Dear Friends in Chicago,
I’ve asked my fellow Vermonters Corey Decker and Jeremy Hansen to convey my very best wishes for a productive and successful conference this weekend. We need many more people like you, throughout our country, who are willing to challenge the stranglehold of big money on politics.
As you know, I have been working for the last forty-five years in electoral campaigns aimed at working class voters in our state. They wanted and needed progressive parties and candidates capable of taking on the two-party system and big money interests — and in Vermont, we have been able to do that to a remarkable degree.
I have been elected fourteen times as a progressive independent myself. With the strong support of strong grassroots campaigns, I have succeeded in four mayoral elections in Burlington and ten federal races between 1990 and 2012. During the last twenty years, the Vermont Progressive Party has flourished as well, fielding many find candidates like Jeremy for state and local office.
In the Vermont legislature, we now have the largest third party presence of any state in the country. The VPP’s statehouse delegation includes many former colleagues of mine. I have been proud to assist their own campaigns for state rep and state senator, for Burlington City council, and many other local elected offices previously controlled by the two major parties.
Lately, it has been my pleasure to aid progressive candidates and slates in many other states as well. I particularly want to recognize, among your scheduled speakers, Richmond City Council member Gayle McLaughlin and Chicago Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski-Garza. The great rallies and fundraisers we had on behalf of these two remarkable and fearless women was part of what convinced me to enter the 2016 presidential race.
I don’t have to tell any of you that we face quite possibly the most serious set of crises in this country since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment is much too high, workers are working longer hours for lower wages and we remain the only major country without a national health care program. Millions of Americans worry about whether their kids will be able to afford college or get decent jobs. They fear that they may not have the saving to retire with dignity and security.
For forty years, the middle class of this county has been disappearing. Today, 99% of all new income is going to the top 1%, and the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality is now worse than at any time since the late 1920s. The people at the top of grabbing all the new wealth and income for themselves, and the rest of America is being squeezed and left behind.
The disastrous decision of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case and in other related decisions is undermining the very foundations of American democracy, as billionaires rig the system by using their Super PACS to buy politicians and elections.
And the peril of global climate change, with catastrophic consequences, is the central challenge of our times and our planet.
After a year of travel, discussion and dialogue, I have recently filed papers to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.
Before making this difficult decision, I received much public and private advice about whether to campaign within the Democratic Party primaries or only in the general election as a progressive independent. I concluded that running an effective 50-state campaign, as a third party independent, was neither feasible nor the best way to raise, before the largest possible audience, issues and problems that our mainstream parties routinely ignore.
I strongly believe that your efforts in Chicago this weekend and back home are still very much complementary to the national electoral campaign that I just announced this week. And I hope that the spirit of cooperation reflected in your meeting agenda will extend to our mutual ability to work together, now and in the future.
— Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator
Candidate for president.
Hyperlinks added by this blog. Original text of Sanders’ letter on campaign letterhead can be found here.