Get It: A Progressive Agenda
The truth is that the American people are far more united than the media allows us to believe. They get it. They know that over the last 40 years, despite a huge increase in worker productivity, the middle class has continued to shrink while the very rich have become much richer. They know that, for the first time in the modern history of the United States, our kids will likely have a lower standard of living than their parents.
Our job, in 2018 and beyond, for the sake of our kids and grandchildren, is to bring our people together around a progressive agenda.
Are the people of our country deeply concerned about the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we are experiencing? You bet they are. Do they believe that our campaign finance system is corrupt and enables the rich to buy elections? By overwhelming numbers.
Do they want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and provide pay equity for women workers? Yes they do. Do they think the very rich and large corporations should pay more in taxes so that all of our kids can have free tuition at public colleges and universities? Yup. Do they believe that the United States should join every other major country and guarantee health care as a right? Yes, again. Do they believe climate change is real? You’ve got to be kidding. Are they tired of the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, having a crumbling infrastructure with roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, airports, rail, levees and dams falling apart? Who isn’t?
Further, a majority of the American people want comprehensive immigration reform and a criminal justice system that is based on justice, not racism or mass incarceration.
Republican Leadership: Thwarting What the American People Really Want
Today, what the American people want is not what they are getting. In fact, under Republican leadership in the House, Senate and White House, they are getting exactly the opposite of what they want.
The American people want a government which represents all of us. Instead, they are getting a government which represents the interests and extremist ideology of wealthy campaign contributors. They want environmental policies which combat climate change and pollution, and which will allow our kids to live in a healthy and habitable planet. Instead, they are getting executive orders and legislation which pushes more fossil fuel production, more greenhouse gas emissions and more pollution. They want a nation in which all people are treated with dignity and respect, and where we continue our decades long struggle to end discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nation of origin. Instead, they have a president who seeks to win political support appealing to those very prejudices.
Maintaining a vibrant democracy based on principles of justice has never been easy. In these dangerous and unprecedented times, it may be more difficult than ever.
As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend hundreds of millions in ugly TV ads demonizing candidates who dare to stand up to them. Republican governors and legislatures are working to suppress the vote, making it harder for people of color, poor people and young people to vote. Republican state legislatures have created incredibly gerrymandered districts which unfairly protect Republican candidates.
Despair: Not an Option
Yes, I know. These are painful and frightening times. Many friends have told me that they have given up reading the papers or watching TV. But let us be clear. Despair is not an option. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not anytime. That is exactly what our enemies want. Also, please never forget that the struggle we are engaged in is not just for us. It is for our kids and grandchildren. It is for the future of the planet.
So here is a New Year’s resolution I hope you will share with me. In 2018 we will not only intensify the struggle against Trumpism, we will increase our efforts to spread the progressive vision in every corner of the land. Yes. We will create a vibrant democracy where the voices of all people are heard. Yes. We will create a nation which leads the world in the struggle for peace, and for economic, social, racial and environmental justice.
The struggle continues.Φ
Bernie Sanders is serving his second term in the U.S. Senate after winning re-election in 2012 with 71 percent of the vote. His previous 16 years in the House of Representatives make him the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. This piece by Bernie was sent as an email on December 31, 2017.