Unity for What?

All democrats want unity. Bernie Sanders and his supporters want to beat Trump, but they want to do it by unifying around a progressive program. I can’t understand why anybody would surrender that vision before the primaries.

The Democratic Party’s final decisions on candidates for 2020 is at hand. Bernice Sanders is quoted in a recent AP News story: “Let me say this so there’s no misunderstanding,” he told a rally in Indianola, Iowa. “If we do not win, we will support the winner and I know that every other candidate will do the same.”

But the article by Will Weissert  is headlined, “Sanders calls for unity, but his supporters have other ideas.” Bernie endorsed Mrs Clinton after he lost the 2016 primary, but a lot of his young supporters stayed home on voting day. They just don’t trust or care for the Democratic Party as it is and has been.

Something similar happened in the Republican Party in 2016. Many Republicans declared that they would never support Mr Trump if he got the nomination. Today, they slavishly support everything he does. They unified despite their objections. They chose power over all other considerations.

Almost all of my friends today advocate for that kind of unity in the Democratic Party. Only by unifying, they say, can they defeat Trump and incipient American fascism. I would go so far as to say that they all agree on that.

But unity around what? Does ‘unity” mean accepting the old “lesser evil” corporate capitalism of the Democratic Party? For many of my friends, that is exactly what they mean. They mean “vote for Biden in the primaries” because he is “moderate” enough to “capture the middle.” They argue that he is “the only way to beat Trump.” The logic is inescapable, but don’t forget that they said the exact same thing about Mrs Clinton in 2016.

If Mr Weissert’s article has predictive power, the young and progressive voters currently pushing Mr Sanders into the top ranks of candidates may not transfer their allegiance to Mr Biden after the primaries. One has to add another very important argument that must be dealt with: if Sanders supporters feel that the Democrats cheat to defeat Bernie, they will be less likely to support the Democratic candidate.

Are the primaries fair?

Did the Democrats cheat in 2016? Certainly they stacked the deck with super delegates committed to Mrs Clinton long before the primaries started. Certainly, Mrs Clinton was given an advanced look at the questions in at least one of the debates against Bernie Sanders. Everybody knows both of those things, and Sanders supporters were not forgiving in 2016. If they suspect chicanery, they won’t be forgiving in 2020, either. And in fact, they already do. If you get news from the main independent Bernie group, Our Revolution, you have already seen headlines charging that the establishment Democrats are out to defeat Bernie Sanders through underhanded tricks. They might as well extend the charge of cheating to cover other progressive candidates.

United, the Democrats will certainly defeat Mr Trump and blunt the drive to fascist America. But progressive voters want that unity around a progressive program, not around the old business-as-usual corporate liberalism of the Democratic Party as practiced for decades and espoused today by Biden and most of the candidates.

Taken one at a time, Bernie Sanders’ programs are popular with voters. They sincerely want better education, better protection of the environment, more democracy, better health care, and improved possibilities for working and retired Americans. That’s the program that they want to unite around.

Will the Bernie Movement Grow?

Sanders’ age adds another dimension to the situation. His supporters are willing to vote for him even though he is the oldest candidate in the field and one of the oldest to ever run. But they must also feel that 2020 will be his last campaign. He had a heart attack during this one. Sanders has never claimed that he, personally, could change America, but that the movement he is building can. I’m one of the people that subscribes to that idea. But would the movement continue if Bernie loses in the 2020 primaries? It would to a large extent, but it wouldn’t have the dynamism that it draws from Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Sanders and his supporters want to beat Trump, but they prefer to do it by unifying around a progressive program. I can’t understand why anybody would surrender that vision before the primaries are over.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

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