The Challenge Of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Run Will Put Concentrated Wealth On Trial


If you want substantive progressive change, but believe we can get there without a massive social movement, you are the idealist.

By Sam Adler-Bell
In These Times (2/19/19)

Bernie Sanders, the independent democratic socialist senator from Vermont, is running for president.

In an interview with CBS This Morning on Tuesday, Sanders told co-host John Dickerson that he planned to launch a massive grassroots effort to transform “the economic and political life of this country,” adding: “We’re gonna win.”

Unlike his last run in 2016, however, this time Sanders will join a large field of Democratic candidates who have expressed support for a suite of his signature policies: Medicare for All, tuition-free college, campaign finance reform and taxing the wealthy to improve the lot of the middle and working classes. Since 2016, the political gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted toward Sanders to an astounding degree. With his entry into the race, the Democratic field is likely to be the most left-wing in modern American history.

Coming out of the timid hangover

How did this happen? How did the Democratic Party’s long, timid hangover from Reaganism suddenly end? How did Sanders, long a political oddity in DC—a self-described socialist throughout the Cold War years, who visited the Soviet Union for his honeymoon in 1988; who resisted the call of Clintonite triangulation; who railed against economic inequality when most Democrats were cozying up to big business—manage to realign the Democratic solar system around his set of solidly left-wing policies?

A common misconception about Sanders’ 2016 campaign was that he “promised” a political revolution—a wave of civic action that would sweep away the forces of reaction and their billionaire backers in DC, inaugurating a new era of egalitarian policymaking. But Bernie’s “political revolution” was never a promise, it was a plea.

Bernie was endlessly criticized for over-promising during his campaign, ignoring the pragmatic policy questions in favor of attractive rhetoric. “You have people, I believe, who do not understand how hard it is to make change,” then Sen. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said of Sanders supporters in April 2016, “the importance of not just being idealistic, but being sensibly pragmatic and keeping their ideals.”

But contrary to the perception of his centrist critics, the Sanders campaign was the most honest in recent memory. Hillary Clinton’s more incremental demands were no more possible in a GOP-controlled Congress than Sanders’ more ambitious agenda. What Sanders told his supporters was the truth: Without a wholesale reordering of the political status quo—only possible when massive numbers of previously unengaged people take to the streets, the polls and the picket lines—nothing in his agenda could be achieved. …

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