by Senator Bernie Sanders
As this year comes to a close, let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy new year. I also want to thank you for the ongoing help that you have given me, and for your efforts in the many struggles that we have waged together. Today, I ask for your continued support.
I am more than aware that, in the current political climate, many people feel disillusioned about the future. That is completely understandable. We have just had a midterm election in which 63 percent of the people didn’t vote, some very reactionary candidates won election and Republicans are taking control of the U.S. Senate. But, as I have said many times, despair is not an option – not if you have kids or grandchildren and want a decent future for them, not if you love this country and understand its potential to lead the world in so many ways.
The struggle for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and world peace must not be considered an option for us, it is a necessity that must be carried forward. It’s what we must do. The future of this country and, in fact, the future of our planet depend upon that.
Please don’t forget. Real change does not occur without struggle, and real change does not happen overnight. As Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us; “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Incredibly brave people, for centuries, have put their lives on the line, died and suffered, for a more just economic and political system – and their efforts resulted, over time, in huge and almost unthinkable victories.
Fifty years ago, given the history of this country, very few people would have believed that in 2008 an African American could have been elected President of the United States, and then re-elected in 2012. But it happened.
Forty years ago, when only a handful of women held important political positions and most girls never considered the possibility of doing “man’s work,” very few people would have believed that there would be states in this country where all the major elected officials would be women, and that millions of women would now be working at jobs that women never held before. But it happened.
Thirty years ago, when children born with disabilities were hidden by their parents or institutionalized, very few people would have believed that kids with disabilities would be mainstreamed into public school classrooms all across this country, and that there would be strong laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled Americans. But it happened.
Twenty years ago, when right-wing candidates won elections by attacking gay rights, very few people would have believed that by 2014 gay marriage would be legal in conservative states, and that there would be openly gay elected officials in almost every area of public life. But it happened.
My point is simple. Change happens. It happens in ways that we don’t fully understand, and it happens in a timeline that few can predict. But one thing we do understand is that when millions of people stand together and demand it, positive and progressive change can and does happen. We must never give up.
As I reflect upon this coming year, a number of thoughts come to mind:
First and foremost, against an enormous amount of corporate media noise and distraction, it is imperative that we be loud and clear in continuing the fight for our progressive vision. We have got to stay focused on the most important issues facing the American people.
Yes. We make no apologies in stating that the great moral, economic and political issue of our time is the growing level of income and wealth inequality in our country. It is a disgrace to everything this country is supposed to stand for when the top one-tenth of one percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when one family (the Waltons) owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. No. The economy is not sustainable when the middle class continues to disappear and when 95 percent of all new income generated since the Wall Street crash goes to the top one percent.
Yes. We will continue the fight to have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in understanding that health care is a human right of all people, and not a privilege. We will end the current dysfunctional system in which 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and tens of millions more are under-insured. No. Private insurance companies and drug companies should not be making huge profits when we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as the people of any other nation.
Yes. We will fight for a budget that ends corporate tax loopholes and demands that the wealthy and special interests begin paying their fair share of taxes. No. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and when millions of families are struggling economically, we will not support more austerity against the elderly, the children and working families. We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition or affordable housing.
Yes. We believe, in a highly competitive global economy, that quality education should be available to all Americans who have the ability and the desire, from birth through graduate school, regardless of their incomes. We believe that we should be hiring more teachers and qualified pre-school educators, not firing them. No. We do not believe that it makes any sense that young people leave college and graduate school with a very heavy debt burden which many of them carry for decades.
Yes. We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.
Let me conclude by telling you what you already know. This is a very tough moment in American history, and the Big Money interests and their lobbyists in Washington have an unprecedented amount of power.
There is no question but that in the coming year and into the future we will face some extremely difficult battles against them. I have no doubt, however, that if we stand together as brothers and sisters, and are effective in educating and organizing the American people, we will win.
Once again, thank you for your support. I wish you a happy and healthy new year.
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