Even If They Wanted To, Could The Democrats Engage In Class Politics?
Ali Velshi had Bernie on MSNBC with him on Labor Day and Bernie warned that Biden and the Democrats could lose next year. “We have millions of working class people out there who understand Trump’s a phony ‘but he claims at least to be standing for us. Who cares about us?’ And what we have to to do— what the Democrats have got to do— is begin to engage in class politics, to understand that we have been in a class war now for decades. And the wrong class is winning. And they’ve [the Democrats] got to be clear in standing up for the working class of this country— raising the minimum wage, passing labor law legislation, making it easier for workers to join union, reforming our health care system so that move to a universal health care system, not have 85 million uninsured or under-insured, substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs, build the affordable housing that we need. We need to start standing up for the working class, not just the big campaign contributors and the 1%… I don’t think that the average worker out there believe with Trump, ‘let’s give more tax breaks to billionaires’ or agrees with Republicans who want to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or education; they don’t believe that! But they don’t believe that the Democrats are standing up and fighting for them and taking on the corporate greed that exists out there right now. And that’s what the Democrats should be doing. And they do that, Biden’s going to win this election in a landslide.”
Jamie McLeod Skinner is the progressive candidate for Congress in a swing district south and east of Portland. “Regardless of party affiliation,” she told me last night, “people want to be able to put a roof over our heads and food on our tables. We want opportunities for our kids and healthcare for our families when they’re sick. We want to live in safe communities. These things are out of reach for so many working people. Despite their hard work, they’re struggling to make ends meet or falling behind. Through their taxes, they invest in government, so they want government to invest in them— and to create a level playing field so they can benefit from the good they help create. They are frustrated but no one seems to be listening. And they’re losing faith in the ability of government to be of value.”
Pervez Agwan is the progressive challenger in the Houston area running for a seat held by an out-of-touch corporate New Dem. "Folks in the newly drawn District 07 need some relief," Agwan told me this morning. "They're fed up with a healthcare system that benefits only the lobbyists while causing the rest of us to go bankrupt or pay outlandish insurance premiums. They are sick and tired of lobbyist money consuming our representatives' policy initiatives and ensuring that everyday folks have to keep struggling wile massive corporations and the richest 1% of Americans get richer from the hard work of underpaid employees. My campaign is fighting for justice for these Americans. We're rejecting special interest money because we want to solve problems, not make them worse. I'm running to raise the minimum wage, to invest in green energy and create thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs, and to fight the healthcare lobby and establish a single-payer system that works for people, not corporations. Too many Democrats, like my opponent, are bought and paid for and can't be bothered to fight for everyday folks. I'm running because we can do so much better."
I also asked Jason Call how he felt about what Bernie had to say. He’s a candidate for Congress in northwest Washington, who switched from being a Democrat to running on the Green Party ticket. His opponent, Rick Larsen, is a corrupt Democratic corporate centrist, exactly the kind of character Bernie was describing as alienating the working class from the Democratic Party.
“While I agree wholeheartedly with Bernie’s statement about Democrats needing to engage in class politics and recognize class struggle,”he told me, “the stark fact is that a majority of Democrats do not do this, and have no interest in doing so. As Joe Biden famously said to his wealthy donors behind closed doors, ‘nothing will fundamentally change.’ And this is why the Democrats are indeed in real danger of losing to the treasonous carnival barker once again. Bernie is right to be incredulous— but let’s engage in some critical analysis here. It’s because Democrats have failed over and over to do anything but the bare minimum for working people and marginalized communities. Medicare For All remains a pipe dream, while every other developed nation has some form of universal healthcare. Housing continues its trajectory of increasing unaffordability. College education remains out of reach without the liability of exorbitant debt. And over and over Democrats choose to pile more money into the military industrial complex rather than seriously tackle the climate emergency which is no longer ‘at our doorstep’ but is now in the room. This is why people must get behind populist efforts to win Congressional seats, whether they are left Democrats who refuse corporate money, or races like my own where I’m running to become the first elected Green Party member, unseating a corrupt corporate Democrat who takes campaign money from General Dynamics while trading on their stock. On economic issues, too many Democrats are no different than Republicans, and that’s bad for the working class. We must overturn the oligarchy and seek actual democracy that serves the majority of Americans who continue to struggle daily for basic needs.”
