Millions of Americans are unhappy with their choices for president in this year’s election. According to Real Clear Politics’ average of all the latest polls, Donald Trump has an unfavorable rating of just over 60%, with 33.8% favorable. Hillary Clinton doesn’t fair that much better with an unfavorable rating of 53.1% and 43% favorable.
While those numbers will likely change before November, the fact that the country’s election process could result in such unpopular candidates receiving the nominations of our two major parties is a sad statement on the health of our democracy. Meanwhile, the candidate with the highest favorable ratings, Bernie Sanders (50% positive and only 36.8% unfavorable), has been eliminated from the race. One could reasonably expect that in a democracy with an open and fair electoral process the candidate with the highest favorable rating would still be running with a good chance of winning. Then again, many have questioned the fairness of the Democratic primary process which awarded the nomination to Sec. Clinton.
Nevertheless, despite being the most popular candidate, Sanders has endorsed Clinton rather than run on a third party ticket. His primary reason is his belief that we must do everything we can to defeat the very dangerous Trump candidacy. A third-party run by Sanders could result in a Trump presidency. Understandably, Sanders is not willing to take that chance.
But what if there were an already viable third party with an established structure in every state? Would a Sanders run make more sense then? Aren’t there more than two major political viewpoints in this country that deserve the voters’ consideration on election day?
After all, who do Trump and Clinton really represent? Trump’s supporters are the base of the Republican Party, mostly male, white working class, social conservatives. Some of the Establishment Republican businesspeople, on the other hand, have deserted Trump for Clinton or Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Clinton’s support comes mainly from the Establishment wing of the Democratic Party along with minority voters and some aforementioned professional Republicans who cannot stomach Trump. Meanwhile, progressives and many younger voters believe they have been robbed of any real choice since their candidate, Sanders, has left the race.
At the same time, many Independents, a great number of whom supported Sanders in the primaries, also feel they have no viable choice. When Independents could vote in this year’s Democratic primaries and caucuses, Sanders beat Clinton, often by large margins. Therefore, it is a reasonable possibility that Sanders could beat Clinton and Trump in a three-way race. The combination of progressives, the youth, new voters, a sizable portion of the Democratic base and many Independents could put Sanders over the top, assuming the elections were run fairly.
As Clinton solicits Big Money donations and disaffected Republicans’ votes, it seems highly unlikely that her policies, assuming she wins the presidency, will meet the progressive standards set forth by the Sanders campaign. Consequently, Sanders is preparing to launch Our Revolution to advance his proposals for a better future for all Americans. To create that future, a broad-based movement to establish a viable third party must begin now.
Bruce Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy. For more information, go to breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.
The Democratic Party is a disgrace and not worthy of its name. It is not democratic and has used its great influence to assist Hillary Clinton’s campaign and produce a very biased primary election process. The Party needs to be rebuilt by honest Americans, or we should create a new progressive party in 2017. See http://observer.com/2016/03/the-countless-failings-of-the-dnc/.
The bottom line in the Democratic primary race is: Do the American people want to continue to have a government run by the Establishment. Or, is it time we actually had a government of, by and for the people? That is really what Democratic primary voters will decide in the next few months. Who controls our government and who should be calling the shots?
Yes, there are real differences between Clinton and Sanders on policy issues. But, the big question is whether the Democratic Party will continue to be dominated by Big Money and centrist Establishment thinking, or will the rank and file members who know the system is rigged against them stand up and demand fundamental changes that will level the playing field and give regular people real political power.
In the recent New Hampshire Democratic debate Hillary Clinton claimed that big donors have never influenced her votes. While that may be true, big donors clearly have a lot more access to lobby her to adopt their positions on specific issues than average voters do. There’s no question that money buys access. You can bet that Goldman Sachs did not pay Clinton over $200,000 per speech just to hear her talk about her experience as Secretary of State. So, it’s not hard to imagine how Wall Street’s access to Clinton impacts her decisions; for instance, that a new Glass Steagall Act to rein in the big banks is not needed.
If the American people continue to allow this kind of high donor influence to control our government, then we will be complicit in the establishment of a government of, by and for Big Money and corporate America that will never meet the real needs and desires of the American people. Bernie Sanders is offering us the opportunity to end our corrupt campaign finance system and make our country a more equitable society. Call it revolution or call it democratic socialism. Whatever you call it, we’ll all be a lot better off if we actively work with him to revive our democracy.
Before I try to answer this question, I apologize for my absence from this blog for the last few weeks. My father was in the hospital which required that my attention be directed first and foremost toward him. Now that he is back home and improving, I can deal with other issues like the one in the title of this piece.
The short answer to the question in the title is that the Democratic establishment’s support of incremental change has maintained the status quo and done very little for most Americans over the last 30 or more years. According to Slate.com, income for the top 20 percent of Americans has increased since the 1970s while income for the bottom 80 percent declined. In the 1970s the top 1 percent received 8 percent of total income while by 2007 they were receiving 18 percent. Now it’s an even greater amount. During the same period income for the bottom 20 percent had decreased 30 percent.
As I point out in my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, “between 2009 and 2012 the incomes of top 1 percent of citizens climbed 31.4 percent — or 95 percent of the total gain –while incomes of the other 99 percent grew only .4 percent.”
Since members of the Democratic establishment, for the most part, are in the top 20 percent which have seen their incomes increase over these last 30 years, they don’t feel an urgency for bold initiatives like Sen. Sanders proposes to reorder a system that has served them well. Like Secretary Clinton, they are fine with incrementalism. While many of them recognize various degrees of unfairness in the status quo, they don’t want to rock the boat too much for fear it might spring a leak or even capsize, causing significant harm to their relatively safe positions.
As Brent Budowsky writes for The Hill, it is Sanders’ growing popularity that seems to have ignited the establishment’s backlash against him: “Virtually the entire Washington and Wall Street establishments are now in a state of panic about the possibility of a [Sanders] victory in the Iowa Democratic caucus next Monday,” Budowsky writes. “What the insider Washington Democratic establishment fails to understand is that the issues Sanders raises have great appeal to the broad nation.” Moreover, the establishment’s pushback exposes their lack of conviction for a truly fair and just society.
The great majority of Americans who represent “the broad nation” and are on the lower decks of our economic ship feel they are in danger of drowning as their financial boat takes on more water. Incrementalism will not save them or their children. Sen. Sanders’s calls for strong measures to redirect America’s economic and social policies gives them hope that they can yet land on solid ground.