Trump is a blessing. Together we should trample his candidacy and rebuild the Democratic Party

“He’s not moving a party to the left,” Volpe said, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

We The people
We The people

Source: Daily Kos

Author: Meteor Blades

Emphasis Mine

I voted for Bernie Sanders this morning in the California primary. Come November I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the “political revolution.” On the contrary.

That revolution is not the blood-in-the-streets kind that some stubborn anti-Sanders critics claim is the only kind there is, but rather a non-violent upheaval, a transformation that frees our system of billionaire, white-supremacist governance from the bottom up. Non-violent but never passive. Peaceful but not non-confrontational.

Bernie Sanders will presumably continue to be an important part of that transformation. Nobody, not even Sanders, expected he would succeed as amazingly as he has. Yet he will arrive in Philadelphia with more delegates than any insurgent campaign in a very long time. His campaign’s list of backers contains the names of 2.4 million people who have contributed more than $200 million to his campaign. On social media, he has some 9 million supporters. That’s a potentially powerful base, especially if those on it who were not already politically engaged before the campaign can be persuaded to stay engaged.

But Sanders didn’t initiate the transformation. And it certainly will not end when his candidacy ends, either tonight or next Tuesday in D.C. or in Philadelphia after the formal vote on the nominee is taken at the Democratic Convention.

Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ activists, 350.org, the Fight for 15, nurses and teachers organizing, the Moral Monday Movement, and Moveon.org arejust a few of the many movement elements of that transformation—some successful, some not, all of them feeling their way along, smeared by media narratives, hindered by internal divisions, and tactically flawed—though their various critics, left and right, have different views on what the specific flaws actually are.

These movement organizations are a big part of transforming both attitudes and policies and thereby the breadth of the national conversation. Without them, Sanders’ candidacy would not have been possible. The campaign built on their hard work, drawing volunteers and staffers from their ranks.

Since the issues that brought forth those movement organizations have not been resolved, they and other newly formed organizations will continue to mobilize people to fight for systemic change. Because the Democratic Party has for so long been moving in a bad direction in several matters, the fight to transform it will continue as well.

But for the next five months, we Sanders, Clinton, O’Malley and none-of-the-above activists have a golden opportunity. Because Donald Trump’s sketchy candidacy can turbocharge our efforts to knock Republicans out of office and reform our own party. However, we’ll have to suppress some of our differences, chill our internecine partisanship, and bite our tongues temporarily to make it happen.

After 50 years of moving the Republican Party ever more rightward, ever more whiteward, the logical extreme has been reached. Donald Trump, carnival barker and snake oil salesman, the first major party candidate about which The New York Times felt the need to discuss the “f” word—fascism—will be the GOP nominee unless he decides he’s tired of the act he’s been performing for the past year and abandons the party at the convention door.

Fascism is not a word to be used lightly. In the 1960s, some on the left practically made a joke of the label, promiscuously attaching it to anybody or any policy they disagreed with. So I’ve always applied it with extreme caution. Nonetheless, while Trump may not mesh perfectly with definitions of fascism, there’s more than a whiff of the brownshirt in his public pronouncements. Those along with his relentless lying, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and general know-nothingism make him a rich target for the kind of devastation Clinton and Elizabeth Warren have dished out recently. A full-bore crushing of his candidacy could inflict collateral damage on the GOP all the way down the ballot.

With wealthy donors saying they won’t support Trump, leading Republicans saying they won’t vote for him, and the candidate’s continual dissing of groups of people from which he might otherwise get at least a few votes, Trump faces an uphill battle against Clinton despite the high percentage of Americans who view her unfavorably.

With that in mind, supporters of Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley should join not merely in defeating but in demolishing Donald Trump’s candidacy and, in the process, damaging the Republican Party in Congress and the state legislatures by hanging the man’s contradictory statements around the necks of every candidate who says they support him. Defeating Republicans who might not otherwise be vulnerable this year can open doors for those desperately needed Democratic Party changes.

Bernie and those of us who support him can do a lot to help deliver this victory.

The senator should spend the months after the convention barnstorming in support of the best candidates, including the dozens that berniecrats.net has identified as being transformationally minded.

Each Sanders supporter should “adopt” a down-ballot candidate, a transformative person running for, say, a state legislative seat. We need to build that deep bench of experience in governing at the local and state levels anyway, and a presidential year like this one could mean significant gains in those arenas. These candidates should get our time, our money, or whatever support we can provide.

