Bernie Sanders on Principles & Values
Democratic primry challenger; Socialist Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)
Q: Senator Sanders, have you established a list of what it means to be a progressive that is unrealistic?
SANDERS: Not at all. The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country because people have given up on the political process. The reality is there are trillions of dollars going from the middle class to the top 1 percent. The reality is we have a corrupt campaign finance system which separates the people's needs from what Congress is doing. What we have to do is wage a political revolution where we demand the government represent us and not just campaign contributors.
SANDERS: We should not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. I am proud to be the only candidate who does not have a Super PAC, who's not raising huge sums of money from Wall Street and special interests. Never believed it would happen that we have raised 3.5 million individual contributions, averaging $27 dollars a piece. That is what the political revolution means.
SANDERS: It is true. I am the longest- serving independent in the history of the United States Congress. Vermont sent me to Washington as an independent. On the other hand, when I was in the House for 16 years, I caucused with the Democrats. In the Senate for nine years , I caucused with the Democrats. I do want to see major changes in the Democratic Party. I want to see working people and young people come into the party in a way that doesn't exist now. I want a 50-state strategy so the Democratic Party is not just the party of 25 states.
CLINTON: You know, the person who first put out the idea of a 50-state party strategy is former Governor Howard Dean, who is with us tonight.
CLINTON [videotape]: It is rare that we have the opportunity we do now to have a real contest of ideas. To really think hard about what the Democratic Party stands for and what we want the future of our country to look like if we do our part to build it. I am a progressive who gets things done for people.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton has a long and distinguished public career. I served with her in the Senate. We worked together on some issues. But there are other issues where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a superPAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. Secretary Clinton voted to go to war in Iraq. Secretary Clinton has been a supporter of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. That's just not progressive.
SANDERS: I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.
WEBB: I got a great deal of admiration and affection for Senator Sanders, but Bernie, I don't think the revolution's going to come.
Q: What do you mean by "revolution"?
SANDERS: What I mean is that we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest. We need to raise public consciousness. We need the American people to know what's going on in Washington in a way that today they do not know.
SANDERS: This is what you do. You say to the speaker of the House, "Hey, you don't want to negotiate with me? I think we should make public colleges and universities tuition free. And I think we should pay for a tax on Wall Street speculation." Now, do I think the Republican speaker of the House will agree with me? No, I don't think so. But I think he'll have to look out the window and see a million young people demonstrating and marching in Washington.
Q: Barack Obama said this.
SANDERS: Here's the difference. The president actually thought that he could sit down with the Republican leadership and work out some fair compromises. The truth is, number one, they never had any intention to compromise. But number two, you have to be prepared to mobilize people to take on these big money interests.
SANDERS: No, not at all. When one of your Republican colleagues gets on the show, do you say, "Are you a capitalist?" Have you ever referred to them as capitalists?
Q: Yeah. Are you a capitalist?
SANDERS: No. I'm a democratic socialist.
SANDERS: Well, look, I am pro-choice. I am strongly in favor of gay marriage. And I know that, at Liberty University, people there have honest disagreements with me on that issue. But what I said, look, at a time when we have a grotesque level of income and wealth inequality, when almost all of the new income and wealth in this country is going to the top 1 percent, when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on Earth, can we not get together and talk about creating an economy that works for all of us, and not just millionaires and billionaires?
SANDERS: Well, so long as we know what democratic socialism is. And if we know that in countries, in Scandinavia, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, they are very democratic countries, obviously. The voter turnout is a lot higher than it is in the US. In those countries, health care is the right of all people. And in those countries, college education is free. In those countries, retirement benefits, childcare are stronger than in the US.
Q: I can hear the Republican attack ad right now: "He wants American to look more like Scandinavia."
SANDERS: That's right. And what's wrong with that? What's wrong when you have more income and wealth equality? What's wrong when they have a stronger middle class in many ways than we do, higher minimum wage than we do, and they are stronger on the environment? We do a lot in our country, which is good, but we can learn from other countries.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Sanders, 73, spent one year at Brooklyn College, graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964 and then moved to Vermont.
