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The Democratic Party Cannot Defeat Trump by Returning to Past Failures

What we need now is a new vision for America to repair the damage done to our nation, and transform this country into a more equal and compassionate democracy.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden speak during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden speak during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The Democratic Party needs to make a decision about how to confront the most corrupt and dangerous president in modern U.S. history. President Donald Trump poses an existential threat to the health and welfare of the people of this country, as his grossly negligent conduct during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has vividly illustrated.

During his tenure in the White House, Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for the working people of this country, while giving succor to the most hateful and bigoted elements of society. Trump has repeatedly proven that he is unfit for office.

"Although Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign for president, the principles that have defined his life’s work are more important now than ever."

That’s why the future of our country, democracy, society and economy depends on the smart choices we make now for future generations. In the coming months, as our country emerges from the first wave of COVID-19, there will be a serious debate around how we rebuild our society and our economy.

So what is to be done? There are several possible paths forward.

One path is a return to the failed and discredited supply-side trickle-down economics espoused by Art Laffer and Stephen Moore, whose policies during the Reagan administration drastically increased economic inequality in this country, in part by relentlessly attacking labor unions and cutting taxes for the wealthy.

Another path is a return to the “normalcy” that characterized the Obama/Biden era of milquetoast Democratic party governance. During that time, the Obama/Biden administration refused to hold Wall Street and corporate America accountable for the massive consolidation of wealth by the 1 percent at the expense of working families. Joe Biden’s recent appointment of Larry Summers, an architect of Clinton-era Wall Street deregulation, as an economic adviser, is an ill portent for the future.

Neither of these paths, which both represent the failed ideas and policies of the past, are satisfactory to address the immediate crisis, let alone the grave long-term challenges facing this nation. What we need now is a new vision for America to repair the damage done to our nation, and transform this country into a more equal and compassionate democracy.

Although Bernie Sanders has suspended his campaign for president, the principles that have defined his life’s work are more important now than ever.

For the last 40 years, Bernie Sanders has served the people of Vermont at the forefront of fighting for economic justice, racial justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and environmental justice. His unwavering activism and commitment to these struggles has inspired millions of people in this country to join our movement for social justice.

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At a time of rampant and increasingly devastating economic inequality, escalating racially charged attacks on minorities and immigrants and dangerous environmental degradation — driven largely by Trump’s callous, corrupt administration — now is not the time for half-measures.

We need real change and we need it now.

"The COVID-19 catastrophe has revealed how fundamentally broken our health care system is, and demonstrated the urgent need for a radical overhaul of the system, and the need to prepare for the next public health emergency."

There is perhaps no more important crisis in America than our appalling lack of universal health care — which before the pandemic had left 29 million uninsured.  Now, with 30 million official unemployment claims so far, 17.5 million more people will become uninsured by June 30, and at the mercy of a rapacious for-profit pharmaceutical and hospital industry. This crisis — this scandal — has been thrown into stark relief by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already killed more than 70,000 Americans, and will potentially bankrupt millions of others.

The COVID-19 catastrophe has revealed how fundamentally broken our health care system is, and demonstrated the urgent need for a radical overhaul of the system, and the need to prepare for the next public health emergency. The crisis has also revealed the pervasive structural racial and economic inequalities that put poor and marginalized communities — particularly black and brown people — at most risk of getting sick, or worse.

America is at an inflection point, and the people of this country have a crucial choice to make. But we don’t have to choose between the failed paths of the past.

We can’t continue the Trump policy of grotesque transfers of wealth from the working and middle class to the 1 percent — in the form of tax cuts for the rich and the evisceration of the social safety net. We also can’t go back to the centrist inertia of the Obama/Biden era that exacerbated so many of the pre-existing social and economic problems that continue to haunt the country.

There is a way forward.

If Democrats want to win back the presidency and end the Trump nightmare, party activists need to rally around a truly progressive platform that doesn’t capitulate to Wall Street elites or corporate lobbyists, but puts working people — and their health — at the center of a visionary political platform of new systems of social justice, equality and reconciliation. That’s how we will move forward — and prevail — together.

Winnie Wong

Winnie Wong formerly served as a senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and is the co-founder of People for Bernie Sanders. Follow her on Twitter: @WaywardWinifred

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