Warning that a failure to deliver real material gains to the U.S. working class could lay the groundwork for another “right-wing authoritarian” to seize power in 2024, Sen. Bernie Sanders is imploring the leadership of the Democratic Party and the incoming Biden administration to aggressively pursue an agenda that confronts powerful special interests, improves people’s lives, and exposes the phony populism of President Donald Trump and his Republican allies.
In a Tuesday op-ed for The Guardian, which formed the basis of a new petition, Sanders noted that while President-elect Joe Biden won a historic 80 million votes and counting in the November election, “Trump received 11 million more votes than he did in 2016, increasing his support in many distressed communities—where unemployment and poverty are high, healthcare and childcare are inadequate, and people are hurting the most.”
“Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
Despite Trump’s actions during his four years in office—his appointment of billionaires to key cabinet positions, corporate-friendly deregulatory rampage, and tax cuts for the rich—”a certain segment of the working class in our country still believe Donald Trump is on their side,” Sanders wrote.
“Why is that? At a time when millions of Americans are living in fear and anxiety, have lost their jobs because of unfair trade agreements and are earning no more in real dollars than 47 years ago, he was perceived by his supporters to be a tough guy and a ‘fighter,'” Sanders continued. “He seems to be fighting almost everyone, every day.”
To counter Trump’s fraudulent appeal to workers—which, Sanders emphasized, frequently relied on “racism, xenophobia, and paranoia”—and win the support of those who feel the political system is failing them, the Vermont senator argued that “Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades.”
“If the Democratic Party cannot demonstrate that it will stand up to these powerful institutions and aggressively fight for the working families of this country—Black, White, Latino, Asian American, and Native American—we will pave the way for another right-wing authoritarian to be elected in 2024. And that president could be even worse than Trump,” Sanders warned. “Joe Biden ran for president on a strong pro working-class agenda. Now we must fight to put that agenda into action and vigorously oppose those who stands in its way.”
Urging Democrats to “make it absolutely clear whose side they are on, and who is on the other side,” Sanders proceeded to outline the substantive ways in which the GOP’s plutocratic aims differ from the Democratic policy platform:
One side is for ending starvation wages and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. One side is not.
One side is for expanding unions. One side is not.
One side is for creating millions of good paying jobs by combating climate change and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. One side is not.
One side is for expanding healthcare. One side is not.
One side is for lowering the cost of prescription drugs. One side is not.
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One side is for paid family and medical leave. One side is not.
One side is for universal pre-K for every three- and four-year-old in America. One side is not.
One side is for expanding social security. One side is not.
One side is for making public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families, and eliminating student debt. One side is not.
One side is for ending a broken and racist criminal justice system, and investing in our young people in jobs and education. One side is not.
One side is for reforming and making our immigration system fair and humane. One side is not.
Sanders’ call for Democrats to “advance a bold progressive agenda” came amid alarming signs that the party is hemorrhaging support from low-income Americans and increasingly relying on wealthier suburban voters motivated more by their disdain for Trump than a desire for redistributive policies and systemic change.
Writing for The Nation earlier this week, sociologist Musa al-Gharbi noted that compared to 2008, Democrats in 2020 “ended up in a worse position with a number of core constituencies, including whites, African Americans, racial ‘others,’ and LGBTQ voters.”
“Democrats’ margins for those earning less than $30,000 per year also continued dropping every year from 2008 through 2020,” al-Gharbi wrote. “Obama won these voters by 33 percentage points in 2008. By 2020, Democrats’ lead was down to 8 points.”
Those trends contributed to a disappointing election outcome for congressional Democrats; after predicting gains in the House and control of the Senate, Democrats lost House seats and must prevail in both Georgia runoffs in January to wrest the upper chamber from the GOP.
Without Trump at the top of the ticket, al-Gharbi warned, Democrats “seem to be on the verge of an identity crisis—and possibly an electoral crisis as well.”
“Who the party was against was obvious over the past four years,” wrote al-Gharbi. “But what is the party actually for? For that matter, who is the party for? Resolving these questions—not just in principle but in practice—will be a messy affair in the coming months and years. Not everyone is going to like the answers.”