“I am trying to document here what is happening to the working class of America because I do not want individual workers to say: ‘It is my fault. There is something wrong with me because I can’t go out and get a job.’ You are not alone. The entire middle class is collapsing. Our economy is shedding millions and millions of jobs. I know there are people out there trying hard to find work, but that work is just not there. That is why we have to rebuild the economy and create jobs.”
—Senator Bernie Sanders, December 10, 2010
On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders galvanized the attention of millions of Americans with an 8 ½ hour filibuster against a backroom deal that will give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires in America. The good Senator from Vermont spoke for millions of struggling working and middle class people who feel their voices aren’t being heard in a system dominated by well-funded lobbyists and corporate insiders.
For Bernie, 69 years old, it was just another full workday serving the people and indeed “documenting” what is happening to them.
The fact is the Senator has been doing this under the radar for years. At The Nation, we’ve known and followed this man for many years—always respecting what a good fighter and savvy tactician he is, standing up for the principles we care so deeply about.
At one point in this filibuster Bernie began reading letters he had received from his constituents and other citizens around the country. I was reminded of a booklet he compiled over two years ago—The Collapse of the Middle Class: Letters from Vermont and America. In a town hall invitation he had asked one simple question, “What does the decline of the middle class mean to you?” and received thousands of letters in response. He then read some of them on the Senate floor.
“This is simply an effort to bring a dose of reality to the floor of the Senate,” Sanders told me at the time. “It’s important for us to respond with appropriate public policies to address this crisis.”
On Friday, he was at it again.
“Behind all of those [economic] statistics is flesh and blood and good people who are doing everything they can to survive with a shred of dignity in their lives,” said the Senator. “It is important for us sitting here inside the beltway not to forget what is going on in the real world.”
Indeed, inside the Beltway there is a sense that those elected to serve the people become disconnected from those very people they are supposed to serve. Not with Bernie. Once again, he is demonstrating his kind of politics—a politics dedicated to improving the real conditions of people’s lives.
Two years from now he will come up for reelection. You can bet that those who profit from a corporate-run Congress will come after him with everything they’ve got. Don’t lose sight of Bernie. Stand with him just as he’s stood for us—not only on a dramatic and critical Friday last week, but year-in and year-out in quieter ways that often don’t get the attention they deserve.
We’re going to need him and more like him.
Here is a look back at my reporting on some of Bernie’s fights for the people:
Bernie heads to the fields of Immokalee, Florida and then holds a Senate hearing to expose slavery and other abuses of tomato workers.
Bernie takes on economic inequality and the budget.
Bernie leads on tax and budget sanity.
Bernie tells it like it is on small-d democracy.
Bernie on the collapse of the middle class.