Last week, I had a great time visiting North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi. I spoke to large crowds in each of these states and had the opportunity to meet with some terrific organizers who are helping to lead the struggle for economic and social justice in their communities.
To me, the blue state/red state analysis of American politics has never made sense. In every state in our country, the vast majority of people are working people struggling to keep their heads above water economically. These are people who need better wages, working conditions and retirement security, better health care and better educational and child care opportunities for their kids. Mississippi or Vermont, red state or blue state, we are all in this together.
I do not understand how the Democratic Party, or any national political organization, can simply write off large parts of the country and cede them to right-wing extremists. Yes, it is unlikely that progressive candidates will win elections tomorrow in states that now have conservative political representation. But they will never win if they don't get started in building progressive organizations and bringing forth strong candidates. People in conservative states need to start hearing progressive ideas, and they need to hear them now.
Here are some of the issues that I discussed in my southern tour, issues which resonated with every audience I spoke to. These are issues that the vast majority of Americans, in every state in this country, want addressed:
WEALTH AND INCOME INEQUALITY: Virtually everyone understands that this country will not survive morally, politically or economically if so few have so much and so many have so little. We have more wealth and income inequality than any other major country, and the situation is becoming worse. We need to move toward a progressive tax system which asks the wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.
HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT: Real unemployment is not 6.1 percent. It is 12 percent. Youth unemployment is 20 percent and African-American youth unemployment is 35 percent. We need a massive federal jobs program which rebuilds our crumbling infrastructure, transforms our energy system and puts millions of Americans back to work.
LOW WAGES: The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. The current bill in the Senate of $10.10 an hour is a start, but we must go higher in the near future. We must also be supporting workers who are struggling to form unions in their fights for better wages and working conditions.
HEALTH CARE: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not provide health care as a right for all people. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, some 40 million Americans continue to lack health insurance, and millions more are under-insured. We need to join the rest of the industrialized world and create a Medicare-for-All single-payer health care system.
PROTECTING SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE: In recent years, there has been a massive and well-funded effort for "entitlement reform" -- which, in English, means the cutting of Social Security and Medicare. Today, with more and more Americans financially unprepared for retirement, we need to expand Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits, not cut them.
GLOBAL WARMING: The scientific community is clear. Global warming is real, it is significantly caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating damage in the United States and around the globe. We need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, cut carbon emissions and move aggressively to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
These are just a few of the issues that I discussed in the South, and that I talk about all over the country. These are some of the issues that, in my view, ALL of us have to be talking about.
Let me conclude by saying this: The fight we are currently engaged in is not just about us, it is about our kids and grandchildren. It is about the survival of the planet. Despair is not an option. We have got to keep fighting until we win.
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Further, I will be in Wisconsin on September 12 and 13, and Iowa on September 13 and 14. For more information about these events, please click here.