No One Thought It Was Possible: 12 Ways the Sanders Revolution Has Transformed Politics

Sanders’ hugely successful campaign might just have a lasting impact.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Steve Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

When Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign a year ago with a brazen call for an American revolution in politics, economics and social justice, no one, not even the candidate himself, could have imagined what the campaign would bring.

“The media likes to portray this as a fair fight on even footing,” campaign manager Jeff Weaver said last week. “They seem to forget that when we started our campaign on April 30, we barely registered in the polls. We didn’t have a political organization. We didn’t have millionaires waiting in the wings. Quite frankly, we didn’t have a whole lot. And then millions of people came together in a political revolution.”

Sanders hasn’t just climbed from a 55-point deficit in national polls to being just 1.4 percent behind Hillary Clinton (who, counting her husband’s, is waging her fourth presidential campaign); he has fundamentally changed the national political landscape for the better by reviving the very best progressive traditions and principles within the Democratic Party.

Here are 12 ways Sanders’ revolution has changed American politics.

1. Revived Democrats’ progressive wing. Starting in the 1990s, before Bill Clinton was elected president, the Democratic Party leadership made a concrete choice to trade Main Street for Wall Street. You saw it in its national fundraising apparatus. You saw it in the bills pushed through Congress, like the North American Free Trade Agreement, and backtracking on social justice issues, such as punitive welfare reform and criminal sentencing laws. Sanders has flipped that script, railing against American oligarchs and resurrecting the New Deal economic agenda of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Great Society safety net priorities of Lyndon Johnson. He’s sparked a wholesale revival of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing and heritage.

2. Introduced a new generation to progressive politics. Sanders’ overwhelming support from people under 45 is not just remarkable, it’s been extraordinarily instructive. Sanders’ followers, who keep showing up at his rallies by the tens of thousands, have memorized his speeches, know his punchlines and recite them as if they are singing along at a concert. But these aren’t pop lyrics, they’re fundamental ideas, analyses and remedies for a more just political system and society. That’s unprecedented for any presidential candidate of either major party in recent memory.

3. Stopped socialist from being a dirty word. No one has to be reminded that being called a socialist by the mainstream media or defending socialism in the political system has, for years, been a kiss of death—even if recent polls find public attitudes changing. Sanders has rebranded the word in the American public’s mind, so it simply means greater democratic participation and sharing of economic rights and responsibilities. Among young people in college and in their 20s, polls last fall found majorities had a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

4. Showed grassroots, small-donor campaigns are viable. Sanders’ small-donor fundraising has been nothing if not remarkable, raising $182 million in the last year, according to analyses of federal campaign finance reports—the same sum as Clinton, though she had a $30 million headstart. He wasn’t the first presidential candidate to tap the power of small donations—Howard Dean did it and so did Jerry Brown—but Sanders has inspired millions of people across America who are averging under $30 a pop. That’s come as the country has seen political campaigns dominated by a handful of superwealthy individuals or billionaires backing super PACs, which he doesn’t have though the Clinton campaign does. That contrast alone is significant, but there’s more to it. His campaign has disproved many of the political establishment’s longstanding precepts: that an engaged citizenry won’t support candidates; that candidates have to pander to the rich to fund their campaigns; and that small-donor public financing systems aren’t sufficient when it comes to the political big leagues.

5. Showed the public responds to principled politicans. Sanders has defied the cliché that good people who enter politics will eventually be corrupted and compromised because they have to sell out along the way to win. He’s proven that a candidate and officeholder who has been principled and consistent and is honest and treats the public with integrity can succeed. In months of polls, the public has consistently said that Sanders is more trustworthy than either Clinton or Donald Trump. The public knows when they are being lied to or played for fools, and nobody running in 2016 has been as forthright, straightforward or honest as Sanders.

6. Showed it’s possible to run without throwing much mud. Until last week’s heated New York primary, where his composure was tested and frayed, he has run an issue-oriented campaign almost entirely devoid of personal attacks. Clinton supporters will take exception to that, but it’s true—how does one compare and contrast one’s values and judgments with their opponents, if they are in it to win, without saying that they believe they are better qualified? The larger point is that the 2016 Democratic nominating contest has been waged as a war of ideas, accompishments and temperament. Politics isn’t for the meek, but it doesn’t have to be all mud all the time like the GOP’s nominating contest, and Sanders has shown that in state after state.

7. Shown Democrats what an engaged citizenry looks like. From rallies attended by thousands and thousands to the remarkably energetic efforts of legions of his grassroots supporters, the Sanders campaign has vividly reminded the Democratic Party what an engaged base and electorate looks like. Moreover, that outpouring of enthusiasm reveals a fervent desire to take more radical stances on issues and solutions than what the party’s Washington-based establishment wants to admit or embrace. It also sets the expectation that a Democratic presidency and recaptured Congress had better seriously try to deliver a bold new agenda, if that’s the outcome in November.

8. Brought America’s progressive organizers together. Sanders has given other progressive-minded Democrats running in 2008 room to take anti-corporate stances, such as candidates endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, Working Families Party and others. He has also brought together the country’s progressive groups and the best organizers in the country, who have long worked on their issues in silos and are providing him with a fantastic campaign infrastructure. Democrats have typically relied on labor unions to provide needed volunteers. Labor is a big part of the Sanders campaign, but it’s part of a much wider coalition of like-minded people. That symbiosis is remarkable and raises the question of what will happen after the 2016 campaign concludes.

9. Pushed Hillary Clinton to the left. There is no doubt that Sanders has pushed the Democratic establishment’s heir apparent further to the left, making her take stronger and less ambiguous stances on many issues, such as promising not to roll back Social Security as part of any grand-bargain federal budget deal or new benefit-calculation formula. Should Clinton get the 2016 nomination, the open question is, how long will she stay to the left? He’s also made her a better candidate, forcing her to clarify and defend her positions, which she arguably might not do unless pressed by as vigorous a debater as Sanders.

10. Challenged everyone on free tuition. There are a number of issues where his agenda has put ideas and solutions before the country that mainstream political America hasn’t wanted to acknowledge or embrace. One is the need for public universities to be tuition-free, just as K-12 education is. As important, Sanders has proposed how to pay for that step, which is an increasing necessity in today’s global economy, by imposing a transaction tax on high-volume Wall Street traders. That kind of thinking, which would help millions of households, can no longer be called fringe.

11. Called out Wall Street’s purpose and business model. Everybody knows that Sanders is no friend of America’s largest corporations, which in field after field have near-monopoly control of goods, services and pricing. But he has especially gone after the financial sector, saying its business model is built on private greed and has a more than questionable public purpose. By identifying the culprits in decades-old wage stagnation and an undermining of the American middle and working classes, Sanders is reminding everyone that being in a democracy comes with rights and responsibilities, such as taking care of the vulnerable and pushing for racial and social justice.

12. Showed a Jew can call out Israel. For decades, American politicans, like a great many Jewish Americans, have faced great pressure never to criticize anything Israel does and reflexively to blame the Palestinians for the area’s ongoing violence. Sanders doesn’t make a big deal of his Jewish heritage—like many Jews, he is a living example of faith’s secular humanist tradition. Before the New York primary, he said that Israel’s military response to the last attacks from Gaza was unnecessary and disproportionate, prompting the ire of the Israel lobby. But his comments were cut from a larger foreign policy cloth that values restraint and prioritizes seeking political solutions.

A Revolution or New Normal?

Sanders supporters and political observers will surely cite more examples, but what stands out to progressives about many aspects of Sanders’ campaign and agenda is that what he is calling for isn’t revolutionary at all—it’s sane, and if anything, overdue. The passion and public purpose of his campaign has struck deep and wide notes precisely because of that. More than anything, Sanders has reminded vast swaths of the country that his democratic socialist agenda is exactly what they want America to be—a fairer and more dignified, tolerant, responsible and conscientious country. And he’s reminded the Democratic Party that its most engaged and visible base wants substantial change, even if those remedies seem radical to the Washington status quo.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/no-one-thought-it-was-possible-12-ways-sanders-revolution-has-transformed-politics?akid=14192.123424.2tlIzG&rd=1&src=newsletter1055207&t=4

Why the Conditions Were Perfect for Bernie’s Socialist Crusade

Behind Bernie’s unlikely appeal is a generation marred by precarious employment and economic disruption.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Robert Kuttner

Emphasis Mine

Once again, Bernie Sanders has demonstrated, with a trifecta of big wins in Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington State, that he has broad and enthusiastic support, especially among the young. Equally astonishing is the large percentage of voters who say they are attracted rather than repelled by Sanders’s embrace of socialism.

But if you’d bother to conduct your own focus group among Americans under 40, neither phenomenon should be surprising. Except for those graduating from elite universities, with either full scholarships or wealthy tuition-paying parents, this is the stunted generation—young adults venturing into a world of work, loaded with student debt, unable to find stable jobs or decent careers.

This is also the post-Cold War generation, for whom Soviet communism is a distant memory (along with reliable jobs). For this generation of Americans, capitalism is not exactly a good word, nor is socialism a bad one.

And this is the generation that finds employer-paid health insurance hard to find; often the “Bronze” version of the Affordable Care Act, with its high out-of-pocket payments, is all they can afford; a generation paying too much of unreliable incomes in rent, and putting off the dream of homeownership and having children.

So, when a candidate comes along calling for free college education and free universal health care, and far higher minimum wages, it sounds pretty fine. And if capitalism means the 1 percent making off with everything that isn’t nailed down, then maybe Sanders-style socialism is worth a try. So say the young.

