Written by Jessica Hoefer
The Freie Universität Berlin, with Ullstein Verlag and newspaper, Die Zeit, organized the German book presentation of Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe in.”
Though the purpose of this event was to focus on his book release, Senator Bernie Sanders, to the pleasure of the crowd, took to the stage and opened by explaining “what the hell is going on in the United States.”
Sanders began by addressing the very real threat of climate change. He considered the US’ (at the time, possible) withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a “horrific mistake”- calling it a “crisis of extraordinary consequence that calls out for strong international cooperation.”
Sanders continued with his opinions of Trump’s presidency, noting just “how far out of touch Trump is with the American people” in terms of climate change, international cooperation and life and death issues that impact the working families of America. Bernie specifically honed in on Trump’s budget proposal, calling it “the most horrific budget ever submitted to Congress in the modern history of the US.” Not only would the budget throw 23 million Americans off of the health insurance they are currently on, but it also makes cuts to nutrition programs (i.e. Women-Infant Children Program), affordable housing, environmental protection all the while providing $3 trillion in tax breaks to the top one percent in a ten year period. Bernie labeled it, “A massive transfer of wealth from working families, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor, to the top one percent.”
Senator Sanders went on to express his concerns for Trump’s disrespect for democracy and tolerance. Sanders called Trump’s unprecedented attacks against the media, “nothing less than an effort to intimidate those who would criticize him and to undermine respect for a free press” as well as “a major assault on democracy in the United States.” He also referenced Trump’s attack on the independent judiciary of the United States, as an effort “to diminish a co-equal branch of government, as outlined by the Constitution of the United States.”
When prompted, Bernie went on to explain the results of the 2016 US presidential election. He noted the very large portion of citizens that voted for Trump because they felt left behind and that their grievances went unnoticed. Sanders followed up expressing, “Donald Trump is not representative of the majority of the population of the United States” and that the US does in fact value its alliance with Germany along with other European countries. Sanders declared, “The job of a leader is to bring people together, not divide them up.”
Sanders warned that the United States is moving in the direction of becoming an oligarchic form of society, with the “top one percent globally owning more wealth than the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population. And the wealthiest eight people in the world owning more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.” Met with a loud applause, Sanders asserted, “Our job is not to accept that outrage.”
On Sunday night, the Europe Union sighed a breath of relief at the results of the French general election. In a shocking result, the first independent party candidate, Emmanuel Macron, swept 66% of the votes - leaving populist and far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen with only 34%.
Though Macron was ahead in the polls in the days leading up the election, many voters were still skeptical. Was this yet another election to have an unexpected outcome and thereby, further impact the global political scene? If Le Pen had won the vote, the pressing question today would be: How much longer would the European Union and consequently, the Euro, exist? However, the focus is now on inclusivity and a stronger European Union -both politically and economically.
So, this is what we can learn from France’s election:
Macron proved to the world that you can run outside of traditional party lines, and yet you do not have to be populist. Macron was the first independent party to run in France. He built his own party without using the party system that has long been in place. And he won.
The move towards global governance is good. In a world that has seen many nationalistic patterns, especially within the last year, Macron demonstrated that it is possible to be both French and European.
Youth can be a positive attribute in the political realm. It can serve as a source for fresh, contemporary ideas that relate to a younger demographic. No longer does the world require an older generation to run it with frankly, outdated concepts and policies. Macron, 39, is France’s youngest President.
An inclusive world is a winning world. Due to its geopolitical position, France has become increasingly diverse. This is due to the refugee crisis that started in 2015 in addition to many other immigrants from North Africa and around the world migrating to France. Diversity can aid in building a new France, considering “Keeping France French” was a rather unconvincing claim and unattainable goal.
Media plays an important role in shaping people’s opinions, but perhaps a too dominant one when it comes to election coverage. The French law prohibits the media to cover the election going into the weekend of the election. Maybe this should be implemented around the world.
Although the elections in 2016 and 2017 have had huge impacts, all of them have had a relatively low voter turnout. The French election had the lowest voter turnout in 40 years with just 75% of able-voters partaking. From this, we gather that voting needs to be reshaped as something of extreme value, a privileged right.
Macron’s party knew that hacking and disinformation was going to play a role in the French election and he used it. He utilized social media, interviews and other platforms to speak about fake news. He condemned acts of spreading “fake news” and met it with real answers. His party banned Russian news platforms like RT and Sputnik from attending his events. He was even hacked 36 hours before the election, and his campaign confronted it.
Macron spoke to French voters and Le Pen, separately. During debates, Macron attacked only Le Pen - never her supporters. Instead, he spoke to all voters with candid facts.
The two-part election is unique and has many advantages. Voters are likely to be more engaged because they have more opportunities to partake and have their voices heard. Voters are able to vote twice, thereby narrowing down the candidates for the final election - an event that is also easily and immediately counted.
Although France has experienced several terrorist attacks, its decision of Macron over Le Pen concludes that acting out of fear and xenophobia, ultimately loses. The election of Macron is not just France’s but Europe’s message that understanding, inclusiveness and an openness to progressive ideas, is the future. Unity in diversity lives on - Vive La France!.
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