Photo : Phil Roeder ( CC)

Puerto Rico could be a starting model for the Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ political revolution.

A historic moment occurred last week in Puerto Rico because after weeks of protests, Governor Ricardo Rosselló finally confirmed that he will resign as Governor on August 2nd, 2019. These massive protests succeeded in holding a sitting Governor accountable for his actions against his constituents and his involvement in a group chat in which he joked about the victims of Hurricane Maria and used offensive sexist and homophobic language attacking Puerto Rican celebrity Ricky Martin and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, among others. 

Many regarded this step as a victory for the Puerto Rican people and democracy as a whole. Public leaders took to social media outlets to support the people of Puerto Rico during the protests and celebrated their victory when Governor Rossello announced his resignation; though, as always, the support of politicians usually helps them more than anyone else. One specific statement made by Bernie Sanders transitioned from congratulations to yet again criticizing Wall Street, which is his go-to line. 

Sanders’ Statement On Puerto Rico

“After massive public outrage brought down a corrupt government, now is the time for a new beginning for the people of Puerto Rico. There must be new leadership which will help the island recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, which caused enormous damage almost two years ago. But we must do more than that. After decades of economic decline and increased poverty, the government of Puerto Rico must finally respond to the needs of struggling working families, and not the greed of vulture capitalists from Wall Street who have exacerbated the financial crisis on the island. 

The time has come for a Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure, to create the good-paying jobs it needs to transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, to guarantee healthcare as a right and to improve public schools and childcare facilities. Wall Street’s stranglehold on Puerto Rico must end. We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and give the island the debt relief it so desperately needs. Further, it is time to dissolve the disastrous PROMESA financial control board that has stripped away the democratic rights of the people of Puerto Rico and put incredible power into the hands of a handful of unelected bureaucrats. Together, we must help establish a vibrant democracy in Puerto Rico and a government of transparency that works for all, and not just the wealthy and the corporate elite.” 

Sanders’ Revolution

Like this quote, a lot of his talking points consist of revolutionary rhetoric aimed at the breaking up of large corporations and taxing the richest citizens of the United States. Some see him as the next great hope while others demonize him as a socialist — a word that presently has barely any meaning because almost no one uses it properly. 

Sanders prefers the term democratic socialist, arguing that capitalism by nature does not allow for the freedoms required in a functioning democracy and that the means of production should be controlled by a community instead of the government or corporations. Essentially, less government interference and less corporate control over production and sales. 

For Bernie Sanders, what happened in Puerto Rico represents a pathway for citizens of the United States to resist what he sees as the ever-growing, destructive, and corrupt capitalist machine that runs everyday life. Sanders is certainly one of the more decisive and outspoken candidates in the field. However, there seems to be little headway made by his insistence on a mass revolution. It did not work for him last election cycle, but there is still a relatively long way to go before the Democratic primaries. 

The uncertainty is that despite Sanders’ rhetoric, no one has any clear idea about how far he will go to repair democracy in the United States, but it is clear that he wants to use Puerto Rico as a model. However, what will happen if the revolution in Puerto Rico were to happen on a national scale? Is Sanders the right person to lead that revolution? Sanders needs to remember that revolutions, historically, have just as much a chance of falling apart and ruining democracy as they do of succeeding and if he is going to do this, he needs to be careful.

 The Senator maintains second place in the polls ahead of the second round of democratic debates set for tomorrow and Wednesday. 

Margaret Valenti

Margaret Valenti is the Editor of Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today.