Monday morning, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — the most popular politician in the United States, by one recent poll — spoke at the Global Center for Health Innovation.
He outlined key issues on his progressive agenda (these were dissident ideas, he said, ideas that Americans don’t like to talk about), and thrashed the early Presidency of Donald Trump.
“My greatest fear,” said Sanders, echoing a theme of his presidential campaign “is that we are moving rapidly toward an oligarchy.”
Sanders spoke of massive wealth inequality in the United States and the panoply of issues stemming therefrom: the degrees to which political campaigns are financed by corporations, a villainous pharmaceutical industry, climate change denial in the service of fossil fuel companies.
He also highlighted the ways in which President Trump has drifted from his campaign rhetoric about being a “different kind of Republican” who would “stand up to the establishment.” Sanders placed Trump’s attempts to abolish the estate tax, which affects only the top two-tenths of one percent of Americans, and his aggressive efforts to cut social programs for working people in stark contrast to campaign promises.
“The job of progressives is not just to oppose Trump's reactionary agenda,” said Sanders. “In addition, what we need to do is bring forth a progressive agenda that addresses the needs of working families, an agenda that has a very different moral compass to that of President Trump.”
Sanders admitted that working for a more progressive agenda was a challenge. But he vowed that he was working every day, “with great pain and angst,” to reform a Democratic party that he alleged persuasively has lost its way.
In a lively question and answer period — it was the longest line for questions we’ve ever seen at a City Club event — Sanders touched on issues of political activism, gerrymandering, the national Democratic agenda, his support for a Pro-Life candidate in Nebraska, and even the Q deal.
“I don’t want to get too involved in the local issue,” said Senator Sanders, in response to the question posed by the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, “but I will tell you this. You have, all over this country, in many cases billionaires, people who own professional teams, who are going to taxpayers to ask for money. I don’t like that idea. That smacks to me of corporate welfare. I think billionaires can fund their own endeavors, and when you talk about a city which has blight, which has educational problems, I think what government should be doing is investing in the needs of working people and low-income people.”
The early part of Sanders’ speech, about the perils of wealth inequality and the inordinate influence of money in politics, could be read as a direct (though accidental) condemnation of the Q deal. Later, in a question about what young people can do to get involved in politics, Sanders referenced basketball explicitly.
“I understand you take basketball very seriously here,” the Senator said, referencing tonight’s NBA playoff game against the Raptors. “But Democracy is not the LeBron James show. It's you.”