Republican Talking Heads Claim Talk has no Power to Influence Beliefs and Behavior


Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

Who incited Christian terrorism?  Not me.  Couldn’t be.

In what could be the greatest hypocrisy in a season of head-spinners, Christianist Republicans—from presidential candidates to congressmen to Fox News bimbos to sleazy video-splicers and wild-eyed sidewalk ranters-with-rosaries—are scrambling to deny that what they say actually matters.

Specifically–no surprise–their words had nothing to do with a shooting rampage at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.

Never mind that conservative Christians in high places have been fanning the flames for months, calling women and care providers murderers, pretending to believe Planned Parenthood kills big-eyed babies and sells body parts for profit. Never mind that we call such language incendiary because it is incendiary. They are shocked-shocked-I-say, that some wingnut in Colorado actually took their becking at face value and opened fire in a family planning clinic.  Who could have possibly known that all that posturing and lying for political gain might affect someone’s behavior?!  Uh, I mean, it didn’t! It couldn’t. It was just talk!

Did anyone other than the guilty parties themselves fail to notice the bizarre irony here?

The people now hastening to assure us that talk doesn’t matter are people who earn big salaries talking. We refer to them as talking heads because that’s what they do, day in and day out, month in and month out.  Talk, talk, talk. Why?  Because like all bullies they (and the folks who bankroll them) are betting that words actually can hurt you.

Those most carefully denying any relation between talk and murder are politicians who spend years speechifying in order to change voter behavior, assisted by well-paid communications experts who the big bucks because tweaking words slightly might affect what voters do. They are pulpit pounders who siphon off 10 percent of churchgoer earnings on the premise that by talking to and for God they can influence beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Talk can save souls. In fact, in the Iron Age mythology of the Bible, it can bring whole worlds into existence.  In the beginning was the word. 

But a bloodbath incited by mere words? Stochastic terrorism? A crazy lone wolf who reacts predictably to the fear and fury of the pack? Words erupting into violent action and reaction? Words shattering into the staccato of gun fire, into screams of terror and anguish? Words slurring into the soft gurgle of the dying? Couldn’t be.

Someone should tell America’s politicians, ad men, preachers and campaign consultants to pack up and get jobs where they actually have some influence. If, as they claim, they’re not capable of getting one crazed wingnut among millions to pick up a gun and open fire after months of professionally crafted goading and millions of dollars of airtime, they don’t deserve their big salaries.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at


Why Donald Trump Is Giving the Conservative Establishment a Splitting Headache

Source: AlterNet

Author: Simon Maloy/Salon

Emphasis Mine

The Donald Trump 2016 freakshow keeps on gaining momentum as it slides deeper into the pit of human misery and despair. For those who haven’t been following, the proto-fascist and nakedly xenophobic Republican presidential front-runner found a new way to broadcast his utter lack of human emotion: mocking a New York Times reporter for his physical disability. Trump denies he did any such thing, which is just another lie to throw on the pile. And if history is any guide, the whole episode will merely cement his supporters’ affection for him.

In one way or another, Republicans are struck with Trump. The durability of his support means you can’t just brush him off as a non-credible threat to win the nomination. And even if he does collapse at some point, he’s already succeeded in dragging the

primary down to his own level. Other candidates in the race are reacting to Trump, shifting further rightward to better align themselves with his extremism, and eschewing direct criticism of the man so that they can position themselves to poach his constituency. Like it or not, the GOP is the party of Trump.

What’s remarkable, though, is how many Republican and conservative elites deny this reality even as it screams “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” right in their faces. On Friday morning, the consistently wrong and bafflingly influential William Kristol tweeted that Trump, despite all outward indicators, lacks “genuine staying power.”

It’s an amusing take for several reasons. First off, Trump has been the dominant front-runner in state and national polling for four months running, which would seem to indicate that he has some measure of “staying power.” The Atlantic’s Molly Ball went to a Trump rally in South Carolina and came away with the impression that Trump’s people are clear-eyed and determined in their choice of candidate: “Perhaps the people who first glommed on to his celebrity got bored

and drifted away. But if so, they didn’t find anybody else they liked. And they came back. And now, they are not leaving.”

Also, there’s the inconvenient fact that Kristol has been incorrectly predicting Trump’s collapse for a long time now, going back to his July warning that Trump’s attack on John McCain’s military service would be “the beginning of the end.” In the months since, he’s said that we’ve passed Peak Trump, that Trump’s political stock was poised to crash, that “normal Americans” had grown sick of him, that he’d begun to fade, and that Trump had once again reached “the beginning of the end.”