Sanders should continue to deliver his galvanizing, vital, and yes, angry message about the perniciousness of concentrated economic power. While Bernie has supporters in all age groups, the most avid are young people, including women and young people of color. If anyone can, he can persuade them not to make the mistake of staying home on election day even if that means many of them feel they must vote with a clothespin firmly in place.

All that, plus Sanders’ effort to get platform concessions passed or promised at the convention, is the inside strategy.

But as reformers have known from the time the Quakers went to Congress in 1790 seeking to end slavery, transformational change requires both an inside and an outside strategy.

Despite the “democratic socialist” label and an endorsement from the Democratic Socialists of America—an organization (full disclosure) of which I have been a member since 1982—Sanders himself is not a socialist, as many observers here and elsewhere have noted for the past year. He is  a social democrat and not even a radical one. The ideas he has pressed forward, like universal health care, paid leave, free college tuition, and a more substantive social welfare system are only radical in the United States.

Those ideas and others have resonated particularly with young people. A Harvard Poll taken in April concluded that political attitudes of American youth have changed in just the past year. John Della Volpe, the polling director, says Sanders is a big reason. “He’s not moving a party to the left,” Volpe said, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

Several organizations hope to capitalize on that leftward movement and do some moving of their own. Included among them are the Occupy Democrats, the Brand New Congress, the Working Families Party and the People’s Summit, an alliance of National Nurses United and People for Bernie,  which will gather in Chicago June 17 to 19.

On July 23, the day before the Democratic Convention begins, the People’s Convention will get underway in Philadelphia. The organization is developing and ratifying a People’s Platform that Sanders’ delegates will present to the Democratic National Convention. On the group’s website is laid out the intent:

The People’s Convention in Philadelphia [is] a grassroots attempt to reclaim our democracy by uniting behind a common policy framework, rather than a personality or party. Leading up to our first People’s Convention this summer, grassroots organizers from around the country will work together to formulate a People’s Platform: a unifying set of ideas, beliefs, and values that will help define the movement.

This platform will also serve as a critical mechanism to hold elected officials accountable; public representatives who pledge to uphold this platform, but fail to do so through their votes and other public behaviors, will no longer be eligible to seek endorsement or support from The People’s Revolution.

D.D. Guttenplan at The Nation wrote about the Brand New Congress:

Brand New Congress aims to give people a choice—in every district in the country. “Let’s run one campaign to replace Congress all at once (except those already on board) that whips up the same enthusiasm, volunteerism and money as Bernie’s presidential campaign,” says the group’s website. Zack Exley, who was the Wikimedia Foundation’s chief revenue officer before he started traveling the country to lead “Bernie Barnstorms” that trained thousands of volunteers for the Sanders campaign, is one of the group’s founders. They’re targeting the 2018 midterms because, Exley told me, “it takes a while to build the infrastructure to win elections—especially against entrenched incumbents.” The plan is to “recruit a full slate of candidates from people who are not politicians. People who never considered running for office. The majority will be women. A disproportionate number will be people of color. These will be people who are really good at what they do—nurses, engineers, teachers. People who have chances to sell out—but didn’t.”

That prompts lots of questions, beginning with how Brand New Congress can possibly win with progressive candidates in deep-red districts. Exley says the strategy is still up for discussion. And while the group may have set a hugely ambitious goal, I’ve met too many accomplished Sanders organizers in too many states who told me their only contact with campaign headquarters was “a visit from this guy Zack Exley” to dismiss the effort out of hand.

Ramon Ryan, a former organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who’s been working for Sanders in Nashville, said the campaign taught him “how effective we can be organizing ourselves in our own communities.” Tennessee was another tough environment for Sanders supporters, and after the primary “a lot of us have been struggling to figure out where we fit in,” Ryan says. For him, Brand New Congress—which aims to build on the Sanders network, letting local campaigns run their own show while giving them access to a unified national campaign and national online fund-raising—offers an alternative to surrender or a return to marginality. “We’ve seen how the nature of presidential campaigns has changed from Dean to Obama to Sanders,” Ryan tells me. “We want to take this model and apply it to Congress. I love the simplicity of being able to use one campaign to effect so much change.”

