Bernie Sanders promotes his ‘revolution’ in Beverly Hills speech
The line stretched around the block to see Bernie Sanders at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on May 7, and the independent senator from Vermont did not disappoint a sold-out crowd of 1,700.
The former presidential candidate combined what sounded like a stump speech with a postmortem on the 2016 election and a battle cry for progressives moving forward under a Republican presidency.
Part of the reason President Donald Trump won the election is that “Democrats and the media did not fully appreciate or feel the pain being experienced by many, many millions across the country,” Sanders said.
The speech signaled that even after losing the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton, Sanders intends to remain active in national politics. He was the first Jewish candidate to win a state in a major party nominating contest, taking 23 in all. Clinton won 34.
The event was hosted by Writers Bloc Presents, a local nonprofit that showcases authors and books. Previous guests have included former Vice President Al Gore and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The speech promoted Sanders’ new book, “Our Revolution,” about his presidential campaign. A political organization of the same name seeks to use the momentum from his run for the White House to support progressive candidates and issues.
In his speech, Sanders took aim at the health care bill approved May 4 by the House of Representatives, calling it “one of the most disgusting pieces of legislation ever passed” and “a death sentence for thousands.”
“That legislation will never pass the United States Senate,” he said, earning some of the loudest applause of his speech.
He also referred to a number of legislative accomplishments he hopes to see through, including a $15 national minimum wage and a universal health care system.
Sanders began his speech by congratulating “our French brothers and sisters” for defeating nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen earlier that day in a landslide that elected centrist Emmanuel Macron to be president of France.
“The people of France said no to racism, no to xenophobia and no to anti-immigrant hysteria,” Sanders said.
What followed was a high-voltage speech that drew on some of Sanders’ favorite talking points from the campaign, such as the need to protect the environment, the lack of affordable housing in major cities and mounting college debt among young people.
He returned repeatedly to his signature message about the unequal distribution of wealth and the influence of big-donor money in politics.
“This country is rapidly on its way to becoming an oligarchic form of society … owned and controlled by a very small number of individuals,” he said.
Sanders’ speech came several days after he defended Israel from criticism by the United Nations and decried the idea of a “one-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a May 3 interview with Al Jazeera.
“I think if that happens, then that would be the end of the State of Israel, and I support Israel’s right to exist,” he told Al Jazeera. “I think if there is the political will to make it happen and if there is good faith on both sides, I do think [the two-state solution] is possible, and I think there has not been good faith, certainly by this Israeli government, and I have my doubts about parts of the Palestinian leadership, as well.”
He added, “People will do what they want to do, but I think our job as a nation is to do everything humanly possible to bring Israel and the Palestinians — and the entire Middle East, to the degree that we can — together, but, no, I’m not a supporter of [the one-state solution].
“What must be done is that the United States of America is to have a Middle East policy which is evenhanded, which does not simply supply endless amounts of money, of military support to Israel, but which treats both sides with respect and dignity, and does our best to bring them to the table.”
In the same interview, he also criticized the U.N. for singling out Israel for human rights violations when other countries in the region are guilty of similar acts.
Developer and philanthropist Stanley Black was in attendance at the speech. He said he’s active in Temple of the Arts, and that he was a fan of Sanders, but didn’t donate to his campaign because his daughter is close with Clinton.
“He should have been the [Democratic] candidate,” Black said. “He’s a knowledgeable, smart guy.”
Writers Bloc Presents will host Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on July 7 at a to-be-determined venue in West Los Angeles.