Why I Support Sen. Bernie Sanders
Statement by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Sunday, March 8, 2020
There was one central agreement among ALL of the 27 Democratic presidential candidates who originally entered the 2020 field, and that was to defeat Donald Trump. That is still the case and Bernie Sanders has always been in first or second place in virtually every poll that matched Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump.
With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States. Our needs are not moderate. A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path. The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path.
Young people and youth idealism has always been the force that has led to progressive change. It’s true of the modern civil rights movement of which I was a part – I went to jail at age 19 in Greenville, South Carolina trying to use a segregated public library; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was 26-years-old when he assumed a major national leadership role and was only 39 when he was assassinated; young people led the anti-Vietnam war movement; young people led the women’s movement; young people led the LGBTQ movement; young people are leading the environmental movement; and young people are critical to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Democrats cannot win and defeat Donald Trump without inspiring young people to come out and go to the polls in record numbers and there is only one candidate who has the overwhelming support of those under 40-years-old and that’s Bernie Sanders.
There is the issue of the effect that the top of the ticket has on down ticket candidates and I believe Bernie Sanders would have a positive effect on down ticket candidates as a result of his wide- ranging progressive appeal to voters – and he does have the highest favorable rating of all the Democratic candidates. So let us not forget what happened with moderate candidates in the White House in 1994 after a Democratic President Clinton won in 1992 and what happened in 2010 after President Obama won in 2008. During Obama’s time in office Democrats lost over 1,000 seats in Congress, in Governorships and in state houses and state senates. We are not supposed to be the party of Wall Street and big business. We are supposed to be the party of the poor, of diversity, of working class people and of the middle class. It seems Democrat’s recent politics have too often become ONE PARTY of the rich and big business with TWO NAMES – Democrats and Republicans - that didn’t meet the basic needs of our constituents. As a result we wound up with a prevaricating, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-poor, corrupt and lawless demagogue like Donald Trump as our president; a regressive Congress without progressive ideological conviction; and an extreme rightwing Supreme Court; all because neither party has truly represented the legitimate and morally centered interests of the middle class, working families and the poor!
When I ran for president in 1984 and 1988 I ran on a progressive agenda and platform of “Bold Leadership and a New Direction” that advocated a single-payer health care system and Bernie Sanders was one of only three major white politicians who endorsed me - Jim Hightower of Texas and Paul Wellstone of Minnesota were the other two. Bernie Sanders is running on a Medicare-for-All single-payer health care plan.
Joe Biden says Bernie Sander’s Medicare-for-All plan will cost $35 trillion over ten years for covering all Americans with a comprehensive and universal health care plan. The press has not demanded the cost of Biden’s program of reforming the ACA or saying how many Americans will be left without health insurance under Biden’s reform plan. The current number without health insurance under the ACA is 28 million with over 60 million more underinsured. We’re currently spending $4 trillion annually and the last time I checked $4 trillion-times-10-years equals $40 trillion minimum for Biden’s plan, assuming no cost increases under Biden’s essentially continuing private insurance dominated ACA plan. That’s why Sander’s says Biden’s plan will actually cost $50 trillion over 10-years.
When I ran for president I visited Cuba, met with Castro, advocated normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba, and took him to church for the first time during his time in office. Doing all of that did not mean I supported his undemocratic and authoritarian political actions any more than Bernie Sanders does. But the Cuban population is literate and their health care system ranks essentially the same as ours on the World Health Organization’s measurement of health outcomes - 37th and 39th respectively by the United States and Cuba. I’ll let other moderate Democrats defend their historic support of what came before and led to the Castro revolution – Batista!
The other candidates and the media are using loaded code words like they did with me and Barack Obama during our two campaigns to try to scare voters – militant, liberal, leftist, communist. What Sanders (and I) advocate is the “moral center” that is supported by the vast majority of the American people when the issues of raising the minimum wage to $15, Medicare-for-All, child-care, family leave, making the rich and major corporations pay their fair share of taxes, investing in infrastructure, the Green New Deal and other progressive programs are polled. The other candidates and the press are obsessed with negatively identifying Sanders as a democratic socialist, but Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Post Office and public education are some of the most popular programs in America and they are all democratic socialist programs. And just in case the media doesn’t recognize it, the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, is also a democratic socialist institution. So candidates and the media stop the fear mongering and start educating the American people to the social democratic programs and institutions that exist and are taken for granted by most Americans and are present in every other industrialized country in the world!
