U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders stops in Oshkosh to promote Democrats

Nolan Swenson, Co-Sports Editor

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, appeared in Oshkosh Saturday as part of a blitz event to promote Democratic midterm candidates. The event, hosted at the United Auto Workers (UAW) office,  began with a foreboding warning by the president of the UAW 578 chapter, Bob Lynk, that “elections have consequences.”

Sanders began by thanking the UAW, not just for hosting him, but also for their historical contribution to the American labor movement.

“UAW historically has been one of the great unions in America,” Sanders said. “As a result of all of your efforts, standing up for justice and the rights of working people, you have improved lives, not only for your own members, but for millions of other people. By demanding respect, even non-union employers have to respond.”

He then discussed the new tactics used by corporations to put down labor organizations. Corporations no longer hire thugs to beat organizers; instead they hire consultants or anti-union law firms, Sanders said. Despite this, he said unions are on the uptick, resulting in harsher actions from businesses.

“The good news is that working people all over the country are standing up and fighting back in a way we haven’t seen for decades,” Sanders  said. “Not surprisingly, corporate response has been doing everything they can to fire organizers, shut down unionized shops, and refusing to negotiate a first contract.”

Sanders said the American middle class cannot be rebuilt without a Democratic majority in the legislature supporting  unions. He said it’s not enough just to vote for Democrats, but to ensure that the Democrats they elect work for the people, not just for the corporations.

“To be honest with you, you have two corporate sellouts in the Democratic senate right now,” he said. “We need two other senators, and Mandela [Barnes] will be one of those. When we have him seated we can begin to sit down and address the needs of working families.”

Sanders then turned his comments toward social policies that have been fierce battlegrounds for discussion: a woman’s right to choose, combating climate change, creating new energy solutions, and preserving American democracy. One of the most contentious issues in modern American politics was the right-wing attempt to overthrow American democracy during the Jan.6 insurrection, he said. This event has even emboldened U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, of Oshkosh, to say that he may not submit to the midterms results.

“I sure hope I can [accept the results], but I can’t predict what the Democrats might have planned,” Johnson told the media last Thursday. “You know, we’re not trying to do anything to gain partisan advantage; we’re just doing whatever we can to restore confidence. It sure seems like there’s an awful lot of, in the past, a lot of attempts on the part of Democrats to make it easier to cheat.”

But Sanders said that this midterm is about the preservation of American democracy and the upholding of its order.

“We have news for Sen. Johnson, Donald Trump and all these other guys,” Sanders said. “In a democracy, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It’s not just a great and fair election when you win; you lose elections. Be a man and have the guts to stand up and say ‘I lost’.”

He added: “Democracy is about taking differing views to the people. Don’t undermine American democracy and think the only way you lose is if there is fraud. Millions of people have put on their uniforms, they fought and died for something special, we have the greatest democracy in the history of the world. We will not allow Trump or anybody to undermine that…”

Sanders also criticized Johnson on his laissez-faire economic policies, such as his advocacy for the removal of the minimum wage, his contribution to the growing wealth gap, and the amount of tax breaks given to the wealthy.

“They want to end the estate tax, which applies only to the top one-tenth of 1%,”  he said. “If they are successful in repealing the estate tax, it will result in an increase of $1.75 trillion to the national debt.”

In order to pay for that tax break, Sanders brought up Johnson’s disillusionment with the U.S.’s Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs, all of which are important social safety nets for working and middle class Americans.

He transitioned into long-term American goals that will not solely be affected by this midterm, saying that America is shifting into an oligarchy, a nation controlled by a small group of people, and that it’s being ignored by the media due to concentration of ownership.

“In terms of our economy, we have three Wall Street firms who control assets of over $20 trillion,” he said. “With those assets they are stockholders in hundreds of corporations. When those corporations cut workers or healthcare for their workers, the money they save goes to the top.”

He said that the pandemic showed that greed and “class-warfare” exists within America.

“When you look at what happened during the pandemic, you learn a lot about what’s going on in America,” he said. “Tens of thousands of American workers, people who work in hospitals, people who work in meat processing, people in public transport, cops and firemen, people who are out in public … We lost those workers, while at the same time, the billionaire class saw a $2 trillion increase in wealth.”

That concentration of economic power has translated into political power, with Wisconsin Public Radio reporting that outside groups have spent a record $52 million in the lead up to the election. The article later went on to discuss how this could drown out the voices of Wisconsinites, shifting the narrative about in-state problems.

With outside and corporate interest in mind, Sanders discussed Citizens United v. FEC and the necessity to overrule it since it would remove restrictions on corporations, nonprofits and unions in their political donations. It’s a move that then-President Obama criticized for its ability to block out the voices of ordinary Americans.

“Millions of Americans are struggling to get by,” Obama said at the time. “Their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising. The American people’s voices should be heard.”

Not only does this keep incumbents in office, but it keeps youth out, Sanders said. This is because if you can’t personally raise funds and aren’t able to get funds from a PAC, your voice will be drowned out, leading to stagnancy in the nation.

Katie Pulvermacher / Advance-Titan — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders was in Oshkosh on Saturday to support Democratic candidates.

People are angry in America, a fact that the former President Trump tapped into. Real wages adjusted to inflation today are worse off than they were decades ago, and in previous generations, a one-income household was possible. The rising cost of living, healthcare, childcare, and education has affected a large portion of America. Sanders suggested that due to mainstream media apathy to these issues, Trump was able to harness the frustration around them.

“What Trump and his friends are doing is sensing that people are angry,” he said. “They are tapping into that anger to divide us. By the color of our skin, where we were born, our sexuality or our religion. All of this is to make citizens blame each other instead of coming together to fight for a united agenda. By and large on economic issues the country is united.”

Sanders closed his talk with the American Rescue plan and the safety nets it provided, and the economic pumps it primed through planned infrastructure.

“I don’t apologize for that act, that’s what a government should do in a civilized democratic society, and we had no Republican support for that act,” he said “We are days away from an enormously important election. I’m not just asking you to work hard for the next few days; the future is at stake no matter who wins. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided.

“Let us stand together, let us fight for the nation that we know we can be,” Sanders said. “A nation built on economic justice, racial justice, social justice and environmental justice; we can be that nation if we come together and have the courage to take on the greedy who do not care for the average person.”

The full rally can be viewed on Sanders YouTube channel.