JAMES CALABRESI ’20
Last Tuesday night, after the world had collectively stopped spinning with the Oscar envelope-gate fiasco and then re-started again at the raucous festivities of Mardi Gras, President Trump gave a joint address to members of Congress and to the world. While the address itself was praised by many, kudos to that speechwriter, an even more interesting event occurred on Tuesday night: the so-called ‘Democratic Response’ made by former governor Steve Beshear to the country. Beshear, oddly set in a diner full of silent guests, started his speech awkwardly, saying, “I’m a proud democrat but first and foremost I’m a proud Republican and Democrat and mostly American”.
The rest of his speech included sound bites about healthcare and refugees, with one strong statement directed towards President Trump, saying, “real leaders strengthen, they unify, they pardon, and they offer real solutions, instead of ultimatums and blame”. While this could have been a good response, it wasn’t. Nine minutes of scripted talking points and by an ousted 72-year-old Democratic governor is most certainly the wrong way to go. Democrats need to look to the future and offer bold alternatives to the Republicans. One senator, while not a Democrat, is doing just what needs to be done.
Bernie Sanders has stolen the hearts of the millennial generation, and for good reason. Immediately following President Trump’s address, Sanders took to Facebook live to give his response to Trump’s many claims and promises. In scathing fashion, Senator Sanders eviscerated what pundits foolishly called the best joint address to Congress ever. Starting off strong, Sanders reminded us that it was really what Trump didn’t say that we should worry about. When the President chooses to ignore the struggles of senior citizens, over half of whom don’t have enough money to retire, his priorities are most certainly in the wrong place, so the argument goes. Going back to some of his traditional and popular opinions, Sanders mentioned the Citizens United case which allows millionaires to buy elections, along with the institutional failure that has allowed the widest financial gap between the rich and the middle class since the 1920s. Gaining momentum, with Facebook live reaction hearts flooding across the screen, Sanders kept it at; “Yes, we must support the hard work of men and women in police departments, in sheriff departments all across the country”, starts Sanders, “but we must end also the disgrace of having more people in jail than any country on earth”.
Next, taking the unpopular stance of praising Trump, Sanders agreed with a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill for the country, saying that he has been fighting for similar action for years. However, said Sanders, tax breaks for large corporations, which President Trump has already promised, are not the way to move if we want to realistically fund such programs. Next, Sanders said that he found it hard not to laugh during the joint address when Trump mentioned that he wants ‘to promote’ solar and wind initiatives, as he had taken action on the very same day to roll back Obama-era water regulations that help protect from fossil fuel pollutants.
On the last leg of a brilliant impromptu speech, Sanders mentioned the Town Halls that have been sweeping the nation wherein vocal support for Obamacare was legion. Building on the support for healthcare from ordinary Americans, Sanders said that we should “join the rest of the industrialized world in guaranteeing healthcare to all as a right”, after which he thanked the audience with “have a great evening” and his typical frown.
Since his speech, Sanders’ Facebook video has garnered more than eight million views, with 210,000 positive reactions (likes or hearts) and only 7,000 negatives (the anger emoji).
Meanwhile, Beshear’s response from the PBS and ABC videos on YouTube garnered about 100,000 views, with almost a 2 to 1 margin of dislikes to likes. Even though Senator Sanders on Chuck Todd’s show himself said it was important to have a representative from the Kentucky-West Virginia area speak to constituents, especially on the issue of healthcare, it is clear that the future of this party does not lie with old ideas, but rather with new ones.
One way that Democrats can move forward is by fighting no matter what the cost. Take the example of two recent special election races in Connecticut. Before these elections, the State Senate was split 18-18 in a deadlock. Therefore, if Democrats wanted to flip the Senate blue again, they would have had to win both elections. The more difficult race to win featured a race that was easily split on one issue- campaign finance reform. With a swelling of support from an independent organization, along with local democrats like the Trinity Democrats club, and yours truly, callers and canvassers alike hit the streets and telephone lines to try to make an impact.
While the Democrat, Greg Cava, ultimately lost the race 55% to 45%, the efforts of these grassroots locals managed to reduce the loss dramatically from the last time Cava had run in this hyper-conservative district, when he lost 67% to 33% in November.
This is the same energy and authenticity that Sanders showed in his response to President Trump’s joint address. Now is the time for Democrats to embrace these young, passionate members who believe strongly in finance reform or climate change or single payer health care. Democrats, this is the way forward, you can embrace us or be replaced by us, the choice is yours.