Bernie Sanders’ speech was not just an endorsement of the Biden/Harris ticket, it was a command. VOTE for the Democratic ticket. Why? Sanders gets it. The present moment is one of the most consequential in modern American history. We are at a crossroads of history. We can either protect our democracy and fix the issues later. Or we can become a nation ruled by a dictator.
Sanders (and many of us) recognize the danger. His speech highlighted this, which is the threat of an authoritarian. Donald Trump is a dictator to be, and this is why Sanders endorsed the Democratic ticket. Sanders told his movement that while it is making progress, this is not the moment to be divided. And while he does not agree with Joe Biden on everything, he will gladly vote for Joe in November. And he is asking the progressives to do the same.
Like me, Sanders understands history. We could lose our democracy to an authoritarian who believes there are no limits to his power. We have seen this movie before, though never this close in the United States. Many authoritarian governments achieved power, not by a coup or forcing themselves into power. Most did the way Trump achieved power through an election. We all know that Trump is trying his hardest to delegitimize the 2020 election because he will likely lose. His only way to remain in power is either by winning, or by attacking the postal service. Or by making it so foggy that he can claim victory. In reality the Constitution is clear. If there should be no president in place by January 20th, the speaker becomes president until this is settled. However, Trump does not believe in foundational documents.
The president keeps saying that if he loses the election, it is because it was rigged. I expect him to try to win no matter what. Part of this is the fact that the president is insecure and cannot handle rejection. He has this in common with many strong men, who rule by fear, division, and lies. This is the danger that Sanders is seeing and what I am as well.
Our institutions are only as strong as we make them. However, four more years of Trump will damage American democracy, possibly beyond repair.
Sanders understands this because he lost manyt of his family in the Holocaust. So did I, and we both can recognize Trump for the danger he is. Trump has failed the American people in the midst of the COVID pandemic, and that alone should be a strong argument against his leadership. I am sure that will happen with distance, but the first draft is difficult since this man acts like a strong man, but ignores essential things a strong man needs to do to remain in power.
The Progressive Movement
There is something else Sanders understands, but many of his most ardent fans do not. Building a movement and capturing a party takes time. While many young people complain about the neoliberal policies which are possible in a Biden administration, many of them remained home during the primaries. Yes, there is some voter suppression, but the reality is simpler. Young voters do not become regular voters until they are in their thirties, and this goes for both parties.
There are many reasons for this pattern of American history, Some is voter suppression, but most of it is easier to understand. The economic shifts fo the last forty years mean that the precariat has grown. (Which is one reason for those progressive politics and the grievance politics we see in the country, overall.) This is precisely why the GOP in general and the president in particular, do not want universal mail-in voting. It will allow people who usually do not go to the polls to vote. When the president says that this could be a disaster for the GOP, he is correct. It has the potential of making this the election with the highest turnout in American history. Why? It does not matter if you work three jobs; you can find the time to vote. Whether people will vote, it is another story and a good question.
The electoral college makes it harder to elect a progressive so Biden and Harris will be attacked as red pinko commies. This also means that presidential elections are decided in three to ten states that tend to be in the middle of the country, except for Florida. These are more conservative states, with conservative politics. Whether this is due to propaganda, or just the age of the voters is academic at this pointThe ratchet effect to the right has pulled American politics from the center to a political center-right as well, over the course of the last two generations.
The progressive movement is gathering steam and the process to realign the Democratc Party towards the left of center. But this is not something that happens overnight. Sanders is aware of this,. The realignment to a right of center, business-friendly, Democratic Party took over forty years. Because of the internet, this process will probably be faster than it was in the past. Also., the present emergencies will force the hand of the Biden-Harris administration.
The question is whether many of Sander’s supporters will have the patience needed to take over a party or miss why Sanders endorsed the Democratic ticket. We are at a moment of transition for both the country and the Democratic Party. In this respect, I must address Progressives on both coasts, especially New York and California. Yes, both are states with progressive politics and policies. Both are ahead of many other states, and it is hard to have the necessary patience for the country to catch up. This you must develop.
The present moment will force the hand of political elites who sound and feel like they are out of touch. We are in the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, combined with a pandemic that is challenging humanity. These are the circumstances that authoritarians use to consolidate power. This is why in November, Bernie is telling people vote for the Democratic ticket. He will never be president. He took you to the mountaintop. The rest of the way is up to you.
Your choices over the next few months, let alone the next few years will determine whether this movement gains a foothold in American politics beyond a few states. And it should, but this means voting every election and voting for progressives when possible in every primary. This is how Neoliberal Dems realigned the party. It took them decades. For the moment, the November election is the most consequential in modern hist ory. The fork in the road points to either a dictartorhip or a semblance of our instittitons, They will need rebuilding, but that cannot happen if they are completely destroyed.