One big argument among left-of-center activists for what seems like millennia has been whether inside or outside strategy is the better approach. To reiterate, they both are essential. Both working in tandem has been the way almost all transformational reforms have been achieved.

Working together now to trample Trump’s campaign and spread the pain to down-ballot Republicans doesn’t mean the struggle to bend the Democratic Party in a better direction is over. That fight is existential, so it will continue.

But calling a truce while we pulverize the Trump candidacy benefits all of us. A Trump victory will harm us all. And not just a little bit. We should deploy this gift Republicans have given us like the wrecking ball it is.

 

See:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/06/07/1534536/-Trump-is-a-blessing-Together-we-should-trample-his-candidacy-and-rebuild-the-Democratic-Party?detail=email&link_id=16&can_id=d57025b8908d671dcc8edc84e5855f8f&source=email-gracefirst-major-anti-trump-ad-is-out-and-it-is-devastating-2&email_referrer=gracefirst-major-anti-trump-ad-is-out-and-it-is-devastating-2&email_subject=grace-first-major-anti-trump-ad-is-out-and-it-is-devastating

Here’s How 7 of Bernie’s Economic Proposals Would Radically Improve the Majority of Americans’ Lives

Source: AlterNet

Author: Gerald Friedman Dollars and Sense

Emphasis Mine

No one should be surprised by the popular support that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has attracted in his run for president as a democratic socialist. Nor should we be surprised that he has drawn attacks charging that his policies will bankrupt the United States. Sanders’ proposals for infrastructure, early-childhood education, higher education, youth employment, family leave, private pensions, and Social Security would total over $3.8 trillion over 10 years. While this is a large number, it would be barely 6% of federal spending for 2017-2026.

Apart from any benefits these programs would bring directly, their cost would be reduced in four ways: Two operate by offsetting current spending and tax policies—either replacing existing federal spending or reducing tax breaks currently subsidizing private spending. The other two, which account for over 70% of the cost reduction, are the “dynamic effects” of increased economic growth—boosting tax revenues and reducing federal safety-net spending when the economy expands.

A quarter of new spending would be offset by savings and by faster economic growth. (See Figure 1.) The ongoing effects of the Great Recession that began in 2007 have left many resources underutilized. By putting unemployed workers and discouraged workers (who have stopped looking for jobs) back to work, the Sanders program would increase economic activity and government revenues while reducing spending on safety-net programs like Supplemental Nutrition.

Taking these dynamic effects into account, the net cost to the public treasury would be about $2.7 trillion, instead of $3.8 trillion, over 10 years. That is, over a quarter of the total tab would be offset by reductions in other forms of government spending and by increased tax revenue derived from faster economic growth.

Each of the seven spending proposals would benefit from offsets and dynamic effects. (See Figure 2.) Universal childcare and free college tuition, for example, would replace existing spending on programs for childcare assistance and much of the spending on Pell Grants for students at public colleges, spending on infrastructure would offset some required maintenance spending, and raising Social Security benefits would allow some seniors to avoid dependence on Supplemental Nutrition (SNAP) and other safety net programs. The programs would also increase tax revenues by eliminating some existing “tax expenditures”—tax breaks that subsidize private spending—like deductions for employer-provided child care.

The programs would accelerate the recovery from the Great Recession. (See Figure 3.) Eight years after the beginning of the Great Recession, the American economy remains depressed. While the economy has been growing steadily since the end of 2009, output remains nearly 5% below capacity. Only 59% of the adult population is employed, down from over 63% before the recession and the lowest level in 30 years.

I estimate that, due to increased government spending, the Sanders program would increase GDP growth rates for 2017-2026 enough to result in a projected GDP in 2026 $4 trillion higher than without the programs.

The Sanders program would add six million new jobs. (See Figure 4.) The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that, due to sluggish economic growth, the percentage of the working-age population employed will fall between now and 2026, from 59% to 57%. The Sanders program would directly create jobs in infrastructure, in child-care services, in higher education, and for young people. It would also create additional jobs indirectly, as the newly employed and others spend their additional income. All told, I calculate that the program would raise employment by six million jobs by 2026.

Government spending would decline relative to GDP within the decade. (See Figure 5.) Federal spending would initially increase faster than GDP under the Sanders program. After 2021, however, federal spending would be lower as a percentage of GDP than it would be under Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, because of the strength of the economic recovery engendered by the Sanders stimulus. This is actually a conservative estimate of the boost to GDP because it does not include the productivity-raising effects of infrastructure spending and increased education.