Lastly, it was Kristol, you may recall, who gave the GOP the gift of Sarah Palin. Palin’s and Trump’s political styles are very similar – policy-light, resentment-heavy, personality-driven – and after the former Alaska governor was vaulted to the top of Republican politics in 2008, she won the adoration of conservative activists and mainstream Republicans alike with her folksy, inane, “you betcha” shtick. She was an early beneficiary of the same conservative backlash against establishment Republicans that Trump is currently profiting from. You could rightly argue that Palin differs from Trump in that she actually held elected office and had something of a political background to undergird her rise, but she remained popular well into the cartoonish, “death panel” phase of her post-government career. So it’s a bit strange that after he helped make a conservative star out of Palin, Kristol can’t believe that the party would also coalesce around Trump.

That gets to the conservative denialism surrounding Trump: The elites of the movement and the Republican Party happily encouraged and nurtured the same forces that have empowered Trump because they offered the promise of short-term political gain. The Trump phenomenon shows how those forces have grown beyond their control. As Brian Beutler writes at the New Republic, some Republicans and conservatives are, at this late hour, recognizing the threat posed to them by Trump and starting to grapple with the fact that they are the authors of their own political misfortune. But there’s still a sizeable contingent of right-wing power brokers who just can’t believe that Donald Trump is the candidate they deserve


Blood On Republican Hands: Killer Screamed “No More Baby Parts!” At Planned Parenthood


Author: Collin Taylor

Emphasis Mine

When the news broke of the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, the right-wing echo chamber immediately began trying to frame the attack as anything than what it wasfirst as a bank robbery, then as just another “mentally disturbed individual.” But NBC just reported that Robert Louis Dear yelled “no more baby parts” during the attack, proving to the whole world that this was a right-wing terrorist attack inspired by the Republican Party’s vile slander and public lies about Planned Parenthood.

The beloved healthcare provider was called out on national television by opportunist and reprehensible gender-traitor Carly Fiorina who demanded that we “watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” The footage used belonged to a miscarriage, and did not take place in a Planned Parenthood, and may not even have been inside the United States. Florida Senator Marco Rubio even had the gall to say that women were getting pregnant “just to sell their fetuses to Planned Parenthood”. As Bernie Sanders noted today, the damage has been done, despite the countless investigations that have come up with nothing.

The Republican Party’s collective refusal to acknowledge the truth and their relentless propagation of these abhorrent lies have come to this. Three dead, including a policeman. They are all responsible for this outrageous act of terrorism, and the mainstream media is just as complicit in distorting the narrative. The New York Times called him an “itinerant loner” and the Washington Post called him “adrift and alienated.” This was an act of terrorism, pure and simple; but our nation refuses to call it that.

After the outpouring of hatred and bigotry coming from the right over the past two weeks, aimed squarely at Muslims, where is the outcry? Why won’t Republicans call this what it is – radical Christianity? Why won’t moderate Christians denounce this terrible attack? Why aren’t we collecting databases on alienated white men who own machine guns? Their hypocrisy is absolutely disgusting, and now the blood is on all of their hands.

But especially yours, Ms. Fiorina.


Bernie Sanders’s Refreshingly Sane Foreign Policy

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sean Illing / Salon


Welcome to the GOP’s Age of Rage: Shocking New Study Shows How Anger Is Fueling the Republican Party

Source: AlterNet

Author: Heather Digby Parton/Salon

Emphasis Mine

According to the latest Pew poll, Republicans are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. They are, as usual, deeply confused about what government does and what they want it to do, but whatever it is, they’re very angry about it. Thirty-two percent of GOP voters say they are mad at the government, while only 12 percent of Democrats say the same. According to Pew, among the truly engaged (like those, say, who go to a political rally a year before an election), 42 percent of Republicans are angry compared to 11 percent of Democrats.

Both sides say you cannot trust the government, but Democrats’ views don’t change depending on who is in the White House while Republicans are far more trusting of government when one of their own is president:

In Barack Obama’s six years as president, 13% of Republicans, on average, have said they can trust the government always or most of the time – the lowest level of average trust among either party during any administration dating back 40 years. During George W. Bush’s presidency, an average of 47% of Republicans said they could trust the government. By contrast, the share of Democrats saying they can trust the government has been virtually unchanged over the two administrations (28% Bush, 29% Obama).

