Some Bernie Sanders supporters are understandably upset. I’m one of them. I was among the many millions of people who worked very hard to try to get Bernie Sanders elected as the Democratic challenger to Donald Trump here in California. I am glad that those efforts paid off. The hard work did not stop there for me. Voter education was a huge part of this campaign, as much as it was getting undoubtedly the best and strongest candidate elected.
Unfortunately, the last two and a half weeks have been a huge, bewildering disappointment, including last night’s clean (some might say unclean) sweep of Arizona, Florida and Illinois by Joe Biden. The handwriting on the wall has now become even more legible.
The math is clear to all who will choose to compute it: Joe Biden is now less than 800 delegates from being the Democratic presidential nominee.
I have outlined my issues with Joe Biden: his fitness, his policies, his horrendous votes, his comments about busing, his malapropisms, gaffes and unforgettable if not unforgivable statements. Those issues and others about Biden won’t ever disappear.
The frustration for me is that Joe Biden did very little campaign-wise in this Democratic primary race to become the nominee. He had floundered for many months at debates. He had been throttled by Bernie Sanders in Nevada. Corporate Democrats running in the same race almost immediately ended their campaigns and supported Biden after his first primary win (South Carolina). The truth is, the corporate news media was a far better campaign manager than Anita Dunn has been so far.
However, once Joe Biden dominated Super Tuesday sadly it was the beginning of the end for Bernie Sanders. This is the sad reality.
With all of this, and voter suppression by Republicans (in South Carolina, Texas, Arizona and elsewhere) and at best funny business by some Democratic officials (in Minnesota and California) there is an inescapable truth: voters trust Joe Biden. That doesn’t mean they don’t trust Bernie. (The voters appear to trust Biden more, whether they know his ghastly record or not.)
Whether there is fear (and there is), whether this is a fear election (and I think it is) whether Bernie Sanders has made one or two operational mistakes (and he has via his campaign strategists), it is clear that the path to the Democratic nomination is a very steep climb for Bernie. I frequently criticized and challenged Bernie and his campaign to go after Black voters of all demographics not just young Black voters. I have called for some of his key strategists to be Black, not just surrogates or chairpersons. I wanted Bernie to have a brain trust that included more Black people making critical decisions for the campaign not the typical old white male vanguard that is as present in parts of the Progressive movement as it is in the Establishment Democratic Party.
Even though people are supporting Medicare For All, they are still voting for Joe Biden. Even though people have seen Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign and again this time they are still lining up behind Joe Biden. This cannot be disputed.
What is also not disputed: the coronavirus is dominating our thoughts, our lives and the news media. The New York Times has reported that this virus could last for at least 18 months.
The national and global emergency with this coronavirus dictates that a united front is needed against a wannabe dictator in the White House.
This extraordinary circumstance mandates that we must coalesce behind Joe Biden. That does NOT mean we give up our Progressive values in doing so.
We must keep pushing Joe Biden to not only espouse but ENACT Progressive values and put them into policy. We must hold Biden accountable as we would Trump, or Bernie Sanders himself.
Rather than foolishly declare that you will not vote for Joe Biden in November when the most dangerous, racist and misogynist “leader” to occupy the White House continues to destroy the country you live in — you can literally do what Bernie Sanders himself has done: fight to change the face of the Democratic Party from the inside. Bernie has been responsible in no small part for helping get Progressive candidates elected over the last four or five years, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib. These Progressive women are not only the changing face of the Democratic Party they are the present and future of it.
Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is a profoundly influential leader in the House Democratic Progressive wing after just over a year in Congress. She is already creating changes in the Party and influencing its policies and platform. Just last night the Progressive Democrat Marie Newman, whom Bernie endorsed, defeated the virulently conservative Democratic politician Dan Lipinski in the 3rd district of Illinois. Numerous other Progressives like Ro Khanna, Marc Pocan and Pramila Jayapal and others have won congressional races over the last few years and are pushing the Democratic Party more leftward and Progressive. What remains of the corporate Democrats are the stubborn older holdovers who will soon become outnumbered and whose support will ultimately fade.
Furthermore, Joe Biden has already begun incorporating Bernie’s ideas in his speeches and as recently as Sunday’s debate agreed with Bernie on many occasions. Biden, who last week echoed Bernie by saying that “healthcare is a right not a privilege” understands that these times will affect his approach as the almost-certain Democratic nominee. Biden knows that he will have to campaign more to the left. And we as Bernie supporters must push him to do so. Sitting on the sidelines now and venting without acting to forge a more Progressive agenda within the Democratic Party in order to transform it will not change anything.
Anyone deciding not to vote for Joe Biden if he is the nominee (and it is almost a certainty now that he will) is simply a Trump voter, a GOP or Russian-paid troll, a nihilist, or someone who is white, male, rich and privileged and won’t stand to lose anything if Trump, god forbid were to win. (He won’t. This pandemic and his pitiful response to it ensure that.)
Simply put: the coronavirus pandemic is a price that is too high to pay. For all of us. We are seeing that now. This pandemic has obviously become the world’s foremost priority. And with that backdrop if Bernie Sanders is not the nominee I’d rather Joe Biden, with all his faults, issues and bowing to corporate masters intact, be president in this crisis than Donald Trump. November is less than eight months away. That is not long at all. Participating in any semblance of “democracy” means to vote, among other things. Even more than that it means turnout. Even more than that still it means to hold the person you vote for accountable — even after you have voted them in.
Rather than doomsaying that turnout won’t be there for Joe Biden (and I think it will be there for him) — go out there and encourage people to vote for him AND urge them to push Progressive agendas (Bernie’s Medicare For All and Bernie’s/AOC’s Green New Deal) in the process. Keep Biden’s feet to the fire. That is what participation — not cowardly walking away from your responsibilities in angry defiance — requires. Strategy demands more than only the anger. Use that anger to push Biden, to organize, to infiltrate the Democratic Party and push it to the left. This is actually already happening, and Michael Moore showcased this in his 2018 film “Fahrenheit 11/9”.
Voting for Joe Biden doesn’t compromise you as a Bernie supporter. Not voting in November for Joe Biden if he is the Democratic presidential challenger certainly compromises your whole mission to avoid having Trump in office for four additional years.
Strategically voting for Joe Biden requires that you do the work NOW to keep pushing him and demanding Progressive policies and administration that will push those values and policies forward.
Biden will be stepping into a White House that is embroiled in a pandemic. He and his officials will be forced to behave differently. And we will have to stay active and engaged. Third parties won’t suffice. They will be shunned. They have been shunned, and into wholesale irrelevance and ineffectuality. It has been 200 years since we’ve had a viable third party in the United States. Instead of establishing a third party that will be at the very edges of the political process, how about doing what the Progressive Shahid Buttar is doing in San Francisco? He is running for office against Nancy Pelosi this November.
There is no reason why you, me or anyone else can’t use the energy and passion we have about Bernie and run for political office ourselves.
We can vote for Joe Biden in November and continue to challenge him and demand a Progressive agenda. That is what these urgent, important times require.
Vote Blue no matter who.
Challenge and push your agenda to change the country to make it more just — no matter who, even if Bernie Sanders were in office. You would be required to challenge him, too.
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