Private frustrations and longings have at last become politicized. And well they should be. Because the reality of the rules of the game turning brutally against the young has nothing to do with technology or the immutable realities of the digital economy—and everything to do with who gets to write the rules.

The policy wonk types like to point out that the Sanders program would require a huge tax increase.

And indeed it would. But as long as the tax hike is on the upper brackets, that only adds to the appeal of the program. During and after World War II, the top marginal tax rate was north of 90 percent, and this was the era of a record economic boom.

At the heart of this generational revolution is the vanishing good job. Until recently, the claims of a new, on-demand economy, made up of short-term gigs, was challenged by economists, even liberal ones.

It was kind of a new category that didn’t show up in the data. You could debate whether Uber and Task Rabbit and kindred companies were good or evil, but they just didn’t affect that many workers.

Now, belatedly, this shift is being confirmed. The economists are right—most of the unreliable jobs are not on-demand gigs. Rather, they are other forms of lousy “contingent” work. That category includes temping, contract work, on-call workers, workers hired by staffing agencies, workers with no job security, and inferior forms of conventional employment like adjunct college professors who can make less than minimum wage, Ph.D.’s and all. (So much for the education cure.)

Jobs that used to pay decently are being turned into inferior jobs, whether in the manufacturing economy or the service economy. Yes there is an uptick in entrepreneurship, but for every young person who creates a company like Amazon, there are tens of thousands working in its warehouses.

The Labor Department, denied adequate funding to update its numbers, had not revised its count of contingent workers. So two eminently mainstream economists, Lawrence Katz of Harvard and Alan Krueger of Princeton (one of the very people carping about the cost of Sanders’ program) hired the Rand Corporation to do what the Labor Department should be doing—surveying actual current workers.

Katz and Krueger analyzed the results. And guess what? They confirmed in rich detail what your local 28-year-old could tell you: Real jobs are getting harder and harder to find. No wonder the uptick in GDP growth is not impressing voters, especially younger ones.

So Sanders is likely to continue making off with the youth vote. Even if he falls short of the nomination, this is bad news for Hillary Clinton. Whatever her other virtues, most young Americans don’t see her speaking to the realities of their condition.

The Wall Street Journal, of all places, reports a 60 percent increase since 2005 in the proportion of U.S. workers who have these inferior forms of employment.

This also presents a real conundrum for mainstream, moderate liberal economists like Katz and Krueger. Altering these trends will require radical reforms, not adjustments at the margins.

Sanders’s program may cost a lot of money. It may be socialistic. And it may require congressional majorities that will be a long time coming. But Sanders has the loyalty of the kids because he is speaking truth.

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a visiting professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His latest book is Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-conditions-were-perfect-bernies-socialist-crusade?akid=14126.123424.Dqrt5R&rd=1&src=newsletter1053651&t=10

Why Bernie’s Revolution Has Just Begun

With each primary victory—and each close call—Sanders has shown us our own strength.

Source: AlterNet

Author: D.D. Guttenplan/The Nation

Emphasis Mine

Well, we’ll always have Michigan….

A week after Bernie Sanders stunned pollsters with a victory that nobody predicted, lifting his campaign—and his supporters’ expectations—those hopes came crashing down to earth yesterday with defeats in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina. Hillary Clinton’s late-breaking win in Missouri gives her a clean sweep on a night that was meant to mark the turn in the tide for Sanders, who poured time and money into Ohio, where Clinton took every big city on her way to a convincing 14-point victory, and Illinois, where Sanders hoped to profit from dissatisfaction with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a longtime Clinton ally. Though voters did punish Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez for her handling of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, favoring challenger Kim Foxx by a margin of 2 to 1, Clinton carried Cook County by a comfortable 8 points.

Yes, it’s true that the rest of the primary calendar is more favorable to Sanderswho has won more states, garnered many more votes, and has a larger share of the delegates than any of the Republicans challenging Donald Trump. Whose presumptive grasp on his party’s nomination is denied almost daily by the same media who have been burying Sanders—when they could be bothered to write about him—from Iowa onward. We never said this was going to be easy—or a fair fight.

Hillary Clinton has always been the favored candidate of the party establishment. And unlike 2008, when the powerful Cook County portion of that establishment broke for Obama, a favorite son, this time the establishment remains unified in the face of the Sanders insurgency. Which would be reason enough for Sanders to carry on his fight all the way to Philadelphia, even if it really were mathematically impossible for him to win the nomination—a point we are still unlikely to reach before California votes on June 7. The strength of Sanders’s challenge, and the enthusiasm of his supporters, have already pulled Hillary Clinton off dead center on police violence, trade policy, access to education, and making the wealthy pay their share of taxes. 

As long as he stays in the race, and stays true to his beliefs, Sanders will keep winning those arguments, even if Clinton’s willingness to steal her opponent’s best ideas—and even some of his best lines—help her to win voters who will be crucial in defeating Trump in November. Turnout remains the Democrats’ Achilles’ heel: In Ohio, where Trump came second, he still got more votes than either Democrat. Clinton herself seems to get this, and yesterday declined to endorse calls for Sanders to drop out. Any other course would leave Trump in sole possession of the media for the next four months.

Speaking of the Donald, it also seems odd that while his impact on the Republican party is endlessly analyzed, almost nothing has been said about the way Trump’s likely nomination has influenced Democratic primary voters. My own guess is that fear of Trump probably carried Clinton over the line in Illinois and Missouri.

Keeping Clinton from reverting to a neoliberal default isn’t the only reason for Sanders to stay in the race—or the most important. As Sanders has always said, his aim is “a political revolution.” Winning the nomination would be nice, but is neither necessary nor sufficient to bring that about. Building a nationwide, durable network of mobilized, active supporters prepared to keep working for universal healthcare, a living wage, ending Wall Street welfare and America’s endless wars—including the drug wars—in numbers great enough to Occupy the Democratic Party and take it back from its corporate funders is absolutely crucial. So, too, is the difficult work of stitching together movements like #BlackLivesMatter, Fight for 15, immigrant rights, climate justice, and voting rights into a coalition prepared to march together, vote together, and transform our politics—and our country. Yet that is the task we face.

Are the odds against us? Of course. That’s what it means to live inside a rigged system. But remember where we were only a few months ago. With each primary victory—and each close call—Sanders shows us our own strength. With each packed rally we see the claim that socialism is un-American exposed as a lie, that a world where no one starves, healthcare is not rationed by wealth, and energy companies aren’t allowed to rape the earth for profit and leave the rest of us to take the consequences is not only possible but popular.

Why cut off that momentum? Especially when, as Daniel Cantor of the Working Families Party points out, Sanders actually keeps getting stronger: “Bernie’s North Carolina performance was 15 points better than his South Carolina performance last month, and 5 points better than his Virginia performance two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the margin in Cook County, Illinois, is half of that in Wayne County, Michigan.”

So we fight on—to July, November, and beyond. For the nomination, so long as that remains a possibility. For our country—which may in November face as stark a choice as any in our lifetimes. And for our future, which is far too precious a prize to abandon for the sake of a few thousand votes.

 See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-bernies-revolution-has-just-begun?akid=14080.123424.MZYW4e&rd=1&src=newsletter1052897&t=4

Why Our Generation’s Best Chance Is Socialism

You don’t need a $200,000 college degree to know when you’re getting screwed.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sarah Leonard, Bhaskar Sunkara / The Nation

Emphasis Mine

Every election season is a time of bemoaning why millennials won’t vote for politicians boldly committed to picking at the edges of their problems. Consider a snapshot of the situation young people face: the unemployment rate for workers under age 25 is 18.1 percent; unemployment for black people who have not graduated from high school is 82.5 percent; the people most likely to be shot by police are black 25–34-year-olds; the national student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion; and the only jobs lucrative enough to pay off college loans are in the financial industry that detonated our economy or Silicon Valley companies deregulating working-class industries.

The future doesn’t hold much hope either, with median household income declining 12.4 percent between 2000 and 2011. Having a family is simply harder to afford now. Meanwhile, each new year sets another low record for union density, meaning we have few levers for turning those income numbers around. Unlike most wealthy countries, the United States lacks universal childcare and maternity leave, so women are stuck with the same old debates over an impossible work-life balance.

We were told that in the knowledge economy good jobs followed higher education; there are few jobs, and we lock ourselves into miserable ones as quickly as possible to feed the loan sharks. The magazine writers who report on self-indulgent 20-somethings (think Time’s “The Me Me Me Generation” cover), the well-meaning guidance counselors who coach kids to “invest in themselves”—they should save their breath. You don’t need a college course to know when you’re getting screwed.
The most grotesque feature of the 2016 election is the razor-thin spectrum of solutions proposed by the front-runners to a historic set of problems. Lost in the noise of the 2016 election cycle is the fact hat no viable candidate offers any hope for a radically more equal society:(N.B.: I feel the Bern, and don’t agree) The policies on offer would merely mitigate the dire inequality that has been growing since Reagan. And this is despite the fact that a majority of Americans express widespread discontent with the country’s extreme consolidation of wealth: about three in four Americans think that inequality is a serious problem in the United States. (This places Americans in the mainstream of world opinion, where in all 44 nations polled by Pew, people think inequality is a big problem facing their countries.) It is this popular dissatisfaction that no doubt accounts for the unexpected surge of support for the unlikely long-shot Democratic candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist. (N.B.: I feel the Bern, and don’t agree)

Indeed, the most obvious source of this election’s futility is that popular opinion, expressed through elections, has essentially proved to have no influence on policy. According to a now-famous 2014 Princeton and Northwestern study measuring influence in American politics, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” On key issues like gun control, financial reform, and education spending, the policy-makers’ divergence from popular opinion has been particularly stark. The United States is now, in effect, an oligarchy. Beyond this sad reckoning lies an even more fundamental problem: There is no better alternative on offer. We need a vision of a better future, one that turns our modern capacity for abundant food, shelter, and health into a guarantee that no one will suffer for their lack.

