On a cold afternoon at Brooklyn College, just miles from where he grew up in a rent-controlled apartment in New York, Sen. Bernie Sanders launched his bid for the White House in 2020 by promising to transform the nation and bring people together under the banner of political revolution.
The message by Sanders, 77, was more personal than during his 2016 campaign, which he lost to then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but maintained its fiery language calling for economic, social, and racial justice.
Sanders elevated his criticisms of the country’s billionaire culture that thrives on wealth and income disparity, the military-industrial complex, the for-profit prison industry, Wall Street, and a slew of other powerful actors, including unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump.
“We’re not going to concede one state to Donald Trump,” Sanders, who announced last month that he would seek the Democratic nomination for president, said in a 37-minute speech. The senator called Trump “the most dangerous president in modern American history.” “This campaign is going to end all of that,” he said.
A Sanders administration, he added, would be based “on justice, on economic justice, on social justice, on racial justice, and on environmental justice.”
“We will no longer tolerate the greed of corporate America and the billionaire class,” he said.
Sanders warned the for-profit private healthcare industry that, “You can spend all the money you want against us, [but] we will have a Medicare for All single-payer system.”
On labor and education, Sanders promised to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour and to make it easier for workers to join unions. University tuition should be free, he added, while vowing to work to lower the “outrageous level of student debt in this country.”
On the environment, Sanders noted that, “Every person in this country has a moral responsibility to make sure the planet that we leave our children and grandkids is a planet that is healthy and habitable.”
Sanders promised to curb the country’s prison industrial complex and provide legitimate justice reform that would “end the national embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other country on earth.” Instead, the Vermont senator said his administration would invest in jobs and education.
“No more private prisons,” he said. “No more profiteering from locking people up. No more war on drugs that has destroyed so many lives. No more keeping people in jail because they are too poor to afford cash bail.”
He offered to pass comprehensive immigration reform and to create a path toward citizenship for those who are in the country, and legal status for the 1.8 million people who are eligible for the DACA program. For migrants seeking asylum, he promised “a humane border policy.”
“The United States will no longer snatch babies from the arms of their mothers,” he said, referring to the Trump administration’s family separation policy that has ripped thousands of children from their parents and torn families apart.
For America’s 1% and large corporations, Sanders warned they would receive no more tax breaks and would be required to “start paying your fair share of taxes.”
Targeting the president, Sanders noted that Trump “wants to divide us up based on the color of our skin, based on where we were born, based on our gender, based on our religion or our sexual orientation. What we are about is doing exactly the opposite: We’re going to bring our people together.”
“Together, we will transform this country,” he added.
He also took a swipe at Trump’s former reality TV show The Apprentice, saying that he didn’t grow up in a family that thought it entertainment to tell people, “You’re fired.”
He took a jab at trust fund kids (like the Trumps, for example), noting that Sanders received an allowance of only about 25 cents a day when he was young. His speech was clearly aimed at the nation’s workers, both urban and rural.
He promised a federal jobs guarantee so that every American would have the opportunity to work. In urban areas, he promised to fight gentrification and boost affordable housing; in rural areas, he promised quality jobs so that those fleeing or struggling in small-town America would have a reason to stay. He said he would “end the decline of rural America” and reopen shuttered rural hospitals.
Other progressive promises he made included decriminalizing marijuana possession, expunging arrest records for marijuana possession, addressing the epidemic of gun violence through “common sense gun safety legislation,” ending the racial disparity of wealth and income, stopping voter suppression, and protecting women’s rights to control their own bodies.
Sanders’ not-so-secret weapon to accomplish all of these promises: “the people.” That is, he added, as long as “we do not allow Trump and his friends to divide us up.”
On Sunday, Sanders will head to Selma, AL, to commemorate the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” civil rights march, and then to Chicago for a rally.