Bernie Sanders is currently serving his second term in the Senate of the United States. He considers himself a democratic socialist and a progressive politician. He rose to fame because of his rather unconventional run for presidency, which he lost in the end against his democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Clinton then lost to the republican candidate Donald Trump, who is the 45th president of the United States.
The book is split in two main parts. While the first part can be seen as a small biography of Bernie Sanders, focusing on his early life, his political career and his run for presidency, the second part focuses on his political agenda and the steps that are necessary to transform the U.S. to a progressive country.
He was born and raised in a small apartment in Brooklyn during World War II. His father’s family was killed by the Nazis because of their Jewish beliefs, while his father could escape from Poland to the States. Even though didn’t consider his family to be poor, they weren’t in a good financial situation either. With nineteen years of age he went to the University of Chicago, where his political views were developing. It was there when he first engaged into politics, campaigning for civil rights, labor, and peace issues. A milestone in his life happened when he and other students of the University participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held his most famous speech “I Have a Dream.”
Although he was engaged in politics, his party career started by an accident. A good friend once took him to a meeting of the Liberty Union Party, a small third party in Vermont. Bernie was intensively participating in the discussion there and in the end was nominated by the participants for running for Senate. This campaign crashed horrible, but can be seen as a starting point of his political career. Against all odds in 1981 he became mayor of Burlington (Vermont) as an Independent. Newspaper were calling this “the story of the decade.” In 1987 Democrats and Republicans put their efforts together to present a common candidate who still lost to Sanders. He later become a member of the House of Representatives in 1990, where he served until 2007, when he became a senator. This makes him the longest-serving Independent in the history of the U.S. Congress.
What were his reasons to run for presidency? First he felt big frustration in many people. They were losing jobs, having to take jobs that were paid less while spending more and more money on attainments and medicines. Poverty was increasing in recent years as was crime. Second Bernie was convinced that both Hillary Clinton and her Republican rivalry were more interested in serving the interests of Wall Street and the superrich than solving the problems many Americans were facing. Third he wanted to transform the U.S. into a progressive country. In his lifetime, due to his and the work done by many people, Vermont turned from one of the most Republican states into one of the most progressive ones in the entire country. Sanders wanted to apply this significant change to the whole country. In the end he lost the race for democratic candidacy by a small margin to Hillary Clinton. Still, this can be seen as noticeable success because in the beginning of his run no one was giving him a chance to even win a single state in the primary.
The second part of the book focuses on Sanders progressive agenda. His main argument is that the country, even though it’s being called a democracy, has turned into an oligarchy. There are a few superrich people who use their financial power to control politics and media. They spend lots of money to lobby politics and thus asserting that only their interests are covered. This leads to a progressing gap between the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. Bernie complains that even the Democrats, once fighting for the interest of the weaker people of the society, are now working for the interests of Wall Street and rich people. This development leads to a slow demise of the social peace between members of the society. More and more people turn away from politics or are becoming protest voters. Only through the establishment of a grassroots movement, bringing change from bottom on up, this wrong development can be stopped.
Some of his claims this movement should include are:
- An income tax reform which helps low and middle incomes while burdening higher incomes
- Ending tax evasions of corporates and superrich people
- A minimum wage of $15, overall more and better paid jobs
- The establishment of a single-payer health care system so that the U.S. are on a level with nearly every other Western country
- Combating climate change, the expansion of renewal energy which would cut emissions while creating a lot of jobs
- Public Colleges and Universities should become tuition-free
- An immigration reform which makes 11 million undocumented people legal citizens so they can’t be abused anymore to do dirty work at absurd low wages
- Improve the situation of millions of people living in precarious situations like veterans, seniors, students or single parents
Our Revolution is a good book covering some of the urgent problems the U.S. is currently facing. The problems are covered by reliable data and facts. But Sanders is not stopping in just criticizing the current situation. Being a politician for most of his adult life, he offers a lot of solutions to solve the problems and to show a path how the U.S. can be turned into a progressive country. On the negative side, the first part of the book is in some parts very long-winded. Sanders mentions a lot of names, places and numbers that are hard to remember and rarely play a major part further in the book. It’s up to debate if all of his political demands are really solving the issues. He also should take into account that if becoming a president, it won’t be possible to realizes all of his claims. There are two major different parties, a system of institutional checks and balances and other obstacles to overcome. He criticizes President Obama for failing to overcome these obstacles, but Sanders would face the same problems if becoming president.
Sanders, Bernie (2016): Our Revolution. A Future to Believe in, Profile Books, London.