Sanders speaks

SANDERS SPEAKS…. After Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held the Senate floor yesterday for eight-and-a-half hours, it’s tempting to embed the whole thing. But given YouTube’s time limits on clips, it would take roughly 34 separate videos to capture the floor appearance from start to finish.

I can, however, include this 12-minute clip, posted by Sanders’ office and flagged by Joan McCarter, which helps give viewers a taste.

I’ll gladly concede that I only caught parts of the senator’s remarks, but my sense is that his core message — “We can do better” — has broad applicability. To be sure, Sanders appears to have been motivated by his strong opposition to the tax policy agreement hammered out by the White House and congressional Republicans, but let’s not overlook the larger context here.

Sanders, it seems, doesn’t just want to “do better” with this one tax deal; he wants the country’s entire approach to economic inequalities to “do better.” The senator was relentless in his criticism of the pending agreement, but his was a larger critique on the gap between rich and poor, concentrated wealth, trade, and Wall Street.

It was a rebuke, not just of the Republican provisions in the tax deal, but of what he sees as systemic flaws in U.S. economic policy.

This was the kind of message that Americans almost never hear, especially from elected officials in Washington, which only made the display that much more dramatic. What’s more, many of Sanders’ observations had the added benefit of being accurate.

The speech was not a literal filibuster — there was no bill on the Senate floor at the time — but that doesn’t much matter, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the extraordinary nature of Sanders’ effort.

I’d add, just as an aside, that I’m one of Bernie Sanders’ constituents, and I’ve voted for him at every available opportunity, helping elect him to the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. And if anyone saw yesterday’s remarks as some kind of hollow stunt — a politician grandstanding for ego and self-promotion — think again. Whether one agrees with the senator or not, Sanders brings an unrivaled sincerity and passion to his work. He took to the floor yesterday, not because some lobbyist handed him talking points, not because he wants to be on television, not because he’s driven by some personal ambition, but because he cares deeply about working families, and intends to fight to do what he can to help them.

Even I don’t always agree with Sanders, but I know better than to question his genuine commitment to those who too often have no champions.

As for the political world’s reaction, I’d also add that it was hard not to smile as Congress’ lone socialist made the transition from quirky Vermonter with an unbreakable Brooklyn accent to liberal folk hero.