Put the real issues on the table this time
Guest post by Jay Ackroyd
I’ve had a lot of excited email come into my inbox last few days, excited about Bernie Sanders. At this week’s Virtually Speaking Sundays, I talked to Cliff Schecter and Dave Johnson about Sanders. I really feel like we have an opportunity here. Not an opportunity to make Clinton say things she’d rather not say. Not an opportunity to raise a big huzzah because, finally, we have a candidate from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.
What Sanders offers is the opportunity to change a narrative that has been beating on us for at least the last fifteen years—a narrative that excludes good, popular public policy from consideration. Raising the minimum wage to where it was in the 70s, adjusted for inflation, is good, popular public policy. Recognizing that the 401K experiment for replacing pensions has failed, and we need to increase social security benefits to make up for that failure is good, popular public policy. Making it possible for a student to graduate from college without a crushing debt burden is good, popular public policy. So is the adoption of trade and industrial policies that benefit everyone, not just the rentiers.
This stuff polls well. Really well. In the 70s, even the 80s. We don’t hear about it because the gatekeepers—the centrist media and the campaign funders--don’t want these issues on the table. These are unifying issues. How do you think 50 something white men in West Virginia feel about medical coverage in the years between the corporate job with health benefits and Medicare? How do you think they feel about their retirement security?
Sanders presents us with an opportunity for an inclusive campaign, a coalition of people across a broad spectrum of American society who have been, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed. They know it—they can read the 401K statement. They get the student loan bill. They’re gonna be working at Home Depot to carry them from their last real job to retirement at 67. They hate the banksters, coming and going.
We liberals have had some success shifting the Social Security narrative. We wouldn’t let the president get away with claiming that he just wanted some “tweaks.” We can do it again by using our now much more open media environment to say that what Sanders is advocating isn’t just gonna win votes in the liberal Iowa precincts. It’s gonna win votes in the general as well, because these issues transcend the identity politics embraced by our friends at Politico, and This Week and, sadly, Clinton’s campaign staff.
It’s a good time to write an LTE, talk to your neighbor, tweet Ezra or David Leonhardt and say “Aren’t these American policy positions? Don’t they poll really well across a broad spectrum of voters? Doesn’t that matter?” Because it does matter. Sanders presence in the race makes it much harder for the gatekeepers to pretend that it doesn’t.
You can hear the discussion between Jay, Dave Johnson and Cliff Schecter on this topic here.