From the beginning, Bernie Sanders not only illuminated progressive ideas thought to be wild machinations of the fringe left, but he also brought them into the mainstream to build a multi-racial and class-conscious movement. By energizing tens of thousands of people into political participation, Bernie accomplished the unprecedented mission of mobilizing the largest, the youngest, and the most diverse grassroots campaign in American history. We canvassed and we phonebanked. We even started organizing our own workplaces and our neighborhoods. “Not Me, Us” became centered around helping people, and we started to dream for a future that prioritizes all of our families. A future where we fight for each other and not for the benefit of billionaires.
Then on April 8th, Bernie Sanders announced he was suspending his 2020 presidential campaign. We came ever so close in nominating a decent man who wants a better world for everyone.
History will absolve Bernie Sanders. Of course there is much reflection to be done on how Bernie and his campaign could have fared better, but we must bear in mind how difficult an endeavour it is to reorient an entrenched capitalist party around a robust working class. The Democratic establishment, via the corporate media, spent hundreds of hours denigrating Bernie and the policies he promoted. They tried to erase away the identity of all his supporters, calling us Bernie Bros. They even went as far as subverting democracy: the Iowa Caucus debacle, changing the debate rules which allowed the racist Mike Bloomberg to buy his way into the primary, and finally, by forcing elections to take place during a pandemic. It is clear our next fight is against the Democratic establishment who are beholden to their corporate masters and who refuse to present scientific, economic, and moral facts when these are in conflict with capitalist interests.
Though the future does seem grim, whether we go gentle into this neoliberal night is completely on us. The Bernie Sanders campaign showed us that we have large numbers on our side, larger than many realize. Not only do we believe in the possibility of a democratic socialist world order, but now it seems totally worth fighting for.
So what comes next?
Bernie Sanders is still on the ballot, we can still cast our votes. It’s our right to do so, and it can increase Bernie’s delegates which will help exert some influence over the DNC platform come convention time. For Biden to earn the progressive vote in November, his campaign must pledge commitment to all of the following:
- Climate Change: Biden must adopt the framework of the Green New Deal and make specific commitments around achieving a just transition to 100 percent clean energy for electricity, buildings, and transportation by 2030.
- Healthcare: Biden must support Medicare for All and he must support the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act that would allow the government to manufacture generic versions of drugs which would dramatically lower prescription costs. Biden must also continue to improve people’s ability to access abortion regardless of income and zip code.
- Foreign Policy: Biden must support the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force.
- Democracy: Biden must support the elimination of the filibuster and the expansion of the Supreme Court. Biden must also adopt the strong anti-corruption reforms proposed by Senator Sanders and Senator Warren. Above all, Biden must work to end voter disenfranchisement by guaranteeing the right to easily accessible and secure voting for every citizen.
- Gun Violence Prevention: Biden must adopt a comprehensive and intersectional approach to preventing gun violence with the goal of a 50 percent reduction in gun deaths by 2030, and he must adopt a federal licensing program.
- Criminalization: Biden must end the Drug War by supporting the equitable legalization of marijuana and incentivizing states to cut their incarcerated population by 50 percent while making massive investments in housing, drug treatment, education, and health programs.
- Education: Biden must support free college and trade school for all Americans regardless of income, citizenship status, or criminal record and support the cancellation of $1.7 trillion in student loan debt.
- Wealth Tax: Biden must support an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the wealthiest 180,000 households in America who are the top 0.1 percent based on proposals laid out by Senator Sanders.
- Immigration: Biden must dismantle ICE and CBP as we know them by appointing a DHS Secretary committed to holding ICE and CBP agents accountable. A White House Commission that represents the voices and needs of immigrants must form to ensure that executive actions and legislative solutions address these needs. It is also crucial that Biden repeal the 1996 illegal immigration reforms and create citizenship pathways that are free from such harmful provisions for all undocumented people.
- Personnel and Future Administration: Biden must pledge to appoint zero current or former Wall Street executives, corporate lobbyists, or people affiliated with the fossil fuel, health insurance, or private prison corporations to his transition team, cabinet, or advisors. Instead, Biden must align himself with progressive officials who endorsed Bernie Sanders or officials who believe in the Green New Deal. He must also appoint a Director of Gun Violence Prevention in the White House. Most importantly, Biden must create a task force on young Americans focused on the many issues unique to the next generation’s health, wellbeing, and economic stability.
Let us not forget how close a democratic socialist came to winning the nomination. It is valid to mourn the suspension of the Bernie Sanders campaign, but we must not fall into total despair. The inspiration we all felt from this momentous campaign is still inside of us. Just like Bernie asked at his Queens rally last fall, Western CT DSA is asking you to fight for someone you don’t know. We need every single one of you. If you are already a member, we ask that you work harder, and if you’re new to the struggle, welcome comrade. Not a single person can save us, not a single campaign can save us. We must save each other because we are the movement. That is the essence of “Not Me, Us”.
This is not the end, this is the beginning. The struggle continues.
Western CT DSA
Member Engagement Committee