Bernie Sanders’ Book Offers Roadmap

by Steve Early and Rand Wilson

Bernie 1981

Bernie Sanders’ segue from presidential candidate to barnstorming author was seamless. In between the Democratic National Convention in July and hitting the stump this fall to boost Hillary Clinton’s stock in battleground states, Sanders cranked out a 450-page book, which hit bookstores November 15. The author was not far behind, with sold-out appearances from Boston to San Francisco.

Often, quickie books from trade publishers hoping to capitalize on an author’s newly-achieved celebrity are nothing more than ghost-written schlock. Campaign memoirs—like the authorized biographies or ghosted autobiographies of presidential hopefuls—aren’t often memorable either, even when they display some evidence of real candidate involvement or reflection. But like Sanders’ 2016 campaign, his book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, greatly exceeds expectations.

In the first third of the book, we get an insider account of his plunge into presidential politics when few in the corporate media, the Democratic Party or the AFL-CIO took his democratic socialist “fringe” candidacy seriously. Sanders also recounts his early life in Brooklyn, his activism at the University of Chicago during the 1960s and his four-decade career in Vermont public life.

The author’s description of the grassroots struggle to transform municipal government during his eight years as Burlington mayor is particularly instructive for progressives thinking about running for local office. As Sanders proudly writes, the electoral coalition “formed in 1982, became the foundation for progressive third party politics in Vermont. Not only has it continued in Burlington to this day, electing two progressive mayors after me, it has spread statewide.”

With representation in both houses of the Vermont legislature, the Vermont Progressive Party (VPP) has, according to Sanders, become “one of the most successful and long-standing third parties in America.” Its singular status was further confirmed on November 8, when Sanders-backed David Zuckerman, a VPP state senator and working-class oriented organic farmer, got elected lieutenant governor—marking the first time a progressive, other than Sanders, has succeeded in a Vermont-wide race.

A post-campaign agenda

In the remaining two-thirds of Our Revolution, Sanders outlines his agenda for the country and talks about what it will take to achieve it. His substantive proposals will be familiar to the millions of people who voted for him, and include recommendations on everything from health care, criminal justice reform, trade, Wall Street regulation, bank restructuring and free public higher education to combatting climate change, creating clean energy jobs, overhauling “our broken immigration system” and getting big money out of politics.

Not surprisingly—for someone from a state with large rural areas and relatively few homicides—Sanders’ agenda does not emphasize gun control, although he does confess to having mishandled that issue on the national debate stage.

In a well-documented chapter called “Corporate Media and the Threat to Our Democracy,” Sanders updates his long-time critique of the handful of multinational corporations that own a lot of the media and have an outsized influence on what people see and hear. Sanders himself was, of course, a case study in hostile or non-existent coverage by major newspapers and TV networks for much of his campaign.

Both as a campaign history and progressive policy guide, Our Revolution brims with the same righteous indignation and relentless optimism that drew bigger and bigger crowds to Sanders’ rallies. It concludes with the author’s oft-repeated call for follow-up activity now at the local level:

“Run for the school board, city council, state legislature. Run for governor. Run for Congress. Run for the Senate. Run for president. Hold your elected officials accountable. Know what they’re doing and how they’re voting and tell your neighbors.”

Going local with “Our Revolution”

Sanders’ encouragement and support for like-minded candidates began during his own “testing the waters” tour of the country, as a not-yet-declared contender for the White House. He was invited to Richmond, California, in 2014 by Green mayor Gayle McLaughlin and other progressive city council candidates facing an avalanche of corporate spending against them by Chevron, the largest employer in town.

Sanders writes that his town hall meeting “turned out to be one of the largest and loudest audiences that I had spoken to since I began traveling around the country.” In Richmond, four candidates he backed two years ago won their elections, as did two more members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance this fall. This time, they were endorsed by Our Revolution, the post-campaign organization created by former campaign staff and Sanders volunteers. Richmond’s top vote getter was 26-year-old Melvin Willis, an African-American Bernie fan, rent control advocate and local organizer for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Elsewhere in Northern California, Our Revolution-assisted candidates won mayoral races in Berkeley and Stockton.