So when people demand that we vote, you can see why the answer comes back: For what?

The economic crash was not just an ugly fluctuation that we’re all trying in good faith to correct. It has provided cover for neoliberal benefit rollbackscutting government services in the name of budget crises—in which all of these candidates have participated. Vulnerable people who need the services the most get screwed first: the young, the old, the poor. Eligibility for unemployment benefits has been tightened and opportunities to extend them rejected because we “can’t afford them.”

A college education is edging beyond reach for many of us. In 2012, Congress restricted Pell grants for low-income college students. While national student debt has surpassed $1 trillion, the federal government has made it impossible to default on these college loans—even your Social Security can be garnished to pay them off. And before students even make it to college, they are subjected to schools with such attenuated budgets that physicians have started prescribing Adderall to poor kids to keep them focused in unruly classrooms, whether they have ADD or not. In the words of one doctor, “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Perhaps it’s wise to modify the kid for the brave new world that will await her: one with constantly shifting and disappearing jobs and no safety net of any kind. It is a truism now that no one expects one career. Most people now in college or high school will have six jobs by the time they’re 26. And let us not mistake flexible work for fulfilling work. This is an age when the power of the boss is so ascendant over the power of the worker that we can be shuffled around to match precisely the needs of capital. Department stores and retailers now use apps that will inform an employee midway through a workday if their services are no longer needed to match customer demand. About half of early-career hourly workers learn their schedule for the week less than one week in advance. A full day’s work, or a “steady” job, is a thing of the past. This is a chronically unstable way to operate in the world, picking up bits of knowledge work, service work, or manual labor as needed.

When asked what factors led to such a dramatic divide between the needs of the average citizen and the actions of the state, Princeton sociologist Martin Gilens, co-author of the 2014 study measuring influence in American politics, cited moneyed lobbying on the one hand, and “the lack of mass organizations that represent and facilitate the voice of ordinary citizens,” on the other. “Part of that would be the decline of unions in the country, which has been quite dramatic over the last 30 or 40 years,” Gilens added. “And part of it is the lack of a socialist or a worker’s party.”

It is not only in the United States that unions are crumbling and the safety net is being torched in the name of leaner, more responsible budgets. The eurozone, which was once touted as the means to a prosperous and peaceful continent, has revealed itself to be nothing more than a continental system of extraction.

Poor countries in Southern Europe borrowed money from foreign banks before the devastating financial crisis of 2010, only to find themselves unable to pay them back. To protect the euro, much of this debt was restructured and taken over by the troika—the International Monetary Fund, European Commission, and the European Central Bank—that then forced countries such as Greece, Spain, and Italy to cut social spending to pay off the debts. Now in Greece, for example, unemployment has hit 25 percent in part because of huge public-sector cuts, and suicide, addiction, and infant mortality are all on the rise because the troika has required cuts in healthcare spending.

For examples of turning radical ideas into platforms for power, we might consider the rise of radical European parties in opposition to this sort of austerity—examples of Gilens’ counterweights to oligarchy. As we write, these parties are being buffeted by international creditors and may collapse, but they have far outpaced Americans in organizing militant-left institutions. Greece elected Syriza, the first radical leftist, anti austerity party to hold power within the EU. Syriza entered government promising to defy troika mandates and leave debt unpaid rather than starve Greeks. They promised, as well, greater democracy in the workplace, supporting enterprises such as the national television station, which had come under worker control during the crisis. In Spain, the Indignados movement, a sort of  precursor to Occupy in the United States, has transformed into a political party called Podemos. They, too, promise to defy EU austerity measures, root out corruption, and devolve more democracy to local councils. These parties are quite different from each other, the former born from a fusion of radical-left forces and the other out of a haphazard and less ideologically coherent coalition of regional groups. They will not solve the crisis right away, and may even disintegrate under pressure from the troika, but they provide an example of organizing successfully for power.

The United States has shown glimmers of such radical potential. The surge of youth politicization embodied by Occupy injected class into our public debate back in 2011 and formed connections with antiausterity movements across the world, especially with the Spanish Indignados. More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice has forced the whole country to confront not only the violence that oppresses black people in America but also the recession that black America has suffered since 2001. Parts of the movement are putting forward economic programs. Like Occupy, Black Lives Matter eschews centralized leadership in favor of a more horizontal structure that privileges local autonomy. On December 13, 2014, some 30,000 people marched through New York City in honor of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other black victims of police brutality, creating a new normal in the public’s response: Today, police shootings, which are no more prevalent than before, regularly make headline news and inspire mass protests. One of President Barack Obama’s last acts in office will be limiting military equipment for police departments; his reform barely scratches the surface of the problems with American policing, but is one of the first tangible results of the movement at the federal level. No change would be on the agenda without pressure from the new organization.

Young activists in the United States are embedded in other rising leftist forces as well. Fight for 15 is a low-wage workers’ movement that started with promising victories for fast-food workers and has most recently achieved a previously unthinkable $15 minimum wage for all of Los Angeles. The domestic workers’ movement, almost entirely run by and representing immigrant women of color, has organized to achieve a domestic workers’ bills of rights—which includes the right to overtime, days off, and legal protection from sexual harassment—in New York, California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. The debt-abolition movement, which emerged from Occupy, has recently been the undoing of Corinthian Colleges, a shady for-profit education company that ripped off thousands of students, a few of whom, in an act of economic disobedience, are now refusing to pay their student debts in protest. The immigrants’ rights movement has been tremendously brave, with many young people taking leadership roles and exposing themselves to potential deportation. All of these organizations have enormous challenges ahead of them, especially because most are reliant on centralized labor union and foundation funding and are not self-sustaining through dues or other traditional labor methods. They also represent a tiny fraction of citizens, even as they point to creative ways forward.

So where does that leave us? Some across left-of-center American politics have stepped forward to condemn the new activism. If the reaction to Occupy was “What are your demands?”—shorthand for “show us your reasonable think tank–approved white papers”—then the reaction to Black Lives Matter has not been far off. Establishment liberals such as Al Sharpton have condemned the movement for lacking leaders and have demanded a focus on voter registration and mobilization. Black voter registration did surge in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown’s killing by police officer Darren Wilson, but in the poignant words of one activist and scholar, “Voting would not have saved Michael Brown.” Certainly, voting for Obama has produced little change, either in the treatment of black people by the police and the criminal-justice system, or for students and their chronic state of debt, or for the falling incomes of ordinary workers.

The unimaginative stance of established politicos demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of grassroots politics. Protests don’t write policy in their first months, but rather shift conversations and tell everyone suffering through American capitalism that they are not alone. More important, all of these movements for change ultimately have one focus: on redistribution—of wealth, power, and justice. Their decentralized structures pose challenges, and are sometimes liabilities, but they indicate a real hunger for democracy, one that may manifest itself differently in the future.

In fact, according to a 2011 Pew poll, a higher percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 have a more favorable opinion of socialism than of capitalism. This points to a tremendous churn of radical potential, and while we should not get too utopian about its imminent triumph, it is crucial that we, like the rising European parties, articulate the sort of world we would like to see, the world that no leading candidates have promised. This is a world that could only be born with the force of social movements at its back.

It is time, in other words, for ideas big enough to be worthy of the global discontent that put them on the agenda. The ideas in this volume draw on a rich tradition of socialist proposals, long a force in American politics, only recently quashed into obscurity. It’s easy to forget that socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs won almost a million votes, twice. Or that hundreds of mayors and local officials were socialists in the first half of the 20th century, and that Milwaukee elected three “sewer socialist” mayors, the last as late as 1956. Even today, the Senate boasts a self-described democratic socialist, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This is not a strain alien to American soil—despite the neo-McCarthyite language of the Republican Party. The modern GOP accuses every Democrat of being a socialist (we wish!) and slurs progressive taxation, universal healthcare, and a host of other decent policies as “foreign” and “European” in order to cast suspicion on anyone left of center.

We propose an alternative vision—both reformist and revolutionary, utopian and pragmatic. Leftists have often shied away from suggesting blueprints, thinking them undemocratic. But proposing a course isn’t the same thing as imposing one. If the movements we’ve embraced in the past couple of years are worth taking seriously, it’s because they can form the political basis for social plans. People want to know that there is another way.

The openness of young people to socialism may indicate two things: They are fed up with being repeatedly let down by capitalism; and people who came to political consciousness after 1989 do not have a vision of socialism heavily influenced by the Cold War. When the economic crisis hit, there was a resurgence of casual interest in Marx, with headlines like “Why Marxism Is on the Rise Again” and “A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin.” Some Black Lives Matter activists have taken up the mantle of the Black Panthers, whose vision of socialism confronted centuries of racist exploitation. Newfound engagement resulted from attempts to describe what was happening to us, and Marxism—which describes a system designed to produce expropriation at the bottom and growing windfalls at the top—suddenly seemed more convincing than liberal fumbling to explain how Democratic policies generated by people such as former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers could have contributed to the disastrous crash.

