by Gene Grabiner
Member, FFECC, (NYSUT, AFL-CIO)
Delegate, WNY Area Labor Federation
To all My “Bernie or Bust” Friends:
I support Bernie, and would, by far, prefer to see him as the Democratic Party nominee to run against Donald Trump. I collected signatures for Bernie on nominating petitions. I made phone calls and distributed literature for him. And I have contributed money to Bernie’s campaign.
More discussion about Bernie follows. But first, let’s look back in history at another decisive presidential campaign and election.
In 1932 in Germany, the Social Democrats and the Communist Party would not unite. We know the result.
Together, the Social Democrats and Communists won 37.29% of the popular vote. The Nazis won 33.09%. Had the Social Democrats and Communists united, things might have turned out very differently.
Our situation today is not identical in terms of the players or conditions. But in terms of ideology and outlook in the current political scene, things seem significantly similar.
This 2016 election is a decisive one. It may determine whether or not democratic forms even continue to exist within the United States.
Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, is the crystalized expression of the American fascist movement. And I think, or at least hope, we all understand what that means.
But just in case, here are some elements of fascism: union busting and the destruction of the independent union movement, a right-to-work agenda, the crushing of progressive political organizations and parties, suppression of the media, misogyny, scapegoating, racism and demonization of the LGBTQ community as social policy, attacks on the poor, the weak, and the disabled. And there may be worse, including an intensified culture of militarism, and the push toward war.
Fascism does not always appear as it was in Italy, Germany, and Japan. But it always cloaks itself in a distorted version of the culture and history of whatever society in which it emerges. Sinclair Lewis was said to have remarked that “ if fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
Fascism tries to split the memberships of our unions, attempting to weaken our overall solidarity. Sadly, a number of our union brothers and sisters find themselves supporting Trump. In this, they are actually breaking labor solidarity. They should reject Trump because it is imperative that we stop fascism cold and protect our independent union movement.
Now what about Bernie, and what about Hillary?
Bernie Sanders is a social democrat. And Hillary Clinton is a centrist who has become more progressive only due to Bernie’s campaign. And she has done this by accepting elements of his program.
Due to Bernie, she now opposes the TPP. And due to Bernie, she came out in favor of offering a Medicare buy-in for folks, ages 50-55. This “Medicare for Some“ goes beyond the Affordable Care Act, though it falls short of Bernie’s proposal of “Medicare for All.”
If Bernie is not nominated, he still will strongly shape the Democratic Party program. And Hillary has said as much. Hillary and Bernie together have been effective enough to ensure that the Democratic Party Platform Committee will have a progressive majority.
If Bernie is nominated, Hillary will support him. And while it now does not look as if Bernie may get the nomination, a fair contest requires that he certainly press on right up to the Democratic Convention. After all, six state Democratic Party organizations have declared that their super delegates should vote the way their primary and caucus voters have: for Bernie.
Super delegates get to vote only at the convention, not before. That is why so many of the media calculations of Hillary’s delegate totals have been in error. Currently, Bernie is 500 pledged delegates short of the nomination, and Hillary is 200 pledged delegates shy. Bernie certainly has the right to sway as many super delegates to his side as possible. Yet, he seems more and more to be a long shot. So what happens if he is not the Democratic Party nominee and Hillary is?
If Bernie is not nominated, he still will campaign for Hillary— and his supporters should join him.
This will mean a progressive program, and it will have great impact on the down-ticket races for the House and Senate, both of which could shift Congress into the progressive and Democratic camp in November.
And let us not forget the Supreme Court. Whoever is elected will have the opportunity to appoint one, if not more, Supreme Court Justices.
Donald Trump has promised to appoint someone of the Scalia mold if he is elected president. He has released his list of prospective Supreme Court justices, all of whom are politically backward.
So why does it seem that the “Bernie or Bust” folks haven’t gone after Donald Trump and the Republicans as much as they have criticized Hillary Clinton? Why have some ‘Bernie or Bust’ advocates suggested not voting at all, or voting Green if Hillary is the nominee? And why have some also suggested that Bernie run as an independent candidate, or as the Green Party’s presidential candidate?
Bernie’s running as an independent or Green may be dangerous for the union movement, and for labor in general. For example, if Bernie were to run independently, or as the Green Party presidential candidate, it could result in denying any candidate a majority of electoral votes, thus throwing the election into the House of Representatives: guess which ‘friends of labor’ hold the majority there?
Not voting is also not an option. Although it may seem to some that it doesn’t matter much, voting is still how ordinary people can make change. And the right to vote is under attack on many fronts. People have died for the vote, and the many Republican efforts to suppress it speak volumes about how important it is. We must preserve the ballot and use it for the good of us all.
Not voting colludes with Republican gerrymandering tactics, with their purging of voter rolls, and also with their voter suppression laws now in force in a number of our states.
There are those who think they have the luxury of not voting. Perhaps they think of not voting because they are subjective or anarchistic. Often, anarchistic groups loudly proclaim themselves to be the workers’ and the people’s friends. But they are misleaders, In reality, the non-voting tactic is the abandonment of the people. Not voting only strengthens Trump.
As progressive and admirable as the Green Party is, it lacks a mass working-class base. The Greens are most likely to succeed at this point only in local races, such as winning a Council seat, (twice), in Seattle, or possibly a district attorney election in New York State.
Many think that voting Green in safe Democratic states will help keep the Green Party’s ballot line, and aid them in securing some local victories. That was the case in New York State in 2012.
But in this election, however, and particularly because of Bernie’s DNC Platform influence, voting Green may not be a wise move in any state. Voting Green in swing states may be a serious mistake in 2016. And since the Green Party is unlikely to prevail in the presidential election, it is also unlikely to prevail in down-ticket races.
To sum up: not voting or voting Green is a mistake that gives Trump a stronger hand in the election, even in states that may appear to be safely Democratic.
So, in terms of fair competition, let’s continue to work for Bernie all the way to the convention. We know that, at least, he will strongly influence the Democratic Party platform. And that’s certainly a good thing for working people.
Hillary cannot run a center-right campaign. If she does, she will lose. And she knows that. And if she wins the election, she cannot govern as a center-right president. That’s because she’ll need to govern on a program which is substantially Bernie’s, and which responds to the needs of the masses of the people and the movement that Bernie’s candidacy has built. That being the case, Bernie will campaign for her. And she will have to deliver.
We must strengthen the anti-fascist united front. And it must be led by a coalition of forces, including at its center the roughly 15 million union members in this country. This united front must help secure a Democratic victory in the election, and strengthen democracy and workers’ rights beyond.
And for all of those preparing to “march on” the Democratic National Convention—pay attention folks! Among those putative thousands slated to descend on Philadelphia to disrupt, there will surely be many Republican and Tea Party thugs, paid and unpaid. They, along with anarchists, may act as provocateurs, willing or otherwise, and provoke an unprecedented crackdown. And it will certainly not result in Bernie’s nomination.
The goal is not simply to vent, but to win; to elect a Democratic president. In so doing, we will all live to fight another day. The alternative is fascism.
SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus