Sanders urges Democrats to not ignore economy before midterms

"Now is the time for Democrats to take the fight to the reactionary Republican Party"

Published October 11, 2022 4:00AM (EDT)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee speaks at a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on March 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee speaks at a hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on March 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Just focusing on the GOP's assault on abortion rights won't be enough to win political races next month; for the midterms, "Democrats must stand with the working class of this country and expose the Republicans for the phonies that they are," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders argued Monday.

Sanders—who was elected as an Independent from Vermont but serves as Senate Budget Committee chair as well as head of outreach for the chamber's Democrats and twice sought the party's presidential nomination—made that argument in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

While highlighting his "lifetime 100% pro-choice voting record" and his outrage over the U.S. Supreme Court's recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, Sanders also wrote that leading up to the November 8 election, "I am alarmed to hear the advice that many Democratic candidates are getting from establishment consultants and directors of well-funded super PACs that the closing argument of Democrats should focus only on abortion."

"I disagree," the senator explained. "In my view, while the abortion issue must remain on the front burner, it would be political malpractice for Democrats to ignore the state of the economy and allow Republican lies and distortions to go unanswered."

"This country has, for decades, faced structural economic crises that have caused the decline of the American middle class," he continued. "Now is the time for Democrats to take the fight to the reactionary Republican Party and expose their anti-worker views on the most important issues facing ordinary Americans. That is both the right thing to do from a policy perspective and good politics."

Sanders' piece comes in the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic and as the Federal Reserve continues to hike interest rates—provoking accusations from some economists and progressive politicians that the U.S. central bank is pursuing a policy that harms poorer people while disregarding a key driver of inflation: corporate greed.

Some experts and progressives in Congress, including Sanders, have repeatedly called for implementing a windfall profits tax to go after industries and companies—especially food, fossil fuel, and pharmaceutical giants—that are taking advantage of the pandemic and Russia's war on Ukraine to raise prices to pad the pockets of shareholders.

In a series of questions in his Guardian piece, Sanders pointed out the failings of Republicans working to regain control of Congress—including their plans to continue the tax priorities advanced under former President Donald Trump, who's expected to run again in 2024:

  • Is there one Republican prepared to raise taxes on billionaires, or do they want to make a bad situation worse by extending Trump's tax breaks for the rich and repealing the estate tax?
  • Is there one Republican in Congress who is prepared to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour?
  • Is there one Republican prepared to allow Medicare to immediately begin negotiating prescription drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry and cut the cost of medicine by half?
  • Is there one Republican who believes that healthcare is a human right and supports universal coverage?
  • Is there one Republican who supports at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave?

"The list goes on: childcare, housing, home healthcare, college affordability," Sanders wrote. "On every one of these enormously important issues the Republican Party has virtually nothing to say to address the desperate needs of low- and moderate-income Americans. And what they do propose will most often make a bad situation worse."

"Nevertheless, in poll after poll Republicans are more trusted than Democrats to handle the economy—the issue of most importance to people," he noted. "I believe that if Democrats do not fight back on economic issues and present a strong pro-worker agenda, they could well be in the minority in both the House and the Senate next year."

Currently, Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties in the Senate—where the party's priorities have been held up by a few right-wing members and the legislative filibuster. This cycle, Sanders has formally endorsed over a dozen progressive candidates across both chambers who won their primary races.

According to the senator, "If we close this critical midterm campaign with a clear, unified vision to meet the needs of working families, to take on corporate greed, and protect a woman's right to choose, we will begin to rebuild the trust between Democrats in Washington and the working families of this country. And we'll win the election."

By Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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