Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mr. Sanders’ blows to Washington:
The Speech reviewed

The war on the American middle class has had its chroniclers in recent years, almost always after some new economic insult was already a fact of life. The crisis of the economy has usually been explored in various books from a postmortem perspective, examining the assault on everyday people with a focus on the Wall Streeters and corporate barons whose relationship with lobbyists and Congress is as much the cause of the problem as it is the substance of the books explaining the problem.

Last year, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont, took on the more challenging task: examining Congress’ role in the United States’ economic woes from the perspective of a congressman, and doing it before one of its most pivotal votes. Sanders stood one December morning on the floor of the United States Senate and began a speech against extension of the Bush-era tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, and the potential compromise of the integrity of the Social Security Trust Fund.

More than eight hours later, the senator had effectively altered the tone of the debate on the matter. What had been largely an argument of abstractions and ideals became accessible to ordinary wage-earning Americans. Millions of them watched the speech live on C-SPAN; others followed online, coming to the Senate Web site in numbers big enough to crash the servers.

Sanders’ was destined to be a losing effort; the gravitational forces of the White House, a Democratic-majority Senate inclined to accede to White House requests; and a House of Representatives newly stocked with Tea Party Republicans eager to throw their weight around overcame the objections of Sanders and other Democrats in the House and Senate. President Obama signed the extension of $858 billion in Bush-era tax cuts into law one week later, and did so in the face of a $13.8 trillion national debt. …

But “The Speech” (whose author’s proceeds go to charitable nonprofits in Vermont) succeeds in being what we so rarely hear from our elected officials: a clear, reasoned, impassioned, populist argument expressed in a comprehensive way. The indefatigable Sanders manages to cut through the clutter of emotion and identity, appealing to his colleagues with both an argument of fierce practicality and a shoutout to the better angels of their nature.

Read the rest at PopMatters

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