The socialism we envision, and toward which we take some first steps toward describing, is one that prizes democracy, striving always for the sort of mass redistribution that makes individual human flourishing possible. Our goal is an economic democracy that produces more freedom than we could ever hope for under our current system.

Sarah Leonard is a senior editor at The Nation and co-editor of “The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for a New Century”. She is a contributing editor to Dissent and The New Inquiry.

Bhaskar Sunkara is the editor of Jacobin.

See:http://www.alternet.org/why-our-generations-best-chance-socialism?akid=13972.123424.wi7mbf&rd=1&src=newsletter1050646&t=10

Reality Check for Democrats: Would Martin Luther King Be Supporting Bernie?

Civil Rights leader was a harsh critic of capitalism.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Jeff Cohen

Emphasis Mine

Corporate mainstream media have sanitized and distorted the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., putting him in the category of a “civil rights leader” who focused narrowly on racial discrimination; end of story.

Missing from the story is that Dr. King was also a tough-minded critic of our capitalist economic structure, much like Bernie Sanders is today.

The reality is that King himself supported democratic socialism – and that civil rights activists and socialists have walked arm-in-arm for more than a century.

The same news outlets that omit such facts keep telling us that the mass of African American voters in South Carolina and elsewhere are diehard devotees of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton – implying that blacks are somehow wary of Bernie Sanders and his “democratic socialism.”

Here are some key historical facts and quotes that get almost no attention in mainstream media:

1909:  Many socialists – both blacks and whites – were involved in forming the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), our country’s oldest civil rights group.  Among them was renowned black intellectual W.E.B. Dubois.

1925:  Prominent African American socialist A. Philip Randolph became the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union that played a major role in activism for civil and economic rights (including the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”).

1952:  In a fascinating letter to Coretta Scott, the woman he would marry a year later, Martin King wrote: “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. . . . Today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.”

1965:  King wrote an essay in Pageant magazine, “The Bravest Man I Ever Knew,” extolling Norman Thomas as “America’s foremost socialist” and favorably quoting a black activist who said of Thomas: “He was for us before any other white folks were.”

1965:  After passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, King became even more vocal about economic rights: “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

1965-66:  King supported President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” but urged more – calling for a “gigantic Marshall Plan” for our naton’s poor of all races.

1966:  In remarks to staffers at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King said:

“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. . . . It really means that we are saying something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

March 1967:  King commented to SCLC’s board that “the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”

April 1967:  In his speech denouncing the U.S. war in Vietnam at New York’s Riverside Church, King extended his economic critique abroad, complaining about “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

May 1967:  In a report to SCLC’s staff, King said:

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power . . . this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together . . . you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others the whole structure of American life must be changed.”

August 1967:  In his final speech to an SCLC convention, King declared:

“One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?’”

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 as he and SCLC were mobilizing a multiracial army of the poor to descend nonviolently on Washington D.C. demanding a “Poor Peoples Bill of Rights.” He told a New York Times reporter that “you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.”

A year before he was murdered, King said the following to journalist David Halberstam: “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the South, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”

Unlike what Hillary Clinton professes today, Dr. King came to reject the idea of slow, incremental change.  He thought big.  He proposed solutions that could really solve social problems.

Unlike corporate-dominated U.S. media, King was not at all afraid of democratic socialism.  Other eminent African American leaders have been unafraid. Perhaps it’s historically fitting that former NAACP president Ben Jealous has recently campaigned for Bernie Sanders in South Carolina.

If mainstream journalists did more reporting on the candidates’ actual records, instead of crystal-ball gazing about the alleged hold that the Clintons have over African American voters, news consumers would know about the deplorable record of racially-biased incarceration and economic hardship brought on by Clinton administration policies. (See Michelle Alexander’s “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”)

With income inequality even greater now than during Martin Luther King’s final years, is there much doubt that King would be supporting the progressive domestic agenda of Bernie Sanders?

Before Bernie was making these kinds of big economic reform proposals, King was making them – but mainstream media didn’t want to hear them at the time . . . or now.

Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, cofounder of the online activism group RootsAction.org – and founder of the media watch group FAIR, which defended  Gary Webb against the backlash.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/reality-check-democrats-would-martin-luther-king-be-supporting-bernie?akid=13969.123424.eAvq7w&rd=1&src=newsletter1050548&t=6

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.

– See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

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

This Was Bernie’s Year: How a Socialist Emerged as a National Political Phenomenon

there are a lot of working-class people, who have turned their backs on the political system, now getting engaged in the system.”

Source: RSN

Author: Rolling Stone

Emphasis Mine

he rise of Bernie Sanders has no doubt been one of the more fascinating political stories of 2015 – a year that was not short on fascinating political stories. When he announced his run in the spring, few thought the self-described democratic socialist would be such a strong opponent against Hillary Clinton, but his impact in the race has been significant: He’s raised significant money, without relying on super PACs, and has pushed Clinton to the left in very real ways.

Whether you’re full-on feeling the Bern, or are just a political observer, it’s worth taking a look back at the year Bernie Sanders transformed from “that socialist from Vermont” to a national political phenomenon.

April 29, 2015: Announces Presidential Run, as a Democrat

Sanders, the longest serving Independent in Congress, jumped into the 2016 presidential race in late spring as a Democrat. Though in the coming months he proved to be a formidable challenger to frontrunner Hillary Clinton, raising significant money and pushing Clinton to the left, one of the terms most associated with his April announcement was “long shot.”

At a campaign announcement event in Vermont in May, Sanders laid out his platform and noted that “we’re going to win…by establishing a very strong grassroots campaign involving millions of people. That’s the only way to win.”

May 1, 2015: Outpaces GOP Candidates in Initial Fundraising

A day after announcing his run for president, Team Bernie announced it had raised an impressive $1.5 million in 24 hours – “a number that far outpaces what Republican presidential hopefuls posted in their first day,” CNN reported at the time.

In what has continued to be a hallmark of the Sanders campaign – which has rejected super PAC funding – those initial donations largely came from small-dollar donors, averaging about $44 each.

Soon after Sanders jumped into the race, Mother Jones published a profile of the candidate focused on his early life and career. The piece included a reproduction of a bizarre decades-old essay by Sanders called “Man – and Woman,” in which Sanders clumsily wrote about a woman’s rape fantasies.

The resurfaced essay caused a brief flurry of controversy, as political reporters and feminists alike tried to make sense of it. The Sanders camp was quick to dismiss the piece as a “dumb attempt at dark satire.”

August 8, 2015: Black Lives Matter Activists Shut Down Campaign Event

(N.B.: this was not an actual campaign event, but a rally in support of Social Security on the anniversary of its establishment. )

At a campaign event in Seattle over the summer, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement jumped on stage just after Sanders began speaking at the mic and said, “We’re shutting this event down, now.”

“I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, even with all of these progressives, but you’ve already done that for me,” activist Marissa Johnson told the booing crowd before calling for a moment of silence for Michael Brown. “The biggest grassroots movement in this country right now is Black Lives Matter,” she said, referring to Sanders’ stated love for grassroots movements.

Sanders stood by quietly while the Black Lives Matter activists spoke, and the campaign event ended. Sanders later released a statement saying he was “disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare.”

September 6, 2015: Pulls Ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire

After a summer of nipping at Clinton’s heels in the polls in critical primary states New Hampshire and Iowa, in early September Sanders found himself with a nine-point lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, and a narrowing gap between the candidates in Iowa, according to an NBC News/Marist poll.

The news of Sanders’ lead in New Hampshire was (and continues to be) welcome news to Sanders supporters, who argue the candidate is more electable than many pundits are willing to admit. FiveThirtyEight mastermind Nate Silver, however, has made the case that while Sanders could win New Hampshire and Iowa, he may well lose the rest of the primaries.

September 14, 2015: Addresses Evangelicals in Liberty University Speech

In September, Sanders gave a much discussed speech at Liberty University, an evangelical school in Lynchburg, Virginia, in large part to show his willingness to engage in respectful dialogue with conservatives. “I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse,” he said in his speech. “It is easy to go out and talk to people who agree with you.…It is is harder, but not less important, to try to communicate with those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

As MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald wrote at the time, Sanders “likely picked up few supporters with his speech,” but “he received a courteous welcome and helped all parties demonstrate their willingness to respect the other side.”

October 13, 2015: Tackles Clinton’s “Damn Emails” at First Debate

Sanders had a solid showing at the first Democratic primary debate, hosted by CNN. His performance included what was probably the top moment of the night – and, frankly, of all the debates to date: When the conversation turned to Clinton’s emailgate scandal, Sanders said, “Let me say something that may not be great politics. I think the secretary is right…the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

The crowd ate it up, applauding wildly and giving Sanders a standing ovation. Though surely no one loved the line more than Hillary Clinton, to whom Sanders gave the gift of dismissing the scandal in the eyes of countless Americans.

October 17, 2015: Gets the ‘SNL’ Treatment, With Amazing Impression by Larry David

In mid-October, fans of Bernie Sanders and Larry David alike got what they had long hoped for: Larry David, doing Bernie Sanders. The impression was part of a Saturday Night Live cold-open skit parodying the first Democratic debate; it became an instant classic, with lines like, “I don’t have a super PAC. I don’t even have a backpack! I carry my stuff around loose in my arms, like a professor between classes. I own one pair of underwear – that’s it!”

