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In Reaching Out To Voters Directly, Can Bernie Save The Democratic Establishment From Itself?

Today Bernie hits the campaign trail— will make 17 stops between now and Election Day— and Rolling Stone’s Kara Voght reported today that he’s going because the DCCC and the party in general “is blowing its chance at midterms success. Democrats are letting Republicans win the messaging war on the economy— even though, as far as Sanders can tell, the GOP’s only plan is to cut popular social programs. ‘The Democrats have not been strong enough in making that point— and we’ve got to make it,’ he says. On Sunday, for example, he’ll be in McAllen, Texas, at an AFL-CIO-sponsored rally for Michelle Vallejo, “a progressive House candidate locked in a dead heat in a southern Texas district. National Democrats have abandoned Vallejo’s campaign in its final weeks as their financial resources dwindled, but Sanders, who won in the district in the 2020 primary, thinks that’s a mistake: ‘Why would you turn your back on a solidly working-class group of people, the Latino community in South Texas?’”

Bernie’s point on this trip, primarily for working class voters and young people— his two top constituencies— is that “if you have concerns about creating an economy that works for all people, and not just billionaires, you cannot vote for Republicans. That it is insane.” He sees his job as turning out progressive voters. Voght wrote that “Trump and his allies are waging a war ‘on the foundations of democracy,’ Sanders notes. Under the banner of such bleakness, ‘a lot of people are discouraged,’ he says. ‘That discouragement may result in them not coming out to vote.’ But ‘even above all those enormously important issues,’ Sanders adds, ‘is the fact that we have more income and wealth inequality today in America than we’ve ever had.’ Corporate greed is a root cause of inflation, he explains, ‘making huge profits and ripping off the American people.’ The policy solutions Sanders suggests are wonky, but the overall point is this: ‘Republicans are going to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for huge tax breaks to billionaires and the wealthiest people in this country. I don’t think that’s what the American people want.’”

In the months leading up to November’s midterms, Democrats had eschewed Sanders’ economic prescriptions in favor of a message that emphasizes GOP attacks on abortion in the wake of Roe’s reversal. The final stretch has found the party scrambling to find a message that acknowledges voters’ financial hardships and proves Democrats, not Republicans, hold the solutions. But from Sanders’ vantage point, it’s still not enough. “Unfortunately, the Democrats sometimes do not do what they should and stand up to the drug companies or the insurance companies or the fossil-fuel industry,” Sanders says. “I want to do what I can to get them to do that.”
Who does Sanders want to be to his party in the year 2022? “My role will be simply to do everything I can to make sure that the Democratic Party listens to the vast majority of the people, who happen to be working-class people,” Sanders replies, “not just to establishment consultants and wealthy campaign donors.” This tour casts Sanders in a familiar role: as a critical but hopeful interlocutor who inspires Democratic voters, even when he’s not fully on board with the party— and the party isn’t fully on board with him. Sanders hopes that stumping this cycle could draw out the disillusioned corners of the electorate— especially younger voters, skeptical of the Democratic Party but not of the curmudgeonly octogenarian Democratic socialist.

This morning Harvard’s Institute of Politics’ annual youth poll was released was they reported that “that 40% of 18-to-29-year-olds state that they will “definitely" vote in the November 8 midterm elections, on track to match or potentially exceed the record-breaking 2018 youth turnout in a midterm election. Young voters prefer Democratic control of Congress 57% to 31% (up five points for Democrats since spring), but 12% remain undecided.”

  • A majority of likely young voters, regardless of race or ethnicity, prefer Democratic control of Congress. Among likely white voters, Democrats lead 52%-35%; among Hispanics, Democrats lead 64%-27%, and among Black voters, Democrats lead 66%-15%;

  • Among the 25% of likely voters who are independent or unaffiliated, 49% prefer Democrats and 27% prefer Republicans;

  • Likely voters who hold a college degree are significantly more likely to prefer Democratic control of Congress (69%-23%) compared to those not in college and without a degree (45%-41%);

  • In battleground states (55%-28%), levels of support for Democrats and Republicans are comparable to support seen amongst likely voters in general (57%-31%).

