I’ve been planning for a while to write an essay about Bernie Sanders, and why I support him. It was going to be a long piece, incorporating my thoughts on politics, my understanding of American history, and my recent research on the history and theory of fascism and anti-fascism. It was going to tell the story of my support through historical anecdotes, from the 1898 Wilmington Coup D’Etat and the Triangle Factory Fire to the assassination of Fred Hampton and the candidacy of Jesse Jackson.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if what I was envisioning will actually get done, so I’m instead going to share a very short post, with the possibility that I might share more in the future.
First, I’ll say that there are lots of good resources about there about why Bernie a) has better politics and b) is more “electable” than other Democrats. One of the best might be this recent one from Jacobin. I also recommend keeping up with Current Affairs, as they often have essays on the race from a pro-Bernie perspective.
For a longer term perspective on the dynamics of “economic anxiety,” “electability,” etc., I highly recommend Malaika Jabali’s work, specifically this essay from a while back. This article about Trumpism from 2017 in the Nation is also very good. Another good source on Obama-Trump voters from 2017 appeared from Sarah Jaffe in the Nation as well.
The point of all of these essays is to say that some kind of historical-sociological analysis is necessary to understand why Trump became President, and that requires seeing him as a symptom rather than a disease. These essays do well to show that electing a status quo Democrat, one that will take us simply back to the Clinton/Obama years, won’t solve the overall problem that the country is vastly unequal, alienated, and anxious.
Anyways, My fianceé and I have been getting involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign over the past few months, and that’s made me think a lot about how best to shape the “voice” that we use when go out and speak to potential voters when we knock doors or otherwise canvass our communities.
So when we heard of some volunteers elsewhere that created their own literature to hand out, we decided to give it a try ourselves. And it turns out it’s really hard for a professor of American history to edit his pitch down to a one-page handout. Early attempts turned into four-page pamphlets. And those just cost too much to duplicate when you bring them down to Kinkos.
So just last week, I crafted a doubled-sided, 4.25 by 5.5 inch handout. It’s not perfect, but I think it conveys at least a little bit how Bernie’s “electability,” his ideology, and his politics intersect. Here’s what I came up with:
Bernie Beats Trump!
Yes! In nearly every national poll taken in the last six months—as of January 2020—Bernie beats Trump. And Bernie consistently scores margins of victory higher than any other Democratic candidate. No one is more consistent at beating Trump in the polls than Bernie Sanders.
The truth is that Bernie’s policies are popular. Just as importantly, he energizes a disillusioned and disenfranchised part of the electorate. These are white, black, and brown voters, people of all genders that have voted Democrat, and people that have voted Republican in the past.
The conventional wisdom that you need a “centrist” to win is just plain wrong. People vote when their candidate gives them something to fight for, and someone to trust. It’s that simple.
What Makes Bernie Different?
Bernie is the only candidate who…
- Is fighting for Medical For All: the right to guaranteed health care, not just insurance.
- Is proposing a Green New Deal that a) meets the scale of the enormous climate crisis; b) gets energy industry workers to the table with a guaranteed “just transition” to green jobs; and c) acknowledges and addresses the inequality and hardship imposed and exacerbated by climate disasters.
- Is fighting for workplace democracy, the idea that it’s not enough just to make billionaires pay their fair share, but that real reform in the economy means bringing power and a meaningful voice to the people.
- Has been consistent in his anti-militarism stance, on the grounds that imperialism and war are amoral and that they serve to destabilize the world in ways that are against the interests of the people.
These differences matter against Trump—and all the future Trumps to come—because when people feel like they have power and control over their lives, they are less likely to fall prey to demagoguery and scapegoating, the tools of Trump’s playbook. This is how we win—solidarity trumps hate.