Saturday, 23 September 2017

Steve Beshear & Bernie Sanders Respond to Trump Joint Session Speech

Comparing Steve Beshear & Bernie Sanders’ Responses to Trump Joint Session Speech

Earlier this week Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time. His speech was lauded by the mainstream media as “presidential”. The little substance that existed however was more of the same from Trump. Steve Beshear, former Governor of Kentucky gave the official response for the Democrats. Bernie Sanders also responded to Trump’s speech. The difference between the responses spells the difference between the new progressive wing of the party and the old guard establishment Democrats.

Steve Beshear’s Response

To be honest, I love Steve Beshear. My time working in Kentucky politics gave me a deep appreciation for the amount of hard work Democrats are doing in the bluegrass state. From coalmines to heroine, Kentucky has more problems than I could list here.

But my admiration for Beshear doesn’t protect him from my honesty. And honestly, Beshear’s response was straight from the Democratic establishment playbook.

He began his response by reaching out to Republicans. He talks about his Baptist preacher parents and fifty-year marriage. Reaching further he makes the point that as Governor, he didn’t raise taxes and built relationships with businesses and Republicans. Beshear then mentions the importance of the, “…Freedom for businesses to innovate”.

He then tears into Trump’s executive orders and cabinet selections. The former Governor then goes after repealing Obamacare. “Sure it needs some repairs” he says.

Beshear then launches into a series of platitudes about healthcare and american fairness. Classic Democrat move.

Finally, while attacking Trump’s ties to Russia, he quotes Ronald Reagan:

“Our origins matter less than our destinations and that’s what democracy is all about”.

For Democrats, crisis mode means classic playbook moves. Beshear couldn’t help but reach out to Republicans and bring the Democratic party closer to the center and thus closer to the interests of big business. He was able to mention a few statistics about Kentucky, but he mostly stuck to platitudes when talking about the country. Progressive values clearly have not been established in the party despite Keith Ellison’s supposed power. Overall, Beshear’s response might have short-term benefits for the party, but it stands as an ode to the Democratic establishment’s commitment to big donors and special interests.

Bernie Sanders’ Response

Bernie Sanders frames his entire response in terms of what Trump did not mention in his joint session speech. Ironically, the response applies to Beshear nearly as much as it does to Trump.

READ  How Bernie Sanders should use the Panama Papers

So what didn’t Trump mention according to Bernie?

There was no mention of Social Security or Medicare. Income and wealth inequality didn’t make the cut either. Neither did Citizen’s United or our corrupt campaign finance system. There was no mention of voter suppression and the Republican’s continued work to make voting more difficult for minorities. The subject of climate change was avoided, though Trump did pledge to increase our dependency on fossil fuels. No mention of our broken criminal justice system and no mention of astronomical college costs.

Sanders then dove into what Trump did mention.

Trump claimed to want clean air and water, but Bernie astutely points out that Trump had just rolled back regulations that did just that. Sanders then goes after the 84-billion-dollar budget increase for the Pentagon. A move he claims could instead pay for college across the country and reduce student loan debt.

He ends by praising citizens across the country who showed up to town halls and made their voices heard. He claims the Republicans are on the ropes and now is not the time to let up.

Why Bernie Got it Right

The establishment Democrats keep making the same mistakes. They reach out to the wrong people and use phrases we all know are empty. Platitudes need to be retired. Progressives want real answers, not hopes and dreams.

Bernie Sanders on the other hand speaks directly to specific issues and problems we face as a nation. He does it exhaustively and with great breadth. In as much as Bernie points out what Trump fails to mention, he also points out what the Democratic establishment so often fails to mention as well. Income inequality, climate change, the cost of college, etc.

Now is not the time to reach towards the center, now is the time to stay committed to truth, justice, and the principles of progressive politics. Bernie knows this just like most Progressives do.

And at the center of it all is our corrupt campaign finance system. Progressives know that and Bernie knows that.

With that in mind, Progressives have a champion that is taken seriously by all media outlets. Sure, you may have disagreed with his support of Secretary Clinton, but Bernie’s steadfast commitment to speaking on issues that really matter makes him vital in the push for a Progressive America.

Ryan Black is a documentary filmmaker, political consultant, and digital media professional who writes about Progressive Politics.

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