November 18, 2015: Is on Cover of ‘Rolling Stone’

Sanders appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the fall, giving an in-depth interview to contributing editor Tim Dickinson about his chances for beating Hillary Clinton, why he’s dedicated his political career to taking on the one percent, and his plans for working with a potentially hostile Congress, if elected. “If we win this election, it will have said that the political revolution is moving forward. In other words: I will not get elected unless there is a huge increase in voter turnout. That’s a simple fact,” he said. “And I will not get elected unless there are a lot of working-class people, who have turned their backs on the political system, now getting engaged in the system.”

November 19, 2015: Gives Speech Defining Democratic Socialism

“Let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders said, in a highly anticipated November speech at Georgetown University. “It means what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that ‘this country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.'”

In laying out his political philosophy, Sanders cited Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance and other programs that were once derided for being socialist but have since “become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.”

November 23, 2015: Hangs Out With Killer Mike

It’s no secret that rapper Killer Mike is a Bernie Sanders fan; he endorsed Sanders over the summer, tweeting, “His call 4 the restoration of the voters rights act sealed the deal for me.”

But Killer Mike took his affection for Sanders to the next level in November, taking the candidate out for lunch at a beloved Atlanta soul food restaurant and delivering heartfelt remarks at a campaign event later in the day. “I am here as a proponent for a political revolution that says health care is a right of every citizen,” he said. “I am here because working class and poor people deserve a chance at economic freedom, and yes, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be in poverty.”

see: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/34039-focus-this-was-bernies-year-how-a-socialist-emerged-as-a-national-political-phenomenon

Sanders’ Address on Democratic Socialism: Amazing and Blacked-Out

Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

Source: RSN

Author: Scot Galindez

Emphasis Mine

At Georgetown University on Thursday afternoon, Bernie Sanders outlined his vision of what democratic socialism is. Earlier that morning, Hillary Clinton gave an address on fighting ISIS. MSNBC showed all of Hillary’s speech but ignored Bernie. There has been some media coverage of the speech, but nobody cut live to Sanders like they did for Clinton.

I did see more coverage of the lead carnival barker, Donald Trump, saying he would implement a registry for Muslims, while one of the most important, substantive speeches of the election cycle was almost ignored.

The media blackout of Sanders is not going away anytime soon. Bernie supporters must go around the media and use the social media to help the campaign get their message out. Share stories widely, support independent media, help Bernie 2016 TV get off the ground. If we don’t do these things, we will surely be watching Hillary Clinton win the nomination.

Luckily for those of us feeling the bern, Georgetown University streamed the speech on Ustream. I watched the stream on Bernie 2016 TV with nearly 3,000 others using Twitter and other platforms to discuss the speech as it took place. People were very excited as Bernie laid out his vision.

Bernie opened by invoking the vision of FDR:

In his inaugural remarks in January 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.

He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life.

He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them day by day.

He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions.

He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combated cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

A tall order for sure, but the time has come for another transformation. FDR’s “economic royalists” are today’s Wall Street ruling class that needs to be challenged before they consolidate more power. The Billionaire class owns the media and increasingly owns the government. Establishment politics will do nothing to curb their greed. It’s time to fight back.

Bernie went on to say:

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.”

Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

That was then. Now is now.

Prior to World War II and McCarthyism, socialism was not a dirty word. Many American icons were self-described socialists. Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, John Dewey, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, and of course Martin Luther King, whom Sanders quotes further down in the speech.

In 1952, a young King wrote in a letter to Coretta Scott: “I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic.” In a 1966 speech to his staff, King declared: “Something is wrong … with capitalism. Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

Next time your conservative friends slam socialism as unpatriotic, remind them that the author of the pledge of allegiance, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist, a Christian socialist known for his fiery sermons on economic justice.

Back to Bernie:

Today, in 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of 2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the American people are clearly better off economically than we were in 1937.

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

If we are serious about transforming our country, if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

Now that sums it all up. Are we ready to follow Bernie’s lead and take our country back? It’s time to get off the sidelines. Bernie needs all of us to have his back. He is fighting the bankers, today’s robber barons. They are not going to just roll over, they are fighting back and they will get dirty. We need to be prepared to take them on and defeat them.

I’m not one to say that this is our last chance; progress can help us move forward in the future. But we have not had a better chance to take on the ruling class, and it may be a long time before we have a vehicle like we have now. Let’s not blow it.

We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.

Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.

Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Today, in America, millions of our people are working two or three jobs just to survive. In fact, Americans work longer hours than do the people of any industrialized country. Despite the incredibly hard work and long hours of the American middle class, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top one percent.

Today, in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.

Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings – zero – while millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death. “How will I retire with dignity?” they ask.

Today, in America, nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American children, are living in poverty — the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.

Today, in America, 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. Further, with the United States paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 1 out of 5 patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Today, in America, youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans.

The bottom line is that today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality. A handful of super-wealthy campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in Congress.

Amen. Now this is leadership. No empty soaring rhetoric. Bernie Sanders is speaking truth to power. The comparisons to FDR are coming into focus for me. This guy is ready to transform our country in the same way Roosevelt did with the New Deal. Leaders like this come about once in a generation.

We can’t afford to wait for another leader emerge who is ready to take on the ruling class. We need to rise up now! As Bernie regularly says, “Think big, it’s not time to play it safe.” Incremental change won’t work; we need to take bold action.

In 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights. This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic rights that he believed every American was entitled to: The right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.

What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin Luther King Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later, and what I believe today is that true freedom does not occur without economic security.

People are not truly free when they are unable to feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.

Free the people!!! I have been poor so I understand where FDR, Dr. King, and Bernie are coming from. I know what it’s like to suffer because I couldn’t afford health care. I know what it’s like to not be sure if I could find a warm place to sleep or a warm shower. I was in America, but I was not free. I was prisoner to just finding what I needed to survive. I was not happy. Life was a chore. All around me I saw great wealth. I often wondered, what did I do wrong to deserve to be punished?

I fought back. I became an activist. I worked with Mitch Snyder, Phil Berrigan, William Thomas and others who helped me get back on my feet. Then I met Marc Ash after the stolen election and decided the most effective thing I could do was help build an independent media organization.

While I am doing better, I have not forgotten what it is like to struggle, not from paycheck to paycheck but from day to day, hour to hour. We must stand up for those still struggling hour to hour. They need us to transform America into a country that puts human need above corporate greed.

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later, after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!

And, then, to add insult to injury, we were told that not only were the banks too big to fail, the bankers were too big to jail. Kids who get caught possessing marijuana get police records. Wall Street CEOs who help destroy the economy get raises in their salaries. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.

In my view, it’s time we had democratic socialism for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.

It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan. That is why I believe in a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. Yes. The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go further.

Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.

People who get sick will not have to worry about paying a deductible or making a co-payment. They could go to the doctor when they should, and not end up in the emergency room. Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about how they are going to provide health care for their employees. Workers will not have to be trapped in jobs they do not like simply because their employers are offering them decent health insurance plans. Instead, they will be able to pursue the jobs and work they love, which could be an enormous boon for the economy. And by the way, moving to a Medicare for all program will end the disgrace of Americans paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago – and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United States.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes far more sense to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, than to have a real unemployment rate of almost 10%. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for unemployed young people, than to lock them up and spend $80 billion a year through mass incarceration.

Democratic socialism means that if someone works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty: that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – $15 an hour over the next few years. It means that we join the rest of the world and pass the very strong Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation now in Congress. How can it possibly be that the United States, today, is virtually the only nation on earth, large or small, which does not guarantee that a working class woman can stay home for a reasonable period of time with her new-born baby? How absurd is that?

Democratic socialism means that we have government policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our kids and grandchildren.

Democratic socialism means, that in a democratic, civilized society the wealthiest people and the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Yes. Innovation, entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support. It is not acceptable that in a rigged economy in the last two years the wealthiest 15 Americans saw their wealth increase by $170 billion, more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans. Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so elegantly stated; “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

It is not acceptable that major corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying $100 billion in taxes each and every year. It is not acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or truck drivers. It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in taxes on those transactions.

I couldn’t interrupt Bernie on that roll. Democratic socialism in other words is economic and social justice. It’s my belief system. It is what William Thomas dedicated his life to when he vigiled in front of the White House for years for nuclear disarmament. Thomas, as we called him, saw that greed was destroying our country. Mitch Snyder fasted many times to draw attention to the plight of the homeless and build the largest homeless shelter in the United States within a few blocks of the Capital. He understood that he had to fight the greed of the ruling class that was neglecting those in need. Phil Berrigan was a Christian who understood that the war machine was taking resources that could be used to help the poor. They were my mentors. I know that they would be backing Bernie if they were alive today. Well, maybe not Thomas, it would have been hard to get him to trust a politician.

But Bernie is not a traditional politician, he is a public servant who wants to build a just society. If you feel burned by Obama, Bernie is no Obama. Obama ran and governed as an establishment centrist. Those terms are far from any words I would use to describe Bernie Sanders. Have faith, we can trust Bernie.

Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote. It is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and working class people have given up on our political system entirely. Every American should be embarrassed that in our last national election 63% of the American people, and 80% of young people, did not vote. Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors to suppress the vote, we must make it easier for people to participate in the political process, not harder. It is not too much to demand that everyone 18 years of age is registered to vote – end of discussion.

Further, it is unacceptable that we have a corrupt campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

If we don’t get the money out of politics, and don’t bring people back into the process, we might as well elect a king or queen and stop having elections. They are a waste of our time and money.

