by Scott Steward
At the coffee counter of life, sometimes you sit next to someone who looks a bit beat up and haggard and your just not sure you want to go there. Turns out you do talk and connect about a lot of things. That’s Bernie Sanders for a lot of us who have come to support him recently.
Bernie personifies the struggling working American. His campaign springs from his east coast labor roots. Here in the west, labor culture has not been as prominent. Organizing, collective bargaining, union halls, small D democracy in the work place haven’t been a large part of the upwardly mobile experience. It sounds unfamiliar and a bit jarring – like a Brooklyn accent.
Accent aside, is this Bernie anxiety rational? It is about as rational as our perception that presidents control domestic policy. As Steve Chapman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, observes “Though Mr. Sanders may champion “Medicare for All” and punitive wealth taxes, he can’t bring them about without persuading Congress…” The same observation is made by Annie Lowery of the Atlantic.
For me Chapman’s cynicism is premature. Bernie is not punitive. Bernie’s campaign asks you to consider giving up what has become a lethal distance between human circumstances. His “Not me, Us” campaign looks hard at the half of Americans with vastly inadequate income, housing and healthcare and chooses to empower those people. Far from a social gift, the campaign and the presidency only work if everyday people take responsibility to make it work.
As Bernie is clearly the front runner, it would be best for everyone to concede that the Democratic party needs to take heed – people want bold progress. Let’s hope DNC power brokers like Tom Perez (DNC Chair) and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (currently Bloomberg’s California campaign co-chair) can learn to work constructively with Bernie’s Campaign. A contested convention would greatly diminish the chances for a Democratic presidential victory and hurt the Democrats generally.
With or without the DNC regulars, America is showing more confidence in Bernie’s campaign. The Midwest: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio (key States) show Bernie holding with his 2016 voters and mostly gaining ground. In California Bernie is solidly ahead. Nationally polls show Bernie values are shared with the most voters and that he holds the largest margin to defeat Trump.
John Kass, Chicago Tribune columnist, “The real reason establishment Democrats are in hysterics over Sanders is this: If he wins, he won’t let them control things.” Kass’s article attributes fear of Bernie to the hope for Mike Bloomberg. Mike Bloomberg’s campaign website, pays Bernie a lot of compliments in that it emulates just about every Bernie policy (Mike’s site has 31 “positions” Bernie’s 32) – with notable exceptions such as the absence of strong labor laws and workers equity. Every Democratic candidate is for taxing the wealthy – a Bernie carryover from 2016.
In just 79,826 words the Bernie Campaign describes 32 positions from taxing wealth to medical debt relief to funding historically black colleges. Bernie starts with decriminalizing people at and beyond our borders, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal (Bernie’s GND plan is 14,000 words – fair warning). The scale of his Green New Deal and his unapologetic regulatory agenda are signature Bernie campaign positions , but most of Bernie’s campaign positions are similar to those of other Democratic contenders.
Bernie Sanders campaign takes Americans as they are and most of them are proud and in pain. Bernie wants to give opportunity to all Americans to participate in their future. If this future is going to be equitable and just it’s going to require redistribution of economic fortunes. We are going to come to appreciate that a wealth tax and regular employee negotiations is what shared prosperity looks like.
“Not me, Us” asks those of us in suburban economic stability to recognize that we’ve all left America when we don’t work to help all of America. Not doing so has gone badly. Most voters know the old Democratic Party line and they won’t settle for less than Bernie. So let us take a seat at America’s counter with Bernie and demonstrate that the party can dig in and build a system of shared prosperity for all of us.
Scott Steward is a longtime Davis resident and activist