American News

Can America’s Progressive Movement Thrive Without Bernie Sanders?

How the political revolution created by Sanders survives and thrives depends on the surrogates filling the void he leaves behind.
Suresh Suresh, Bernie Sanders, US progressives, US progressive politics, US progressive movement after Sanders, Bernie Sanders socialist, Sanders democratic socialism, US election 2020, US progressive agenda, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,

Bernie Sanders and Ilhan Omar, 6/24/2019 © Flickr

April 17, 2020 10:06 EDT

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders quit his presidential bid in early April and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden soon thereafter. Sanders’ campaign suffered heavily from a coalition of his centrist opponents and could never recover from the surprise poor showing on Super Tuesday, making it just a matter of time before he abandoned the race for the White House.

Politics is terrible and murky even among people whose policies are reasonably aligned. The two progressive leaders in American politics, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sanders, are guided by different core principles. While Sanders stands for equality, Warren stands for liberty. The two flagbearers of the progressive movement failed to see eye to eye and coalesce their campaign the way centrist candidates did. That proved to be a costly mistake, resulting in both of them aborting their campaigns prematurely.

Unabashedly declaring himself a democratic socialist, Sanders was able to shake the country with a rousing campaign for a five-year period during his two presidential bids. However, at 78, Sanders is in the twilight of his political career and is unlikely to seek reelection for his Senate seat in 2024, let alone a third presidential run. Does this spell the end of the progressive movement Sanders has been instrumental in creating?

An American Utopia?

Despite his infectious passion that has engaged the younger generation of Americans, Sanders has not succeeded in challenging the nation to look past itself and look out for others. Even in the midst of one of the worst pandemics in human history, politicians have been unable to rise above politics, govern the country and lead the people safely and responsibly. The richest country on this planet is suffering the worst casualties, exposing its broken health-care system, inadequate testing infrastructure and a lack of supply of protective gear for health workers and the general public alike.

Not a day goes by without the nation’s megalomaniac leader, Donald Trump, doing something that is scandalous, parochial and irresponsible. His Republican entourage meekly kowtows to the president’s whims, leaving the impotent Democratic politicians flailing miserably, crying foul and accomplishing precious little.

Had Sanders, or any progressive leader, been at the helm during this disaster, science and facts would have dictated policies at the national level. The stimulus money that individuals receive would have been protected from banks and other private debt collectors having first dibs at it. The egregious abuse of power by an administration allowing the richest in the country to avoid paying $82 billion in taxes by way of a loophole in the stimulus plan would have been inconceivable. Assuaging human suffering, caring for the lives and health of American citizens would have taken precedence over the well-being of corporations and restarting the economy.

Sanders’ vision for America is egalitarian, not utopian. In his own words, every American “is entitled to health care as a right, is entitled to a decent paying job as a right, is entitled to a dignified retirement as a right, is entitled to a clean environment as a right, and is entitled to all of the education they need to accomplish their life goals,” capturing the essence of what he has been passionately fighting for.

Stranglehold of Capitalism

Strangely, millions of Americans who would benefit from an egalitarian society prefer to stay in the lower echelons of the economic caste system imposed on them by a capitalistic society. The select few who sit on top of the pyramid and wield the power have little incentive to change the system when the status quo is skewed so much in their favor. It is no surprise that Sanders calls his progressive movement a political revolution, for nothing sort of a revolution can bring about a change to this well-entrenched economic caste system foisted by capitalism.

How the political revolution created by Sanders survives and thrives after him depends on the surrogates filling the void he leaves behind. Until they truly become a force to reckon with within the Democratic establishment, they have to learn to win small concessions from the evolutionary policies of centrist Democrats without becoming obstructionists. Inspired by Sanders, it is promising to see many millennials aspire for political office. It would be critical for their aspirations to become reality as in the case of House Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ro Khanna, all ardent believers in a progressive agenda.

As Congresswoman Omar correctly observes, “the progressive movement has never been about one individual. It is about issues.” Shifting the mindset of an entire nation to a progressive agenda, either through a radical revolution, as Sanders advocates, or specifically targeting the excesses of the capitalist system, as Warren believes, will take years, if not decades. We would need a new generation of leaders in positions of political power who are unafraid to place the larger social good ahead of personal gains and the interests of a wealthy few. They must be prepared and ready for capitalism to choke any incremental gains they make toward a more progressive society. Most importantly, they must be savvy enough to deal with it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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