by Tony Wyman
If it wasn’t for the 2016 flare-up of Bernie Sanders‘ supporters, America wouldn’t be suffering through the fourth year of the worst presidency in the nation’s history.
Yes, Bernie Bros, you are the reason Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump four years ago. A whopping 12% of you threw your support to a man who represented everything you claim you despise. Greed, sexism, racism, crony capitalism, entitlement and privilege.
All told, 216,000 of you voted for Mr. Trump in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where the Republican won by a combined margin of victory of just 77,774 votes. If those states had gone for Mrs. Clinton, she would have won both the popular vote and the electoral college vote, 278 to 260, and the country would have been spared four years of MAGA self-immolation.
And even more of you stayed home and stewed, understandably upset about how corrosive and undemocratic the party’s superdelegate primary rules were, as your absence helped elect a man determined to make things vastly worse for the environment, for the poor, for immigrants, for women, for people of color, for all the causes your candidate campaigned about.
As many as 25% of those who supported Sen. Sanders chose to sit out the election, altogether, or spent their vote on third party candidates in states like Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin, where 92 electoral votes were awarded to Mr. Trump in contests in which he got fewer than 50% of the ballots cast.
“We will never – NEVER boost or support Joe Biden or defend his abysmal record and terrible policy positions,” executive director of The Gravel Institute Henry Williams said in an interview with the right-wing New York Post.
“We will tell people, as we always have, to vote their conscience and to make decisions based on the interests of all the world’s oppressed people … I do expect a massive exodus from the Democratic Party.” (The Gravel Institute professes to support direct democracy, anti-imperialism and progressive economics, but it declines to support the only viable candidate in 2020 willing to give those ideas a listen.)
“I think staying in the race is the responsible thing to do,” he said in a recent interview. “He needs to challenge Biden on certain aspects of his rhetoric. He needs to accumulate clout and delegates to shape the Democratic platform and pressure the Biden campaign into adopting a more popular economic platform.”
Even if Mr. Biden is the nominee of the Democratic Party to face Mr. Trump, Mr. Sunkara, a leading voice for young Sanders supporters, has stated he will not vote for him. “Joe Biden is Hillary Clinton 2.0.,” Mr. Sunkara wrote in an editorial published in the Guardian back in August.
“Perhaps Trump’s time in office has been enough of a disaster that idea-avoidance will work this time. But if voters want to be inspired, they’ll turn elsewhere or just stay at home again. Who knows, Jill Biden might even join them”, Sunkara added.
That would be the 68-year-old Jill Biden who threw herself between Joe Biden and a much younger protester storming the stage and lunging, threateningly, at her husband.
Yeah, I doubt she’ll jump ship and sit on the couch with disgruntled Bernie supporters like Mr. Sunkara, nursing their emotional bone spurs while the battle for America’s future takes place at the ballot box.
But, that said – responding to the disaffection progressive elements in the Democratic Party have for moderates like Barack Obama’s vice-president and close friend, a #NeverBiden movement is rising up, at least on the fringes of the Democratic Party.
By Wednesday morning after the former vice-president’s convincing victory over Bernie Sanders, the hashtags #NeverBiden, #DemExit2020 and #WriteInBernie began trending on Twitter. Prominent progressive voices, like that of The Young Turks podcast host Krystal Ball, started chiming in.
She said she would never vote for Mr. Trump, but, she reminded her millions of viewers, “You can always leave it blank.” Ms. Ball, who previously called the Ukraine scandal that led to Mr. Trump’s impeachment “manufactured drama,” claims she remains an “undecided voter” because the Democratic Party primary process allowing voters to vote for the candidate of their choice didn’t choose her pick.
“Donald Trump is awful, the next Republican will be awful, and if they always can say, ‘look you gotta vote for us no matter what, you’ve got no other choice, then they’re always going to treat us like this because you have no power in that situation if you’re just gonna show up and vote for them anyway,” the 38-year-old multi-millionaire complained.
Zac Petkanas, a former staffer with the 2016 Clinton campaign, responded “With all that on the line, Krystal Ball – one of the biggest grifters on the scene – is using her platform to advocate for Trump’s re-election. Just wear a MAGA hat and be done with it.”
Bakari Sellers, CNN contributor, former state representative and the youngest African-American ever elected to public office, added, “This is a sad commentary by @krystalball. It comes from a place of privilege that one can afford to leave it blank.”
And in response to a February 4 tweet from Ms. Ball asking “Somebody help me out. What is it called when party elites selectively release results creating a grand media narrative based on incomplete data?” Mr. Sellers responded, “The Sanders campaign?”
— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) March 11, 2020
The Cost of Sitting Out
Yeah, I get it. You’re pissed the Democrats put together a coalition that is going to give the nomination to Joe Biden. So pissed, in fact, that you are going to hand the White House back to a serial liar, con artist, misogynist and white nationalist who will use the next four years to solidify his hold on all three branches of the federal government, all because the Democrats didn’t let you have your way.
