Democratic presidential candidates were at the Democratic National Committee’s Summer Meeting on Friday, and Senator Sanders did not shy away from his beliefs in front of the Democratic Party’s most powerful players.
After a brief introduction by the Democratic National Committee’s Vice Chairman and President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs Ray Buckley that highlighted Senator Sanders’ long career in activism and politics, Sanders addressed the crowd of mostly Democrat elites with a strong message: end establishment politics or lose the election.
“Republicans did not win the mid-term election in November. We lost that election. They didn’t win, we lost because voter turnout was abysmally and embarrassingly low, and millions of working people, young people, and people of color gave up on politics as usual and they stayed home,” the fiery Sanders told the crowd.
“Let me be as clear as I can be, in my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate or the U.S. House, will not be successful in dozens of governor’s races all across this country unless we generate excitement and momentum and produce a huge voter turnout.”
Sanders went on to say that the needed enthusiasm and turnout would not happen with establishment politics, and stated that the country needs to turn away from establishment economics to solve the issue of income inequality.
Senator Sanders stated that a political movement was necessary to “tell corporate America, and the wealthiest people in this country that they will start to pay their fair share of taxes.” He then addressed the need to end trade policies such as the Transpacific Partnership, and a financial system that is held accountable and that invests in America.
Touching on jobs and wages, he called once again for a raise of minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour, calling the current federal minimum wage a “starvation wage”, before addressing the need to provide twelve weeks of paid medical and family leave.
Sanders called for a jobs program that would be aimed at rebuilding our “crumbling infrastructure”, and stated that real unemployment, including youth unemployment, is much higher than the official unemployment rate.
The independent Senator from Vermont then turned towards campaign finance reform, and drew cheers and chants as he called for a grassroots movement to “tell the Koch brothers and the billionaire class that they will not continue to buy elections.”
He then repeated that he will not nominate anyone to the Supreme Court unless their first order of business is to overturn Citizens United, and addressed the need for publically funded elections and the end of voter suppression.
Sanders stated firmly that the Keystone XL pipeline must be defeated as part of America’s need to move from fossil fuels to a sustainable future, pointing out that climate change is real and is man-made.
He called for an end to institutional racism and reform for “a very, very broken criminal justice system.” Sanders said that we must not accept more deaths of unarmed black people by police, and listed the names of many of the victims of such cases over recent years, including Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many others.
“We must not continue being the country with more people in jail than any other! And, the people in jail are disproportionally people of color.”
The Vermont Senator called for comprehensive immigration reform and a “path to citizenship.” Then, perhaps as a shot against his Republican opponents, called the idea of “somehow round[ing] up millions of people in the dead of the night,” racist and un-American.
Sanders was sure to remind the crowd that he was a Senator and former Congressman that voted against the war in Iraq, calling it “one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of this country.”
He reminded the crowd of his backing of President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, stating he “will stand with President Obama in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but will do it in a way that prevents war.”
Sanders concluded his speech by calling for voters to “think big” and not be divided by wedge issues. He reminded the crowd of his fight to expand Social Security benefits and improve veteran support.
Sanders called for the country to stand together, and stated that by standing together, there is nothing the people of America cannot accomplish.
Senator Sanders did not mention the debate schedule during his speech, although fellow Democratic nominee Michael O’Malley spent a significant portion of his speech highlighting the need for more debates.
Sanders was the last of the presidential candidates to speak Friday, as they were schedule in alphabetical order by last name.
After the presidential candidates had concluded their speeches, a motion was brought forth to increase the number of debates, but DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz stated that there “is no provision available to have the DNC, by motion, increase or decrease or adopt criteria for those debates.”
The motion was dismissed.