By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer
Bernie Sanders, the junior senator from Vermont, introduced a provocative thought to the audience in the Granite State Room of the Memorial Union Building on Friday, Oct. 10.
“It really is no longer a democracy when [corporate] money counts more than our vote,” said Katie Thompson, a member of UNH Peace and Justice League and the opening speaker of the event.
This was the focal point of the event, which was hosted by the UNH Peace and Justice League. The event began at 5 p.m. with an audience of about 200 students, community members and activists filing into the room.
The UNH Peace and Justice League served falafel at the back of the room and encouraged attendants to sign pledges to end the influence of corporate interest groups over American politics — or even to vote at all.
Sanders took the stage to applause, began by identifying himself as an independent and discussed his objections with both the Democratic and Republican parties.
“The Republican party, over the last several decades, has moved from … a center-right party to a right-wing-extremist party,” Sanders said. “… and the Democratic party is widely perceived now as being not as strong as it should be in standing up for working parties and dealing with the other major issues that we face.”
Sanders went on to outline disturbing statistics about the lack of civic participation predicted for upcoming elections on a state and national level. He also claimed that actual unemployment is about 12 percent.
“That is a crisis situation,” Sanders said.
Sanders also discussed what he deemed to be the inadequate state of American insurance, citing large deductibles and high copayments as significant flaws in the systems.
“The best thing I think you can do is engage your fellow students by reminding them that people fought and died for a democratic society; that is it is absolutely unpatriotic and un-American not to be involved in the political processes,” Sanders said.
The audience responded particularly well to Sanders’ calls for pay equality between the genders and his accolades for the progress made in the gay rights movement. The session ended with questions from the audience.
Questions included topics such as fracking, which Sanders recommends outlawing as has been done in Vermont. Sanders also said he supports the Scandinavian healthcare model.
“When we talk about healthcare, what we should all appreciate is not only is the United States the only major country not to guarantee its people health care to all people; we spend almost twice as much per capita on healthcare as any other nation,” Sanders said.
He believed the reason for this was that the goal of American healthcare systems is often to enrich insurance and drug companies.
Bernie Sanders joined the UNH Peace and Justice League in signing a pledge that read: “I support restoring democracy by publicly financing elections and getting big money out of politics.”
Sanders said, “And I am signing it happily.”