It doesn’t appear, then, that despite their constant bleating about the predations of big government, this mistrust is truly a matter of principle with Republicans. Republican voters simply believe that government is the enemy unless Republicans are in charge of every bit of it. This famous quote by Grover Norquist in the wake of the 2004 GOP victory perfectly expresses how they believe government is supposed to work:

“Once the [Democratic] minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don’t go aroundpeeing on the furniture and such.”

And while one might think that having majorities of governors and state legislatures, running both houses of Congress and a majority on the Supreme Court would make them hate the government less, without having control of every branch, they are convinced that they are an aggrieved minority who are losing at every turn: “large majorities of both conservative Republicans (81 percent) and moderate and liberal Republicans (75 percent) say their political side loses more often than it wins.” And heaven forbid they might compromise to get some of what they want. If they can’t have it all, it’s not worth anything.

None of this is really news to anyone who’s been watching the presidential race unfold this year. The Trump phenomenon alone is enough to convince observers that while a large chunk of the Republican base is ticked off at just about everything — especially immigrants, Muslims and President Obama. But what really makes them see red, and what Trump (and to some extent Carson) articulates the best, is the visceral loathing for what they call “political correctness.” (That’s what what people used to call “good manners” or “basic human decency.”) The social disapprobation against being rude and demeaning completely enrages them.

Some conservatives openly defy any restriction on their God-given right to be puerile jerks:

(Helen Keller jokes were considered gross and out of bounds even when I was a kid and that was long before the term “political correctness” existed.)

Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham come to mind as similarly infantile and crude. But mostly they are screaming mad. They are the leaders of the angry right who have been stoking the discontent of their audiences for many years, creating the subculture of right wing rage that is finding its political expression in the candidacy of Donald Trump.

No less than the Wall Street Journal made note of their influence and how they’ve managed to turn it against the very establishment that helped create them:

Consider the folks who regularly tune in to conservative talk radio. These listeners expect a steady diet of Obama-bashing, so it’s hardly surprising that not one surveyed for a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late October approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

That anger translates to how these Americans view the country as a whole. Some 98% think the country is headed in the wrong direction, a view regularly reinforced on the airwaves by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and other talk-radio hosts who don’t have much nice to say about GOP leaders in Washington, either.

A decade ago, Republicans touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters. Democrats and liberal groups tried to replicate that success by building their own left-leaning television and radio stations, with far less success.

Now, the tables have turned. Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists, in part, because conservative radio hosts are almost as likely to rail against the party brass in Congress as they are to lament Mr. Obama’s failings in the Oval Office.

This is a switch from the days when Rush would have the whole Bush family on his show in 2008 so they could kiss each other’s rings:

RUSH: What are…? (interruption) Interrupting for what?


RUSH: Oh, jeez. The president?

THE PRESIDENT: Rush Limbaugh?

RUSH: Yes, sir, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: President George W. Bush calling to congratulate you on 20 years of important and excellent broadcasting.

RUSH: Well, thank you, sir. You’ve stunned me! (laughing) I’m shocked. But thank you so much.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s hard to do.

RUSH: (laughing) I know, it is.

RUSH: Well, thank you, sir. You’ve stunned me! (laughing) I’m shocked. But thank you so much.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s hard to do.

RUSH: (laughing) I know, it is.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m here with a room full of admirers. There are two others that would like to speak to you and congratulate you, people who consider you friends and really appreciate the contribution you’ve made.

RUSH: Thank you, sir, very much. Put ’em on.

THE PRESIDENT: How you doing? This is my swan song? If this is all you got for me, I’m moving on.

RUSH: (laughing) No! The show’s yours; take as much time as you want.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m just calling along with President 41 and the former governor of Florida. We’re fixing to have lunch here, and I said, “Listen, we ought to call our pal and let him know that we care,” for you. So this is as much as anything, a nice verbal letter to a guy we really care for.

RUSH: Well, thank you, sir, very much. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this and how much you’ve surprised me.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that was the purpose of the phone call.

RUSH: You succeeded.

THE PRESIDENT: Good. There was trouble in paradise even then, however, although the Bush family may not have been aware of it. You may recall that President Bush had tried to pass immigration reform and was thwarted by one of the earliest exercises of right wing muscle in Congress. Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott left no uncertainty as to who and what was to blame:

Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”

There’s nothing they can do about it. That “problem” continued on unmolested and ended up empowering the Tea Party right to create an obstructionist bloc in the House, destroyed the political career of the House Majority Leader last year and is now fueling the angry crowds who are showing up to cheer on Donald Trump as he eschews all human decency to “tell it like it is” in exactly the terms these talk radio folks are used to hearing it. And today, as then, racism and xenophobia are their main motivators.