Nationwide, Our Revolution endorsed 106 local, state, and federal candidates and 34 ballot initiatives. Fifty-eight of those candidates were successful; twenty-three of the ballot measures succeeded, including several dealing with campaign finance reform. Among those backed by Our Revolution was Mike Connolly, a lawyer and community activist in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Like Zuckerman in Vermont, Connolly competed in the Democratic primary to clear the field. He narrowly defeated a 12-term Democratic incumbent backed by most Bay State unions and nearly all his Beacon Hill colleagues. On November 8, Connolly won the seat, running unopposed in the general election. Three other Our Revolution-backed legislative candidates in Massachusetts, all incumbents, also won their primary battles and/or general election campaigns as well. They were state Sens. Pat Jehlen and Jamie Eldridge and state Rep. Mary Keefe.

Connolly is now working with Our Revolution supporters to build a new state structure that better links issue-oriented campaigns with electoral politics.

“We need to push the Democratic Party to once again be the party of the people,” he says. “We need to turn politics around so that it is movement-centered and driven by the grassroots.”

At a Boston book tour stop in late November, Sanders stressed similar goals in his talk to an estimated 1,000 people. Bernie’s mostly young fans paid $33 to attend and got a copy of Our Revolution. The author was in fine form, sharing clear, concise, and useful insights into the lessons of his campaign and the challenges under President-elect Donald Trump. During the question period, a young Latina woman who was thinking of running for office herself, asked for Sanders’ advice.

“It’s not good enough for someone to say: ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’” he told her. “No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

The crowd chanted “Bernie, Bernie” but the future clearly belonged to Sanders-inspired candidates of the sort he described, following in his footsteps and getting involved in politics at the local, state and national levels.

This article appeared on the blog of the In These Times magazine  and is reposted here with the agreement of the authors. You can make a tax-deductible donation to fund reporting at In These Times.

Its Time to Start Over on Trade

In a challenge to President-elect Donald Trump, EPI Distinguished Fellow Jeff Faux writes in U.S. trade policy—time to start over that Washington’s fixation with trade agreements has diverted attention from the more important question of how to put American workers back on the historic track of rising wages and opportunities.

Faux warns that, having declared the multinational Trans-Pacific Partnership dead, Trump now says he intends to continue the pursuit of bilateral trade deals, on the grounds that he is a better negotiator. But even if he is, writes Faux, new deals will not solve the problems of off-shored jobs and depressed wages that Trump raised during the presidential campaigns. http://www.epi.org/publication/u-s-trade-policy-time-to-start-over/

Therefore, Faux calls on Trump to announce an indefinite freeze on any new trade negotiations, until his administration and the Congress commit to and implement a credible comprehensive agenda for making American workers competitive and balancing our trade with the rest of the world.

“For two decades Democratic and Republican leaders have had it backwards,” writes Faux. As the Economic Policy Institute has been reporting for decades, trade deals have systematically traded away the income and job security of American workers in exchange for promoting the interests of American international investors. The effect has been to “open up American workers and their communities to brutal global competition for which they have not been prepared. The result is that the costs to American workers of each cycle of expanded trade relentlessly exceed the benefits.” Continue reading

Why Did Trump Win? And What is Next for Labor?

Why Did Trump Win? And What’s Next for Labor in the US?http://stansburyforum.com/why-did-trump-win-and-whats-next-for-labor-in-the-us/
Peter Olney and Rand Wilson
The Stansbury Forum

 

European elites were shocked at the surprising victory of “Brexit” last June. American elites — and especially the pollsters and major media outlets — were similarly shocked by the results of the U.S. elections on November 8.(1)

While Brexit was a straight up “Yes” or “No” vote, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost because of the Electoral College [1] system of electing our national presidents. The Electoral College is an arcane constitutional provision intended to protect smaller states from the population power of larger states and the rule of the “mob” over the perceived wisdom of elite electors.

This is the fifth time in U.S. history that a presidential candidate has won the popular vote, but lost the election because of the anti-democratic Electoral College. The last time was in 2000 when George W. Bush became President after a Supreme Court ruled that he had won the vote in the state of Florida. That state’s electoral college vote gave Bush the election, even though a plurality of the American people voted for the Democratic nominee, Al Gore.

