News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.
Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.
March 15, 2019
By Shane Ruiz
A canny observer of Bernie’s campaign rollout may have noted a recurring tick in his stump speeches—whenever the crowds begins to chant “Bernie,” he interrupts with “it’s not Bernie, it’s you!” In Council Bluffs, Iowa, Bernie’s first stop in the first caucus state, he offered an off-the-cuff variation on the theme.
Bernie: Let me say what I’ve said before. It ain’t Bernie, it’s you. It’s not me, it is us.
Crowd (chants): Not me, us. Not me, us. Not me, us.
Bernie: And I say that, it’s not my ego, I have a big ego like every member of the US Senate by definition. The reason is that the powers that be, they are so powerful, they have so much money, that no one person, not the best President in the world, can take them on alone. The only way we transform America is when millions of people together, stand up and fight back. And that is why it’s not me. I’ve gotta do my job, you’ve gotta do your job.”
As more candidates announce their campaigns for the Democratic Party nomination, we are awash in stump speeches and political ads, but it would be a mistake to dismiss this strategic insight as mere rhetoric. Sanders has been markedly consistent his criticism of the Democratic establishment: We can’t beat the right with half-assed policy plans and charismatic speeches; only a mass, working-class movement can take on the concentrated power of capital.
Indeed, the capitalist class has understood for decades the need to build a powerful political movement to cement and expand their dominance. Exemplified by the hydra-like Koch network, the right has poured billions of dollars over decades into not just electing politicians but also funding grass-tops political movements, building right-wing media apparatuses, and even privatizing our public schools. Rather than stand up to this class, the Democratic Party has instead overseen the complete collapse of unionism in the US, enabled the hollowing out of state and local party apparatuses, and failed to deliver any meaningful victories for the working class.
Some Democratic presidential candidates, especially Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have responded to the success of Bernie’s 2016 campaign by shifting their policy positions to more robust, universal programs. Warren has laid out a series of admirable policies like universal childcare and breaking up tech monopolies, but she insists that these regulatory changes can be worked through the system as it exists. Her vision, that wonky technocrats can muscle through progressive legislation by publicly shaming the wealthy in congressional hearings, is naive. President Trump is as a living testament to the fact that the right has no shame. They know only power.
Bernie, on the other hand, preaches that the only way to combat the patriarchal, white-supremacist, capitalist movement that propelled Donald Trump to power is to build an even more powerful, more vibrant, more colorful working-class movement on the left. That’s why he takes time in his stump speeches, not just to encourage the crowd to vote for him, not just to knock on doors, but to form unions and take power in their own workplaces. Only through the power of a diverse, working-class movement can Bernie get elected and, even more importantly, force legislation through a hostile congress.
Bernie summed up his view with a reference to President Obama’s famous “red state and blue state” speech:
“If we stand together as black and white, Latino, Asian American, and Native American. If we stand together as gay and straight, men and women, native-born and immigrant. If we stand together as rural and urban — north, south, east, and west. If we understand that there really is no such thing as blue state or red state but states throughout the country where working people are struggling to survive. If we stand together, this country has an extraordinary future.”
Unlike Obama, however, Bernie does not flatten all political conflict into one harmonious, post-racial “America,” but instead calls for unity of the working class—one side of a struggle against the true enemy: the capitalists. Since Bernie is the only candidate who recognizes class conflict, he is the only one equipped to actually deliver for working people. We must, therefore, fight tooth-and-nail against the Democratic establishment to guarantee Bernie’s nomination and his defeat of President Trump. The fate of the world depends on it.