The presentation below was presented to the CPUSA National Board on June 10, 2015.
The context of the amazing outpouring and response to Bernie Sanders campaign is the uprising underway for a more just society. Across the country, pressure is mounting and social movements are building for a livable wage, to end racist attacks and police brutality, to stop fast track for TPP in the interest of jobs, the environment and democratic rights over corporate rule, to expand Scoial Security and end student debt.
Bernie Sanders is attracting thousands at each event because he presents a specific program squarely on the side of the 99%, challenging income inequality and financial domination of the country and of politics.
His campaign is shaking up the political landscape, “a political revolution,”as he says.
Bernie Sanders is getting a big response from people who are sick and tired of elections being bought by Wall St, people who have become angry and alienated from the political process, people who have been looking for a voice. His appeal is wide. Reports from grassroots house meetings and rallies in the south and mid west reveal that some Democratic leaders are on board, and some independents and Republicans are changing affiliation to support Bernie.
While all the points in his program have long had majority support in the polls, Bernie himself has said that he is stunned by the huge turnouts as he campaigns around the country. Days after he announced, the Wisconsin Democratic convention held a straw poll. Hillary Clinton was chosen by 49% and Bernie Sanders was chosen by 41% of delegates.
Soon after, the South Carolina AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling upon the national AFL CIO to endorse Bernie Sanders as the “strongest candidate articulating labor’s values.” The resolution says, “Labor must step up to fundamentally change the direction of American politics by refocusing on the issues of our time: growing inequality and pervasive racism; the power of concentrated wealth and its corruption of our democracy; an escalating pension and retirement security crisis, runaway military spending and a militarized foreign policy, Medicare for All, and the need for new, bold solutions to our shared problems.”
In other early labor support, the UE General Executive Board endorsed Bernie Sanders. The campaign has been well received by steel worker retirees. An open letter of support from union leaders and members is being circulated on-line.
The latest endorsement comes from Neil Young, after Donald Trump had the audacity to play “Rockin in the Free World” at his campaign announcement yesterday. Neil Young’s manager says use of the song was not authorized and that Young is a long-time supporter of Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders has a life-long record and relationship with labor. To create the kind of unity that can move our country forward, such a specific outreach based in his strong record is critical as well with the African American, Latino, Native American, Asian Pacific communities, women and youth.
A national campaign to popularize and build support for the Employ Young Americans Now Act introduced by Bernie Sanders (S 1506) and John Conyers (HR 2714) is a powerful link to both the Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter. This legislation would provide $5.5 billion for states and local governments to employ 1 million youth from ages 16 to 24 years old.
“The answer to unemployment and poverty is not and cannot be the mass incarceration of young African Americans,” Sanders said. “It’s time to bring hope and economic opportunity to communities across the country.”
The Sanders campaign is a wonderful development for 2016 and beyond in many ways.
- 1) The Sanders campaign can shift the dialog from the right wing and objectively boost the various initiatives underway around the country for a progressive agenda.
- 2) The campaign has the potential to inspire people to engage in the political process and increase voter turnout. It has the potential to help create progressive structures, campaigns and coalitions at the local level to shift the political climate.
- 3) It is already changing the political debate within the Democratic primary and the Democratic Party.
- 4) Sanders identifying as a democratic socialist opens up long-term discussion about what socialism is and could be in our country, and makes socialism respectable. It offers the possibility to deepen the discussion about socialism, third parties and political independence in and outside the Democratic Party.
All of this is a huge contribution toward the strategic electoral goal of defeating the extreme right wing. Sanders himself has been careful to emphasize he is not campaigning against Hillary Clinton (or Lincoln Chaffee or Martin O’Malley), he is campaigning to take on the corporate agenda of the Republicans and offer positive solutions.
In Vermont, where he was first elected Mayor of Burlington, Sanders always ran independent with the broadest kind of approach and coalition building and with an emphasis on issues that improve people’s lives. He is elected to the U.S. Senate as an independent (last election with 72% of the vote) but caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. He made the decision to run in the Democratic primary because he determined that he could never raise enough money to get heard otherwise in a presidential campaign given current electoral structures.
A winning approach for 2016 starts with the issues and by connecting with emerging social movements Black Lives Matter and the Fight for $15 and local campaigns and coalitions. This is a unifying approach that keeps the focus against the extreme right-wing with a positive agenda.
The Sanders campaign offers a unique opportunity to initiate committees and community conversations on the issues. The doors are wide open to organize as broadly as possible with activists and coalitions.
Campaign house parties and local events can be promoted on-line to spread the word about what Bernie Sanders stands for.
At the grass roots across the country, Bernie Sanders is not necessarily a household name. As well, the corporate media does not want this name and program to be known. Introducing who Bernie Sanders is, what positions he is running on, and the bigger significance of his campaign cam be brought to every community in a way that is inclusive of those in progressive circles who support Hillary Clinton or others.
The South Carolina AFL CIO Resolution is an example of what other organizations could also consider. and share via social media.
Building for the long-term, beyond the election, in local election districts, is an essential ingredient in the strategy to defeat the extreme right wing and go onto the offensive for people’s needs.
As peoplesworld.org and cpusa.org launch new websites the ability to share these ideas increases. Combining on-line communications with building door to door in key working class communities can be instrumental in getting out the vote and organizing year round.
Writing up local experiences and analysis for the People’s World will attract more new readers and can contribute to bigger coalition building and inspiring the disengaged to get involved.
There are times in history when things move fast. This may be one of those times.