If we continue to sit on the sidelines, we might as well just let the oligarchy take full control. Heck, we might even get lucky and royalty will throw us some big crumbs. I’m just kidding, trying to motivate those who think the system is beyond hope. I believe, as Bernie says, that if we stand together there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism,” but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

Now that is change we can believe in. One reason we can believe it is he tells us that he can’t do it alone. Democratic socialism is not something we should fear. What we should fear is unchecked crony capitalism. If we let the billionaire class consolidate their power, America will become an oligarchy and Democracy will no longer exist. We need socialism to save America.

Author’s note: Next week I will look at the rest of the speech, which focused on ISIS and foreign policy. The transcript I used for this article was from his remarks as prepared for delivery. –SMG


Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador’s slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush’s first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/33596-focus-sanders-address-on-democratic-socialism-amazing-and-blacked-out.

Bernie Sanders Is Ayn Rand’s Worst Nightmare: He’s Changing How We View Socialism — and Exposing Free Market Parasites

Conservatives have long wielded ‘socialism’ as a pejorative — but Sanders owns it and is transforming politics.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Conor Lynch

Emphasis Mine

Since Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., launched his campaign for president this spring, he has gone from being a fringe candidate of the left to a serious challenger of Hillary Clinton, who has long been considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. When Sanders started gaining traction at the beginning of the summer, most shrugged him off as the new Ralph Nader, or even the Ron Paul of the left, an insurgent who would attract a dedicated but slim following.

Today, these comparisons are looking less accurate, and Sanders is no longer a fringe candidate. Last week, the Sanders campaign released its fundraising results for the third quarter of 2015, and not only did it nearly match Clinton’s third quarter results in cash, but broke the fundraising record in small donations. Indeed, the Sanders campaign has reached one million individual donations faster than both of President Obama’s historic campaigns (in 2008, Obama didn’t reach one million until February).

As one would expect, as Sanders has surged, the American right (and center) have gone from ignoring him to attacking him, and the barbs have been predictable indeed. The most common sound something like this: “Socialism has already been tried and it failed,” “There is no free stuff,” “He wants to steal from the job-creators.” Of course, these are familiar attacks that have long wielded against the Democrats, but with a man who does not shun the “socialist” label, they have become even sharper.

First things first: The word “socialism” has become so freely used by the right that it has all but lost the meaning that it once possessed. Since even before the Cold War, the word socialism has been a pejorative in America. When people on the right say, “Socialism has already been tried,” they are by and large thinking of 20th-century communism in the East, i.e., a totalitarian state with a centrally planned economy. If this were the sole definition of socialism, then these anti-socialists would be entirely correct. When considering 20th century communism, it is clear that centrally planned economies without markets do not work in the long run (and black markets become an inevitable feature). At this point in history, markets are necessary for human innovation and wealth creation. But as the economist (and communist, according to Bill O’Reilly) Robert Reich points out his his new book “Saving Capitalism,” the free market vs. government debate is mostly pointless. In order to have a functioning market, there need to be rules, and for rules of the market there needs to be government; the real debate should be whether those rules are working for everyone or just the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

The point is, “socialism” does not necessarily mean centrally planned economies, as most on the right believe. The original definition of socialism was something like this: the collective ownership of the means of production and distribution. In this sense, worker-owned businesses (i.e. worker co-ops) are very “socialistic,” and Sanders has appropriately put forth a plan to increase worker ownership. The word socialism can also mean “Social Democracy” — this is what best describes Bernie Sanders’s philosophy — which involves a market economy with socialistic programs. The most common example of this sort of economic system can be found in the Scandinavian countries, which have hardly “failed.” Indeed, Scandinavian countries have all been previously ranked among the highest in the world when it comes to “ease of doing business,” “global innovation,” and “prosperity.”

The second-most common claim on the right came from the sagging Rand Paul last month, when he said that “Bernie Sanders is offering you free stuff…but guess what, there is no free lunch.” This kind of assumption is not new, and can be traced back to Ronald Reagan and those infamous “welfare queens,”sad dog-whistle that haunts us to this day. Of course, it’s not about “free stuff,” but fairness. Indeed, when some facts are introduced, this assumption is revealed as a myth that has long been used by the right wing to divide the middle class (particularly along racial lines). Rand Paul seems to be entirely ignorant (willfully, I’m sure) that it is not lazy unemployed people that strain Americas welfare system, but working class people who are not being paid livable wages by corporations. Indeed, this was exactly what was found in a recent study at the University of Berkley California. The Wall Street Journal reports:

“The study found that 56% of federal and state dollars spent between 2009 and 2011 on welfare programs — including Medicaid, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Creditflowed to working families and individuals with jobs. In some industries, about half the workforce relies on welfare.”

One of the most notorious of these corporations that doesn’t have to pay its workers living wages and is more or less receiving corporate welfare is McDonald’s. Indeed, if we are keeping with these right wing terms, McDonald’s is one enormous welfare queen. It has previously been estimated that fast-food workers, who are on average 29 years old, receive around $7 billion in public assistance, and McDonald’s even has a resource line (McResource) that assists workers in signing up for assistance programs (so it doesn’t have to pay livable wages). This is also true for other massive corporations like Walmart, which is notoriously low-paying and last year made nearly $16 billion in profit. It is always easier to go after the working class poor than massive corporations who make billions in profit and spend millions on lobbying.

Socialism is not about “free stuff,” but cracking down on these corporations that exploit their workers and then rely on the government to make sure they don’t starve. It is not about being lazy and slacking off, but about demanding a fair share and getting paid decently for one’s labor — it is yet another right wing fallacy that people get paid what they’re worth, and that only lazy people are poor. Socialism is about working people, not slackers. It is about fighting capitalist realities like the fact that the top 25 hedge fund managers in America make more money than all of the 157,800 kindergarten teachers combined. Are investors who produce no value really worth that much more than teachers?

Needless to say, the myths and attacks on Sanders and “socialism” will only grow more intense in the months to come. Republican politicians tend to agree with Ayn Rand when it comes to working people, i.e. that they are parasites (although they’d never say such a thing out loud). The Sanders campaign is changing how American people view “socialism,” and hopefully, he is also exposing the GOP as the anti-working class party that it truly is.

Conor Lynch is a writer and journalist living in New York City. His work has appeared on Salon, The Hill, AlterNet, and openDemocracy. Follow him onTwitter.

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/bernie-sanders-ayn-rands-worst-nightmare-hes-changing-how-we-view-socialism-and?akid=13560.123424.muLE0V&rd=1&src=newsletter1043763&t=8

America Is Ready for Socialism! Massive Majorities Back Bernie Sanders on the Issues and Disdain Donald Trump

Trump channels the right’s angry Fox News id. But Sanders speaks to America’s soul — and our values.

Source: Salon, via Alternet

Author: Paul Rosenberg

Emphasis Mine

Donald Trump is throwing the GOP primary into chaos by channeling the GOP’s id, spinning out wild fantasies of the Mexican government deliberately sending a flood of rapists and murderers across the border. But Bernie Sanders is disrupting Hillary Clinton’s coronation on the Democratic side by channeling the party’s soul, with a specifically issue-based focus.

In a way, both men are vividly illustrating a basic asymmetry that runs through American politics—between left and right, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican—which was first comprehensively described by public opinion researchers Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril in their landmark 1967 book, The Political Beliefs of Americans: A Study of Public Opinion, and which political scientist Matt Grossman discussed in a recent Salon interview. Free and Cantril found that half the population was ideologically conservative, in the sense of preferring a smaller, more limited government, while about two-thirds was operationally liberal, in the sense of wanting to spend more on specifically identified government programs.

Subsequent research has intensified this division. Conservatives win by making broad, sweeping appeals, which can often have little relationship with the facts (Iraq’s WMDs, “voter fraud,” global warming denialism, etc.). Liberals win by focusing on how to fix specific problems. Thus “government spending” in general is seen as a negative, but spending on most specific programs is strongly supported. The pattern is clear: The more practical the question, the more liberal the answers. That’s just how U.S. politics works.

Trump takes the conservative side of this formula to an extreme, making broad, ludicrous false claims in his narcissistically self-confident manner. What’s grabbing headlines now are his false claims about illegal immigrant crime, but he remains completely detached from reality regarding Obama’s citizenship as well—an act of broad stigmatization that also typifies conservative thought. When NBC’s Katy Tur brought up his birtherism, Trump treated her with disdain: “Well, I don’t know. According to you it’s not true.” When she responded straightforwardly, “He released his birth certificate,” Trump doubled down on the disdain, “You know, if you believe that, that’s fine. I don’t care. It’s an old subject.”

Bernie Sanders is the exact opposite of Trump. As a proud self-described democratic socialist, he willingly makes himself a target for the kind of demonization that Trump hands out like candy, and he responds to attacks—actual and potential—by doubling down on policy specifics, where he correctly feels he’s on very firm ground. In a recent interview with John Nichols in the Nation, Sanders sketched out his response to such attacks, which are now routinely leveled indiscriminately: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, often criticizes President Obama, incorrectly, for trying to push “European-style socialism,” and McConnell says the American people don’t want it. First of all, of course, Obama is not trying to push European-style socialism. Second of all, I happen to believe that, if the American people understood the significant accomplishments that have taken place under social-democratic governments, democratic-socialist governments, labor governments throughout Europe, they would be shocked to know about those accomplishments. One of the goals of this campaign is to advance that understanding…. How many Americans know that in virtually every European country, when you have a baby, you get guaranteed time off and, depending on the country, significant financial benefits as well. Do the American people know that? I doubt it. Do the American people even know that we’re the only major Western industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for all? Most people don’t know that. Do the American people know that in many countries throughout Europe, public colleges and universities are either tuition-free or very inexpensive?

