After the June 7th primaries, it looks like Clinton is going to be the Democrats’ nominee. Political operatives in the Party are declaring the Sanders revolution to be finished, salivating over his donor list, and calling on him and his supporters to close ranks and join the Party in the fight against Trump.
But as scary as Trump is, it’s hard to envision backing a centrist, pay-to-play politician like Hillary. What the establishment doesn’t understand, is that the Sanders revolution wasn’t simply a speedbump on the way to ordaining the candidate they selected a year and a half ago – it was a complete rejection of the DLC corporatist pawn the Party had become.
The Democrats have relied on the Republicans to put up someone so loathsome or scary or unqualified that people had nowhere else to go, and in Trump, they get all three. But here’s the thing Sanders supporters have figured out: the lesser of two evils is still evil.
So let’s not rush back to join the Party – let’s instead, ask them to join us.
A principled candidate like Sanders was able to compete because we the people provided the money it took to enable him to do it. For an average contribution of just $27 from millions of contributors, Sanders was able to raise over $207,000,000.
Imagine if we continued to contribute at this rate in order to establish an ongoing fund dedicated to supporting true Progressives in Congressional and key state races. With the average Senate campaign costing about $10 million, and the average House seat about $1.7 million, that would support a lot of real progressives. It would encourage the idealistic to run for office; it would free up those in office to pay attention to the business of running the country; and, of course, it would drastically reduce the corrosive influence of the ultra-rich and corporations on government.
Fund managers could establish certain key minimum requirements for eligibility building on Bernie’s platform:
- Refusing to accept corporate money and limiting the size of contributions from private citizens;
- Supporting aggressive campaign finance reform (we could even limit the length of campaigns to mirror that in other – still functioning – democracies);
- Supporting universal health care;
- Supporting fiscal and other policies that restore the middle class and protect the poor;
- Reigning in big banks and Wall Street, breaking up too big to fail banks, restoring a modern Glass-Steagall;
- Supporting a transfer tax on Wall Street and other security exchanges;
- Supporting a carbon tax – perhaps a fee and dividend structure which would return the tax to consumers while banning fracking and establishing a path to getting off fossil fuels completely;
- Supporting a $15 and hour minimum wage;
- Assuring that any trade agreements have protections for American workers and for the environment;
- Supporting a rational and humane immigration policy that includes a pathway to citizenship;
- Revamping the criminal justice system so that the US is not the world leader in incarceration, and making sure that it is free from bias due to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation;
- Committing to end the endless wars, making war our last resort, and demanding a rational and relevant Defense budget; and
- Restoring needed authorities to the FCC, including the Fairness Doctrine, and rules which require a greater diversity in ownership at both the local and national level.
Doubtless there are others, and as the list approached a consensus, it could be widely vetted using the web. All things considered, less is more. A bare minimum needed to assure accountability would make the most sense.
The last bullet, by the way, would address the abysmal state of the press and make it very difficult to repeat anything like the Bernieblackout. Quite simply, the Founders, in granting the press First Amendment rights, never envisioned a de facto monoculture in which information was controlled by a very few powerful entities. A functional democracy needs a diversity in ownership of the press as much as it needs a free press.
A non-profit organization -- a PAC to end all PACs -- would be established to administer the fund and monitor participating candidates to assure that they honored their commitments. The key to making it work would be transparency. Monthly or quarterly scorecards could be published so contributors could be assured they were getting what they wanted from their contributions – an independent, honest government free from corporate control.
A little over a year ago, Senator Sanders galvanized a movement that shocked the establishment. They threw up every hurtle they could in their efforts to marginalize him and ultimately defeat the movement he created. Thanks to Senator Sanders, we nearly purchased our government back from the oligarchy that now owns it.
But the revolution doesn’t have to be over; and victory can still be at hand. If we continue with the fight, we can win. And who knows, with some sensible campaign finance reforms we might even drastically reduce the price of integrity – by 2020, it might only cost us an average contribution of $13.50.
A bargain at twice the price.