One week ago, when we launched our campaign for president, I asked people from across the country to sign up to be part of an unprecedented grassroots campaign. The response from the American people has been historic.
In six days, more than one million people have answered the call. Americans from every single Congressional district in the country have signed up to help lead a movement that is not only about defeating Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history, but about creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.
This task will not be easy. Today, we have more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s, and the three wealthiest Americans own more wealth than the bottom half of our country. Despite relatively low unemployment, millions of people work multiple jobs because they earn starvation wages, 34 million Americans have no health insurance, and we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
Shamefully, we treat our most vulnerable people with disdain. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major nation and a dysfunctional and unaffordable child care system. While many Republicans want to cut Social Security, about half of older Americans have no retirement savings.
And, in the midst of all of that, we have a president who is someone who is moving this country in an authoritarian direction.
Taking on special interest groups
To be successful in creating a government and economy that works for the many, we will have to take on powerful special interests that dominate our economic and political life — Wall Street, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial-complex, the private-prison industry and multinational corporations. These special interests have extraordinary power, and they will spend enormous sums of money to maintain the status quo and their wealth.
The only way we will defeat Donald Trump and the special interests that support him is with a grassroots movement — the likes of which has never been seen in American history. We must stand together — women and men, black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American, gay and straight, young and old, native born and immigrant — to address the challenges we face as a nation.
At a time when our infrastructure is crumbling and we have an affordable housing crisis, we can create millions of good paying jobs rebuilding our country. Together, we can raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 (Dh55) an hour, provide pay equity for women and guarantee all workers paid family and medical leave. We cannot afford to wait any longer to address the existential threat of climate change. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels towards energy efficiency and sustainable energy, creating millions of jobs in the process.
While we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any nation, our health outcomes are worse and life expectancy is in decline. It is time for us to join every other major country and guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all programme.
Unbelievably, Americans are saddled with $1.5 trillion in student loan debt and many young people can’t afford the cost of college. We must lower the egregious level of student debt and make public colleges and universities tuition-free.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people. Our job is to end the destructive “war on drugs,” eliminate private prisons and cash bail and bring about major police department reform.
Instead of demonising undocumented immigrants as our current president has done, we should fight for comprehensive immigration reform, a path towards citizenship, immediate legal status for the young people eligible for the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) programme and a humane policy for those at the border who seek asylum.
At a time when women’s rights are under attack at the local, state and federal level, we must defend a woman’s right to control her own body. To confront the epidemic of gun violence, we need to take on the NRA, expand background checks, end the gun show loophole and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons.
We need a foreign policy which focuses on democracy, human rights, world peace, global wealth inequality, climate change and massive corporate tax evasion.
In 2016, our campaign began the political revolution. The ideas we fought for, which then were considered “radical” or “extreme,” are now supported by a majority of Americans. Now, it is time to defeat Donald Trump, complete that revolution and implement the vision we fought for.
Bernie Sanders is a US Senator from Vermont.