Gerald Friedman teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is the author, most recently, of “Reigniting the Labor Movement” (Routledge, 2007).

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/heres-how-7-bernies-economic-proposals-would-radically-improve-majority-americans?akid=13995.123424.I4YXYv&rd=1&src=newsletter1051042&t=14

As Bernie Sanders Is Showing, This Country Is Much More Progressive Than You Think

It’s true. Even as we descend into an election year defined by right-wing extremism, the numbers simply don’t lie.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Eliza A. Webb

Emphasis Mine

With the races for the presidential nominations heating up, and Iowa and New Hampshire just a stone’s throw away, it is time for Americans to come to terms with the undeniable truth: We are a country of equality-loving, regulation-supporting, bleeding-blue liberals.

Despite the political division in Washington, the far-right rancor being spewed by G.O.P. candidates, and the contention in the Democratic race over Wall Street, campaign finance reform, universal health care, and how to handle ISIS, poll after poll shows that the people of this country strongly support progressive, liberal and democratic socialist ideas.

We just don’t like the linguistic packaging.

On wealth inequality, polls find that “a strong majority” of U.S. citizens believe the current situation is an urgent problem (including one-half of Republicans and two-thirds of independents), and think the current income and wealth distribution is unfair.

Despite Republican fear-mongering about big governmentAmericans “favor taxing the wealthy to expand aid to the poor,” and want Congress to rectify this inequality by levying “heavy taxes on [the] rich” and increasing rates on people making over $1 million a year.

Americans also support steep progressive reform on Wall Street, with 50% to 58% of likely voters in favor of breaking up the big financial institutions.

Concerning the infusion of money in politics, Americans want campaign finance reform “with near unanimity,” and half would personally vote for a law establishing the government funding of federal campaigns. The support for reform is strong across party lines, with a prodigious 80% of Republicans, 84% of independents, and 90% of Democrats believing money plays too large a role in the political process. Other polls show three in four Americans think there is too much money in politics and disagree with the concept of unregulated campaign finance.

Americans also support a substantial raise for low-wage workers, with 63% in favor of a $15 minimum wage by 2020, and 75% in favor of $12.50 by the same yearOther polls show that a majority of swing-state Republican voters support an increase, and 69% of working people favor an increase to $15. Concerning workers’ rights, a majority also want to improve scheduling for chain-store and fast-food restaurant employees.

On the power of money and big business in general, 75% of Americans think large corporations have too much influence in the country. With top CEOs making 373 times what their workers do, Americans think the government should take action to narrow the gap: one-third of Republicans want to cap the income of corporate executives, and 59% of Americans support government restriction of CEO pay.

Likewise, there is very strong support for universal health care. Just over 50% of Americans support a single-payer system, and 65% of voters think every American should have access to quality healthcare. Most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have care, and put more faith in the government’s ability to hold down health-care costs than the private sector’s. 58% of Americans support a Medicare-for-all system, and a majority of Americans think the government should ensure coverage. A majority of voters in Republican states support Medicaid expansion as well, as do 56% of Virginians, including 55% of Republicans. A majority of Americans also support Social Security, with 65% of Americans in favor of its expansion.

On paid family and sick leave, four in five Americans support legislation requiring employers to offer paid parental leave (and even more support paid sick leave). Other polls have similar findings: 70% support paid sick leave, 67% support paid maternal leave, and 55% support paid paternity leave.

On ISIS, Americans oppose military action, with 65% of Americans against sending special forces to the Middle East, and 76% against sending conventional ground troops.Other polls show that a majority of Americans support the regulation of CO2 as a pollutant, with over half of all parties — Democrats (80%), Republicans (54%), Independents (60%) — in agreement.

U.S. citizens also want better trade policies, with almost two-thirds favoring some form of trade restriction.

And on police reform, 86% of Americans think police should be required to use body cameras, and 87% are in favor of independent, outside investigations when police kill unarmed civilians.

Americans are hemorrhaging democratic socialism!