Trump heralded his election as “Brexit on steroids” and appeared at a rally in Mississippi with Nigel Frage from the British Independence Party. Both Brexit and Trump’s triumph tapped into a distraught white working class buffeted by globalization and new demographic realities. In many cases Trump’s appeal was pure and simple racism, attracting alt-right and overt racist elements. Yet while all racists, misogynists and xenophobes most likely voted for Trump, not all of his 60 million votes were racists, misogynists and xenophobes.

The Electoral College system made winning the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin key to either candidate winning the White House. Why did Secretary Clinton lose in these three states that her predecessor Barrack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012? Workers in all three states have suffered huge job losses in basic industry and in the case of Pennsylvania, the closure of coalmines. The sons and daughters of “New Deal” Democrats many of whom supported Obama in 2008 and 2012 were looking to make a statement against the ruling elites and voted for change. Continue reading

Fight for $15 Protests Launched

by Paul Garver

central-square-protest

Massachusetts State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) was among three dozen demonstrators arrested on Tuesday in Cambridge, participants in one of three planned minimum wage protests in Massachusetts as part of a national “Fight for $15 Day of Action.”

In a statement, Eldridge wrote that he was arrested for civil disobedience while participating in the protest.

“I was arrested this morning in Cambridge for civil disobedience when I took to the streets alongside fast food and airport workers who are asking for a $15 minimum wage,” wrote Eldridge on his blog.”I’m very proud of the brave workers for having the courage to stand up to billionaire corporations and to fight for what they deserve.”

The protesters blocked traffic on Mass. Ave. in Central Square Cambridge early A.M. as part of the early wave of national actions on 29th November.supporting a $15 minimum wage.

[Ed. note: I am proud that Jamie Eldridge is the State Senator from my town. He is a leader of Progressive Democrats, a Sanders delegate and active in organizing to found an Our Revolution organization in Massachusetts.]

Trump and The Crisis of Labor

By Harold Meyerson

As Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – states that once were the stronghold of the nation’s industrial union movement – dropped into Donald Trump’s column on election night, one longtime union staff member told me that Trump’s victory was “an extinction-level event for American labor.”

He may be right.

A half-century ago, more than a third of those Rust Belt workers were unionized, and their unions had the clout to win them a decent wage, benefits and pensions. Their unions also had the power to turn out the vote. They did — for Democrats. White workers who belonged to unions voted Democratic at a rate 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, and there were enough such workers to make a difference on Election Day.

That’s not the case today. Nationally, about 7 percent  of private-sector workers are union members, which gives unions a lot less bargaining power than they once had, and a lot fewer members to turn out to vote. The unions’ political operations certainly did what they could: An AFL-CIO-sponsored Election Day poll of union members showed 56 percent had voted for Hillary Clinton and 37 percent for Trump, while the TV networks’ exit poll showed that voters with a union member in their household went 51 percent to 43 percent for Clinton, as well. In states where unions have more racially diverse memberships, Clinton’s union vote was higher (she won 66 percent of the union household vote in California). Continue reading

Labor After Bernie

An organizer with Labor for Bernie argues that the gains won within the Democratic Party must be defended and expanded.
by Rand Wilson & Dan DiMaggio
Jacobin magazine 11.23.16

The 2016 elections saw the labor movement behave largely as it usually does, backing the presumably most electable Democratic Party candidate in an effort to ensure a Democratic victory and win influence in a future administration. National unions like the Service Employees International Union, National Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers went all-in for Hillary Clinton’s doomed campaign early on, despite her cozy relationship with Wall Street and checkered record on pro-corporate trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP.

Can the US labor movement ever move beyond its one-sided adherence to transactional politics? The 2016 election did provide some hope on this question, as the all-volunteer Labor for Bernie campaign built a network of hundreds of local unions and tens of thousands of rank-and-file union members to push for endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his unapologetically pro-worker campaign.

Ultimately, six national unions — the Communications Workers of America, the Amalgamate Transit Union, National Nurses United, United Electrical Workers, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and the American Postal Workers Union — backed Sanders in the primaries.