Like Limbaugh, Levin, Savage and Ingraham, Trump channels their anger and feeds it back to them. The Pew Poll reported:

Donald Trump is viewed more favorably by the nearly one-third of Republicans and leaners who are angry at government (64% favorable) than by those who are frustrated or content with government (48%). Other GOP presidential candidates (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson) also get higher favorable ratings among Republicans who are angry at government than among non-angry Republicans, in part because they are better known among the “angry” group.

And if you want to know why establishment Republicans are so unwilling to challenge talk radio’s toxic spew and the political virus that grows from it, the Journal explains:

Republican presidential contenders would be unwise to write off this bloc; roughly a third of Republican primary voters strongly identify with conservative talk radio, about 10 percentage points higher than the share of GOP primaryvoters who consider themselves moderate or liberal, according to the survey conducted by the Democrats at Hart Research Associates and the Republicans at Public Opinion Research.

There are way more of these talk radio acolytes than there are any other kind of Republican. They run things now. And they are livid — at least until the Republicans manage to control all of government and enact their agenda precisely as talk radio tells them it must be enacted. Then they might calm down. But I wouldn’t count on it. Rage is their life blood now. They can’t live without it.

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.




8 Acts of Islamophobic Violence and Threats Since Paris

Source: AlterNet

Author: Janet Allon

Emphasis Mine

The Paris attacks unleashed a terrible scourge of Islamophobic rhetoric and actual violence both in Europe and America. In London, a Muslim woman was pushed in front of an underground train—fortunately, she survived. Here at home, no one has been killed, but Republican politicians are fanning the flames of hate. Leading the pack is presidential candidate Donald Trump, who — since he can’t build a wall to keep Muslims out — has floated the even more fascist ideas of closing mosques and issuing ID cards for all Muslims. Ben Carson, sinking in the polls, but still popular with evangelicals, despicably compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.

It’s not hard to see that the dehumanizing vitriol spewed by demagogues is part of a continuum that includes the violent actions of everyday haters who are willing to threaten and commit harm to people they perceive to be different from them. Some Islamophobes need no nudging, like the Chapel Hill murderer Craig Hicks, who shot his three young Muslim neighbors execution-style last February after menacing them for years.

Now, just as after 9/11, violent ignoramuses are going after Muslim (or Muslim-looking) neighbors and strangers who cross their path. And politicians like Trump and Ted Cruz do nothing to dissuade them or distance themselves from their despicable actions.

Here’s a roundup of Islamophobic incidents that have occurred in the week since the Paris attacks.

1. Just hours after the attacks in Paris last Friday, the FBI and local police investigated reports of multiple gunshots fired at the Baitul Aman mosque in Meriden, Connecticut.

2. Two Tampa Bay-area mosques in Florida received threatening phone messages on Friday night. The idiot who made those threats left his name on the messages.

In one, 43-year-old Martin Alan Schnitzler reportedly said, “This act in France is the last straw. You’re going to f*cking die.”“I personally have a militia that’s going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you, shoot whoever’s there on sight in the head,” he added. “I don’t care if they’re f*cking 2 years old or 100.”

3. Another Florida family had bullets fired at their home on the weekend after the attacks. One bullet went through the garage and entered the master bedroom, coming to rest in the dresser drawer. Fortunately, Orange County resident Amir Elmasri and his family were away when the shootings occurred. He told a local news station that his whole family feels unsafe as a result.

4. At the University of Connecticut, an Egyptian student discovered the words “killed Paris” written next to his name on his dorm room door last Saturday.

5. Muslims in Omaha felt threatened when someone spraypainted a rough outline of the Eiffel Tower on an outside wall of the Omaha Islamic Center in Nebraska soon after the Paris attacks.

6. On Monday, in a suburb of Austin, Texas, leaders of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville discovered feces and torn pages of the Quran had been thrown at the door of the mosque.

7. On Tuesday, in a suburb of Houston, Texas, authorities arrested a man accused of threatening on social media to “shoot up a mosque.”

8. In Spotsylvania, Virgina, which has a well-established Muslim community going back 30 years, a group of virulent Islamophobes invaded a community meeting held to discuss plans to build a mosque. The civil engineer on the project, Samer Shalaby, was making his presentation when he was shouted down by the men, one of whom yelled, “This is evil!” When Shalaby’s supporters tried to defend against the onslaught, the man yelled, “Shut your mouth! Every one of you are terrorists. You can smile at me. I don’t care what you say — every Muslim is a terrorist.”