We are a people who idolize Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa — individuals who represent solidarity, kinship and empathy. We respect and agree with the teachings that call us to revolution; to fight for all our fellow human beings; to deeply, truly transform the injustice and corruption long imbedded in human society; to eliminate such a tragic non-necessity as poverty with the institution of fair pay, health care, equal education, decent working conditions and financial reform.

We are a people who lionize the 1776 revolution, who look up to and admire those who stood strong against inequality.

We support Robin Hood-like taxes for the rich and the de-infestation of money from politics. We want a hike in pay for working-class people and health care for all humans sick and injured. We are in favor of destroying the vise-like grip corporations and their owners wield over our economy, regulations on the ghastly melting fumes we are spraying on the protector-bubble surrounding our planet, and heavy oversight of the people bestowed with murderous power and the grave duty of protecting others.

This slew of ideas have come to be known as liberal, as progressive, as democratic socialist, when, in reality, they are simply what we teach our children: don’t be greedy, treat others as you want to be treated, and speak up when you see injustice.

Who cares what they’re called?

As poll after poll shows, we like them.

Americans concur: a compassionate, fair land where babies grow up in equality and human beings are treated with respect and dignity is the country for us.

To make our values fit our reality, all we have to do is vote.Because, after all, as studies show, when people vote, liberals win.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernie-sanders-showing-country-much-more-progressive-you-think?akid=13893.123424.0yRbD9&rd=1&src=newsletter1049167&t=8

Bringing Socialism Back: How Bernie Sanders is Reviving an American Tradition – See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

The Sanders campaign is resurrecting socialist electoral politics and paving the way for a more radical public discourse. Only the revival of a decimated labor movement and the rebirth of socialist political parties that can bring them all together could result in the major redistribution of wealth and power that would allow real movement on these individual issues. – See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

Source: Portside

Author: Joseph M. Schwartz

Emphasis Mine

Socialism. For most of recent U.S. history, the word was only used in mainstream discourse as invective, hurled by the Right against anyone who advocated that the government do anything but shrink, as anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist once put it, “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
How is it, then, that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a democratic socialist, has repeatedly drawn crowds in the thousands or tens of thousands in cities and towns throughout the nation and is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire? In a country that’s supposed to be terrified of socialism, how did a socialist become a serious presidential contender?
Young people who came to political consciousness after the Cold War are less hostile to socialism than their elders, who associate the term with authoritarian Communist regimes. In a Pew poll from December 2011, 49 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in the United States held a favorable view of socialism; only 46 percent had a favorable view of capitalism. A New York Times/CBS News survey taken shortly before Sanders’ Nov. 19, 2015, Georgetown University speech on democratic socialism found that 56 percent of Democratic primary voters felt positively about socialism versus only 29 percent who felt negatively. Most of those polled probably do not envision socialism to be democratic ownership of the means of production, but they do associate capitalism with inequality, massive student debt and a stagnant labor market. They envision socialism to be a more egalitarian and just society.
 
More broadly, a bipartisan consensus has developed that the rich and corporations are too powerful. In a December 2011 Pew poll, 77 percent of respondents (including 53 percent of Republicans) agreed that “there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.” More than 40 years of ruling class attacks on working people has revived interest in a political tradition historically associated with the assertion of working class power-socialism.
But at this point in American politics, as right-wing, quasi-fascist populists like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others of their Tea Party ilk are on the rise, we also seem to be faced with an old political choice: socialism or barbarism. Whether progressive politicians can tap into the rising anti-corporate sentiment around the country is at the heart of a battle that may define the future of the United States: Will downwardly mobile, white, middle- and working-class people follow the nativist, racist politics of Trump and Tea Partiers (who espouse the myth that the game is rigged in favor of undeserving poor people of color), or lead a charge against the corporate elites responsible for the devastation of working- class communities?

This may be the very audience, however, for whom the term socialism still sticks in the craw. In a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent of African Americans and 44 percent of Latinos held a favorable view of socialism-versus only 24 percent of whites. One might ask, then: Should we really care that the term “socialism” is less radioactive than it used to be? With so much baggage attached to the word, shouldn’t activists and politicians just call themselves something else? Why worry about a label as long as you’re pursuing policies that benefit the many rather than the few? Is socialism still relevant in the 21st century?

