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Help Bernie Keep His Halo

The upheaval against inequality has no ideology.

Bernie’s democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders defines one thread; Donald Trump’s “white lives matter more” nationalism is another fabric. Hillary Clinton’s “evolution” towards a $12 minimum wage and fighting for equal pay for low wage jobs is a pale imitation.

Activists nurture the upheaval but public support makes it succeed. This election is a huge vote of no confidence in the American system, and the leaders of both parties realize it. The intellectual climate will respond to the new public attitudes. Economists and pundits will devise new reforms and new rationales. The left must advance a program and be nimble enough to counter a status quo that will soon wear a new dress.

The main victim is the Republican Party; Hillary Clinton expects a blowout victory. Her husband won against a fractured Republican Party with 43% of the votes in 1992 and 68% of the Electoral College. Ross Perot had 19,743,821 votes—18.91% and NO electoral votes. Having Bernie Sanders run as a Green Party candidate would represent a radical change. Suddenly, the Democrats would be the party in trouble.

Bernie Sanders would be damned with hateful criticism. Those who believe truth must be proclaimed and never intimidated will object saying “so what.” But a third party candidacy could make socialism radioactive causing lasting damage.

While the Democrats split, the Republicans could gain unity and challenge the weakened Democrats. Trump is winning more than 50% of the primary vote and Republicans are seeking a quiet convention nominating Trump with minimal controversy. Responding to the fear that the Donald might win, Democrats will mount a stinging anti-Green Party campaign.

Bernie’s great virtue is making socialism practical. Tuition free public universities funded by a tax on stock market sales are pure joy from the standpoint of political organizing. A tweak making it more practical adds a surcharge that goes to the company whose shares are traded. General Motors traded 12M shares on Friday, April 29, if a tiny percentage went to the company, it could be pressed to do community projects, pay higher wages, lower working hours etc. Selling these ideas to the public does not require an independent Presidential campaign by the Senator. It requires Sanders preserve his reputation as the honest man who never took a dime from the billionaires. By running as a Green, Bernie will be labeled just another politician running for office, his good name will be in tatters.

Bernie reintroduced the idea that public policy can help people and provide real change. He is the optimist Clinton the Cassandra. Maintaining this tactical advantage is a worthy objective for two wings of American left: those who are in the Democratic Party and those seeking a third party unequivocal in its opposition to imperialism and exploitation. It means the Green Party should have its best year ever but it doesn’t require they nominate Sanders. Does Cornel West make a good candidate?

The priority is making Americans demand that government work in their interest. Government controlled by the wealthy is one thing; government working for the people is another. Bernie ignited that demand and it should be nurtured, and the believers should be running for office and giving the idea life in communities across the United States.

Equally crucial is incorporating African American and Latino voters into the coalition. Have their leaders been involved in the decision to mount a Green campaign? How does a third party race help their communities?

The gulf between the left and people of color saps progressive strength. No gulf, and Sanders wins. They are natural allies soothing the frictions are unfinished business. Tuition-free higher education offers these communities a good break, shouldn’t it attract the majority of the voters in these communities? No cure is possible unless minority groups are players during the planning and preparation of the campaign. A third party run could heighten tensions between the left and people of color. Center-(not very)left Democrats will spread tales. “Those lefties are so stupid they will elect Donald Trump who solicits the support of the KKK.”

Another ominous possibility, the Clinton forces shriek “demagogue” Sanders is a politician trying to fool the people by promising “free,” (nothing is free, it still costs money) health care with no out of pocket expenses and free public universities; ideas that receive respectful treatment will be damned. Democrats who are favorably disposed will be forced into the anti-column.

The left has been a coherent national political force for less than six months. Developing the infrastructure must proceed. That is why Bernie’s staffers have decided the next step is organizing for the 2018 mid-term election to Congress. It creates a hammer when lobbying during the Clinton’s first two years. The lead-time is necessary to identify candidate who are truly left but are also vote getters.

The left’s move from the fringe to the mainstream is rooted in public discontent; a Sanders move into the Green Party could turn into a step backward. The rare opportunity exists to propose exciting ideas to a disaffected public and wining their allegiance. The aura of idealism is Bernie Sanders greatest gift to the left, and we should use it to find new recruits and candidates who can win.

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Nathan Riley is a columnist for Gay City News and a veteran of numerous New York State Campaigns. 

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