Self-described Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders launched his campaign for the presidency today on public land he fought for in the 1980s, “while spectators munch Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the free, non-ticketed event in Waterfront Park,” the Burlington Free Press explains.
Sanders was introduced by, among others, environmentalist and climate change activist, Bill McKibben. “What you see is what you get,” with Sanders, said McKibben, before quoting Woody Guthrie: “This land was made for you and me.” He went on to cite the Koch brothers as the opposition. Others present as part of the “hometown” launch include:
Mango Jam, a Burlington-based Zydeco, Cajun and Caribbean band; Jenny Nelson, Vermont Dairy Farmer and representative; Nicole Nelson, Burlington-based blues and soul singer; Donna Bailey, executive director of the Addison County Parent/Child Center (no organizational endorsement exists); Bill McKibben, author, educator, and environmentalist from Middlebury, Vt.; Mike O’Day, Communications Workers of America district vice president; Brenda Torpy, Champlain Housing Trust chief executive officer (no organizational endorsement exists); and Ben and Jerry Greenfield founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (no organization endorsement exists) will all speak or perform at the kickoff.
Brenda Torpy introduced Ben and Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream fame, applauding them for their progressive ideals.
Announcing his candidacy and his “Agenda for America,” he spoke of it being an emotional day for him, thanking supporters who have been with him “for years,” as well as his family.
Said Sanders, in a pre-released text:
Today, with your support and the support of millions of people throughout this country, we begin a political revolution to transform our country economically, politically, socially and environmentally. Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that: ‘Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super PACs and their lobbyists.
Vowing to take his campaign directly to the people, he said he will visit Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota this week as a start. He also said he’s never run a negative political ad in his life and his campaign will not be driven by gossip or “reckless political attacks.” He went on to bash the so called “one percent.”
Saying the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision has corrupted American politics, he went on to cite a number of large Republican donors, including the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, but failed to mention any high-profile Democrat donors, or the much-in-the-news Clinton Foundation.
Sanders then went on to cite climate change as a key issue, while deriding the fossil fuel industry. He then segued to what he called the lack of faith in the political process on the part of many Americans – vowing to restore it and “turn the country around” with a “simple, straight-forward progressive agenda.”
That agenda begins with “jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs,” said Sanders, suggesting rebuilding America’s infrastructure would be key to that effort.” He also criticized America’s trade policy, including current efforts by Barack Obama. Sanders called for a national minimum wage of $15 an hour, as a “living wage.” He also called for “pay equity” for women workers – as well as paid sick leave and guaranteed vacation time for every worker in America.
From there, he went on to attack corporations, Wall Street and “the billionaire class,” claiming they need to begin to pay their fair share of taxes. The speech basically summarized the agenda available on his website, including the public funding of elections and moving away from fossil fuels. He also called the Affordable Care Act a modest gain, while many Americans remain without health care. He said America must come to view it as a “right,” with a Medicare-like, single-payer program.
He also lambasted Republicans for their views on budgeting and called for the expansion of Social Security, Head Start and other social welfare programs. He also vowed to fight to make tuition at all public colleges free, while reducing the rates on student loans for private institutions.
He then said as president he would defend this nation as president but do it responsibly, calling for an international coalition led by Muslim nations to defeat ISIS. He also said he was against any “never-ending war in the Middle East,” citing his vote against the Iraq War. The event closed to the strains of communist sympathizer Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
Tuesday, Sanders plans to travel to New Hampshire, before moving on to Iowa on Thursday.