Fine, go ahead and sit another election out. Go ahead and vote for Donald Trump, go ahead and advance the cause of people like white nationalist Stephen Miller and Bill Barr, the attorney-general who believes the president should be above the law. Back Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin‘s attacks on climate activist Greta Thunberg when he dismisses her opinions because she’s not “the chief economist,” meaning she’s not a wealthy, old man.
Stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people like Devin Nunes, Louie Gohmert, Jacketless Jim Jordan, Chris Collins, Matt Gaetz and Mitch McConnell, men who sold their souls and their conservative credentials to slavishly support anything that comes slurring out of Mr. Trump’s maul.
Repeat the pledge made by Lily Lynch, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist magazine, when she said, “I will absolutely not vote for Biden. When they try to guilt you into it, by saying “you must be privileged not to be impacted by Trump’s policies” remember: they are trying desperately to hang onto THEIR privileges, which they will never, ever extend to you.”
Take the bitterness of your candidate’s defeat and bury it at America’s graveside. Ignore the fact the next four years will be pivotal for the survival of the American Idea, that any hope this country has of continuing the social progress that made the presidency of a black man possible, that gave a woman and a homosexual a real shot at becoming the leader of our nation, that freed people of all races and identities from institutional bigotry and discrimination, will be replaced by Donald Trump’s unrestrained vision of MAGA.
That is how dire this next election will be. If Bernie Bros sit out the 2020 presidential campaign and cost Joe Biden the election, the changes that President Trump will solidify with a full eight years in office will be extraordinarily difficult, if not completely impossible, to reverse.
Conservative columnist and historian Max Boot wrote in a 2019 Washington Post editorial, Can American Democracy Survive a Second Trump Term, “We can readily survive a one-term Trump presidency. Second-Term Trump is more likely to inflict damage — to our democracy, our environment, our world order — that is incalculable and unfixable. That this is a very real possibility causes me to fear for our country more than at any point in my lifetime.”
“So far,” wrote Pulitzer Prize winner and Princeton professor Paul Starr in the May edition of The Atlantic, “much of the concern about the long-term effects of Trump’s presidency has centered on his anti-democratic tendencies. But even if we take those off the table—even if we assume that Trump continues to be hemmed in by other parts of the government and by outside institutions, and that he governs no more effectively than he has until now—the impact of a second term would be more lasting than that of the first.”
In normal politics, the policies adopted by a president and Congress may zig one way, and those of the next president and Congress may zag the other. The contending parties take our system’s rules as a given, and fight over what they understand to be reversible policies and power arrangements. But some situations are not like that; a zig one way makes it hard to zag back.
This is one of those moments. After four years as president, Trump will have made at least two Supreme Court appointments, signed into law tax cuts, and rolled back federal regulation of the environment and the economy. Whatever you think of these actions, many of them can probably be offset or entirely undone in the future. The effects of a full eight years of Trump will be much more difficult, if not impossible, to undo.
We’ve been fighting an uphill battle in this country to address climate change for decades, but, with Barack Obama in the White House, we were starting to move in the right, responsible direction. President Obama was moving the country towards reduced dependency on fossil fuels and towards the economic and environmentally promising field of renewable energy sources.
That all changed when Donald Trump came to power. Since his election, fossil fuel companies, particularly those in the oil industry, have prospered as the president eliminated regulations, ceased requirements for increased fuel-efficiency standards and lowered caps on emissions from coal-fired electricity plants.
According to Global Carbon Project, if the industrial nations of the world had reduced global carbon emissions by just 2% per year starting in the year 2000, that would have been enough to keep global temperatures from rising above 2-degrees celsius from where they were then.
Now, because nations failed to achieve that goal, it will take a reduction of 5% per year to prevent a 2-degree temperature rise. If we wait until 2030 to address climate change, it will require a 9% decrease per year to keep temperatures from rising 2%, the level scientists believe will lead to catastrophic and potentially irreversible damage to the Earth’s environment.
With Mr. Trump in the White House until at least 2024, no progress at all will be made by the U.S. on climate change.
Democracy around the globe is under greater pressure than it has since the rise of fascism in the 1930s. Freedom House, the non-partisan center advocating for global democracy and funded by the U.S. federal government, itself, just published its latest report, “A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy”.
In the report, the center stated “…we are in the 14th year of a global recession in democracy,” and lowered the United States freedom rating eight-points, placing us behind Slovakia and Mauritius and barely ahead of Argentina and Croatia, nations not known for their love of freedom and democracy.
Much of the blame for America’s decline in freedom is laid at the feet of Donald Trump, according to the report.
“The Trump administration has failed to exhibit consistent commitment to a foreign policy based on the principles of democracy and human rights,” Freedom House reported. “[Mr. Trump] has also given a pass to tyrannical leaders whom he hopes to woo diplomatically, including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Kim Jong-un of North Korea.”
