For the past 40 years in this country, our great middle class — once the envy of the world — has been disappearing. All over America, people are working two or three jobs, scared to death about the futures of their children, while almost all new income goes to a small number of people at the top.
But this is not a uniquely American phenomenon.
All over the world, people are seeing that same tendency. Today, in the global economy, the top 1 percent owns more than the bottom 99 percent, and a handful of billionaires own more than the bottom half of people around the world — that’s 3.7 billion people.
That is the reality. People in our own country, and around the world, are angry, and they feel that nobody is listening to their pain.
And one of the results of that reality is that in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.
And while these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests.
These leaders are also deeply connected to a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs, motivated by greed and power, who see the world as their economic plaything.
This trend certainly did not begin with Trump, but there’s no question that authoritarian leaders around the world have drawn inspiration from the fact that the leader of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy seems to delight in shattering democratic norms.
Other authoritarian states are much farther along this kleptocratic process. In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is no debate about separation because the natural resources of the state, valued at trillions of dollars, belong to the Saudi royal family. In Hungary, far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is openly allied with Putin in Russia. In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.
So the question is: Where do we go from here?
To effectively oppose right-wing authoritarianism, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last several decades. In order to fight this trend, we need to strengthen the global coalition of progressive democrats.
While authoritarians promote division and hatred, we will promote unity, inclusion, and an agenda based on economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.
Governments of the world must come together to end the absurdity of rich and multinational corporations stashing over $21 trillion in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and then demanding that their respective governments impose an austerity agenda on their working families.
It is not acceptable that the fossil fuel industry continues to make huge profits while their carbon emissions destroy the planet for our children and grandchildren.
It is not acceptable that a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, largely control the flow of information on the planet.
It is not acceptable that trade policies that benefit large multinational corporations and encourage a race to the bottom hurt working people throughout the world as they are written out of public view.
It is not acceptable that, with the Cold War long behind us, countries around the world spend over $1 trillion a year on weapons of destruction, while millions of children die of easily treatable diseases.
In order to effectively combat the rise of the international authoritarian axis, we need an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power as well.
Such a movement must be willing to think creatively and boldly about the world that we would like to see.
We must take the opportunity to reconceptualize a genuinely progressive global order based on human solidarity, an order that recognizes that every person on this planet shares a common humanity, that we all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water, breathe clean air and live in peace.
Our job is to reach out to those in every corner of the world who share these values and who are fighting for a better world.
In a time of exploding wealth and technology, we have the potential to create a decent life for all people. Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other.
We know that those forces work together across borders. We must do the same.
Thank you for reading.
Bernie Sanders, VT, USA Senator