Rallying for Pennsylvania congressional candidates Summer Lee and John Fetterman in Philadelphia on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders ripped U.S. billionaires for pumping record-breaking sums of cash into the midterm elections in an effort to sway the results in their favor.
“It is not just Trump and his allies who are trying to undermine American democracy,” Sanders (I-Vt.) told the crowd gathered at Franklin Music Hall Sunday night. “You are living right now under a corrupt political system which allows billionaires to buy elections.”
The senator pointed specifically to the AIPAC-founded, billionaire-funded super PAC spending big to defeat Lee in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Sanders also noted that billionaire Rick Caruso, a former Republican running to become the next mayor of Los Angeles, has poured $100 million of his own fortune into the California race.
“Billionaires are saying, ‘Hey, we own the country, we may as well own the political system, and I’m going to elect you and I’m going to defeat you.’ That ain’t democracy, that’s oligarchy,” said Sanders, who argued only a massive surge of voter turnout and transformative legislative action will be enough to counter billionaires’ influence.
According to an analysis released last week by Americans for Tax Fairness, U.S. billionaires who have seen their wealth skyrocket during the coronavirus pandemic have spent nearly $900 million on federal elections this cycle, with significantly more going to Republican candidates than Democrats.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that “political spending on the 2022 midterm elections will shatter records at the state and federal levels, with much of it from largely unregulated super PACs financed with enormous checks written mainly by Republican megadonors.”
“The American campaign finance system increasingly mirrors American society, with hundreds of thousands of small donors trying to keep pace with a billionaire class whose spending appears nimble and bottomless,” the Times continued. “While both parties have their billionaires, Republicans have many more. Of the 25 top donors this cycle, 18 are Republican, according to Open Secrets, and they have outspent Democrats by $200 million.”
With billionaires spending massively and election-denying Trump loyalists running for Congress and key positions at the state level, Sanders argued that the November 8 midterms are “about saving the foundations of American democracy.”
“Pennsylvania is one of three or four pivotal states in this country,” the Vermont senator said. “And this election will be close. So I’m asking you now, in the next few days, to do everything you can to vote, get your friends to vote, help elect John Fetterman, help elect Summer Lee, help elect Josh Shapiro, your next governor. And do everything you can to defeat Republican extremism.”
Looking beyond Tuesday’s vote, Sanders said, “Don’t think that it’s all over on Election Day, no matter what happens.”
“Your job is to have a vision,” he continued. “We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. All over this world, people in country after country, people walk into the doctor’s office, they don’t have to take out their wallet, their credit card. All over the world, you have countries in which young people can get a higher education without having to go deeply into debt. People have paid family and medical leave. We can do those things, and we can do more.”
“We can do these things,” Sanders added, “if we have the guts to stand up to corporate greed, to stand up to a billionaire class that wants it all.”