Fear of the `s’ word
To answer this question, first consider how the political establishment uses the word. The Right (and sometimes the Democrats) deploy anti-socialist sentiment against any reform that challenges corporate power. Take the debate over healthcare reform, for example. To avoid being labeled “socialist,” Obama opted for an Affordable Care Act that expanded the number of insured via massive government subsidies to the private healthcare industry-instead of fighting for Medicare for All and abolishing private health insurers. The Right, of course, screamed that the president and the Democratic Party as a whole were all socialists anyway and worked (and continues to work) to undermine efforts to expand healthcare coverage to anyone.
But what if the United States had had a real socialist Left, rather than one conjured up by Republicans, that was large, well-organized and politically relevant during the healthcare reform debate? What would have been different? For one thing, it would have been tougher for the Right to scream “socialist!” at Obama, since actual socialists would be important, visible forces in American politics, writing articles and knocking on doors and appearing on cable news. Republicans would have had to attack the real socialists-potentially opening up some breathing room for President Obama to carry out more progresssive reforms. But socialists wouldn’t have just done the Democrats a favor-they would also demand the party go much further than the overly complicated and insurance company friendly Obamacare towards a universal single-payer healthcare program. The Democrats needed a push from the Left on healthcare reform, and virtually no one was there to give it to them.
What is democratic socialism?
So what do we mean by “democratic socialism“? Democratic socialists want to deepen democracy by extending it from the political sphere into the economic and cultural realms. We believe in the idea that “what touches all should be governed by all.” The decisions by top-level corporate CEOs and managers, for example, have serious effects on their employees, consumers and the general public-why don’t those employees, consumers and the public have a say in how those decisions get made?

Democratic socialists believe that human beings should democratically control the wealth that we create in common. The Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gateses of the world did not create Facebook and Microsoft; tens of thousands of programmers, technical workers and administrative employees did-and they should have a democratic voice in how those firms are run.

To be able to participate democratically, we all need equal access to those social, cultural and educational goods that enable us to develop our human potential. Thus, democratic socialists also believe that all human beings should be guaranteed access, as a basic social right, to high-quality education, healthcare, housing, income security, job training and more.
And to achieve people’s equal moral worth, democratic socialists also fight against oppression based on race, gender, sexuality, nationality and more. We do not reduce all forms of oppression to the economic; economic democracy is important, but we also need strong legal and cultural guarantees against other forms of undemocratic domination and exclusion.
What socialism can do for you
The United States has a rich-but hidden-socialist history. Socialists and Communists played a key role in organizing the industrial unions in the 1930s and in building the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s; Martin Luther King Jr. identified as a democratic socialist; Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, the two key organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom were both members of the Socialist Party. Not only did Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs receive roughly 6 percent of the vote for president in 1912, but on the eve of U.S. entry into World War I, members of the Socialist Party held 1,200 public offices in 340 cities. They served as mayors of 79 cities in 24 states, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Reading, Penn., and Buffalo.
Brutally repressed by the federal government for opposing World War I and later by the Cold War hysteria of the McCarthy era, socialists never regained comparable influence. But as organizers and thinkers they have always played a significant role in social movements. The real legacy of the last significant socialist campaigns for president, those of Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas, is how the major parties, especially the Democrats, co-opted their calls for workers’ rights, the regulation of corporate excess and the establishment of social insurance programs.
As the erosion of the liberal and social democratic gains of the post-World War II era throughout the United States, Europe and elsewhere shows, absent greater democratic control over the economy, capital will always work to erode the gains made by working people. This inability to gain greater democratic control over capital may be a contributing factor to why the emerging social movements resisting oligarchic domination have a “flash”-like character. They erupt and raise crucial issues, but as the neoliberal state rarely grants concessions to these movements, they often fade in strength. Winning concrete reforms tends to empower social movements; the failure to improve the lives of their participants usually leads these movements to dissipate.

In the United States, nascent movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter and 350.org have won notable reforms. But few flash movements have succeeded in enacting systemic change. Only the revival of a decimated labor movement and the rebirth of governing socialist political parties could result in the major redistribution of wealth and power thatwould allow real change on these issues.

