Of the people, by the people and for the people – Bernie Sanders’ speech at the Union

Image credit: Juliette Bretan

It was a busy start for the Union this morning (2nd June) as Senator Bernie Sanders arrived to speak to a full chamber at 10am. Students had queued from the early hours for a chance to hear the popular American politician detail his democratic socialist campaign and were not disappointed: Sanders’ booming voice expressed exactly what he felt needed to change in the world in order for the social situation to be fairer for all, and how the young generation could play a part in achieving that ambition.

Sanders’ main focus, however, was on the state of American politics, under a president he claimed had a “disrespect for democracy, for tolerance, and for traditional American values and institutions”. The contempt for Trump was clear: Sanders voiced his concerns about what he called the “demagoguery of the Trump administration” which was encouraging division among the American people through scapegoating; the dangers of Trump’s denigration of the judiciary; and the idiocy of his disregard for climate change. He also touched upon the benefits of true conservativism; but stated that, in modern cases, conservativism appears to be leaning towards extremism, and this must be prevented.

But Sanders’ major concern about the future of the United States was what he deemed the increasingly oligarchical nature of politics in America. Citing information that claimed the 20 people in the United States own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people, Sanders condemned Trump’s affiliation with billionaires instead of with the common man, referring to Trump’s broken promises to help the working people of America in his election campaign. Though Sanders admitted he had had his disagreements with both Obama and Bush, he held a clear disapproval of Trump’s presidency; a presidency which, he claimed, was based on “lies all of the time”.

Sanders also questioned Trump’s attempts to quash all opposition by vilifying the media as fake news: he stated that “if you cannot believe what is in the papers…[then] the only person you can believe…[is] the mouth or the tweets of the President of the United States”. Sanders’ concerns were clear: Trump’s policies, budget, and affinity for Vladimir Putin have combined to create a concoction of undermined democracy; the “very opposite of what the United States is supposed to be about”.

Sanders’ solution was to promote a reinvention of the political system, to create a structure where decisions were made from the bottom up rather than the top down, and a free, open and fair election was maintained. This, he claimed, lies in the hands of the young generation; a generation he said were more accepting than any other before. Though he acknowledged we have made progress in several social and political areas, he asserted that the struggle for economic rights was moving in the wrong direction. Only the young generation, he concluded, have the opportunity to transform the world so that economies work for all people; he stated that if they deny demagogues the chance to divide us, and instead “stand together with [their] brothers and sisters” on earth, they can make a better future for us all.

The occupants of the Union chamber responded with a standing ovation.

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