Transcript: Sen. Bernie Sanders’s speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on April 12, 2014 – Part 12

Part 12 – Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on April 12, 2014:

Question:
…Why are the Democrats so passive? Laying down already, almost conceding that we’re going to lose the Senate, it’s going to be taken over by Mitch McConnell and his right-wing hacks? Why are we letting this happen? You talked about 45,000 dying every year from not being able to afford medical care. That’s 3 jumbo jets equivalent crashing every week. If 3 jets or 150 crashed a year, people would stop flying. They’d pay attention to that. Most American people don’t know there are 45,000 dead. Most American people don’t know that a guy named Bill McGuire, who ran UnitedHealthcare in Chicago, when he walked out the door took $1.8 billion with him…People don’t know these things. They’d be pissed if they did.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
Let me answer your question in two respects. Here’s what my view is that’s happening politically. I talked about the Republicans. In Vermont, you may know, we’ve had a long proud history of Republican Governors and Senators…We’ve had moderate Republicans in the Senate, in the House, and government. Those moderate Republicans today could not get into the door of today’s right-wing Republican Party. So you see, politically, the Republican Party have been moved from a kind of a center-right party to a right-wing party.

What about the Democrats? Well, if you look at the Democratic Party, look at what Harry Truman talked about in 1948. Truman, as you may recall, was considered then to be a conservative Democrat from Missouri. Conservative Democrat. Read what he has to say; there are very few Democrats who will talk in his language today. The Democratic Party has moved from a center-left party, focused on the American working class, to a centrist party which sadly – and it has to be admitted and anyone who doesn’t know it should know it – also receives a lot of corporate and big money as well.

So I agree with you. Believe we have caucuses. I’m an Independent. I caucus with the Democrats, and I rant and rave on this issue that the Democrats have got to stand with the working class of this country, and they’ve got to have the guts to take on big money.

But the other point that I would make – there are more good Democrats out there working really hard than you know. But they don’t get into the media terribly often. They’re not going to get on ABC, CBS, and NBC talking about the important issues, and that speaks to the first point that the questioner made about how do we open up the media to different points of view.

Question:
…I was so happy to hear your words on the centrality of campaign finance reform and about your amendment. But even before Citizens United was decided, we were in a mess with campaign finance, and can’t we go farther and reverse the Buckley v. Valeo decision and restore the right of the people to limit campaign funding? Also it’s not just corporations – to limit the right of wealthy individuals to control elections?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
The answer is yes. I mean, that’s what –

Question:
But how?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
That’s what public funding of elections is about. I mean, public funding of elections – people say, “Oh, my goodness, tax dollars are being used in election.” Well, I think that makes a lot more sense when we limit the amount than to have billionaires buy elections.

And what we’re talking about – and it’s hard stuff that we’ve got to figure it out. How do you create a situation where a serious candidate who has support – not everybody can jump up – can then run an election knowing that he or she has a certain amount of money – enough money to get the word out – without having to spend half his or her life raising money?

By the way, one of the other dangerous things that this Citizens United decision does – the other side of it is that the good guys have to keep up. And I will tell you – and again, it’s not great secret – in Washington, in the House, you have candidates, members of Congress not worrying about unemployment or education. They’re spending half their lives trying to raise money in order to compete. It’s a terrible, terrible situation.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
…Our right-wing friends today tell us the major and the reason they have to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is because of the deficit. Right? That’s the reason.

How did we get into this deficit situation? Does anybody remember that when Clinton left office in 2000, this country was running a significant surplus? [Applause] And the economists then were projecting that that surplus would only increase in years to come.

So what happened? We went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now I voted against the war in Iraq…but does anybody here recall that all of those guys who are just so anxious to get into that war – do you remember any discussion about what it would do to the deficit, how do we pay for that war? “Oh, we forgot. Geez. Just slipped our mind.” We didn’t pay for those wars, which would end up costing $3 to $6 trillion, and then we gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy, and passed the Medicare Part D written by the drug companies and so forth.