I have always believed that the countries in Scandinavia have not gotten the kind of honest recognition they deserve for the extraordinary achievements they have made.

Sanders is right to think that Scandanavian socialism would be popular here in the U.S., if only people knew more about it. And he’s right to make spreading that awareness a goal of his campaign. In fact, on a wide range of issue specifics Sanders lines up with strong majorities of public opinion—and has for decades.

You can get a strong sense of this from the results of the “Big Ideas” poll commissioned by the Progressive Change Institute in January, which has thus far gotten far less attention than it deserves. (Full disclosure: I’m a former blogmate with Adam Green, co-founder of PCI’s affiliate, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.) PCI first solicited ideas online through an open submission process (more than 2,600 specific proposals were submitted) and then let people vote on them (more than a million votes were cast). This bottom-up process was then tested out in a national poll. The following all received 70% support or more:

Allow Government to Negotiate Drug Prices (79%)
Give Students the Same Low Interest Rates as Big Banks (78%)
Universal Pre-Kindergarten (77%)
Fair Trade that Protect Workers, the Environment, and Jobs (75%)
End Tax Loopholes for Corporations that Ship Jobs Overseas (74%)
End Gerrymandering (73%)
Let Homeowners Pay Down Mortgage With 401k (72%)
Debt-Free College at All Public Universities (Message A) (71%)
Infrastructure Jobs Program — $400 Billion / Year (71%)
Require NSA to Get Warrants (71%)
Disclose Corporate Spending on Politics/Lobbying (71%)

Medicare Buy-In for All (71%)
Close Offshore Corporate Tax Loopholes (70%)
Green New Deal — Millions Of Clean-Energy Jobs (70%)
Full Employment Act (70%)
Expand Social Security Benefits (70%)

All of the above are in line with Bernie Sanders’ politics and all are extremely popular, with support across the political spectrum. For example, the infrastructure jobs program (a key element of Sanders’ platform) had 91% support from Democrats, 61% from independents and even 55% support from Republicans—compared to only 28% who were opposed. Donald Trump can only dream of being that popular among Republicans.

One could easily write a whole story about Sanders’ strength on issues based on this one poll alone. It’s astonishing to see all these ideas brought together which have strong support among the American people, but which can barely get the time of day in the top-down world of U.S. politics today. And that, arguably, goes straight to the heart of what the Sanders campaign is all about—opening up the political process to popular ideas that just happen to be not so popular with the billionaire class, and the political system that caters so slavishly to them.

But that’s not to say there’s no other evidence of how popular Sanders’ views are. At the American Prospect, Peter Drier recently pulled together a broad sampling of the evidence that Sanders represents majority views on a core set of issues. For example, one of the European-style socialist practices that’s particularly popular is paid leave:

Eighty percent of Americans favor requiring employers to offer paid leave to parents of new children and employees caring for sick family members. Even more (85 percent) favor requiring employers to offer paid leave to employees who are ill.

Drier broke the issues down as follows: big business, progressive taxation, inequality and poverty, money in politics, minimum wage and workers’ rights, health care and social security, higher education, same-sex marriage. His general method was to cite a number of different sources illustrating different aspects of the issue.

Regarding big business, to take one example, Drier notes that 74 percent of Americans believe corporations have too much influence on American life and politics today (New York Times/CBS News), 60 percent of Americans—including 75 percent of Democrats—believe that “the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy” (Pew), and 58% of Americans said they support breaking up “big banks like Citigroup” (the PCI poll, cited by the Wall Street Journal), which Drier points out is “a key plank of Sanders’ platform and the goal of a bill that Sanders sponsored in the Senate.” He also notes that 73% of Americans favor tougher rules for Wall Street financial companies (Lake Research), and finally, that 64% favor regulating greenhouse gas emissions and requiring utilities to generate more power from “clean” low-carbon sources (Duke University).

What this shows is that Sanders is not simply cherry-picking a few popular ideas here and there. He’s tapping into a broadly shared set of inter-related attitudes and ideas about closely related issues Although these views and ideas are usually sidelined in most political discourse, the convergence of attitudes into a coherent policy texture is remarkably consistent. And this gets to a primary problem with America’s political system: liberal policy views form a coherent whole, every bit as much as conservative ones do, but they are far less publicly recognized, articulated, discussed and explored—despite the fact that they are wildly popular!

As I’ve noted before here at Salon, Free and Cantril commented on this situation in the last section of their book “The Need for a Restatement of American Ideology” almost 50 years ago:

The paradox of a large majority of Americans qualifying as operational liberals while at the same time a majority hold to a conservative ideology has been repeatedly emphasized in this study. We have described this state of affairs as mildly schizoid, with people believing in one set of principles abstractly while acting according to another set of principles in their political behavior. But the principles according to which the majority of Americans actually behave politically have not yet been adequately formulated in modern terms

There is little doubt that the time has come for a restatement of American ideology to bring it in line with what the great majority of people want and approve. Such a statement, with the right symbols incorporated, would focus people’s wants, hopes, and beliefs, and provide a guide and platform to enable the American people to implement their political desires in a more intelligent, direct, and consistent manner.

That restatement has never come about, but on-the-ground support for liberal policies remains as strong as ever, despite decades of mostly unanswered ideological assault in the media. Part of the problem is that conservative ideology expresses an idealized sense of individual possibility, so it’s relatively easy for people to access. Liberal ideology comes from a much more reflective place, one that encompasses thinking about society as a whole, and seeing oneself as part of a larger social fabric. Shortly after Free and Cantril wrote, the philosopher John Rawls proposed thinking in terms of a society conceived behind a “veil of ignorance”: if we had no idea where we were to fall in the scheme of things, what kind of social order would we consider fair and just? Such a framework makes perfect sense when we act as citizens, and openly invites us to act philosophically, in a way that promotes the flourishing of our whole society.

In 2011, Michael I. Norton of and Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University published a study (which Drier cites) that took a Rawlsian perspective. “Following the philosopher John Rawls (1971), we asked Americans to construct distributions of wealth they deem just,” they wrote. The results were a resounding confirmation of Bernie Sanders’ politics. As they explained in their abstract, they aimed to insert the desires of “regular” Americans into policy debates about the optimal level of wealth inequality by asking them first to estimate the current wealth distribution, and then construct their ideal. As they explained their results:

First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution, such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

In their study, they gave people a choice between three alternatives, broken down into quintiles: the current wealth distribution in the U.S., a completely equal wealth distribution, and between the two, a wealth distribution equal to the income distribution of Sweden—one of those Scandinavian socialist countries that Bernie Sanders loves to share information about. Lo and behold, as the authors wrote in a section heading, “Americans Prefer Sweden.”

More precisely, Americans preferred Sweden over the U.S. by 92-8%. They also preferred complete equality, but less overwhelmingly: 77-23%. And they preferred Sweden over complete equality—but just barely, 51-49%. Not surprisingly, with such landslide numbers, it included everyone, the authors noted. “In addition, this overwhelming preference for the Sweden distribution over the United States distribution was robust across gender (females: 92.7%, males: 90.6%), preferred candidate in the 2004 election (Bush voters: 90.2%; Kerry voters: 93.5%) and income (less than $50,000: 92.1%; $50,001–$100,000: 91.7%; more than $100,000: 89.1%).” As the reference to Bush and Kerry gives away, although published in 2011, the original research was done well before the financial collapse—so this emphatically was not a response to the Great Recession.

If the overwhelming majority of Americans thinks that Sweden represents a better social order than America, then it’s hardly surprising that large numbers of them also agree with Sanders on a broad range of economic issues, as both PCI and Peter Drier lay out. And it’s not surprising that they agree on broader policies related to wealth and the exercise of political power, as well as policies making life better for the middle class, and helping more people to get into it. In fact, the only thing surprising about Bernie Sanders’ popularity is that people find it surprising.  After all, the evidence has been all around us for a very long time now.

Does that mean Bernie Sanders ought to be taken a lot more seriously than he has been so far? Absolutely. Does it mean he’ll be president? Matt Grossman doesn’t think so. “Bernie Sanders has a long and uphill battle and, if history is any guide, little chance to win the Democratic nomination,” Grossman said. “It is true that he has focused on specific issue positions that are popular with the American public and an enduringly appealing Democratic message of taking on the rich and big business, but no candidate has won the Democratic nomination by avowedly running to the left of the other candidates since George McGovern. Democratic leaders are traditionally more concerned about maintaining a moderate image than Republicans (and more convinced that it matters for electability).”

But the question of why that asymmetric response has been so—much less if it is right—is well worth contemplating. Indeed a 2013 paper by Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal underscored the broader underlying question:Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” They present a sophisticated analysis, which considers five possible explanations:

first, an ideological shift toward free market capitalism; second, the combination of immigration and low turnout of the poor has produced an electorate more wealthy than the population as a whole; third, rising affluence has reduced the share of the public that’s attracted to government for social insurance; fourth, the rich have been able to increasingly influence politics “through campaign contributions, lobbying, and revolving door employment of politicians and bureaucrats;” and fifth, the political process is distorted by institutions that reduce accountability, such as gerrymandering and a multitude of institutional veto/pivot points.

Just reading through this brief summary of their explanation is enough to make the average voter tune out—which is precisely the point. The political system is anything but transparently responsive to the majority will. In the end, they conclude, “Overall, the kinds of government policies that could have ameliorated the sharp rise in inequality have been immobilized by a combination of greater polarization, lack of voter participation, feedback from high-income campaign contributors, and political institutions that must overcome a series of key pivots before making significant changes.”

