I do not always agree with Jacobin founder and DSA member Bhaskar Sunkara, but his Op-Ed in today’s New York Times does his movement a service:
First, he acknowledges that Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee because he won the support of more Democratic primary voters than Bernie Sanders:
millions of ordinary voters, rallied behind Joe Biden.
Many parts of the Sanders agenda had the support of a majority of Americans, but the coalition around the campaign was narrower than we thought. Despite the Vermont senator’s strong showing, it’s still President Barack Obama’s party. For now, at least.
I voted for Bernie twice and look forward to someday voting for AOC or Ayanna Pressley for president, but I think it is important for leftists to acknowledge that the Sanders campaign lost the nomination fair and square and the movement he started has some work to do building the kind of winning coalition that could lead to a socialist nominee in the future. AOC for one, seems to have already learned this lesson and is busy building those bridges.
Sankara is correct that the DSA and other organizations are not particularly helpful to Biden to begin with and would lose too much credibility by backing him. That does not mean they should sit on the sidelines or work against him, but to instead rally around downballot candidates and issue-based organizing. The kind of hard work that socialists and others on the left will need to do if they want to gain more power. Third party agitation or staying home is not the way.
As he puts it:
Such noise distracts attention from the real work that Democratic Socialists of America chapters across the country are doing this election cycle. Contrary to stereotypes, we are not pushing a third candidate or eager to see Mr. Trump’s re-election. Instead we are campaigning for core demands like Medicare for All, saving the U.S. Postal Service from bipartisan destruction, organizing essential workers to fight for better pay and conditions throughout the coronavirus crisis and backing downballot candidates, mostly running on the Democratic ballot line.
This is the type of activity that if successful will bolster voter turnout and remind millions that politics can improve their lives. Far from unhinged sectarianism, this is a pragmatic strategy. The United States has a political system rigged against third parties, so groups like the D.S.A. aren’t trying to build an independent ballot line in vain.
Sanders raised close to a half a billion dollars for his unsuccessful presidential runs, imagine what that money could be doing downballot where it will go farther and lead to more concrete policy changes? Imagine what we all could be doing instead of arguing about a nomination we lost fair and square and can now do nothing to change? Sankara shows a path forward for lefties who cannot be persuaded to support Biden and a possible detente. Biden should get all of our votes, but for those who strongly disagree with him, they should spend their time and money on other priorities.
My challenge to the Biden critics on this blog is to get off your computers and start campaigning for Alex Morse, ranked choice voting, and progressive legislators. Those campaigns and candidates need your time and money far more than the Green Party.