For all their problems-and there are many-this is the promise of European parties like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. But the Syriza government retreated back to austerity policies, in part because Northern European socialist leaders failed to abandon their support for austerity. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party may represent the first step in rank-and-file socialists breaking with “third way” neo-liberal leadership.
Is Bernie really a socialist?
For Sanders, “democratic socialism” is a byword for what is needed to unseat the oligarchs who rule this new Gilded Age. In his much-anticipated Georgetown speech, Sanders defined democratic socialism as “a government which works for all of the American people, not just powerful special interests.” Aligning himself with the liberal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, Sanders called for restoring progressive income and strict corporate taxation to fund Medicare for All, paid parental leave, publicly financed child care and tuition-free public higher education.
Yet he backed away from some basic tenets of democratic socialism. He told the audience, “I don’t believe the government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” But democratic socialists want to democratize decisions over what we make, how we make it and who controls the social surplus.
In truth, Sanders is campaigning more as a social democrat than as a democratic socialist. While social democrats and democratic socialists share a number of political goals, they also differ on some key questions of what an ideal society would look like and how we can get there. Democratic socialists ultimately want to abolish capitalism; most traditional social democrats favor a government-regulated capitalist economy that includes strong labor rights, full employment policies and progressive taxation that funds a robust welfare state.
So why doesn’t Sanders simply call himself a New Deal or Great Society liberal or (in today’s terms) a “progressive”? In part, because he cannot run from the democratic socialist label that he has proudly worn throughout his political career. As recently as 1988, as mayor of Burlington, Vt., he stated that he desired a society “where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.

But today, Sanders is running to win, and invoking the welfare state accomplishments of FDR and LBJ plays better with the electorate and the mainstream media than referencing iconic American socialists like Eugene V. Debs. In his Georgetown speech, Sanders relied less on references to Denmark and Sweden; rather, he channeled FDR’s 1944 State of the Union address in which hecalled for an Economic Bill of Rights, saying, “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.'”

Sanders’ campaign rhetoric does occasionally stray into more explicitly democratic socialist territory, though. He understands the nature of class conflict between workers and the corporate moguls. Unlike most liberals, Sanders recognizes that power relations between the rich and the rest of us determine policy outcomes. He believes progressive change will not occur absent a revival of the labor movement and other grassroots movements for social justice. And while Sanders’ platform calls primarily for government to heal the ravages of unrestrained capitalism, it also includes more radical reforms that shift control over capital from corporations to social ownership: a proposal for federal financial aid to workers’ cooperatives, a public infrastructure investment of $1 trillion over five years to create 13 million public jobs, and the creation of a postal banking system to provide low-cost financial services to people presently exploited by check-cashing services and payday lenders.
 
Harnessing the socialist energy
While Sanders is not running a full bore democratic socialist campaign, socialists must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The Sanders campaign represents the most explicit anticorporate, radical campaign for the U.S. presidency in decades. Thus the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), of which I am a vice-chair, is running an “independent expenditure campaign” (uncoordinated with the official campaign) that aims to build the movement around Sanders-and its “political revolution”-over the long run.
For us, even if Sanders’ platform isn’t fully socialist, his campaign is a gift from the socialist gods. In just six months, Sanders has received campaign contributions from 800,000 individuals, signed up tens of thousands of campaign workers and introduced the term “democratic socialism” and a social democratic program to tens of millions of Americans who wouldn’t know the difference between Trotsky and a tchotchke. Since the start of the Sanders campaign, the number of people joining DSA each month has more than doubled.
 

Though elected to both the House and Senate as an independent, Sanders chose to run in the Democratic presidential primary because he understood he would reach a national audience in the widely viewed debates and garner far more votes in the Democratic primaries than he would as an independent in the general election. The people most vulnerable to wall-to-wall Republican rule (women, trade unionists, people of color) simply won’t “waste” their votes on third-party candidates in contested states in a presidential election.

The mere fact of a socialist in the Democratic primary debates has created unprecedented new conversations. Anderson Cooper’s initial question to Sanders in the first Democratic presidential

debate, in front of 15 million viewers, implicitly tried to red-bait him by asking, “How can any kind of a socialist win a general election in the United States?” The question led to a lengthy discussion among the candidates as to whether democratic socialism or capitalism promised a more just society. When has the capitalist nature of our society last been challenged in a major presidential forum?

