The movement that has grown around Sen. Bernie Sanders has become a political force to reckon with in the 2020 election. Part of its strength is the many different intersections it has with other progressive movements, some of which have been around for many years, others which stemmed from his 2016 primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. His campaign has been endorsed by or includes members from Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement, among many others, and from its inception was made up of activists.
One such movement that stemmed from Sanders’ first presidential bid was founded by a 2016 Sanders delegate, Norman Solomon. Solomon, whose columns are regularly featured at Truthdig, is also the founder of online initiative RootsAction. The writer and activist joined Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer last week in the run-up to Super Tuesday to discuss Sanders’ 2020 campaign and the socioeconomic conditions that led to the democratic socialist’s rise.
Speaking at a time in which Sanders was the clear frontrunner in the democratic race, Solomon, who has witnessed firsthand how the Democratic Party worked to undermine Sanders in 2016, warned that the worst is yet to come. His words of course proved prophetic as in the moments before the March 3 primaries in 14 states, corporate Democrats rallied around Joe Biden in an effort to impede the Vermont senator’s path to the presidential nomination.
“We're at an extraordinary moment as we come into the spring of 2020 the Bernie Sanders campaign because of the grassroots strength and the fact that he has always been part of a movement, even with the contradictions of being in Congress,” the progressive organizer explains. “For instance, this is an upsurge of progressive populism with a strength in electoral arenas that I never would have anticipated.
“So now we're operating at a level of who's going to gain state power,” Solomon goes on, “and the amount of backlash, the amount of viciousness that we've already seen this year, 2020 is just a prelude to pulling out all the stops to try to block Bernie Sanders and the movement that he's part of.”
The movement, the two acknowledge, is built on ideas of class that for many years Americans did not hear discussed in media, let alone in the halls of Congress and other institutions. To Scheer, the oppression of the working class and the many betrayals it suffered at the hands of Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as Biden, led to Sanders’ unexpected success both in 2016 and now.
“The way [media harps on], you would think it's Bernie that started class war or the people around them or young people,” says Scheer. “That's not the way I see this history that I've lived through.”
Scheer delves into this personal history to provide a context for what he views as Sanders’ true predecessor, a wealthy U.S. president who wasn’t trying to implement socialism, but rather save capitalism years ago.
“I was born in 1936. My father lost his job the day I was born,” recalls the Truthdig editor in chief. “Roosevelt was the hero in our house. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Why? Because the ruling class in our country, the robber barons, the rich people---and he was from a rich family---they undermined their own system. They were so consumed with greed and short term profit and swindling, the market and everything else that they forgot about stability in society.”
Continuing on the thread of systemic change that needs to take place in the U.S., Solomon recalls a crucial lesson from Martin Luther King, Jr., that he believes both Sanders and his movement are well aware of.
“I ran across in an essay and then the last book that Martin Luther King wrote, ‘Where We Go From Here,’ where he talked about power and he talked about love and he said, ‘Power without love is cruel, it's abusive and so forth.’ He says, ‘but love without power is ineffectual and anemic.’
“There hasn't been a focus [on the American left] on gaining power tangibly,” laments Solomon. “And that has to include government electoral power as much as we might wish that the electoral system as it now exists with something we never need to deal with because so awful and tacky and uh, dominated by money. And what Bernie is saying and the movement is saying is much in sync with what Martin Luther King was saying. If you want to effectuate love towards human beings as social policy, you need power. And if you don't have power, you're going to be anemic.”
Listen to the full discussion between Solomon and Scheer as the two discuss the forgotten history of progressive movements in the U.S. and what the results of the nail-biting Democratic primary may be.