…Military spending. Everybody agrees terrorism is a serious – in my view, terrorism is serious. We need a strong defense. But there is something a little whacky when the United States is spending almost as much as the entire rest of the world on defense.

In France and in Germany, they got health care for old people, their kids get free education, and we pay the military bill. Maybe we want to think about that as well. [Applause]

Question:
…I wonder if you’d care to comment on the natural gas industry and exports.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
Well, I’d tell you one area that we have been – do a lot of people use propane here? Propane gas prices have shot up. Very serious problem. And in fact, we wrote to the Commerce Department asking them to stop the export because here you have people in Vermont, New Hampshire seeing a huge increase and we’re exporting our product all over the world. So I would suggest that we take care of people here before we export it. [Applause]

Question:
…My question to you is I am appalled that fact that we elect our Congress people and Senators to Washington to work for the people when in fact they spend at least 70% of their time as you had mentioned on the phones trying to raise money. What about the people and not just the politics.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
That is the point that I made a moment ago. I don’t if it’s 70% and it varies. Some will say that’s high. But I’ve got to tell you. Every, you know, the Republicans do it, the Democrats do it. They go to the offices in Washington and they get on the phone. Here’s the problem that you have and it gets to the issue of campaign finance. Look, if you knew – you know, you were a senator – and you knew an unlimited amount of money is going to come into defeat you. What do you do? What’s your natural response? You’d have to raise money in response.

And what the Koch brothers and all these guys have made is a very bad situation much worse. Much. We have to stop it, and that’s why I spend so much time talking about the need of campaign finance reform and overturning Citizens United and, in fact, moving to public funding of elections.

But your point is it’s not just the fact that we have so many 30 second ads. It’s you elect people to do your work. And I got to tell you in both parties, they are distracted and it’s understandable. You know, if somebody was coming into your state and you were a Senator and you know they’re going to spend $20 million, what would you be doing? You’d be on the phone and you would not be focusing, and well then you lose. And that’s the dilemma and that’s why we need to change the system. [Applause]

Question:
…How does the self-serving attitude of Congress get changed to where us as the common folk are heard more than themselves?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
Good. Again, I think it gets back to a simple point. You have a Congress right now largely dependent on corporate money. They’re not staying up nights worrying about you when they are getting their funding from millionaires and billionaires. Therefore, they worry about that agenda and not your agenda.

Let me give you some examples…I’m Chairman of the Veterans Committee. We have introduced the most comprehensive veterans legislation introduced in 20 years that would go a long way to deal with many of the very serious problems facing the veterans community. And you know what? It’s supported by the American Legion, the DAV, VFW, the Vietnam vets, Iraq, Afghanistan vets. All of the veterans organizations. We brought it to the floor – and that’s a whole another story because most of you, most Americans think it takes 51 votes to win; it doesn’t. In an unprecedented way, the Republicans have used filibuster after filibuster. It takes 60 votes. You know how many Republican votes I got for a bill that would improve life for disabled vets in the original markup? I got two. Now, I’m working on three more. Happy to say that every member of the Democratic caucus. I need three more.

But to answer your question, what we need. This is what a political – look, it’s not easy stuff but you have got to bring your representatives all over the country in. You’ve got to have your agenda. What is your agenda? And if they’re not voting for your agenda, if they’re not supporting your ideas, you tell them, “Have a nice life, but you’re not getting re-elected.” That’s what it’s about, and I don’t mean to say it’s easy – it’s not. But that’s what I mean about building a strong grassroots movement that elects good people and holds them accountable.

Question:
…I think we’re entrenched in 19th century thinking about the economy. Nothing seems to improve. It just sits there, and people seemed to be satisfied. People I’ve tried to engage in political conversation look panic stricken; they just don’t want to get into it. What is that going to take for somebody on the left?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
People are not satisfied and that’s just not correct. People are frustrated. People are angry. People may not know how to go forward.

And I have to say for Karl Rove, Koch brothers, and all these guys, they have done an amazingly good job in dividing people up, in dividing people up, you know among gun issue and the abortion issue and the gay issue. That’s what they do!

And what our job is to do exactly the opposite to bring people together…[Applause]

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