Thu, Sep 17, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Sanders gains ground with call for ‘political revolution’

AFP, MANASSAS, Virginia

US Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, an independent US senator from Vermont, speaks at a campaign rally in Manassas, Virginia, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

At 74, US Senator Bernie Sanders is this year’s Democratic phenomenon in the White House race, urging the US public to launch a “political revolution” against billionaires and elites — including his chief party rival, former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A substantial slice of US voters are frustrated with how Democratic leadership — nearly seven years into the administration of US President Barack Obama — has bumped up against the hard limits of political power, especially under a Republican-led Congress.

They claim that reducing inequality is a matter of leadership and political will — and the jettisoning of a political class that is beholden to special interests.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is no newcomer to politics: he served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, from 1981 to 1989, and has been entrenched in US Congress for nearly a quarter-century.

However, to his supporters, who gathered by the thousands on Monday night in a field in Manassas, Virginia, about an hour from Washington, “Bernie” is a new kind of candidate, financed by small donations and not checks from mega donors, according to several people interviewed by reporters at the campaign stop.

“I’m just tired of business as usual, the status quo with politicians. They’re all bought by big banks and lobbyists,” said 29-year-old student Alissa Rodley, who acknowledged she was attending her first-ever political rally. “Hillary Clinton is very status quo. She is paid for by a lot of the big banks.”

Democrats who back Sanders say they do not dislike Clinton. Some of them even supported her in her 2008 presidential quest. However, after her 20 years in Washington, they doubt Clinton’s loyalty to the cause and criticize her apparent willingness to put deal-making and political modulation above adherence to progressive goals.

While she remains the frontrunner, her poll numbers have slumped amid lingering suspicions about her use of a private e-mail server while serving as US secretary of state.

A gay couple arriving to hear the Sanders campaign pitch recalled how it took Clinton until 2013 to back same-sex marriage.

“It’s more that it’s in vogue,” said Galen Tim, 22, a violinist who was quick to note that Sanders opposed the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from openly serving in the US military.

When Clinton talks about reaching out to Republicans, fans of Sanders balk, while buying US$20 T-shirts that urge people to “join the political revolution.”

The villains? Big banks, Wall Street and their fat cat patrons.

“We are the 99 percent, and it’s time we take power away from the 1 percent,” said Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist. “I am sending a very simple straightforward message to the billionaire class, and that is: You cannot have it all.”

His campaign speech is a series of warnings to Wall Street, lobbyists and the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, mixed with support for tax hikes on the wealthy, tuition-free college and paid leave for workers.

For Dave Jennings, 65, the Sanders revolution sounded like a pipe dream at first, but he now takes it seriously.

A longtime Obama fan, the nearly retired government contractor is disappointed that the current administration has not been able to jail many Wall Street executives after the financial crisis.

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