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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/15/12

Grass Roots Democracy

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Bernie Sanders
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As of today, we have held 22 campaign rallies in large and small communities throughout the state -- bringing out thousands of Vermonters. By the time the campaign is over we will have done more than 50 such events. The format is simple: I speak. Local activists speak. We take questions. We have discussions. We often provide food and music, trying to bridge the gap that so many Americans sense between political issues and the world of community and togetherness that they inhabit every day. That's called grass-roots democracy and is something I believe in very strongly. Thirty-second TV ads have their place, but I much prefer investing in people, education and organizing.

Further, tonight and every night, we have staff and volunteers knocking on doors in communities throughout the state, engaging Vermonters in political discussion. By the end of this campaign we will have knocked on over 30,000 doors -- not bad for a small state. In my view, the antidote to Fox News and right-wing media is talking to people, face-to-face, about the real issues they confront. And that's what we're doing.

My hope is to make Vermont a model for what a progressive grass-roots campaign can be.  Let me say a word about the national campaign.  In the midst of all of the campaign hoopla, media superficiality, negativity and downright lies, it's important for progressives not to forget what this election is all about.

Today we are confronted with a Republican Party which, in the last few years, has become a right-wing extremist party. This is a party which, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, is significantly financed by a small number of extremely wealthy individuals.  Billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson have pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama -- and Senate and House candidates throughout the country who are fighting to protect middle-class and working families.

These billionaires own coal companies, oil companies, gambling casinos and much of Wall Street. Now, they want to own the United States government.

At a time when we have a grotesquely unfair distribution of wealth and income, these billionaires want more tax breaks for the rich. As we continue to suffer from this horrendous Wall Street caused recession, the billionaires want more de-regulation of the giant financial institutions. Despite the fact that we have lost over 50,000 factories in the last 10 years and millions of good-paying jobs, these corporate tycoons want more unfettered free trade to send our jobs to China and other low-wage countries.

Today, 50 million Americans lack health insurance, and some 45,000 will die this year because they don't get to a doctor when they should. The Republican response: convert Medicare into a voucher program and make huge cuts in Medicaid.

The simple truth is that today's Republican Party wants to undo virtually every piece of legislation passed in the last 80 years that was designed to provide dignity and security to ordinary Americans. It's not just that many of them want to destroy Social Security; it's that some leading Republicans are so opposed to government serving the needs of working families that they actually believe that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the minimum wage are "unconstitutional."

In short, the Republican Party of today wants to move this country into an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of very wealthy people control the economic and political life of the nation.


But it's not just economic issues. Take a hard look at their position on women's issues. The recently passed Republican Party platform supports a constitutional amendment to prohibit abortion even in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. In other words, the Republican Party, the party of "freedom," believes that a woman must have a rapist's baby even at the cost of her own life. Talk about extremism!

And then there's global warming. Some 98 percent of all scientists who have written peer-reviewed articles on climate change believe that global warming is real, that it is significantly caused by human activity, and that it is already causing severe damage to our planet. These scientists believe that if global warming is not reversed it could have a disastrous impact upon the lives of billions of people. What is the Republican Party's position on global warming?

Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, who will become Chairman of the Environmental Committee if the Republicans gain control of the Senate, has recently written a book in which he expresses the view that global warming is a hoax, perpetrated on the American people by Al Gore, the United Nations and the "Hollywood elite." No kidding! That's really his view.

So that is where we are today.

We have a Republican Party that is at war against the middle class, that looks out only for the wealthy, that denies both global warming and the rights of women to control their own bodies and is -- if you can believe this -- moving even further to the right. That same Republican Party despises equality, welcomes oligarchy, demeans democracy by preventing millions from exercising their right to vote, and panders more and more to its extreme right-wing base.

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)

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