So, starting today, Bernie will be doing events in Oregon, California, Nevada and Texas and will end top in the Midwest swing states— Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan— next weekend. In an e-mail to his followers yesterday, he noted that the election “is about whether or not Republican extremists are able to undermine the foundations of American democracy. But this campaign is also, importantly, about the economy. It’s about whether, at a time of high inflation, income and wealth inequality, and corporate greed, we give more tax breaks to billionaires. It’s about whether or not, when so many seniors are struggling, we cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s what the Republicans want to do. We cannot allow that to happen. The Republican agenda is a disaster for working families.”

His OpEd for The Hill on Tuesday laid out the economic platform progressives are campaigning on this cycle, first noting that “the Democratic Party is far from perfect. Too many Democratic members of Congress have been unwilling to stand up to the big money interests that dominate Washington and fight for working families. That’s why we need at least 52 Democrats in the Senate. But here is the simple reality: the Republicans in Congress are far worse when it comes to addressing the needs of the working class.” And he offered the planks of his agenda as the proof:

Social Security
Right now, despite the reality that 55 percent of seniors are trying to survive on less than $25,000 a year, leading Republicans in the House and Senate are proposing to cut Social Security benefits, raise the retirement age to 70 or reduce cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for seniors by adopting a less generous formula. Most Democrats believe that we must expand Social Security benefits so that everyone in America can retire with dignity. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees.
Prescription Drugs
The United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. I believe, and many Democrats believe, that we need to cut the price of prescription drugs in half by requiring Medicare to pay no more than the Veterans Administration does. Not a single Republican in Washington is prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs. Almost every Republican in Washington voted against capping the price of insulin at no more than $35 a month.
Expanding Medicare
Today, millions of seniors are unable to afford the outrageous cost of dental care, hearing aids or prescription eyeglasses. Most Democrats believe we need to expand Medicare to cover these essential health care services. Not a single Republican member of Congress agrees. Further there are many Republicans in the House and the Senate who support massive cuts to Medicare.
Universal Health Care
At a time when 85 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured, most Democrats believe that the U.S. should do what every other major country does and guarantee health care for all. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees. The last time Republicans controlled the Senate they came within one vote of throwing up to 32 million Americans off of their health insurance by repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Minimum Wage
Sixty percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and millions are working for starvation wages. Most Democrats believe that we must increase the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees. In fact, many Republicans don’t even believe in the concept of the minimum wage.
Child Poverty
We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of virtually every major country on earth. Most Democrats believe that we should cut the child poverty rate in America by more than 40 percent by extending the $300 a month per child tax credit to working class families that expired last December. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees.
Today, over 70 percent of the American people support unions. Most Democrats believe that if we are going to expand the middle class we must make it easier for workers to join unions and end the heavy-handed corporate tactics that make it hard for workers to unionize. Not a single Republican in Washington supports legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions.
Corporate Greed
At a time when inflation is a worldwide phenomenon (European Union - 10.1 percent, Germany - 10 percent, UK - 9.7 percent, Canada - 7 percent, etc.), corporations are using the war in Ukraine, the supply chain crisis, and the ongoing pandemic to jack up the price of gas, food, and just about everything the American people need. Many Democrats believe that we should enact a windfall profits tax on large, greedy corporations. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees.
A Fair Tax Policy
During the pandemic, while the billionaire class saw a $2 trillion increase in their wealth some of the largest corporations and wealthiest people in America did not pay a nickel in federal income taxes. Democrats voted to end that absurdity and begin the process of moving to a fairer tax system. Not one Republican voted to support that effort. In fact, at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, Republicans have proposed trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the most profitable corporations and wealthiest people in America.

He concluded that he understands “that many Americans are discouraged by what’s going on in Washington and are unhappy with both major parties… The answer, however, is not to make a bad situation worse by supporting candidates who will cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and give huge tax breaks to the rich. If we have any chance to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent, we must expand the Democratic majority in Congress and continue to push them to represent the needs of the working class, not the billionaire class.”

Bernie's in Oregon today-- a state teetering on the brink, with the right looking to take over the governor's office as well as House seats. If you'd like to help out in Oregon, please click here and give what you can.

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