Senator Bernie Sanders speaking in Sacramento. (All photos: Ras H. Siddiqui)
Our youngsters have shown little interest in politics before this event so one has to credit Senator Sanders (and unfortunately Donald Trump) for igniting their interest. The fact that they were primarily being inspired by an old Left-winger like their dad can only make one proud, writes Ras H. Siddiqui. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #2016USPresidentialElections #CaliforniaVotes #BernieSanders
Senator Bernie Sanders seems to be just about everywhere these days in California especially since the Primary Elections in America’s most populous state are just around the corner. Accordingly, California has the highest number of Democratic Party delegates’ up for grabs (475 pledged delegates) on June 7 and Senator Sanders is very much in the fight for them. His appeal is growing amongst the young and many minority communities. This writer was encouraged to attend the Sanders rally in Sacramento on May 9 by teenage daughters who took the initiative to attend the rally themselves.
The lines into Bonney Field at Cal Expo seemed like a mile long and were moving very slowly. Were it not for the Press access I would have turned back and left. And it was not just due to the thousands that wanted to attend. The main issue seemed to be security which was quite detailed almost as if a President was speaking. People had started coming in as early as 2 PM or 3 PM while the Senator was slated to arrive at around 8 PM. He actually spoke at close to 9 o’clock. An estimated crowd of 15,000 people, many holding “A Future To Believe In” signs enthusiastically greeted the Senator who was introduced on to the stage by actor and activist Danny Glover.
Senator Sanders covered a wide range of topics in his almost hour-long delivery. Many of his ideas resonated with the audience. If they call this “Socialism” so be it. Bernie started off with “Thank You Sacramento.” In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of people here tonight, he said. The media had once determined that his was a “fringe candidacy” about a year ago, and who would have believed (then) that millions of Americans want a political revolution? And it turns out that a lot has changed in a year. The corporate establishment is getting nervous. The political establishment is getting nervous. When they see fifteen thousand people coming out in Sacramento, they get very nervous. And they should be getting nervous because real change is coming, he said.
With your help, we are going to win the biggest prize of all (on June 7), the California Primary said the Senator from Vermont. We are going to fight for every vote until June 14. And we are going to take the political revolution into the convention in Philadelphia. He said that he was proud of all the volunteers and supporters and especially proud of the polls which show him defeating Donald Trump by double digits and by a bigger margin than Secretary Clinton. Our agenda is the future of America and the future of the Democratic Party, he added.
Senator Sanders said that in his opinion the current campaign finance system is corrupt and it is undermining American Democracy. Democracy is about one person one vote. It is not about billionaires and their Super-PACs buying elections, he said. He said that in the past year his campaign has received over 7.3 million individual campaign contributions with an average contribution of $27 making it a campaign of the people, by the people and for the people (paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln). He added that Secretary Clinton has chosen a different path taking millions of dollars from special interests.
Sanders also targeted the current $7.25/hour federal minimum wage, a starvation wage which needed to be changed to a living wage. He said that Secretary Clinton wants to raise that minimum wage to $12/hour which he said was not good enough. If was elected President we will have $15/hour in every state in this country, he said. In America, people who work 40 hours a week should not live in poverty. He also said that it should not be acceptable that women today are making 79 cents on the dollar in comparison to the wages of men.
After highlighting the devastation which climate change is causing worldwide and reminding everyone of their moral responsibility (including banning fracking) Senator Sanders moved on to foreign and military policy. He said that the most important foreign policy decision made in the modern American history was over the war in Iraq which he opposed. He said that it does not give him any joy to say that many of the fears that he had about that war in 2002 about the destabilization of the Middle East turned out to be true. He added that Secretary Clinton who was a Senator back then (from New York) voted for that disastrous war.
Bernie also highlighted the growing income and wealth inequality in America. He said that the top one tenth of 1% now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. He added that the 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half of America (150 million Americans). One family owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of the American people. He also requested that family to pay their workers a living wage. Our job is to create an economy that works for all of us, not just for the people on top, said Sanders. On his plans for the economy he said that we can create 13 million good paying jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and that is what we are going to do that.
Sanders also elaborated on The American Dream, which he said was the essence of what this country is supposed to be all about. It was about parents working hard so that their kids could do better. If elected president we will not allow that American Dream to die, he said. Free public colleges, he said were not a radical idea because this (tuition free) public university education existed right here in California 40 or 50 years ago, something which can be rejuvenated.
Calling out to the Latino community, Sanders highlighted the necessity of comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship for the millions of undocumented in this country. He also said that we should be keeping families together not dividing them up. He said that the African American community and others are asking today how we have trillions of dollars to spend and waste on war overseas while our own inner cities are crumbling. He said if elected President we are going to change our national priorities. We are not going to rebuild in Iraq or Afghanistan but we are going to rebuild inner cities in America.
Sanders said that healthcare is a right of all people not a privilege. The Affordable Care Act (which he supported) has done a lot of good things but not enough. On Donald Trump he said that he will not become president because the American people will not elect someone who insults Latinos and Mexicans, Muslims, women and veterans, African Americans. He added that the American people understand that our strength is in our diversity. He said that all the major religions of the world have taught us that at the end of the day, love trumps hatred. He said that change takes place when people look around and say that status quo is not working, and that is what they are saying today. We need real change. That is what the political revolution is all about, he added.