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2020 Vision: Four Steps to Get There

Paul Buchheit

Bernie Sanders started losing the election over 200 years ago, when Alexander Hamilton proclaimed "The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." And when James Madison argued for a republic that would make it "more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other."

Little has changed over two centuries later, as the Democratic National Committee demonstrated when they "criticized and mocked" Senator Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign. People with money and power are still appalled by the notion of a popular democracy. But something is different now. The American majority, driven by frustrated workers and well-connected young people, are better able to communicate, and to unify in pursuit of a progressive nation.

The coining of the phrase "2020 Vision" can be attributed to the Democracy Alliance, which focuses on three "key issue areas that form the core of our 2020 Vision – an inclusive economy, a fair democracy, and strong action on climate change."

The vision expounded here, in the four steps to follow, is focused on the cooperative efforts of the great majority of Americans, many of them young and few of them rich, who are beginning to understand the strength of the growing progressive movement.

1. Occupy the Next Four Years

The Youth & Participatory Politics (YPP) survey project reminds us of the power of people working together: In 2011 tens of thousands of disgruntled customers forced Bank of America to withdraw plans for a $5 debit card fee; and two months later activists worked together to defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would promote Internet censorship. YPP defines participatory politics as "interactive, peer-based acts through which individuals and groups seek to exert both voice and influence on issues of public concern."

Young Americans have the power of mass communication at their fingertips. The Occupy movement is positioned to grow stronger between now and 2020. Lev Hirschhorn, a Sanders campaign director in Philadelphia, said: "Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that we actually can take over the Democratic Party. That we have the ability. We are very close." Robert Reich projects into the future: "How did the People’s Party win the U.S. presidency and a majority of both houses of Congress in 2020? It started four years before, with the election of 2016."

But young Americans (and the rest of us!) have to vote. Only about a third of eligible adults voted in this year's primaries. Our progressive candidates are waiting to serve, if we support them in 2018 and 2020.

2. Build the Sharing Economy (with Actual Sharing)

Our jobs are disappearing. Not just the positions of factory workers and customer service employees, but those of professionals like surgeons, accountants, architects, lawyers, and even the clergy. Robot "teachers" are interacting with students in Japan and the UK. Those of us who like to write are being replaced by robot "journalists."

Noam Chomsky correctly rejects the idea of a computer accomplishing the creative tasks of a 4-year-old, but he misses the point of the robot revolution. Computers excel at adult tasks that can be reduced to algorithms. And that means, according to a comprehensive study by Citi and Oxford University, that nearly half of American jobs are susceptible to automation.

What remains is the service economy, especially in the low-paying field of health care, in which the number of jobs increased by 23% in just one year. And the "sharing economy," which so far has robbed many of its contract workers of employee benefits and retirement funds. Yet sharing will work after all, if a 'co-op' element is built into it. "Crowd-based capitalism" may actually help empower workers rather than disenfranchise them, even in the ride-sharing business, where, for example, an Uber challenger called Swift is owned and managed by the drivers themselves, and a worker-owned and unionized co-op called Green Taxi is being formed by over 600 drivers.

Cooperatives represent a form of social democracy that is 100 percent American. Gar Alperovitz describes the process of "decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center." The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, the public Bank of North Dakota, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Chattanooga Internet service are all examples of the distributed popular control of essential services. The approach works.

3. Foment a Revolution...of Jobs

The other future employment area heralded by the Citi/Oxford study is alternative energy, with red states like Texas and Arizona and Wyoming leading the way. Wind power is now the cheapest source of energy in the U.S., with solar right behind, and together they account for over two-thirds of new U.S. generating capacity.

Our future is paved, literally, with solar roads. The U.S. is covered with over 30,000 square miles of sun-beaten asphalt that could be powering electric cars as they use the roads, while at the same time providing temperature-controlled "smart" technology to assist drivers, including built-in guidance systems for driverless cars. Missouri’s Department of Transportation has announced plans to use Solar Roadways panels to build the first public solar powered sidewalk along Route 66.

Many of these alternative energy jobs would be labor-intensive, requiring at most a high school education.

4. Look Up Jurgis Rudkus and Tom Joad

Our 2020 Vision requires an educated, well-informed young adult population. No better way than for high school and colleges students to visit Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, to experience the misery of early-twentieth century immigrants in the meatpacking area of Chicago, as the forces of capitalism cheat Jurgis and his family out of job and home and savings, not unlike today.

Then they should read John Steinbeck's story of the Depression, Grapes of Wrath, to understand how Americans from the heart of our nation were disparaged as unwanted "Okies," much like blacks and immigrants today. The Depression families journeyed to the promised land of California only to find dozens of workers for every available job, and a fleet of police and company guards ordering them to move on, from one desperate and life-draining failed opportunity to the next.

The progressive vision for 2020 is focused on the needs of average working people, on the strength of society rather than on winner-take-all individualism, on the cooperative efforts of underpaid people who have been forced out of the middle class.

Ma Joad said: "I'm learnin' one thing good. Learnin' it all a time, ever' day. If you're in trouble or hurt or need - go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

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