Former Chair of the DNC and superdelegate Paul Kirk announced his endorsement of Senator Sanders at a press conference in Hanover, New Hampshire on Thursday evening. Sanders had promised to announce an important endorsement today and while it may not have been who some thought it would be, it certainly is significant.
Remarks from Paul Kirk:
America’s democracy was designed to preserve, through its elected representatives, freedom and equality of rights and opportunities for all its people. Our faith in democracy’s continued fairness is what has made and kept America great. It’s a faith based on a solemn compact that each succeeding generation will leave our system of government better than they found it.
Throughout 50 years of involvement in the political life of our country, I have been and continue to be guided by the practical and patriotic ideals of the public lives of John F. Kennedy and his brothers with whom I was privileged to serve.
They include the honesty to face the nation’s undeniable truths no matter how uncomfortable; the courage to challenge all citizens to fairly share the responsibilities and sacrifices necessary to shape the consequences of those truths; and the confidence to trust a generous and inclusive American people to respond with fair and patriotic instincts.
Here’s what President Kennedy said of democracy 53 years ago:
“(A)s a strong believer in the democratic faith, ….. we know our enjoyment of freedom is not so much a gift from the past as a challenge for the future, not so much a reward for old virtues, but a goal for new struggles, not so much an inheritance from our forefathers as an obligation of those of us who follow….for democracy is never a final achievement” he said, “ It is a call to an untiring effort, to sacrifice and a willingness to live and to die in its defense.”
He added: “Every generation of the Americas has shaped new goals for democracy to suit the demands of a new age.”
Half a century later, in considering the stakes in the coming election, for me the single issue that overrides all others is the state of our democracy and whether we are keeping its implicit promise to leave it to succeeding generations better than we found it. To answer that question honestly we must confront certain uncomfortable truths:
First, the politically inspired claims that a tax-advantaged “trickle down” economic policy of the 1980s would benefit all Americans have been proven patently false. In combination with other societal and political factors, they have robbed a vast majority of American families of their economic security while unprecedented privately invested wealth has flooded upward. Of all the wealth in the country, 76% is now owned by the top 10% of Americans while the bottom 40% have a negative net worth.
While this ominous shift of society’s wealth and income is being amassed at the apex of America’s pyramid, the several rungs on the ladder of opportunity, once just a hard-earned step away for the average family striving for security and upward mobility, are now beyond their reach even as these millions of Americans work harder and longer for lower wages often at more than one grueling job.
Unless this continually growing inequality of opportunity for advancement is redressed by policies of fairly shared change, the gaping separation between the privileged and the disadvantaged will lead to increasingly dire consequences not only for sustained and shared economic growth but for the character of our national community and for the stability and viability of our democracy.
A second, closely connected and equally uncomfortable truth is that the recent campaign finance “rules of the game” are poisoning the politics of our democracy.
For some time now, workers have labored from one low paying job to another to support their families, while big money political donors and their agents strolled from one welcoming Congressional office to another lobbying for ways and means to protect their wealthy status quo and advance their private economic interest.
But then, to further distort the process, along came the Citizens United case in which a “strict constructionist” majority of the highest court in our land opined in warped doublespeak that a public corporation is equal to a private person and that political contributions are equal to “speech”. This decision condoned and, as a practical matter, encouraged unlimited torrents of funds from individuals and institutions, both private and public, to flow into fictionally “independent” “Super-Pacs” of the super wealthy to bankroll bundles to their favored campaign; it also led to tax-exempt entities masquerading as do-good non-profits to follow the example of the political Super-Pacs but — without disclosing the sources of their funds.
Finally, Citizens effectively licensed outsized political power and influence to the wealthiest among us, thus making a mockery of —“one person; one vote”—a cherished concept of fairness and equality in ours — or any other– true democracy.
Today, it’s neither naïve nor overly cynical for the American people to suspect that the unlimited amounts and often undisclosed sources of political money bear directly on the access and influence afforded to high-end donors to the detriment of the people’s own concerns and needs;
and when the people perceive their political system to be “for sale” and see the enormous amounts of political money spent on elections while they struggle to make ends meet for their families, it is not irrational to conclude that their democratic system now belongs to someone else. Their names may appear on a list of eligible voters, but if they feel effectively disenfranchised, why vote?
Additional and significant collateral damage inflicted by the endless campaign finance marathon is the public’s time that is spent by incumbent representatives in a demeaning chase to woo Super- donors and constantly dial for dollars.
It is valuable time far better spent listening and attending to the concerns of their constituents or building legislative bridges to their Congressional colleagues across the aisle.
The uncomfortable truths I’ve mentioned have consequences. Consider these:
The economic inequality of United States’ households is wider and growing faster than in any other developed country in the world;
Read Paul Kirk’s full endorsement HERE