Archive for August 26th, 2012

Bernie Rallies Woodstock Progressives

Sen. Bernie Sanders ready to step into the Masonic Temple in Woodstock, August 26, 2012

Senator Bernie Sanders, touting himself as the longest-serving Independent in Congress, came to Woodstock this morning not just to rally support in his campaign for re-election in November, but also to boost morale for the long haul among those who see nothing but political negatives with regard to the U.S. economy, medical care, social security and workers’ rights.  He was greeted warmly by a warm  audience of about 75 people — mostly Woodstock retirees —  who filled the Masonic Temple’s main hall.

Specifying that not only should Republicans NOT be allowed to tap into Social Security as part of deficit reduction, Sanders said social security should, in fact, be strengthened.  He also called for a “massive” national jobs program to fix what he described as “crumbling”  U.S. infrastructure — roads, sewer plants, bridges, public transportation and rail. He said such a program could provide jobs not just for laborers but for engineers and highly skilled workers as well.

The affably out-spoken Senator took on newly minted Republican Vice-Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan, calling him “hypocritical.” Sanders said part of the economic mess the U.S. finds itself in is due to Ryan’s support of policies that have led to an increase in the U.S. budget deficit.

Twice Sanders quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. saying, “The arc of history bends towards justice.”  He was referring to the need to keep pushing to maintain the freedoms that have been gained since the writing of the Declaration of Independence: the end of slavery, “Jim Crowe” laws, voting rights for women, and reproductive rights. Sanders said it is not enough to just re-elect President Barack Obama in November, but to keep pushing back against those who would remove hard-won rights and freedoms.  He added, “We must organize, educate and fight…to reinvigorate the economy.” 

One audience member asked Sanders to comment on the local group East-Central Vermont Fiber’s Network efforts to bring fiber optic lines to Woodstock which she said have been stymied by Fairpoint Communications. While Sanders had much to say — as usual  — about and against corporate power, he deferred the question as he said he did not have enough information about that local issue. He did, however, promise broadband to virtually everyone in the State within a couple of years, although he did not provide the details of how that would happen.

At several points during his brief comments, Sanders garnered laughs and clapping, especially when he noted that the only place the question of “IF” global climate change exists is on the notably right-leaning TV and radio shows on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Sanders said that, among scientists,  it is not a question but a fact that global climate change IS happening and that action should be taken to mitigate its effects.

Sen. Sanders was joined at the Sunday morning get-together by Springfield union activist and Vermont Standard columnist Kurt Staudter, Sally Miller of Sustainable Woodstock and Elizabeth Reaves of the Vermont Workers’ Center.

They all spoke of  helping working class families and the increased loss —  nationally  — of a social safety net. Staudter maintained that rather than being some horrible entity, “Labor creates Wealth” and should not be forgotten. Reaves added that,  in many instances,  popular U.S. policies are “pushing against the limits of fairness.”

While some thought there might be a pancake breakfast before the rally (including Woodstock Early Bird), that turned out not to be. Organizers did provide bagels and coffee for the hour and a half get-together.

Sanders left to attend a BBQ in Pittsfield where he was to be joined by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.

Shumlin visits Woodstock tomorrow afternoon for a brief meet/greet with the public on the Woodstock Green around 5pm which will then be followed by his attendance at the Keegan Bradley golf tournament at the Woodstock Inn Country Club.

BTW, the Re-elect Bernie Campaign said it’s grateful to the Woodstock Inn’s Conference Services which came through generously — and at the last minute — with a missing microphone stand for Sanders’ visit with Woodstock residents.