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Larry Cohen and Carol Gay on Where the Sanders Movement Should Go From Here: Two Different Views
Below please read two different views on where the Sanders movement should go from here. The authors are Larry Cohen and Carol Gay. Readers are urged to submit their own ideas, which will be posted on the Labor Fightback Network Blog (http://laborfightback.wordpress.com).
Larry Cohen is past president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and Senior Adviser of Labor For Bernie; Carol Gay is president of the New Jersey State Industrial Union Council and a retired CWA International Representative.
Three Next Steps in the Political Revolution
Bernie Sanders Can’t Do It Alone
By Larry Cohen
Bernie Sanders will campaign all the way up to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia to seek the nomination — and to continue building the “political revolution.”
What is that political revolution, beyond his call to get the billionaires and corporations out and the people in?
Electing candidates to public office like Sanders — both this year and in years to come — is one leg.
The second leg is democratic, structural political reform. This means changes to our electoral system, such as instituting automatic voter registration and matching small donations with public funds.
It also means transforming the Democratic Party to a populist-based party by reforming its inner workings. Sanders’ campaign offers the most comprehensive challenge to the wealthy Democratic establishment since Jesse Jackson’s historic 1988 campaign. Sanders stumped that year for Jackson, helping him win in Vermont. At the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta, the Jackson campaign negotiated party reforms that included ending winner-take-all primaries and halving the number of super delegates.
Partly as a result of the end of winner-take-all, Bernie is on track to win at least 500 more delegates than Jackson did in 1988. But the reforms to the super delegate system were never enacted, and the Sanders campaign (to which I am an adviser) plans to bring some version of that demand back this year. The delegate selection process will also be back on the table, based on a growing list of serious flaws beginning with the Iowa Caucus, where the Democrats refused to release or review the caucus precinct results.
Twenty-three years before Occupy Wall Street, Jackson also pressured the Democrats to include a call for higher taxes on the 1% in the party’s platform. This and other platform demands pushed Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis in a more progressive direction. Today, as in 1988, issues are the third leg of the political revolution—and the most apparent. Clinton and Sanders hold clearly different positions on trade, foreign policy, financial reform (including breaking up the big banks), the role of money and super PACs in politics, and critical economic reforms such as free higher education, Medicare-for-all and Social Security expansion. These issues will not only be raised from now through July, but for years to come in mobilizations of the emerging progressive base.
Those of us who are working day and night to elect Bernie Sanders president are determined to sustain this movement beyond the moment. The congressional and other electoral campaigns this year, combined with the emerging focus on democracy itself and the issues that mobilize our supporters, will carry that movement forward.
Another Point of View
By Carol Gay
I agree with almost all the points raised by Brother Cohen in this important and necessary discussion, but what I do not understand is why we are talking about reforming a morally bankrupt party, the Democratic Party.
Why are we not at the very least leaving open the possibility of a discussion about a new party, a party of our own that embraces all progressive forces — Labor, Environmentalists and Greens, Black Lives Matter, $15 NOW, Money Out of Politics, etc.?
The Bernie Sanders campaign has unleashed so much new energy that is adding to the already growing movements for progressive change, and I don’t think we want to discourage participation by any of these groups by supporting the party of the establishment, even if it is couched in “reform” terminology.
The Democratic Party is almost unrecognizable to most of us who have worked for progressive change our entire lives. I am speaking as a life-long Democrat and active member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), but I cannot find it within me to support the status quo any longer.
I think this is an historic moment in time that will probably not come again in my life.
Regardless of Who Ultimately Wins the Democratic Nomination for President, Labor Must Have Its Own Independent Voice
Senator Bernie Sanders’ victory in Michigan has clearly rocked the political world. It has exposed Hillary Clinton’s vulnerabilities and underscored the deep anger of working people nationwide with Wall Street and with the politicians funded by Wall Street. It has also demonstrated the massive support nationwide for the far-reaching demands put forward by Sanders, including tuition-free education at public colleges and universities, Medicare for All/Single Payer, breaking up the big banks, and strident opposition to the corporate “free trade” agenda.
The race for the Democratic Party nomination is still not resolved, but regardless of who ultimately wins the Party’s nomination for president, labor must have its own political voice.
More voters now call themselves independents due to many years’ disenchantment with, and disenfranchisement from, the policies of the oligarchic two-party system. They are disgusted with a system that no longer even pretends to hear their needs or their voice.
In our view, it is not too soon for supporters of independent labor political action to map out a strategy for the postelection period. If we decide to wait and attempt to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the November election, we risk confusion and disorientation setting in.
Recognizing that a significant sector of the working class has become politicized to an extent not seen in decades, here is what we in the Labor Fightback Network believe
- First, that a large number of unions and labor activists have had it with “establishment politics” and are open to an independent course in the period ahead.
- Second, that it is essential that a forum or network be provided for these forces to come together and unite in mass actions around the kind of domestic program that Sanders has popularized, while adding a plank on foreign policy that opposes U.S. interventions, occupations and military engagements in unjust wars. In this context, the groundwork will be laid for running independent labor-community candidates for public office at the local level.
- Third, that community of color groups need to be included from the start, together with other progressive forces, as part of the mix.
- Fourth, that the Labor for Bernie campaign be encouraged to help spearhead the development of this network.
- Fifth, that whatever formation is created, it be and remain staunchly nonpartisan and function democratically.
To read additional comments on the key issues facing the labor movement—and to share your own comments—please visit the Labor Fightback Blog.
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