Eye-opening, thought-provoking, depressing at times, and inspirational.
I’m ashamed to say it, Bernie Sanders mostly passed me by during his bid for the White House. By the time I began to pay much attention to the competition it was all about Clinton and Trump, so it’s not too surprising. Sanders has his own thoughts on this, which he outlines in the book when he discusses the role of the media in politics and political discussions.
However, I had heard some of what Sander was saying and he seemed like my kind of guy. It was after Donald Trump was elected and the world universally sighed ‘oh fuck’ that I began to hear more about Sanders. People’s whose opinions I respect praised his policies. They explained that Sanders was a better candidate to beat Trump, which surprised me since Clinton was far better recognised and supporters of hers filled my social media streams. But, Sanders explains all of this in his book, explaining the grass-root support he had, while he didn’t necessarily have the same buy in from Wall Street and Hollywood that Hilary did.
And it makes sense when you read this book. In 2016, the world looked on in shock as votes in the US and UK took an unexpected turn, with the election of Donal Trump as president of the US and the UK decision to leave the EU. These votes showed that people wanted an alternative, they are dissatisfied with the status quo, and that’s what Clinton represents. Sanders, meanwhile, presents a very logical proposal to change society for the better. And it makes sense that he scored so highly against Trump.
One thing I’ll say this about his book is that it’s got me thinking. Sanders is clued in and seemingly generous; he is all about supporting the little guy, and what’s not to like about that?
Essentially, Our Revolution highlights some of the glaring inequalities that exist in the US. And it’s not just the US, but worldwide. I’m not sure if people are aware of what is happening or how it happening; we seem to be so busy just trying to get by that we don’t have time to question the insane wealth that exists for some while huge swathes of the population struggle to afford houses or food for their kids. Sanders talks a lot about the financial crash in 2007/2008. It was a crash that would have worldwide repercussions, and we in Ireland were heavily hit by the downfall of many banks and we are still living with the hangover of the excesses of the good times. So much of what Sanders wrote about America rings true here, although less extreme.
Sanders talks about low wages, the high cost of healthcare, the influence of big business on politics and racism, among many other issues facing society. I’m writing this blog just days after the Florida school shooting in which 17 people lots their lives, bringing the gun debate back to the fore. And this very much ties in with Sanders message about the influence of the very rich on the lives of the rest. He discusses campaign funding and how energy groups or others, like the NRA, lobby government and court politician to curry favour. Sanders outlines how his campaign moved away from that, with funding coming from small donations by large numbers of people, rather than large donations from small interest groups. But his eventual loss does raise the question: Is it possible to run a clean campaign and succeed? Especially in the US.
A key point that Sanders makes repeatedly is the way in which big business makes its money – low wages, off-shore businesses and tax loopholes. He talks about job losses as companies outsource manufacturing to cheaper markets. It makes you wonder how sustainable it can all be. If those with money keep getting cheaper deals and the rest of us are squeezed out of the picture, how will the middle ground survive?
Our Revolution leaves you asking a lot of questions about modern society and how you can impact change. And, following the Florida school shooting, there are signs of people demanding those changes. The planned student marches and strikes, there is a sense of revolution among the people. It’s the same with the #MeToo campaign. You really do have to wonder how different things could have been if Sanders had secured the Democratic nomination.
Overall, I found the book a bit tough going, I don’t typically read political or ideological books. Instead I rather bury my head in the sand with glorious fiction! However, I would highly recommend this for everyone. I think it will open your eyes to so much of what is happening in the world. Any student of politics, and even second-level students should read it. If you’re put off by the heaviness of the content, perhaps read it in passages rather than all in one go.
If this is the kind of book that interests you, I would also suggest you watch Requiem for an American Dream with Noam Chomsky and The 13th on Netflix. These are eye-opening and heart-breaking documentaries on Netflix.