Now that Bernie has suspended his campaign for president, the campaigns for a Green New Deal and Medicare for All might seem like even more of a pipe dream than ever, especially when you get lost in the doom and gloom hanging over us thanks to the current pandemic.
This is not the case however. While Bernie suspending his campaign is a setback the fight for genuine material gains for the working class lives on. It was here before Bernie and it will live on long after him until everyone becomes employed, sheltered, and fed.
With Bernie suspending his campaign we do however need to shift gears. It might feel easy to give up now but we cannot. A game does not end because one player has to sit out, the team carries on and tries to win anyway, and that is what we must do.
And even though Bernie himself had to pull out of the race, his ideas are still winning. Most Democrats do support things like a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, so do not think we have no leverage anymore without Bernie as a candidate.
So here are some of the things you can do now to keep the momentum going and growing:
1. Join DSA.
If you are disillusioned by the lack of democracy in the so called “democratic” party and want to organize for these progressive campaigns in a space that is democratic not just in name but in practice, then you should join DSA. The only organization that is campaigning for these issues in a serious, nuanced manner is the Democratic Socialists of America. The Democrats will cede nothing to us without consistent pressure from collective outside organizing. This outside organization can mobilize members to pressure elected officials to vote one way or the other without being restrained by internal party limitations. Which brings me to my second point.
2. Phone Blast your representatives
Whenever anything related to housing for all, medicare for all, college for all, jobs for all etc comes up in congress, state legislatures, or your city councils, a phone blast campaign is one of the most powerful ways you can pressure your elected officials to vote. If enough calls are made and their staff is over worked to the point where all they do in a day is answer constituents calls, then your elected official is likely to vote in line with that public pressure, even if it goes the vote against their party. Consider the first vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 when Trump first took office, those efforts were defeated because Congressional offices received an average of 1000 calls a day demanding they vote against the repeal. As a result even the most hardcore anti Obamacare republicans voted against the repeal and the ACA remained in tact.
3. YOU CAN STILL VOTE FOR BERNIE
You might wonder “what is the point of voting for Bernie if he’s ending his campaign and already endorsed Biden?”
One word, DELEGATES!
When candidates get your votes they are pledged a certain number of delegates. Those delegates go on to vote at the convention, where the nominee is officially chosen. If by some miracle Biden drops out, (which he should because of sexual assault allegations) and a new candidate needs to be drafted, so the more delegates Bernie has the better case the party has for drafting him as the replacement candidate. Keep in mind this his a highly unlikely scenario given that Bernie has already publicly endorsed Biden.
But it is also important to remember is that the more delegates Bernie has going into the convention the more progressive votes we have to set the party agenda. The convention is not only where the nominee is made official, it is where the party platform is written. The more progressive votes we have on the convention floor the more we can push the democratic party agenda to the left, the more we push it to the left the more Joe Biden or who ever is nominated is obligated to answer to us once in office. It will be easier to pressure and hold Biden accountable if he is seen to be in opposition to his own party platform once in office.
Just because Bernie isn’t running for president anymore does not mean you should skip voting all together. There are several down ballot democratic socialists and progressives running in local and congressional elections across the country, such as Shahid Buttar in San Francisco. Local and Congressional races actually have more material impact than any presidential election. Think of it like this, the Feds decide who gets how much money, but it is your local elected officials who decide how that money is spent. It is also important to remember, as stated above, that while Bernie lost his ideas are winning and there is a call for democratic socialist candidates. In Sacramento the DSA was successful in elected Katie Valenzuela, a dues paying member, to the city council, ousting two term incumbent and anti rent control champion Steve Hansen.
I am not enthused by electoral politics now that Bernie dropped out, but I will not abandon the chance to get people who can push for our agenda elected.
Plus, strictly hypothetical, lets say we flip Congress from GOP to Dem controlled and do it with a majority of Democratic Socialist and Progressive Dems. Biden has maintained his opposition to Medicare for All, even saying he would veto it if a bill made it through Congress. This does not mean the bill is permanently defeated, because the Constitution states that Congress can override a presidential veto with a 2/3 majority vote in both houses. There is also historical precedent for this as this was how congress functioned under the presidency of Andrew Johnson. Johnson would veto most of the reconstruction measures put to him and because congress was controlled by his opposition his vetoes were over ruled.
If we can gain the majority in both houses of congress and gain it using Democratic Socialist candidates, whoever is President will have to answer to that Congress.
It is a mathematical long shot however, but it is an important aspect of constitutional law that socialist agitators cannot take for granted.
5. Support Mutual Aid Projects And Strike Actions
No doubt that if you volunteered in a DSA campaign for Bernie or with the Bernie campaign itself you have also connected with other organizers and activists related to other projects. The campaigns for Bernie have built networks across the country that can and must be utilized to organize for local material needs. The campaign network created by Bernie and DSA to turn people out to canvass can be used to turn coordinate direct action, or it could be used to rally support and fundraise for causes like immigrant support, resources for the unhoused, materials for quarantined seniors, the possibilities are almost endless. The campaign networks set up to elect Bernie must not be dismantled but retooled and campaign volunteers should take the initiative to connect to the network they have built and support their local material demands.
Yes, these are sad days my dear readers, but none of the organizers who have fought the hardest ever gave up. Not Nelson Mandela, Not Martin Luther King, Jr, not Eugene V Debs, and not Bernie Sanders. Don’t call yourself a socialist if you are going to throw in the towel after one electoral defeat.