Bernie Sanders has a view on foreign policy that is more representative of stated American principles and values than actual American practices. He has rejected trade deals that didn’t protect human rights, workers rights and environmental rights. He has supported Israeli security and Palestinian justice in a two-state peace solution. He has voted against and denounced America’s endless wars and strongly supported the constitutional role of Congress in foreign policy and war making powers. And he has aggressively supported democracy at home and democratic movements abroad.
In life Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a radical who was feared and often hated when he fought for civil rights, against the Vietnam War and for progressive change. In death the media and others have turned him into a beloved and great speech giver and a non-threatening dreamer. Dr. King -- often smeared as a “red” or a communist -- was very clear. In 1966, he confided to his staff: “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of the slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”
Joe Biden is a fine and decent man personally and has many admirable qualities, and if he is the nominee I believe he will be able to defeat Donald Trump. I have always believed that any of the leading Democratic candidates were going to defeat Donald Trump.
I believe Joe Biden can defeat Donald Trump, but we need to remember that Joe Biden was added to Barack Obama’s ticket not to enhance the ticket but to balance the ticket in the tradition of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.
I believe Joe Biden can defeat Donald Trump, but we need to do more than defeat Trump. We need structural and progressive change, not just moderate change, if black, brown, red, poor, workers and the middle class are going to catch up and that will cost money. Bernie Sanders has expressed deep concern about the massive divide of wealth and income in this country and has proposed sensible plans to have the very rich and major corporations pay their fair share of taxes to pay for the needs of all Americans. Don’t let the pundits tell you the middle class will suffer under Bernie Sanders because it’s not the truth.
I believe there are no perfect candidates, and we all have our limitations, faults, varied experiences, a mixture of good and bad positions on issues, and in the case of long-time politicians, imperfect voting records. For example, both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders supported the 1994 Crime Bill, which ended up locking up a lot of black, brown, poor, mentally ill and young people. But the crime bill also had an admirable Violence Against Women provision.
Again, while there are no perfect candidates and I firmly believe Joe Biden can defeat Donald Trump, we should not overlook the fact that it was Joe Biden, as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who gave us Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court and treated Anita Hill so badly that when Biden apologized to her and ask her to forgive him, she refused to grant it.
Joe Biden can defeat Donald Trump, but he does have a not-so-proud record of dealing with the desegregation of public schools in Delaware. Bernie Sanders has the best history and the best record of fighting for equal rights, civil and human rights both at home and abroad.
Joe Biden can defeat Donald Trump, but the two Democratic moderate candidates who most recently dropped out and endorsed him had their own negative racial records and racial problems in their home states of Indiana and Minnesota.
When Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and all the other Democrats came out in support of the more moderate Joe Biden after his South Carolina victory, they didn’t do it so much to support Joe Biden, or they would have done it earlier. They did it to stop the progressive politics of Bernie Sanders and stopping progressive politics has never been in the interests of black, brown, red, poor people, workers or the middle class.
Finally, there are times when it is appropriate to be popular, to be political or to be prophetic. Most of us, certainly politicians and including this preacher, like to be liked. If you’re a politician or a preacher, you can’t get elected or fill the pews on Sunday without having a degree of popularity. There are other times when being political is the right thing to do and the best road to travel. We would not have a 1964 Public Accommodations Act or a 1965 Voting Rights Act without the political skill of LBJ. A politician can’t be effective in advancing social and economic progress without having political skills. However, beyond popularity and politics, sometimes it’s necessary for a leader to be prophetic, to speak truth to power, to stand for what he or she believes is right or the best course; and to fight to advance the interests of those most in need, of workers and the middle class - even if it’s not popular or political. Rep. Barbara Lee did that with her vote on Iraq. Dr. King did that with his stand against the Vietnam War. Senator Bernie Sanders is the most popular candidate running for president in 2020; my joining with other African American politicians and black voters along the road of political moderation would be the most comfortable and political thing for me to do at this hour; but I feel that standing with the person who best represents my views on the issues and is most committed to the interests of the people I care about the most, is the right thing for me to do and the somewhat prophetic path that I must travel today. Therefore I’m proud to support and endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.