The report also noted “Fierce rhetorical attacks on the press, the rule of law, and other pillars of democracy coming from American leaders, including the president himself,” as reasons for the decline in freedom in America.
“An ongoing decline in fair and equal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers,” the report’s authors added, “is also particularly worrisome for a country that takes pride in its traditional role as a beacon for the oppressed.”
The study also blasted the authoritarian prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, who President Trump recently described as a “true friend,“ criticizing both he and the American president for “drift[ing] from the ideals of liberal democracy” where in “freely elected leaders distance themselves from traditional elites and political norms, claim to speak for a more authentic popular base, and use the ensuing confrontations to justify extreme policies — against minorities and pluralism in particular.”
This is, of course, what is happening in America, today. Mr. Trump, since even before his election, has sought to undermine the American people’s confidence in the institutions that protect our democracy.
He’s followed the traditional trajectory of authoritarians: perceiving enemies in the “deep state” that are attempting to undermine his rule; attacking institutions that aren’t under his control and are, thus, independent and immune to his influence; and, turning his followers into willing propagandists who repeat his lies and attacks, using today’s social media platforms to influence and intimidate others.
If given the validation a second term will offer him, it is easy to see how Mr. Trump will ramp up his attacks on the press, the Federal Reserve, the FBI and CIA, and the Justice Department, to further render them impotent to hold him accountable for his actions in office by undermining their credibility as fair and impartial proponents of truth and justice.
Global Arms Race
Mr. Trump’s first term in office was rife with examples of how he undermined the global nonproliferation arrangement that had kept weapons development roughly in check for decades.
He withdrew from the 30-year-old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Agreement between the U.S. and Russia, signed into law by Ronald Reagan, leaving only the New START agreement in place to slow a nuclear weapons race between the two nuclear powers.
Mr. Trump has even indicated he has no interest in maintaining the New START agreement, which is set to expire in 2021. If that treaty is allowed to lapse, nothing will be in place to prevent a disastrous nuclear arms race between Russia and the United States that could bring the world to the brink of nuclear obliteration like it did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.
Wrote Mr. Starr:
The prospect of a new nuclear arms race is suddenly very real. With the end of verifiable limits on American and Russian nuclear weapons, both countries will lose the right to inspect each other’s arsenal, and will face greater uncertainty about each other’s capabilities and intentions. Already, rhetoric has taken an ominous turn: After Trump suspended U.S. participation in the INF Treaty on February 2, Vladimir Putin quickly followed suit and promised a “symmetrical response” to new American weapons. Trump replied a few days later in his State of the Union address, threatening to “outspend and out-innovate all others by far” in weapons development.
The agreements signed by the U.S. and Russia over the past several decades have eliminated nearly 90% of the two nation’s nuclear stockpiles.
With America’s sudden and unpredicted change of direction vis-a-vis nuclear weapons – other nations, alarmed by Mr. Trump’s seemingly irrational decisions concerning international security treaties, are beginning to consider building nuclear weapons of their own.
Once nations like Japan and Saudi Arabia, for example, build nuclear arsenals, it will be extremely difficult, if even impossible, to disarm them. And, of course, other nations feeling threatened by a Japan or Saudi Arabia armed with such an arsenal will be compelled to build their own. Throughout the world, nuclear arms races will spring up, making it much more likely a catastrophic atomic conflict could occur.
The Supreme Court
Considering that two of the more liberal justices on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (87) and Stephen Breyer (81) are likely to be replaced during the next president’s term of office, the last thing those who consider themselves liberal should want to see is Donald Trump filling two vacancies on the nation’s highest court.
Considering his two appointments so far, Neil Gorsuch (52) and Brett Kavanaugh (55), it is likely Mr. Trump’s selectees would sit in their seats for the better part of the next two decades, leaving the court decidedly conservative for the foreseeable future.
If you see this as a good or bad thing, of course, depends on your political perspective and your thoughts on fundamental issues like gun rights and abortion.
If you are a supporter of Mr. Sanders’, of course, the last thing you would want to see is two more conservative justices sitting alongside Mr. Gorsuch, Mr. Kavanaugh, Mr. Alito and Mr. Thomas.
With Chief Justice Roberts a moderate conservative, the only remaining liberal justices would be Ms. Sotomayor and Ms. Kagan.
No president since FDR has had the impact on the ideology of the Supreme Court as will Mr. Trump, should he be elected with the help of disgruntled Bernie supporters. If they believe the direction the nation’s highest court takes for the next 20 to 30 years doesn’t matter, joining #NeverBiden makes sense.
If, on the other hand, issues such as reproductive rights, environmental regulations, labor laws and healthcare are things of concern for the Democratic Party’s left-wing, perhaps instead of sitting on the couch in November, they ought to show up at the polls in record numbers to vote for Mr. Biden.
Even if they have to swallow hard to do so.