By JEFF MERKLEY APRIL 13, 2016
NO decision we make as Americans more dramatically affects the direction of our country than our choice for president. He or she is more than the manager of the executive branch, commander in chief or appointer of judges. The president reflects, but also helps define, our national values, priorities and direction.
After considering the biggest challenges facing our nation and the future I want for my children and our country, I have decided to become the first member of the Senate to support my colleague Bernie Sanders for president.
I grew up in working-class Oregon. On a single income, my parents could buy a home, take a vacation and help pay for college. My father worked with his hands as a millwright and built a middle-class life for us.
My parents believed in education and they believed in the United States. When I was young, my father took me to the grade school and told me that if I went through those doors, and worked hard, I could do just about anything because we lived in America. My dad was right.
Years later, my family and I still live in the same working-class community I grew up in. But America has gone off track, and the outlook for the kids growing up there is a lot gloomier today than 40 years ago.
Many middle-class Americans are working longer for less income than decades ago, even while big-ticket expenses like housing, health care and college have relentlessly pushed higher.
It is not that America is less wealthy than 40 years ago — quite the contrary. The problem is that our economy, both by accident and design, has become rigged to make a fortunate few very well off while leaving most Americans struggling to keep up.
And as economic power has become more concentrated, so too has political power. Special interests, aided by their political and judicial allies, have exercised an ever-tighter grip on our political system, from the rise of unlimited, secret campaign spending to a voter suppression movement.
Bernie Sanders campaigning in the Bronx. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Under President Obama’s leadership, our country is fairer and more prosperous for all than it was seven years ago. But as we look toward the next administration, there is far more work to do. We need urgency. We need big ideas. We need to rethink the status quo.
Unlike the Republican primary circus, Democrats have a choice between two candidates with lifelong track records of fighting for economic opportunity and who are committed to America’s being a force for peace and stability and who are eager to meet today’s challenges and move our country forward for all its citizens, together.
From her time advocating for children as a young lawyer to her work as first lady of Arkansas and the United States, and as a senator and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has a remarkable record. She would be a strong and capable president.
But Bernie Sanders is boldly and fiercely addressing the biggest challenges facing our country.
He has opposed trade deals with nations that pay their workers as little as a dollar an hour. Such deals have caused good jobs to move overseas and undermined the leverage of American workers to bargain for a fair share of the wealth they create in our remaining factories.
He has passionately advocated for pivoting from fossil fuels to renewable energy to save our planet from global warming — the greatest threat facing humanity. He recognizes that to accomplish this we must keep the vast bulk of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground.
Bernie is a determined leader in taking on the concentration of campaign cash from the mega-wealthy that is corrupting the vision of opportunity embedded in our Constitution.
And he has been unflinching in taking on predatory lending, as well as the threats to our economy from high-risk strategies at our biggest banks.
It has been noted that Bernie has an uphill battle ahead of him to win the Democratic nomination. But his leadership on these issues and his willingness to fearlessly stand up to the powers that be have galvanized a grass-roots movement. People know that we don’t just need better policies, we need a wholesale rethinking of how our economy and our politics work, and for whom they work.
The first three words of the Constitution, in bold script, are “We the People.” The American story is a journey of continuous striving to more fully realize our founding principles of hope and opportunity for all.
It is time to recommit ourselves to that vision of a country that measures our nation’s success not at the boardroom table, but at kitchen tables across America. Bernie Sanders stands for that America, and so I stand with Bernie Sanders for president.
Jeff Merkley is a Democratic senator from Oregon.
Posted by Ainhoa Aristizabal — Unruly Hearts editor