"Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other."
While Donald Trump took to the editorial page of USA Today on Wednesday to spew new lies about key social programs like Medicare and sow fresh divisions with unhinged rantings about the "radical socialist plans" of the Democratic Party, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday offered a scathing and far-reaching rebuke to Trump's brand of politics by tackling head-on the threat posed by the president's penchant for authoritarianism and his consistent stoking of social divisions.
"Authoritarians seek power by promoting division and hatred. We will promote unity and inclusion."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)In a speech delivered at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Sanders told the small audience that he wanted to "say a few words about a troubling trend in global affairs that gets far too little attention," as he proceeded to describe a trend that both describes the America under Trump, but one also seen in nations across the globe.
"There is currently a struggle of enormous consequence taking place in the United States and throughout the world," Sanders declared in his speech. "In it we see two competing visions. On one hand, we see a growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism, oligarchy, and kleptocracy. On the other side, we see a movement toward strengthening democracy, egalitarianism, and economic, social, racial, and environmental justice."
Sanders continued by drawing a picture in which an increasingly wealthy and powerful set of elites—not just in the U.S., but in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and elsewhere—are actively fomenting anti-democratic angst while butressed by the rise of "demagogues" who, like Trump domestically, "exploit people's fears, prejudices and grievances to gain and hold on to power."
In response to such forces, argued Sanders, "Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people and not the other way around, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to confront it effectively."
And so, he added, "We need to counter oligarchic authoritarianism with a strong global progressive movement that speaks to the needs of working people, that recognizes that many of the problems we are faced with are the product of a failed status quo. We need a movement that unites people all over the world who don't just seek to return to a romanticized past, a past that did not work for so many, but who strive for something better."
With a direct hit on the Trumpian mantra of "Make America Great Again," Sanders warned that looking backwards, though valuable in some respects, is not where a better, more equitable world is to be found.
Instead, he said, what the world needs if it wants to defeat "the forces of global oligarchy and authoritarianism" is a powerful and organized "international movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power."
In the end, Sanders observed, "Authoritarians seek power by promoting division and hatred. We will promote unity and inclusion."
And, he concluded, "In a time of exploding wealth and technology, we have the potential to create a decent life for all people. Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. We know that those forces work together across borders. We must do the same. "
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