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Progressive Groups Urge Sanders-Warren Unity to Defeat Corporate Democrats in Primary—and Then Donald Trump

"When progressives fight each other, the establishment wins."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) greets Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (R) as former Vice President Joe Biden looks on ahead of the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) greets Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (R) as former Vice President Joe Biden looks on ahead of the Democratic presidential primary debate at Drake University on January 14, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa. Six candidates out of the field qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate of 2020, hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The heads of six progressive advocacy organizations—some that have endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren, some backing Sen. Bernie Sanders, and others who have remained neutral thus far—issued a joint statement calling for unity among the two candidates and their supporters on Thursday morning, arguing that the largest beneficiaries of this week's dust-up between the two campaigns are establishment Democrats, corporate defenders of the status quo, and ultimately President Donald Trump.

"For the sake of humanity and the planet, we need a tactical alliance between the Sanders and Warren campaigns. Defeating corporate Democrats and Donald Trump will require no less."
—Norman Solomon, RootsAction

The statement (which can be read in full below) was signed by the heads of Democracy for America, Our Revolution, RootsAction.org, Sunrise Movement, Working Families Party, and Justice Democrats. It argues that the best chance for progressives in the United States to defeat Trump "does not lie with an establishment or corporate Democrat," but rather with unified progressive front.

While Our Revolution, RootsAction, and Sunrise are all openly backing Sanders, the Working Families Party has officially endorsed Warren. Justice Democrats and Democracy for America, meanwhile, have yet to throw their support behind any of the 2020 primary candidates in the Democratic field. Despite the divergent approaches to the primary, the groups called for unity to ensure that Trump is defeated in November and that a truly transformative and progressive vision can take hold.

According to the joint statement, "the surest way to defeat Trump is for the Democratic Party to nominate either Warren or Sanders, as these are the candidates best able to energize voters by providing a vision of a decent society and a fair economy. This vision is sorely needed, as is an administration that will implement far-reaching reforms toward a more just society."

The groups backing either Warren or Sanders said the statement of unity "in no way signals the slightest decrease in that commitment," but added that both the campaigns and their respective supporters will have to "find ways to cooperate" going forward.

"The crossfire amplified by the media is unhelpful and does not reflect the relationship between two Senate colleagues who broadly worked well together for most of the last year," reads the statement. "We hope to build solidarity between delegates affiliated with these two candidates prior to the convention and will encourage the campaigns to work towards a unified convention strategy after the final primaries on June 2nd."

In a column for Common Dreams on Thursday morning, Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org and a signatory to the joint statement, wrote: "For the sake of humanity and the planet, we need a tactical alliance between the Sanders and Warren campaigns. Defeating corporate Democrats and Donald Trump will require no less."

"The surest way to defeat Trump is for the Democratic Party to nominate either Warren or Sanders, as these are the candidates best able to energize voters by providing a vision of a decent society and a fair economy. This vision is sorely needed, as is an administration that will implement far-reaching reforms toward a more just society."
—Progressive Unity Statement
The joint statement by the six organizations coincides with a separate yet overlapping effort, called "Progressives Unite 2020," which includes 18 organizations—some of whom also signed the unity statement. According to the project's website:

The progressive movement has the chance of a lifetime to defeat Donald Trump and elect a truly transformational progressive leader President of the United States.

With multiple progressive candidates competing against neoliberal, corporate and billionaire Democrats, our movement must be strategic as we fight to win caucuses and primaries and elect candidate delegates in state conventions to ensure a progressive wins the nomination and then the general election.

"When progressives fight each other, the establishment wins," Charles Chamberlain, the chairman for Democracy for America, said in a statement. "We saw it in 2004 when progressives took each other out and John Kerry slipped through to win Iowa and then went on to lose in November to a very unpopular Republican incumbent. We're determined to not let that happen again."

Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Our Revolution, which is part of the Progressives Unite 2020 coalition, said, "Our members are ready to elect Bernie Sanders as our next President, but we must be clear. 2020 is a must-win moment for the progressive movement. It is the best opportunity we have to transform our political system – and take power back from the corporate elites who seek to destroy our country and our climate. We know there are more of us than there are of them. And if we come together and organize, we will win 2020."

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) also made a pronounced call for a progressive truce between the two camps.

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"Trump wants progressives pitted against each other. Corporate media want progressives pitted against each other," Omar, who endorsed Sanders last year, tweeted. "Billionaires want progressives pitted against each other. Pitting progressives against each other weeks before the Iowa Caucus hurts ALL of us."

Clarifying that Sanders is "not a sexist" and that Warren is "not a snake," Omar told supporters of candidates to "stay focused on the task ahead: defeating Donald Trump in November and fighting for the America we deserve."

As Solomon, who openly backs Sanders, wrote in his column, "It's easier—and maybe more emotionally satisfying—for anger to spin out of control. But this is a tactical situation."

The overarching point, he said, is this: "Whatever Sanders and Warren supporters think of each other's candidate now, there is no plausible pathway forward to the 2020 presidential nomination for either if the conflict festers."

Read the full statement and the list of signatories below:

A Progressive Unity Statement on the Democratic Presidential Primary 

The importance of defeating Donald Trump in 2020 requires no explanation.

In 2016, mainstream conventional wisdom asserted that Hillary Clinton would easily triumph over Trump. Today, some still argue for a return to pre-Trump policies and politics as the safest path to victory. We disagree. Going “back to the future” does not offer the best path to Trump’s defeat. Nor does it move our country forward in terms of the enormous challenges and inequities facing the American people.

We offer this statement as independent organizations. Some support Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or are not currently supporting any candidate for president. For those with a declared preference, this statement in no way signals the slightest decrease in that commitment. Instead, this statement is a shared declaration of our belief that the surest way to defeat Trump is for the Democratic Party to nominate either Warren or Sanders, as these are the candidates best able to energize voters by providing a vision of a decent society and a fair economy. This vision is sorely needed, as is an administration that will implement far-reaching reforms toward a more just society.

Our best chance of defeating Trump does not lie with an establishment or corporate Democrat. The anti-establishment, anti-corporate awareness and anger that characterize American society today are justified, and it would be a huge mistake to once again yield that ground to a phony like Trump. We can do better, and will work to persuade Democrats to choose a strong, progressive nominee.

Sanders and Warren, as well as their campaigns and supporters, will need to find ways to cooperate. The crossfire amplified by the media is unhelpful and does not reflect the relationship between two Senate colleagues who broadly worked well together for most of the last year. We hope to build solidarity between delegates affiliated with these two candidates prior to the convention and will encourage the campaigns to work towards a unified convention strategy after the final primaries on June 2nd.

While we firmly believe that either Warren or Sanders should lead our nation in 2021, we will, in the end, go all-out to defeat Trump no matter who the Democratic nominee is. We urge all American progressives to adopt this view. We owe no less to ourselves, our nation and our world. 

Signed by:

Yvette Simpson, CEO, Democracy for America
Larry Cohen, Board Chair, Our Revolution
Norman Solomon, Co-Founder and Coordinator, RootsAction.org 
Varshini Prakash, Executive Director, Sunrise Movement
Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party
Alexandra Rojas, Executive Director, Justice Democrats

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