Saving Democracy

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Source: Berniesanders.com

Photo by lev radin.shutterstock


One year ago, a violent mob stormed the United States Capitol with the hope of overturning the results of the presidential election. The images Americans saw that day made visibly clear what many of us have realized for a long time:

Our democracy is under severe attack.

But the truth is that the attack on our democracy goes far deeper than the violence of January 6, 2021.

Our democracy is under attack from Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures across the country who are doing everything in their power to suppress the vote and make it harder for people of color and young people to vote. These political cowards are also engaging in extreme gerrymandering and are drawing the lines of their districts so they pick their voters instead of voters picking their representatives. They are intent on establishing permanent majorities.

Our democracy is under attack when many Republicans, at all levels of government, promote the Big Lie that the presidential election was stolen and increasingly call into question the results of any election they lose.

Our democracy is under attack when election officials are being harassed and threatened and when efforts are being made to allow partisan legislatures to determine election winners and losers.

But let’s be clear. It is not just the subversion of democratic norms and voting rights that is undermining our democracy.

Our democracy is also under attack because all across this country people increasingly believe democracy itself, and our government, does not work for them.

For the vast majority of Americans there is a huge disconnect between the reality of their lives and what goes on in Washington, D.C. The people see the politicians talking, talking and talking, they watch the 30 second TV ads and they hear the promises that are made — but never kept. They remember what Lincoln said about “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” and they know how far removed we are from that today.

They see the very rich become much richer while politicians and the corporate media ignore the collapse of the middle class and the painful realities facing working families — low wages, dead end jobs, debt, homelessness, lack of health care or educational opportunity, declining life expectancy, substance abuse, impoverished retirement.

Democrat or Republican. Who cares? Nothing changes or, if it does, it’s usually for the worse.

Millions of Americans are unable to make it on starvation wages and many of them struggle to put food on the table, but Congress is unable to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.

Over 80 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, with millions going into bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills, but Congress is unable to do what every other major country does — guarantee health care as a human right.

One out of four Americans are unable to afford the prescription drugs they need but Congress is unable to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry which charges us, by far, the highest prices in the world.

Almost 43 million Americans are struggling with student debt but Congress, busy giving tax breaks to the rich and well-connected, is unable to forgive that burden which is crushing the dreams of so many.

In homes across this country seniors are being forced to live out their later years without teeth in their mouths or the ability to see or hear properly, but Congress is unable to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision.

And, while climate change ravages our country and the world, Congress is unable to confront the fossil fuel industry, cut carbon emissions and leave future generations a planet that will be healthy and habitable.

So it is no great surprise that people look at the process that produces these outcomes and say, “Nope. Not for me. I don’t know what these guys are doing but it’s not relevant to my life.”

So yes, Congress must hold responsible those who engaged in insurrection at the Capitol and make sure there is never again any doubt about the peaceful transition of power in this country.

Yes, Congress must take action immediately to end voter suppression and make it easier for people in every state in this country to participate in the political process.

But, if we are really going to save democracy and make it relevant to people’s lives, Congress must boldly address the long-neglected crises facing the working people of this country. In other words, dare I say, Congress must represent the needs of ordinary Americans and not just wealthy campaign contributors.

The choice before us is whether we move into oligarchy, where our economic and political life is dominated by a handful of billionaires, or whether we create a vibrant democracy where the voices of the people are heard, and where their needs are addressed.

As we enter the new year I look forward to working with you to create a country in which our children and parents are not living in poverty, in which young people can afford to go to college and in which working families have the health care and prescription drugs they need. I will fight for policies which will save the planet for future generations. Will we succeed? I can’t guarantee you that.

But I can tell you there is no chance unless we are in this together.

Not me. Us.

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