Like that? You can contribute to Jason’s campaign here.
I also spoke with Zach Shrewsbury, the West Virginia progressive running against elitist reactionaries Joe Manchin (D) and Jim Justice (R) in the 2024 Senate race. "Everything Senator Sanders stated is correct," he told me last night. "The Democratic Party has forgotten the working class. I’ve been saying this for years, if the Democrats want to win more elections, if they want to win in rural America, people have to be able to see them do it to believe it and we don’t see that still today. The worker is tired of wealthy politicians promising solutions and then handing us scraps in their 'bipartisan legislation' which benefits corporate masters all while squeezing the working class to get more blood. I’m a grassroots candidate. I won’t be seeking or accepting corporate donors."
He emphasized that "We need union jobs, we need to be out in front and loud about the class struggle, about workers rights and the fact that we need universal healthcare. We need aggressive pro-working class candidates; we need people running that will respond to our struggle and not to the donations of corporate influence. What Senator Sanders stated is exactly what I’m trying to do. Provide working class representation, and someone that will fight for us not against us."
I was so excited when a friend in New Jersey told me Sue Altman, a strong progressive, is running against reactionary Republican Tom Kean in a very swing district. Yesterday Tom Moran, an editor of the Newark Star-Ledger, was advocating for a centrist Democrat, Tom Malinowski, who Kean beat last year (51.4% to 48.6%), to jump into the primary.
Moran’s case against Altman was nuanced and disturbing. He noted that she’s “a firebrand activist who is famous in political circles for her willingness to bang heads with powerful players, including Republicans like Chris Christie, and Democrats like George Norcross, the party boss based in Camden. ‘I’ve talked to thousands of people in this district by now, and over and over, I hear they want someone in Washington who has a spine, a person who will do what’s right even when it’s hard,’ she says. ‘That’s who I am.’” And that’s why Blue America has been considering endorsing her. Moran likes her too— but is worried she can’t beat Kean in this district that Biden won by 3.9 points in 2020.
I’ll never forget the day that Altman was hauled out of a Senate hearing room by State Police in 2019 as she led a protest against Norcross and the lavish tax breaks he and his allies won in return for investments in Camden.
Altman, who played pro basketball in Europe in her day, wrestled with the burly Troopers who held each arm, falling down at Norcross’s feet as he waited to testify. It was a thuggish moment, an affront to free speech, and Altman was not going down quietly. I admit I’ve had a soft spot for her ever since.
But she has massive vulnerabilities that Republican will exploit if she wins the nomination. She was head of the Working Families Alliance at the time, one of the most extreme left advocacy groups in the state. Kean and his pals will dig up every excess and pin it on her, which would be fair.
Altman is trying to shape shift into a centrist, but her record will make that a steep climb. She led protests against Rep. Josh Gottheimer when he brokered centrist deals in Congress that made it possible to pass the bills on infrastructure, climate change, and lower drug prices. Altman wanted the more ambitious versions supported by progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, a centrist dealmaker and a Norcross ally, was another key target. She said she was happy that he lost his 2021 race in a shocker against Ed Durr, a MAGA Republican who recently suggested women wouldn’t need abortions if they simply “crossed their legs.”
In other words, Altman was a leader in the effort to derail the two most important and accomplished centrists in New Jersey— one at the federal level and the other at the state. She’s no centrist. And that history is likely to drag her down in the 7th District, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by 16,000.
Almost everything he wrote about her makes me want to back her more— including that she took on two corrupt, vile right-wing Democrats, Gottheimer and Sweeney. The only thing that gave me a scare was “Altman is trying to shape shift into a centrist.” I left her a message on her phone. I'll let you know if she gets back to me.