What this means, in effect, is that the political system is in a state of drift, so far as the needs, interests and values of most ordinary Americans are concerned. All the super majority issue positions that Sanders may hold are irrelevant, because the American people as a whole are irrelevant. Such is the sorry state of our democracy.

This was further confirmed by a 2014 paper, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page. In it, they used a dataset measuring key variables for 1,779 policy issues, and concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

That is what’s meant by “politics as usual,” and that’s precisely what Bernie Sanders has spent his whole life working to change. As the campaign unfolds, and more and more people become aware of how

Eighty percent of Americans favor requiring employers to offer paid leave to parents of new children and employees caring for sick family members. Even more (85 percent) favor requiring employers to offer paid leave to employees who are ill.

Drier broke the issues down as follows: big business, progressive taxation, inequality and poverty, money in politics, minimum wage and workers’ rights, health care and social security, higher education, same-sex marriage. His general method was to cite a number of different sources illustrating different aspects of the issue.

Regarding big business, to take one example, Drier notes that 74 percent of Americans believe corporations have too much influence on American life and politics today (New York Times/CBS News), 60 percent of Americans—including 75 percent of Democrats—believe that “the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy” (Pew), and 58% of Americans said they support breaking up “big banks like Citigroup” (the PCI poll, cited by the Wall Street Journal), which Drier points out is “a key plank of Sanders’ platform and the goal of a bill that Sanders sponsored in the Senate.” He also notes that 73% of Americans favor tougher rules for Wall Street financial companies (Lake Research), and finally, that 64% favor regulating greenhouse gas emissions and requiring utilities to generate more power from “clean” low-carbon sources (Duke University).

What this shows is that Sanders is not simply cherry-picking a few popular ideas here and there. He’s tapping into a broadly shared set of inter-related attitudes and ideas about closely related issues Although these views and ideas are usually sidelined in most political discourse, the convergence of attitudes into a coherent policy texture is remarkably consistent. And this gets to a primary problem with America’s political system: liberal policy views form a coherent whole, every bit as much as conservative ones do, but they are far less publicly recognized, articulated, discussed and explored—despite the fact that they are wildly popular!

As I’ve noted before here at Salon, Free and Cantril commented on this situation in the last section of their book “The Need for a Restatement of American Ideology” almost 50 years ago:

The paradox of a large majority of Americans qualifying as operational liberals while at the same time a majority hold to a conservative ideology has been repeatedly emphasized in this study. We have described this state of affairs as mildly schizoid, with people believing in one set of principles abstractly while acting according to another set of principles in their political behavior. But the principles according to which the majority of Americans actually behave politically have not yet been adequately formulated in modern terms …

There is little doubt that the time has come for a restatement of American ideology to bring it in line with what the great majority of people want and approve. Such a statement, with the right symbols incorporated, would focus people’s wants, hopes, and beliefs, and provide a guide and platform to enable the American people to implement their political desires in a more intelligent, direct, and consistent manner.

That restatement has never come about, but on-the-ground support for liberal policies remains as strong as ever, despite decades of mostly unanswered ideological assault in the media. Part of the problem is that conservative ideology expresses an idealized sense of individual possibility, so it’s relatively easy for people to access. Liberal ideology comes from a much more reflective place, one that encompasses thinking about society as a whole, and seeing oneself as part of a larger social fabric. Shortly after Free and Cantril wrote, the philosopher John Rawls proposed thinking in terms of a society conceived behind a “veil of ignorance”: if we had no idea where we were to fall in the scheme of things, what kind of social order would we consider fair and just? Such a framework makes perfect sense when we act as citizens, and openly invites us to act philosophically, in a way that promotes the flourishing of our whole society.

In 2011, Michael I. Norton of and Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University published a study (which Drier cites) that took a Rawlsian perspective. “Following the philosopher John Rawls (1971), we asked Americans to construct distributions of wealth they deem just,” they wrote. The results were a resounding confirmation of Bernie Sanders’ politics. As they explained in their abstract, they aimed to insert the desires of “regular” Americans into policy debates about the optimal level of wealth inequality by asking them first to estimate the current wealth distribution, and then construct their ideal. As they explained their results:

First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution, such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

In their study, they gave people a choice between three alternatives, broken down into quintiles: the current wealth distribution in the U.S., a completely equal wealth distribution, and between the two, a wealth distribution equal to the income distribution of Sweden—one of those Scandinavian socialist countries that Bernie Sanders loves to share information about. Lo and behold, as the authors wrote in a section heading, “Americans Prefer Sweden.”

More precisely, Americans preferred Sweden over the U.S. by 92-8%. They also preferred complete equality, but less overwhelmingly: 77-23%. And they preferred Sweden over complete equality—but just barely, 51-49%. Not surprisingly, with such landslide numbers, it included everyone, the authors noted. “In addition, this overwhelming preference for the Sweden distribution over the United States distribution was robust across gender (females: 92.7%, males: 90.6%), preferred candidate in the 2004 election (Bush voters: 90.2%; Kerry voters: 93.5%) and income (less than $50,000: 92.1%; $50,001–$100,000: 91.7%; more than $100,000: 89.1%).” As the reference to Bush and Kerry gives away, although published in 2011, the original research was done well before the financial collapse—so this emphatically was not a response to the Great Recession.

If the overwhelming majority of Americans thinks that Sweden represents a better social order than America, then it’s hardly surprising that large numbers of them also agree with Sanders on a broad range of economic issues, as both PCI and Peter Drier lay out. And it’s not surprising that they agree on broader policies related to wealth and the exercise of political power, as well as policies making life better for the middle class, and helping more people to get into it. In fact, the only thing surprising about Bernie Sanders’ popularity is that people find it surprising.  After all, the evidence has been all around us for a very long time now.

Does that mean Bernie Sanders ought to be taken a lot more seriously than he has been so far? Absolutely. Does it mean he’ll be president? Matt Grossman doesn’t think so. “Bernie Sanders has a long and uphill battle and, if history is any guide, little chance to win the Democratic nomination,” Grossman said. “It is true that he has focused on specific issue positions that are popular with the American public and an enduringly appealing Democratic message of taking on the rich and big business, but no candidate has won the Democratic nomination by avowedly running to the left of the other candidates since George McGovern. Democratic leaders are traditionally more concerned about maintaining a moderate image than Republicans (and more convinced that it matters for electability).”

But the question of why that asymmetric response has been so—much less if it is right—is well worth contemplating. Indeed a 2013 paper by Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal underscored the broader underlying question: “Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” They present a sophisticated analysis, which considers five possible explanations: first, an ideological shift toward free market capitalism; second, the combination of immigration and low turnout of the poor has produced an electorate more wealthy than the population as a whole; third, rising affluence has reduced the share of the public that’s attracted to government for social insurance; fourth, the rich have been able to increasingly influence politics “through campaign contributions, lobbying, and revolving door employment of politicians and bureaucrats;” and fifth, the political process is distorted by institutions that reduce accountability, such as gerrymandering and a multitude of institutional veto/pivot points.

Just reading through this brief summary of their explanation is enough to make the average voter tune out—which is precisely the point. The political system is anything but transparently responsive to the majority will. In the end, they conclude, “Overall, the kinds of government policies that could have ameliorated the sharp rise in inequality have been immobilized by a combination of greater polarization, lack of voter participation, feedback from high-income campaign contributors, and political institutions that must overcome a series of key pivots before making significant changes.”

What this means, in effect, is that the political system is in a state of drift, so far as the needs, interests and values of most ordinary Americans are concerned. All the supermajority issue positions that Sanders may hold are irrelevant, because the American people as a whole are irrelevant. Such is the sorry state of our democracy.

This was further confirmed by a 2014 paper, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page. In it, they used a dataset measuring key variables for 1,779 policy issues, and concluded that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

That is what’s meant by “politics as usual,” and that’s precisely what Bernie Sanders has spent his whole life working to change. As the campaign unfolds, and more and more people become aware of how well Sanders represents their views on fundamental issues, the focus on changing political structures of power will inevitably come to deepen—as Sanders, of course, already knows that it must.

In the Nation interview referred to above, Sanders began by responding to the question, “Are we at one of those pivot points—as we saw in the 1930s—where our politics could open up and take the country in a much more progressive direction?” And he responded as follows:

Obviously, we’re not in the midst of a massive depression, as we were in the 1930s. But I think the discontent of the American people is far, far greater than the pundits understand. Do you know what real African-American youth unemployment is? It’s over 50 percent. Families with a member 55 or older have literally nothing saved for retirement. Workers are worried about their jobs ending up in China. They’re worried about being fired when they’re age 50 and being replaced at half-wages by somebody who is 25. They’re disgusted with the degree that billionaires are able to buy elections. They are frightened by the fact that we have a Republican Party that refuses to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone address this huge issue.

In 1936, when Roosevelt ran for reelection, he welcomed the

hatred of what he called “the economic royalists”—today, they’re the billionaire class—and I’m prepared to do that as well. That’s the kind of language the American people are ready to hear.

Ultimately, the question is not “Will Bernie Sanders be elected president?” We’ve had many men elected president who have done little to impact the long arc of our nation’s course through history. The real question is, “Will the Sanders campaign change the course of American history?” And that question is one that every citizen can help answer, by how they engage in the months ahead.

 

Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/america-ready-socialism-massive-majorities-back-bernie-sanders-issues-and-disdain?akid=13298.123424.NqSiKA&rd=1&src=newsletter1039265&t=5