In the most recent issue of Jacobin, Seth Ackerman argues that if there’s any hope to build an independent left-wing party rooted in the working class, it will require the involvement of significant sections of the labor movement. “On the Left only unions have the scale, experience, resources, and connections with millions of workers needed to mount a permanent, nationwide electoral project.”

To get a sense of some labor activists’ thoughts on the path forward following the elections, Dan DiMaggio, assistant editor at Labor Notes, spoke with Rand Wilson, a volunteer coordinator of Labor for Bernie, in the wake of the election. Wilson works for SEIU Local 888 in Boston and is now working to build the state-level structure of Sanders’ political organization Our Revolution in Massachusetts. Continue reading

Unions Celebrate Victory over TPP

TPP

by Paul Garver

The Teamsters (IBT) and the Communication Workers of America (CWA) informed their members that the long campaign against the Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP] has succeeded in blocking a ratification vote in the lame duck session of Congress.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) reported  this on the news that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal won’t be brought up for a vote this Congress.

The news that the TPP is officially dead for this Congress is welcome, overdue, and a lesson for the future. We’re glad to see that all observers finally recognize the reality that TPP will not and should not go through. For more than five years, CWA members, allies, and working families throughout the country mobilized to expose this corporate-friendly trade deal and the serious consequences for working families and communities if it did take effect. CWA members and allies long have been ahead of Washington on the issue of TPP and trade policy, and this work built a strong public base of voters who rejected what they clearly recognized as bad deal, no matter their political party.

As CWA has been stating throughout this past year, the votes in Congress simply aren’t there to pass TPP. But beyond the vote count, the very act of trying to advance the corporate-friendly TPP would have demonstrated that Washington was willfully ignoring the American public. After a 2016 election season in which anti-TPP sentiment was a rare area of bipartisan agreement and a major factor in shaping election results, trying to ram through the TPP in lame duck would have been an act in willful opposition to the American electorate’s stated wishes.

We will be ready to take on any attempt to revive the TPP in the next Congress or advance other corporate-friendly trade pacts based on the same failed and outdated model of trade.

http://www.cwa-union.org/news/releases/cwa-on-news-tpp-dead-for-congress-welcome-overdue-and-lesson-for-future

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TPP’s End is Near Thanks to Workers

After years of taking aim at the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Teamsters and their allies can finally see victory in their sights.

In the wake of last week’s election results, congressional leaders made it clear they would not press forward with considering the 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal. And U.S. trade officials acknowledged on Friday that efforts to pass this corporate boondoggle would not continue this year.

The good news is that view will not likely change anytime soon. President-elect Donald Trump was an outspoken critic of the TPP and his transition team has made it clear it will not move forward with consideration of the trade deal. In fact, it plans to drop out of it.

But this looming win is not about any one political leader. It is about the long-standing coalition of union, fair trade, environmental and health care advocates that have stood strong against efforts to craft a trade proposal that would have further fattened the wallets of the corporate elite at the expense of everyday Americans who continue to struggle to support their families.

Concerns about the TPP were first raised more than six years ago when allies gathered outside the first U.S.-based negotiation session to raise concerns that the TPP was a dramatic departure from previous trade deals that would only further the interests of big business. And it grew to become a bipartisan opposition bloc on Capitol Hill.

As Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign wrote, “Let’s make sure we’re not letting Trump steal credit for something he didn’t earn. And let’s especially make sure that the movement of movements is getting the credit it deserves. We’re heading into some very rough years ahead, and people need to be reminded of their power.”

The TPP is a scourge on society because not only would it have shipped American jobs overseas, it also would have depressed salaries at home as well. It promised to increase the amount of unsafe foods and products shipped to U.S. store shelves, worsen the global environment and drive up drug prices worldwide.

It also would have left member nations on the hook for any perceived efforts to curb the profits of multinational corporations through legislation or regulation. Pro-corporate tribunals would have heard complaints filed by companies, and taxpayers would have had to foot the bill.

That’s not right or just. But because Teamsters and others took a stand against TPP, now workers and all Americans will benefit. Thank you members for your work!

https://teamster.org/blog/2016/11/tpps-end-near-thanks-workers