Some in the meeting applauded the disruption.

Trump et. al. were completely silent on the matter, apparently unfazed.


Sanders’ Address on Democratic Socialism: Amazing and Blacked-Out

Source: RSN

Author: Scot Galindez

Emphasis Mine

At Georgetown University on Thursday afternoon, Bernie Sanders outlined his vision of what democratic socialism is. Earlier that morning, Hillary Clinton gave an address on fighting ISIS. MSNBC showed all of Hillary’s speech but ignored Bernie. There has been some media coverage of the speech, but nobody cut live to Sanders like they did for Clinton.

I did see more coverage of the lead carnival barker, Donald Trump, saying he would implement a registry for Muslims, while one of the most important, substantive speeches of the election cycle was almost ignored.

The media blackout of Sanders is not going away anytime soon. Bernie supporters must go around the media and use the social media to help the campaign get their message out. Share stories widely, support independent media, help Bernie 2016 TV get off the ground. If we don’t do these things, we will surely be watching Hillary Clinton win the nomination.

Luckily for those of us feeling the bern, Georgetown University streamed the speech on Ustream. I watched the stream on Bernie 2016 TV with nearly 3,000 others using Twitter and other platforms to discuss the speech as it took place. People were very excited as Bernie laid out his vision.

Bernie opened by invoking the vision of FDR:

In his inaugural remarks in January 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.

He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life.

He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them day by day.

He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions.

He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combated cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

A tall order for sure, but the time has come for another transformation. FDR’s “economic royalists” are today’s Wall Street ruling class that needs to be challenged before they consolidate more power. The Billionaire class owns the media and increasingly owns the government. Establishment politics will do nothing to curb their greed. It’s time to fight back.

Bernie went on to say:

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.”

Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

That was then. Now is now.

Prior to World War II and McCarthyism, socialism was not a dirty word. Many American icons were self-described socialists. Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, John Dewey, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, and of course Martin Luther King, whom Sanders quotes further down in the speech.

In 1952, a young King wrote in a letter to Coretta Scott: “I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic.” In a 1966 speech to his staff, King declared: “Something is wrong … with capitalism. Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

Next time your conservative friends slam socialism as unpatriotic, remind them that the author of the pledge of allegiance, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist, a Christian socialist known for his fiery sermons on economic justice.

Back to Bernie:

Today, in 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of 2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the American people are clearly better off economically than we were in 1937.

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

If we are serious about transforming our country, if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

Now that sums it all up. Are we ready to follow Bernie’s lead and take our country back? It’s time to get off the sidelines. Bernie needs all of us to have his back. He is fighting the bankers, today’s robber barons. They are not going to just roll over, they are fighting back and they will get dirty. We need to be prepared to take them on and defeat them.

I’m not one to say that this is our last chance; progress can help us move forward in the future. But we have not had a better chance to take on the ruling class, and it may be a long time before we have a vehicle like we have now. Let’s not blow it.

We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.

Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.

Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Today, in America, millions of our people are working two or three jobs just to survive. In fact, Americans work longer hours than do the people of any industrialized country. Despite the incredibly hard work and long hours of the American middle class, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top one percent.

Today, in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.

Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings – zero – while millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death. “How will I retire with dignity?” they ask.

Today, in America, nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American children, are living in poverty — the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.

Today, in America, 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. Further, with the United States paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 1 out of 5 patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Today, in America, youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans.

The bottom line is that today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality. A handful of super-wealthy campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in Congress.

Amen. Now this is leadership. No empty soaring rhetoric. Bernie Sanders is speaking truth to power. The comparisons to FDR are coming into focus for me. This guy is ready to transform our country in the same way Roosevelt did with the New Deal. Leaders like this come about once in a generation.

We can’t afford to wait for another leader emerge who is ready to take on the ruling class. We need to rise up now! As Bernie regularly says, “Think big, it’s not time to play it safe.” Incremental change won’t work; we need to take bold action.

In 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights. This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic rights that he believed every American was entitled to: The right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.

What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin Luther King Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later, and what I believe today is that true freedom does not occur without economic security.

People are not truly free when they are unable to feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.

Free the people!!! I have been poor so I understand where FDR, Dr. King, and Bernie are coming from. I know what it’s like to suffer because I couldn’t afford health care. I know what it’s like to not be sure if I could find a warm place to sleep or a warm shower. I was in America, but I was not free. I was prisoner to just finding what I needed to survive. I was not happy. Life was a chore. All around me I saw great wealth. I often wondered, what did I do wrong to deserve to be punished?

