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Open Letter to Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Sanders,

You’ve come a long way without my advice, but now that you are running for president, you may be interested in these suggestions:

You’ve taken progressive positions on “decent paying job programs” such as investing in repairing our country’s public works, raising the minimum wage, strengthening labor laws, opposing the good-job-exporting, corporate-managed trade treaties such as NAFTA and WTO, and creating a Youth Job Corps. Now you need to make major addresses in greater detail on each topic before large audiences. The media coverage of these events will be very helpful during primary season.

You need to identify with local and regional issues as you travel around the country and appear with the citizen or labor groups championing these pathways to justice. Just about all major presidential candidates assiduously avoid such identification for fear of some taint or gaffe when dealing with less common topics. You shouldn’t have this worry.

As your polls rise and your audiences get larger, your opponents will challenge you for being a self-identified “socialist.” It is best to pre-empt them. Your socialist beliefs seem in-line with social democratic parties in Western European nations. So, while there are many examples of widely bipartisan support for socialist institutions – municipally owned utilities, regionally owned utilities like the giant Tennessee Valley Authority, and more – you are not interested in nationalizing industry and the banks. You are interested in breaking up giant “too big to fail” banks and reforming the governance of giant multinationals. Over eighty percent of the American people favor the breakup of large banks, want the Wall Street crooks prosecuted, convicted, and jailed, and oppose bailing out powerful big businesses. This is a Left-Right convergence issue – of Main Street against Wall Street.

You need to expand your efforts to reach out to racial and ethnic minorities. Campaign in the low-income neighborhoods. Get to know the dynamic community groups and listen to the issues that they have been struggling with for decades. This is when your support of credit unions and well-equipped schools, call to end food deserts, focus on community policing, emphasis on tenant rights/remedies with building code enforcement, and concentration on good day care and accessible community health clinics through full Medicare for all, will resonate with their community interests.

Emphasizing that you are campaigning with the people, not on stage before the people is what helps build the movement that will continue after the election– win or lose.
In addition to your smaller-denomination fundraisers, why not have timeraisers – people pledging to support your campaign with hours of volunteer time. This creates opportunities for wider voter involvement.

Since you are a U.S. Senator, why not develop a unified contract for America. Look how far Newt Gingrich got in 1994 with a contract that was against America, which he deceptively packaged as a focal point against his listless Democratic opponents in a landslide, Republican takeover of the House of Representatives.

Look for advice and return more calls from your imaginative supporters. Being a successful lone ranger worked in Vermont, but campaigning across 50 states – and you must be the only one to go to every state as a presidential candidate – requires more congeniality and openness to the problems of many different constituencies.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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