A: In Vermont, people understand exactly what I mean. They don't believe that democratic socialism is akin to North Korea communism. When I talk about democratic socialism, what I'm saying is that I do not want to see the US significantly dominated by a handful of billionaire families controlling the economic & political life of the country. That I do believe that in a democratic, civilized society, all people are entitled to health care as a right, all people are entitled to quality education as a right, all people are entitled to decent jobs and a decent income, and that we need a government which represents ordinary Americans and not just the wealthy and the powerful. Very sadly, the corporate media ignores some of the huge accomplishments that have taken place in Scandinavia, with a long history of democratic socialism.
The bad news is that people like the Koch brothers can spend huge sums of money to create groups like the Tea Party. The good news is that, once people understand the right-wing extremist ideology of the Koch brothers, they are not going to go along with their policies. In terms of fundamental economic issues: job creation, a high minimum wage, progressive taxation, affordable college--the vast majority of people are on our side.
One of the goals that I would have, politically, is to reach out to the working-class element of the Tea Party & explain to them exactly who is funding their organization--and explain to them that, on virtually every issue, the Koch brothers and the other funders of the Tea Party are way out of step with what ordinary people want and need
Their real ideology--not the sham philosophy of "states' rights" or "personal responsibility" created for public consumption--reflects the interests of a tiny and very privileged segment of the population. Republicans are faced with the dilemma: How to convince working people and the middle class to vote AGAINST their own best interests. Or, equally important, how to get them not to vote at all. Further, how to deflect attention AWAY from the issues that affect the vast majority of people and around which they could UNITE.
In 1991, I was the only Independent in Congress, the only person outside the 2-party system. I decided to try to bring together the most progressive members so that we could more effectively fight for economic justice.
We formed the Progressive Caucus. Over the years the group grew slowly and steadily, so that by the time our largest battle took place--against Newt Gingrich and his reactionary "Contract with America"--we were 52 members strong. I was elected chairman of the Caucus in 1991 and have held that position since.
SANDERS [audio recording] One of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him. It would do this country a good deal of service if people started contrasting what is a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama is doing.
Q: That was you in 2011. Do you still think Obama should've been primaried?
SANDERS: We have a right to have differences of opinion. For example, I have disagreed with him very strongly on his views on trade. He is for the TPP. I am against the TPP. He has several years ago continued Bush's tax breaks for the very wealthiest people on this country. I was on the floor for 8-and-a-half hours in disagreement with him. Overall, I think the president has done an outstanding job. And the idea that there can be a primary where different ideas get floated and debated, I don't think that that is terrible.
When I say "won" I am being very overly generous to myself. I was chosen as the candidate unanimously because there was no competition. By day's end, I had embarked on the first political campaign of my life. Despite such inauspicious beginnings, I enjoyed the experience of running for office very much.
We had come such a long way, against such incredible odds. 20 years before, I had run for statewide office and had received 2% of the vote. As I climbed onto the platform for my victory statement, I was now the congressman-elect from the state of VT, the first Independent elected to Congress in 40 years. It was almost incomprehensible.
There were radio, TV, and newspaper interviews to do all across the country. I was a true novelty: the only Independent in Congress AND a socialist.
SANDERS: No. I am very proud to be Jewish, and being Jewish is so much of what I am. Look, my father's family was wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust. I know about what crazy and radical, and extremist politics mean. I learned that lesson as a tiny, tiny child when my mother would take me shopping, and we would see people working in stores who had numbers on their arms because they were in Hitler's concentration camp. I am very proud of being Jewish, and that is an essential part of who I am as a human being.
SANDERS: It's a guiding principle in my life, absolutely, it is. You know, everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings. I believe that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can't afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts me. And I worry very much about a society where some people spiritually say, "it doesn't matter to me, I got it, I don't care about other people." So my spirituality is that we are all in this together and that when children go hungry, when veterans sleep out on the street, it impacts me. That's my very strong spiritual feeling.
SANDERS: You know families exaggerate a little bit. I was a very good athlete. I wouldn't say I was a great athlete. I was a pretty good basketball player. My elementary school in Brooklyn won the borough championship. Hardly worth mentioning, but we did, yes. And, yes, I did take third place in the New York City indoor one mile race. I was a very good long-distance runner. I would say not a great runner, but I was captain of my track team and won a number of cross-country meets and certainly won a whole lot of races. So very good, not great.