I fought back. I became an activist. I worked with Mitch Snyder, Phil Berrigan, William Thomas and others who helped me get back on my feet. Then I met Marc Ash after the stolen election and decided the most effective thing I could do was help build an independent media organization.

While I am doing better, I have not forgotten what it is like to struggle, not from paycheck to paycheck but from day to day, hour to hour. We must stand up for those still struggling hour to hour. They need us to transform America into a country that puts human need above corporate greed.

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later, after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!

And, then, to add insult to injury, we were told that not only were the banks too big to fail, the bankers were too big to jail. Kids who get caught possessing marijuana get police records. Wall Street CEOs who help destroy the economy get raises in their salaries. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.

In my view, it’s time we had democratic socialism for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.

It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan. That is why I believe in a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. Yes. The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go further.

Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.

People who get sick will not have to worry about paying a deductible or making a co-payment. They could go to the doctor when they should, and not end up in the emergency room. Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about how they are going to provide health care for their employees. Workers will not have to be trapped in jobs they do not like simply because their employers are offering them decent health insurance plans. Instead, they will be able to pursue the jobs and work they love, which could be an enormous boon for the economy. And by the way, moving to a Medicare for all program will end the disgrace of Americans paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago – and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United States.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes far more sense to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, than to have a real unemployment rate of almost 10%. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for unemployed young people, than to lock them up and spend $80 billion a year through mass incarceration.

Democratic socialism means that if someone works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty: that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – $15 an hour over the next few years. It means that we join the rest of the world and pass the very strong Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation now in Congress. How can it possibly be that the United States, today, is virtually the only nation on earth, large or small, which does not guarantee that a working class woman can stay home for a reasonable period of time with her new-born baby? How absurd is that?

Democratic socialism means that we have government policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our kids and grandchildren.

Democratic socialism means, that in a democratic, civilized society the wealthiest people and the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Yes. Innovation, entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support. It is not acceptable that in a rigged economy in the last two years the wealthiest 15 Americans saw their wealth increase by $170 billion, more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans. Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so elegantly stated; “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

It is not acceptable that major corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying $100 billion in taxes each and every year. It is not acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or truck drivers. It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in taxes on those transactions.

I couldn’t interrupt Bernie on that roll. Democratic socialism in other words is economic and social justice. It’s my belief system. It is what William Thomas dedicated his life to when he vigiled in front of the White House for years for nuclear disarmament. Thomas, as we called him, saw that greed was destroying our country. Mitch Snyder fasted many times to draw attention to the plight of the homeless and build the largest homeless shelter in the United States within a few blocks of the Capital. He understood that he had to fight the greed of the ruling class that was neglecting those in need. Phil Berrigan was a Christian who understood that the war machine was taking resources that could be used to help the poor. They were my mentors. I know that they would be backing Bernie if they were alive today. Well, maybe not Thomas, it would have been hard to get him to trust a politician.

But Bernie is not a traditional politician, he is a public servant who wants to build a just society. If you feel burned by Obama, Bernie is no Obama. Obama ran and governed as an establishment centrist. Those terms are far from any words I would use to describe Bernie Sanders. Have faith, we can trust Bernie.

Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote. It is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and working class people have given up on our political system entirely. Every American should be embarrassed that in our last national election 63% of the American people, and 80% of young people, did not vote. Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors to suppress the vote, we must make it easier for people to participate in the political process, not harder. It is not too much to demand that everyone 18 years of age is registered to vote – end of discussion.

Further, it is unacceptable that we have a corrupt campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

If we don’t get the money out of politics, and don’t bring people back into the process, we might as well elect a king or queen and stop having elections. They are a waste of our time and money.

If we continue to sit on the sidelines, we might as well just let the oligarchy take full control. Heck, we might even get lucky and royalty will throw us some big crumbs. I’m just kidding, trying to motivate those who think the system is beyond hope. I believe, as Bernie says, that if we stand together there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism,” but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

Now that is change we can believe in. One reason we can believe it is he tells us that he can’t do it alone. Democratic socialism is not something we should fear. What we should fear is unchecked crony capitalism. If we let the billionaire class consolidate their power, America will become an oligarchy and Democracy will no longer exist. We need socialism to save America.

Author’s note: Next week I will look at the rest of the speech, which focused on ISIS and foreign policy. The transcript I used for this article was from his remarks as prepared for delivery. –SMG

Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador’s slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush’s first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.