The question we are here to ask is why did the Progressive movement, embodied by the Bernie Sanders campaign, seemingly crash and burn after showing so much momentum in early primary states including Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada?
If you are an ardent Sanders supporter, the answer is pretty obvious: The Democratic Party establishment, and the corporate media, fearful that a Sanders’ win would upend the status quo from which they benefit financially, put their collective thumb on the scale for Joe Biden.
But the reality is that Bernie Sanders himself is partly to blame. Sanders is not your classic politician. He tells it like it is – and that is in no small part accounts for his why he generates such enthusiasm especially among younger voters.
In speaking truth to power, however, Sanders sometimes creates the impression that his ideas are radical. He calls himself a democratic “socialist” and talks of “revolution.” His rhetorical style has the dual effect of giving his political opponents a cudgel to beat him with while alienating more moderate voters.
But the policies Sanders has promoted are not radical or revolutionary.
He is advocating that all Americans, including corporations, pay their fair share of taxes; that we invest more in people to ensure everyone has access to quality health care, gets a good education and is paid a living wage. And that we fight hard to limit the damage climate change is doing to our plant. These are common sense policy prescriptions that address some of the most pressing issues facing our country.
Sanders is being branded a radical because he has directly challenged the power and influence of the financial, insurance, drug and fossil fuel industries which collectively spend tens of billions on lobbying, funding Super Pacs and contributing to political campaigns.
What the 2020 Democratic primaries have shown us is that it is going to be a long, tough fight against entrenched interests with huge war chests fighting to preserve what has evolved into a political system that more closely resembles oligarchy than a true democracy.
It is what the founders were most concerned about and tried to prevent – the gradual erosion of representative democracy by demagogues who usurp power from the people.
In this era of huge income and wealth inequality, Progressives must make it clear that policies such as those Bernie Sanders advocates – progressive taxation, universal health care, free college tuition and eliminating carbon emissions – are exactly what is needed to restore a vibrant democracy and a growing economy that works for everyone.