September 14, 2015

Word: Bernie Sanders at Liberty University

This is the most remarkable speech we've heard in years. Bernie Sanders speaking at the religiously conservative Liberty University argues strongly a point the Progressive Review has long made: build your alliances on issues on which you agree and don't let this power be destroyed by those matters on which you disagree. 

Politico - Bernie Sanders on Monday unapologetically brought his impassioned brand of liberalism to Liberty University—the Christian school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and the site of Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential announcement—with the stated goal of finding common ground.

It was an unlikely venue for Sanders, a Jewish Independent senator from Vermont who has unexpectedly surged in the polls with his fiery talk on not just populist topics but social stances that are deeply at odds with evangelical voters.

And he didn't hold back on Monday morning.

"Let me be very frank. I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you and that we disagree on those issues. I get that," Sanders said. "But I came here today because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse."

Sanders then made a plea to set aside those differences, repeatedly citing scripture lines from the Bible like Matthews 7:12 and Amos 5:24, and to argue that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum need to come together to fight the "massive injustice" of income inequality in the United States.

“You have got to think about the morality of that, the justice of that, and whether or not that is what we want to see in our country,” Sanders said. “In my view, there is no justice when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires while at the same time the United States of America has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth."

The scene was respectful at least and enthusiastic at best throughout the event. Granted, the biggest applause came when David Nasser, Liberty's senior vice president for spiritual development, asked an audience-based question about how Sanders reconciles his support for the underprivileged, while those in the womb are arguably in most need of protection.

But Sanders got plenty of cheers of support for his main message—we must do more to help the financial disadvantaged. Most of his speech was shaped around morality, which he tried to use as a bridge to agree with students here. Sanders, at one point, began ticking off statistics about how as “millions of people are working more hours for abysmally low wages of $7.25, of $8 an hour, $9 an hour” even though “58 percent of all new income generated is going to the top 1 percent.”

He also said that 20 percent of all children—and 40 percent of African-American children—now live in poverty. “How can we, I want you to go into your hearts, how can we talk about morality, about justice, when we turn our backs on the children of our country?"

The talk about racial inequality was a notable part of his remarks, especially after Sanders became a target of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer, as activists sought more attention for the issue of institutional racism. Sanders, however, did appear to raise some eyebrows during the Q&A when asked what he would do bring healing and resolution to racism in the U.S.

He responded that the nation in many ways was created on "racist principles" and then spoke about the progress that has followed the election of President Barack Obama.

“My guess is that probably not everybody here is an admirer or voted for Barack Obama,” Sanders said. “But the point is, in 2008 this country took a huge step forward in voting for a candidate based on his ideas and not the color of his skin.”

But Sanders made sure to emphasize that he came to the school not for the applause, but to have a difficult talk.

“It is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you,” Sanders said, noting the was in Greensboro, North Carolina a day earlier, before an audience of thousands of loud supporters. “That’s not hard to do. That’s what politicians by and large do—we go out and talk to people who agree with us. But it is harder but not less important for us to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue.” 

A question from the audience
'Many agree about protecting billionaires at the expense of children. Many want to know about unborn children in the womb'

Sanders: This is an area where I disagree. it is improper for the government to tell every woman in this country the very difficult choice she has to make on this issue. Many times conservatives say get the government out of life, but on this issue which we are divided. My view is I respect a family that says we are not going to have an abortion. But I would hope that other people respect the painful choice that many women have to make, and don't want the government telling them what to do.

Here is where I hope we have common ground, I have not tried to be partisan in my remarks but I will for a moment. I am a ranking member of the US budget committee. I want to tell you what was in the Republican budget that passed a number of months ago. Check it out. When you talk about issues of children, understand Republican budget threw 20 million people off of healthcare including children. ... At a time when children are going hungry republicans cut millions in funding for feeding children. I don't think that is a moral budget.

More of the speech

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The arguments for choice and immigration reform are similarly unwinnable, that enforcement of the alternative requires a police state. Nativists and pro-lifers apparently want that police state as long as it only impacts women and minorities. Such wedge issues don't have non-technical solutions, and Christians who are indoctrinated into conquering the world aren't going away. Sanders did well to sidestep the issue, but needs to challenge Christians on their abandonment of democracy. If 43% of GOP favor a military coup, these should be required to swear a loyalty oath, at least politicians sworn to defend the constitution. Impracticable perhaps but not an issue to be sidetepped.