We’re in a pivotal moment in American history. We cannot retreat

By: Bernie Sanders; The Guardian

Clearly, our job is not just to re-elect Biden. It’s much more than that.

In 1776, Americans, living in a British colony, put their lives on the line and fought for independence from the king of England. They wrote the strongest democratic constitution that had ever been written as they created a new nation. That was a pivotal moment in American history.

In 1861, civil war broke out in the United States and more than 600,000 Americans died in the war between the states. Slavery was abolished. Over the ensuing decades, racist forces regained power and established an apartheid form of government throughout the old confederacy. That was a pivotal moment in American history.

In 1929, Wall Street collapsed. The United States and much of the world experienced the Great Depression. Unemployment rose to 25% and millions of Americans descended into economic desperation. In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and the federal government’s role in addressing the needs of working people was transformed. That was a pivotal moment in American history.

In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and an unprepared United States was forced to mobilize and fight a world war on two fronts: Hitler in Europe and Japan in Asia. The future of democracy and the prevention of barbarism in the world was at stake. That was a pivotal moment in American history.

Today, in 2024, our country once again faces a pivotal moment in American history. The crises facing us are enormous. The consequences if we fail are unthinkable.

As the nation moves rapidly toward oligarchy, the billionaire class exerts enormous influence over the economic and political life of the nation. While the rich become much richer, 60% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and real, inflation-adjusted wages for the average US worker have actually declined over the last 50 years. Never before have the 1% done so well, or enjoyed so much power.

Our political system is corrupt. Thanks to the disastrous Citizens United supreme court decision, billionaires and their Super Pacs are able to spend hundreds of millions to elect or defeat candidates they target. As a result, more than 90% of House elections and more than 80% of Senate elections are won by the candidate who spends the most money.

Our life expectancy and birth rate are in decline. Despite spending far more per capita on a broken healthcare system, the average American now lives 77.5 years – 18 months less than in 2019 – and the lowest of any wealthy nation on earth. Further, our total births last year fell to 3.59 million, the lowest level ever recorded.

The climate crisis threatens the very future of the planet. The last 10 years have been the 10 warmest years on record. 2023 was by far the hottest year in recorded history and 2024 is on track to be even hotter. Unless there is a huge reduction in carbon emissions we will continue to see more drought, more flooding, more forest fires, more extreme weather disturbances, more mass migrations and more deaths as a result of the climate crisis.

Artificial intelligence and robotics are radically transforming our society, causing enormous anxiety among workers. Most of the jobs we have today will likely not be here in 15 years. Will the increased productivity that AI brings simply make corporations wealthier as they discard their employees, or will workers benefit? The wellbeing of tens of millions depends upon that answer.

The basic human rights that women have struggled to win are under severe attack. Since the supreme court’s disastrous decision overturning Roe v Wade, 14 states have passed near-total abortion bans, some with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Will the war against women continue? Will women once again, be reduced to second-class citizenship?

The US now spends almost 1tn a year on the military, more than the next 10 countries combined. This is more than all federal funding for food, housing and education. Tens of billions of those dollars are currently supporting the horrific war in Gaza waged by the rightwing extremist Israeli government of Netanyahu.

So. That’s where we are, and it’s not a pretty picture. People feel hopeless. They are exhausted. They are worried about the kind of future that awaits their kids and grandkids.

We are in the midst of another pivotal moment in American history. How do we respond?

First, we cannot simply turn away from the painful and complex realities that we face and bury our heads in the sand. We cannot stop reading the news or turn off the TV. The world is what it is. It is a mess. And the situation is not going to improve unless we do the hard work required.

Second, we must be actively involved in the 2024 national elections – the most consequential in our lifetimes.

Yes. I know. Biden is not popular and many progressives, including me, strongly disagree with his policies regarding Israel and this disastrous war in Gaza.

But, let’s be clear. Biden is not running against God. He is running against Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in American history whose second term, if he is re-elected, will be worse than his first. And, on his worst day, Biden is a thousand times better than Trump.

Are you concerned about the extreme income and wealth inequality we are experiencing, and the decline of the middle class? Trump wants to give huge tax breaks to billionaires and, as president, appointed viciously anti-union officials to high office. Biden, on the other hand, is the first president to ever walk a picket line – in support of striking UAW workers. He has helped create millions of decent paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in manufacturing. Biden has also forgiven the debts of millions of struggling young people.

Are you concerned about the right of women to control their own bodies? Trump brags about how he appointed three supreme court justices who helped overturn Roe v Wade. Biden is solidly pro-choice.

Are you concerned about the climate crisis? Donald Trump thinks climate change is a “hoax”. A Trump victory will tell the entire world to continue their support for fossil fuels, and the planet we leave our kids and future generations will be increasingly unhealthy. Biden, on the other hand, has helped invest more money into sustainable energy and energy efficiency than any president in history.

And if you have problems with Biden’s position on Israel and the war in Gaza, Trump’s position is far worse. Biden has at least restricted some powerful bombs from going to the Israel and has been critical of Netanyahu. Trump and his Republican colleagues are “all in” for the massive destruction of the Palestinian people.

Oh. And there’s one other thing. And that’s the small matter of retaining our democracy. Biden is a traditional American politician who believes in democracy, free elections and the right of dissent. That’s not what Trump believes. He and his supporters have spent the last four years undermining faith in the rule of law and our democratic form of government. He is weighing pardons for more than 800 of his supporters who attacked the Capitol in the January 6 insurrection. And his advisers are drawing up plans to invoke the Insurrection Act to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.

Clearly, our job is not just to re-elect Biden. It’s much more than that. We must defend the many progressives that we have elected to the House, some of whom who face significant financial opposition from Aipac and other special interest Pacs. And we must elect more strong progressive candidates who are on the ballot to the House, and state and local governments.

We must work in coalition with all those who understand that we must do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump and his extreme rightwing Republican party, not just because he is “worse”, but because nothing less than the future of our democracy is at stake in this election.

Further, we must demand that Biden and the Democrats begin campaigning on a truly progressive agenda that addresses the needs of the working families of our country.

Yes. Healthcare is a human right.

Yes. The billionaire class must start paying their fair share of taxes.

Yes. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage and make it easier for workers to join unions.

Yes. We must seriously address the housing crisis, which exists in almost every state in the country.

Yes. We must strengthen public education in our country and make higher education available to all regardless of income.

Bottom line: we must have the guts to take on and defeat a powerful and greedy ruling class and create a government which works for all, not just the few. The path forward is not easy. But now is not the time for despair or cynicism.

During this pivotal moment, we must do what Americans have always done when change is needed: we must stand together, organize and fight for the country we know we can become.