News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.
Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.
March 02, 2020
By Casey Busher and Stephanie Hung
If you are eligible to vote in California, your vote may never make as much of an impact as it will this Tuesday, March 3 (“Super Tuesday”).
After decades of attacks on workers’ rights and vital services like healthcare, education, and affordable housing by both Republicans and Democrats, Bernie Sanders’ campaign represents a mass movement of working people demanding more.
This year’s Califorrnia primary is more influential than it has been in over a decade, with an early primary date and more democratic rules for how delegates vote at the Democratic National Convention.
Even with Sanders ahead in the polls, each vote is crucial.
93 unelected Democratic superdelegates (who can vote for whoever they want) are planning to vote against Sanders in the convention if he gets a plurality of pledged delegates but falls short of a majority, making a decisive victory critical to clinching the nomination. And besides Sanders, all the candidates on the Democratic debate stage in South Carolina denied that the candidate with the most votes should receive the nomination.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for this election. We have a decade left to keep the climate from warming more than 1.5 °C, or extreme poverty, wildfires, drought, and floods will threaten hundreds of millions of lives. These extreme conditions, along with the global rise of repressive right-wing governments they are fueling, mean that climate change poses a genocide-level threat. As the only candidate with a serious plan to tackle the climate crisis and an agenda that can undercut support for the far-right, it is vital that we elect Sanders.
A grassroots, multiracial coalition is forcing every presidential candidate to address Medicare for All, canceling student debt, and 100% renewable energy on the national debate stage — all topics that were deemed ridiculous just four years ago. The Sanders movement and other working-class activists have pushed the conversation to the left. Through door-knocking, phone banking, and organizing our families and co-workers, we have built a grassroots campaign that has proved the pundits wrong about what’s possible and made history in all three early-voting states. After the election, we will need to channel this energy into demanding the changes we need and forcing politicians to enact them.
Naomi Klein said of this election, “[R]emember, we are not choosing a messiah to save us. We are choosing the best political conditions to save ourselves.” Regardless of who wins the nomination, we need to continue to push for the vision of the world we want: universal healthcare, a Green New Deal, free college, an end to mass incarceration, an end to deportations and endless wars, and workplace democracy. We need to harness the momentum of this movement to organize the diverse working class to reclaim power from the capitalist class. Whatever happens between now and November, we must recognize the limitations of electoral campaigns and the necessity of organizing for transformational change.
We cannot rely on elected officials or government bureaucrats to enact the fundamental change we need. Politicians often make decisions behind closed doors with alleged experts, consultants, and corporate lobbyists that serve the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the working class.
Even progressive politicians often struggle to keep their commitments because of the immense pressure that corporations and the wealthy exert through lobbying, campaign spending, and the ability to tank the economy if elected officials manage to pass pro-worker policies. Because of these pressures, even the best-intentioned politicians often act against the interests of their working-class constituents. They frequently ignore or sideline community leaders who have a better sense of the real impacts of policy decisions on working people’s lives.
Ordinary working people have formed some of the most powerful unions and leading social justice organizations in the United States. These pockets of power grew out of relationships between individuals who shared a common struggle and a collective vision of change. Many of these groups are working to build grassroots power everyday, not just during election season. By using that power to interrupt business as usual — through strikes, mass protests, and other disruptive actions — working-class people can force politicians and the ruling class to meet our demands.
In Long Island City, Bernie Sanders asked a crowd of 26,000 people: “Are you willing to fight for that person who you don’t even know as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?” Fighting for ourselves and each other is not just about casting a vote. People are fighting together, everyday, in their communities and workplaces.
In 2019, thousands of Oakland educators walked out because they were overworked and underpaid and their students were not getting the resources they needed. They won a contract that included a better support staff-to-student ratio and a wage increase over the next several years. Just as importantly, they ignited fierce grassroots community resistance to the billionaire-led effort to privatize Oakland schools. The same year, Moms 4 Housing, a group of unhoused and marginally housed mothers, occupied a vacant home in West Oakland to bring attention to the unconscionable lack of affordable housing in an area filled with vacant properties. The women mobilized a rapid response network of supporters, pressured elected officials to acknowledge housing as a human right, and won their demands for fairly priced housing.
Both campaigns succeeded in large part because of strong community support. During the teachers’ strike, an entire coalition of local organizations and businesses mobilized to support teachers, support staff, parents and students. Churches, museums, movie theaters, and recreation centers opened their doors to kids whose parents were not able to provide childcare. Community members and local restaurants prepared and distributed thousands of breakfasts and lunches for students and teachers so they did not have to worry about meals during the strike.
Moms 4 Housing also experienced community solidarity — from neighbors taking security shifts around the clock outside the occupied home, to people from all over the Bay showing up at dawn to block the police from evicting the moms and their kids, to hundreds of people raising $40,000 in a single day to bail out the moms when they were arrested.
In both cases, a group of people experiencing the same struggle organized to collectively better their situation. And they were supported by others who were willing to fight for someone they didn’t know. These fights are models of how we organize to win a better future beyond the 2020 elections.
Organizing is about identifying and building relationships with those who are ready to fight (and those who might not be ready yet) and using collective power to make demands. It can take place anywhere — in our workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods, or within activist organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America and the Sunrise Movement. Only through organizing can we build power to win life-changing reforms like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.
East Bay Democratic Socialists of America is a grassroots, democratic, member-run political organization working to build a multiracial movement of the working class. Join us in fighting for a world that works for the many, not the few — a world of racial, economic, environmental, and reproductive justice.