A former Socialist mayor of Burlington, Vt. spoke at Dudley House last night, calling for Americans who seek to address the concerns of the poor and working classes to vote a third party into the political mainstream.
Bernard Sanders, a 1989-'90 Institute of Politics fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, told about 15 house affiliates at a Dudley public service committee meeting in Lehman Hall that a such a party should campaign for socialized medicine, education and housing.
"Half of the people in America don't vote," Sanders said, asserting that a democratic socialist party would unite and serve groups that typically do not vote in large numbers, and are traditionally ignored by the Republican and Democratic parties.
And Sanders said an increase in voters would expand the democratic process. "Even if the Socialist Party only got 10 percent of the vote, the people in power in Washington would have to listen," he said.
Sanders, who was elected mayor three times of the 40,000-person Vermont town since 1981, linked the aggregation of wealth and power in the United States to the inability of government to address basic needs ranging from education to housing to campaign financing reform.
Unequal wealth translates into unequal political power, Sanders said. Citing his first campaign, the former mayor said that 90 percent of his contributions came in amounts smaller than $50.
But Sanders said social change is inevitable once the disenfranchised realize that they can play an active part in government.
"No family should have to put more than 25 percent of its income into housing," Sanders said. "We could pull out the soldiers [in Europe] and save $50 billion or $60 billion per year from the defense budget. If we put this money towards housing, the problem of affordable housing could be solved in a year or six months."