Q: If you were elected president, you would be the oldest person elected president. You're going to release your medical records?
SANDERS: Absolutely. I have been blessed with good health and good endurance. And there's nothing in the medical records that is going to surprise anybody.
SANDERS: They wouldn't believe it. I mean, my dad came from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket, couldn't speak English and he never made a whole lot of money. And my brother and I grew up in a three-and-a-half-room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York. And we never had a whole lot of money. This would be so unimaginable--the fact that I'm a United States senator would've been beyond really anything that they would have thought possible. The fact that I am running for president, it's certainly something that I don't think they ever believed would've happened.
A: Yes. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, where the Nazis decimated 90% of the Jewish population during the Holocaust. Bernie's father and uncle immigrated to the US and the rest of their family died in Europe. Bernie has said that his Jewish heritage showed him the importance of politics at a young age: "A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932. He won an election, and 50 million people died as a result of that election in World War II, including 6 million Jews. So what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important."
Q: Since he's Jewish, is Bernie also Israeli?
A: No. Despite false reports to the contrary, Bernie is only a citizen of the United States.
Q: Well, Bernie's Jewish and his family died in the Holocaust. He must support Israel over the Palestinians, right?
A: No. Bernie doesn't "support" Israel over the Palestinians. He believes both have the right to exist, in a two-state solution.
"In the past month, many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. It is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law--it is to apply the law. And it is clear, I believe, that my record in two courts reflects my rigorous commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its terms; interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress's intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court. In each case I have heard, I have applied the law to the facts at hand."
The Adherents.com website is an independent project and is not supported by or affiliated with any organization (academic, religious, or otherwise).
Such factors as religious service attendance, belief, practice, familiarity with doctrine, belief in certain creeds, etc., may be important to sociologists, religious leaders, and others. But these are measures of religiosity and are usually not used academically to define a person’s membership in a particular religion. It is important to recognize there are various levels of adherence, or membership within religious traditions or religious bodies. There’s no single definition, and sources of adherent statistics do not always make it clear what definition they are using.
The members of the Progressive Caucus share a common belief in the principles of social and economic justice, non-discrimination, and tolerance in America and in our relationships with other countries. We also seek to embody and give voice to national priorities which reflect the interests and needs of all the American people, not just the wealthy and the powerful. Our purpose is to present thoughtful, positive, practical solutions to the problems confronting America and the world. In the post-Cold War era, we believe our nation’s priorities must change with the times and reflect new realities. Accordingly, we support curbs on wasteful, inefficient government spending at the Pentagon and elsewhere, a more progressive tax system in which wealthier taxpayers and corporations pay their fair share, adequate funding for social programs that are designed to extend help to low and middle-income Americans in need, and trade policies that increase the exports of more American products and encourage the creation of jobs and investment in America.
When one reads accounts of Jews in American politics, the common theme is that Jews have achieved prominence in art, literature, academia, certain businesses, and entertainment, but not in politics or government. The Jewish politician was the exception, not the rule.
In the last third of the 20th century, however, that pattern changed. By 2000, Jews had become as prominent in the political realm as they have been in other aspects of American life. And Jewish participation is accepted for the contributions these activists make, not because of their Jewishness. Nothing could symbolize this trend more cogently than the nomination of Joseph Lieberman for vice president in 2000 and the national reaction to his candidacy. [Lieberman says]:
Although politics was not exactly a Jewish profession, individual Jews did throw themsleves into the democratic process. Some were traditional politicians; others machine politicians. Many more, such as Emma Goldman and the radicals of the early 20th century, were inspired by the ideal that they had a duty to repair the world—Tikkun Olam.[This book] provides brief biographical sketches for more than 400 Jews who have played prominent roles in American political life. The roster provides much of the basic information that we felt was previously lacking in one place.
Many reasons account for the broader representation of Jews in American civic life today. The forces of antisemitism have been relegated to the extreme margins of society, the principle of meritocracy has increasingly opened the doors of opportunity. Moreover, the idealism and purpose that were spawned by the movements for civil rights, opposition to the war in Vietnam, environmentalism, and other causes drew many Jewish Americans into the political arena. Jews are admonished tp help perfect the world by the ancient wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon, who tells us, “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdaw from it.”
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