Yet without a major shift in sentiment among voters of color and women, Sanders is unlikely to win the nomination. Sanders enthusiasts, who are mostly white, have to focus their efforts on expanding the racial base of the campaign. But, regardless of who wins the nomination, Sanders will leave behind him a transformed political landscape. His tactical decision to run as a Democrat has the potential to further divide Democrats between elites who accommodate themselves to neoliberalism and the populist “democratic” wing of the party.
Today, Democrats are divided between affluent, suburban social liberals who are economically moderate-even pro-corporate-and an urban, youth, black, Latino, Asian American, Native American and trade union base that favors more social democratic policies. Over the past 30 years, the national Democratic leadership-Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz-has moved the party in a decidedly pro-corporate, free-trade direction to cultivate wealthy donors. Sanders’ rise represents the revolt of the party’s rank and file against this corporate-friendly establishment.
Successful Left independent or third-party candidates invariably have to garner support from the same constituencies that progressive Democrats depend on, and almost all third-party victories in the United States occur in local non-partisan races. There are only a few dozen third-party members out of the nearly 7,400 state legislators in the United States. Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, has won twice in Seattle’s non-partisan city council race, drawing strong backing from unions and left-leaning Democratic activists (and some Democratic elected officials). But given state government’s major role in funding public works, social democracy cannot be achieved in any one city.
The party that rules state government profoundly affects what is possible at the municipal level. My recollection is that in the 1970s and 1980s, DSA (and one of its predecessor organizations, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee) had more than 30 members who were elected members of state legislatures or city councils. Almost all of those socialist officials first won Democratic primaries against conservative Democratic opponents. In the seven states (most notably in New York, Connecticut and Oregon) where third parties can combine their votes with major party lines, the Working Families Party has tried to develop an “inside-outside,” “fusion” strategy vis-a-vis the Democrats. But the Democratic corporate establishment will never fear progressive electoral activists unless they are willing to punish pro-corporate Democrats by either challenging them in primaries or withholding support in general elections.
The mere fact of a socialist in the Democratic primary debates has created unprecedented new conversations. Anderson Cooper’s initial question to Sanders in the first Democratic presidential
The tragedy of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign was that despite winning 7 million votes from voters of color, trade unionists and white progressives, the campaign failed to turn its Rainbow Coalition into an electoral organization that could continue the campaign’s fight for racial and economic justice. This lesson is not lost on Sanders; he clearly understands that his campaign must survive his presidential bid.
As In These Times went to press, the Sanders campaign only has official staff in the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Consequently, the Sanders movement is extremely decentralized, and driven by volunteers and social media. Only if these local activists are able to create multi-racial progressive coalitions and organizations that outlast the campaign can Sanders’ call for political revolution be realized.
 
Campaign organizations themselves rarely build democratic, grassroots organizations that persist after the election (see Obama’s Organizing for America). Sanders activists must keep this in mind and ask themselves: “What can we do in our locality to build the political revolution?” The Right still dominates politics at the state and local level; thus, Sanders activists can play a particularly crucial role in the 24 states where Republicans control all three branches of the government.
Embracing the `s’ word
Sanders has captivated the attention of America’s youth. He has generated a national conversation about democratic socialist values and social democratic policies. Sanders understands that to win such programs will take the revival of mass movements for low wage justice, immigrant rights, environmental sustainability and racial equality. To build an independent left that operates electorally both inside and outside the Democratic Party, the Sanders campaign-and socialists-must bring together white progressives with activists of color and progressive trade unionists. The ultimate logic of such a politics is the socialist demand for workers’ rights and greater democratic control over investment.
If Sanders’ call for a political revolution is to be sustained, then his campaign must give rise to a stronger organization of long-distance runners for democracy-a vibrant U.S. democratic socialist movement. Electoral campaigns can mobilize people and alter political discourse, but engaged citizens can spark a revolution only if they build social movements and the political institutions and organizations that sustain political work over the long-term.

And because anti-socialism is the ideology that bipartisan political elites deploy to rule out any reforms that limit the prerogatives of capital, now is the time for socialists to come out of the closet. Sanders running in the Democratic primaries provides an opportunity for socialists to do just that, and for the broad Left to gain strength. If and when socialism becomes a legitimate part of mainstream U.S. politics, only then will the political revolution begin.

Joseph M. Schwartz
[Joseph M. Schwartz is a professor of political science at Temple University. He is a Vice-Chair of Democratic Socialists of America and the author, most recently, of The Future of Democratic Equality: Reconstructing Social Solidarity in a Fragmented U.S. (Routledge, 2009).]
Thanks to the author for sending this to Portside.

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See: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition