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Ralph Nader: The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders – OpEd

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Senator Bernie Sanders has come a long way without other people’s advice. The progressive lone ranger is now leading in the polls nationally as the preferred candidate to defeat Donald Trump—ahead of Hillary in that matchup.

Now, however, Bernie Sanders is facing the verdict of closed primaries in many states which bar independent voters from voting for any of the Democratic or Republican candidates. Pointedly, Senator Sanders won only one of the five states with primaries on April 26, 2016: Rhode Island. Why? Because that state has an open primary allowing independent voters, heavily pro-Sanders, to carry him to victory.

Had the other closed primary states—Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and earlier New York—held open primaries, he would likely have defeated Hillary Clinton as Obama defeated Hillary in 2008. Sanders would also have the possibility of changing the minds of many permanent superdelegates.

Chalk up another blockage of the people’s will to the state laws obstructing the rights of voters and insurgent candidates. Twenty states have open primaries, presumably to increase voter choice and turnout, and to justify having taxpayers pay for the primaries of private political parties.

Now, Bernie Sanders has some agonizing choices to make as a trustee for millions of voters, especially young voters, who rallied to his and their agenda for a more just society. He has pledged to support the Democratic Party nominee for president which is likely to be Hillary Clinton, barring the revelation of old scandals or the release of secret transcripts of her speeches to closed-door business conferences that paid her $5000 a minute!

When he goes to the Democratic Convention this July in Philadelphia, he will undoubtedly want to reform the Party platform and expel the influence of un-elected superdelegates, such as members of Congress, and Party leaders, who wield voting powers without receiving any primary votes. The superdelegates scheme was cooked up to avoid “weak candidates” or any bottom-up “revolts” against the Party establishment and their ever-present consultants. He will lose this demand.

The Sanders contingent will want to have their proposals for a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges and universal health insurance (single payer) adopted in the Party platform. These and other highly popular Sanders reforms, including a Wall Street speculation tax, will be strenuously opposed by the business-as-usual delegates. Party regulars don’t want a “political revolution” or a bold progressive in their platform.

Sanders will not get far on the platform, much less tying any words on reform to promises by Hillary Clinton to send implementing legislation to Congress. The Clintonites will try to assuage Sanders with a prime-time speech to the Convention. Do you remember any former prime time speeches?

Thus, the Sanders movement is confronted with utter dissipation and disappointment at the Convention, where the victorious vanquish the runner-ups with arms locked and hands raised high on the convention stage. Following this display of party unity, the vanquished are expected to retire to the shadows and take their orders for forthcoming full-throated campaigning for the nominee.

This falling off the cliff must be resisted by Sanders or he risks large-scale withdrawal, disappointment and cynicism by the supporters of his scandal-free candidacy with the resounding message against the “billionaire class”. The question is how?

Here is my suggestion. The Sanders movement should organize a massive demonstration in August or September on the Mall in Washington, DC, preceded and followed by a series of mobilizing workshops on his campaign redirections and reforms to advance our country. The rally would champion the issues that the major parties should take heed of and run on, since many of them have left/right support.

The rally should pass the buckets to raise donations for establishing immediately an office in Washington to press forward with the event’s momentum but not specifically endorse any of the two major party candidates.

Then, regional rallies and workshops around our country could lead to the creation of a political force with specific agendas which candidates for all offices – local, state and federal – may wish to adopt.

Clearly the two parties, imprisoned by corporatism, corporate cash and the war machine and laced with exclusionary electoral practices and rules that entrench their status quo, bring out the worst from our nation. These parties have to be taken over by energies of fair play for people or replaced with viable third parties.

Earlier this month, there were well-organized civic demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience that led to many hundreds of arrests outside of Congress and other locations. They were organized by two groups – Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening – and supported by many civic and labor associations. They represented new momentum for the public interest or what a functioning democracy must be all about. Right now, Bernie Sanders is the man of the hour. Before the spotlight moves on, he needs to use the enthusiastic political capital he and his colleagues have amassed to lay the foundation for fundamental progressive change rooted within the local communities of America.

Now is the time, Senator Sanders. Seize the moment!

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Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a politician, activist and the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel. In his career as consumer advocate he founded many organizations including the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center for Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility and The Multinational Monitor (a monthly magazine).

10 thoughts on “Ralph Nader: The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders – OpEd

  • May 1, 2016 at 11:17 am
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    If Bernie can’t be the nominee for president, Trump will be president. Hillary will lose against Trump. Trump has a very clear inland and foreign policy program. While Hillary wants more wars because that makes profit for her campaign donors. Trump has been very open and straightforward with people, Hillary hasn’t. While most people would like Bernie to become the new president, Bernie was cut off by the undemocratic primaries that prevented the independent voters where most of his supporters are, from voting.
    Trump long realized that he would have more difficulty winning against Bernie: his and Bernie’s agendas are very similar, but to be realized with different means. Bernie’s agenda is in addition grounded in a safety net of social services that will guarantee as much equal participation in the economy to all as can be done. Trump doesn’t have any such social safety net. Given a choice between the two versions of restoring peace to the world and increasing trade with other countries while restructuring taxes to allocate money to various government paid services like infrastructure, Bernie’s agenda is more solidly grounded, more humane and more sustainable than Trump’s. If Trump can’t find the money to rebuild infrastructure – in his scheme that money depends on bringing offshore capital back – his agenda will reduce to a new trickle down economy and that has never worked for the bottom 80%. People will intuitively trust Bernie and be skeptical to Trump. But between Trump and Hillary, Trump has a vastly much better agenda. Hillary is more of the same: destabilization wars to enrich special interests and austerity at home. Nobody wants that. Trump will therefore win against Hillary. In addition, Bernie has no skeletons in the closet whereas Hillary is very vulnerable due to her past actions. The democratic pundits who invented this system with closed primaries and super delegates are killing their chance at the presidency with their own system.

    But Bernie could run as the candidate of the Green Party – continue his revolution and in such a three-way election would likely win: because his program is both truly progressive and grounded in realism. Even Republicans like the social services against which the GOP fights a war. Given a three-way choice, Trump would lose considerable support to Bernie. So would Hillary. Running for the Green Party would then give Bernie a chance to restructure that party into a new party that can disrupt the current “one-party” system with a new and solid platform based on people’s wishes and needs. He would thus accomplish two things in one: win the presidency and either force the current calcified parties to reform or add a third major party to Congress. Nothing would be more revolutionary and healthier than that. (As was pointed out by others, the deadline to put a line for an independent contender on the ballots is before the democratic convention and running as an independent would not be feasible).

    Reply
    • May 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm
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      Your points are very well made! I would also add that while Mr. Trump is often lampooned as an idiot, he has made the choice to run in this election cycle as opposed to earlier ones which he considered. It is my belief that he has made a very accurate calculation about the mindset of the electorate this time round, and as we see is the frontrunner in his party. He likly calculated that Secretary Clinton would end up on the Democratic Ticket and given his association over the years with her family and her Foundation – the Clintons attended his wedding – I’m sure that he has access to much inside information that will damage her prospects in a General Election matchup. He may even have the transcripts – given his business connections – of her high dollar speeches. Sadly you are probably right. Trump will be the next POTUS.

      Reply
  • May 1, 2016 at 3:16 pm
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    Sanders should advise his followers that Clinton needs to express that she will change U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East from regime change by force or economic pressure to strategic disengagement: cease fire unless fired upon, evacuate U.S. troops while protecting threatened minorities. Make deals with countries willing to take refugees in: we’ll help subsidize refugee resettlement for say, 3 years, and provide military protection against cross border attacks from Iraq and Syria. If she won’t unconditionally promise to do that, Sanders should recommend that his followers find another candidate. The mission creeping cretins of D.C. from Bush through Obama (start to get Bin Laden, end up fighting in 6 countries) have cost us between $1 – $4 trillion already. It’s why we can’t have “nice things” like Europeans have.

    Don’t give up on cherished issues like infrastructure repair, government stimulated employment and climate damage mitigation quite yet. Sanders and Clinton both propose, with difference of emphases, worthy social programs. Sanders could not get them passed against Republican Congressional obstruction, especially the 36 – member Republican House “Freedom“ Caucus, whose members are a constant threat to cutting Social Security, Medicare Medicaid and welfare programs. Also, many Republicans appear to distrust and detest Clinton. She’ll have little, if any coat tails to get supporters elected with her. If she became the first woman president, Republicans would take the same delight in saying “NO!” to her as they have saying “NO!” to Obama. She was unable to get much needed health care extension passed even in 1993 when her husband was president and both houses of Congress had Democratic majorities.

    There’s someone uniquely qualified, a fiscal conservative but social liberal, who could beat both Trump and Clinton. It’s Mike Bloomberg. The Independent Greens of Virginia are seeking to draft him. Consider joining this movement! Bloomberg has won the mayor’s office of New York running as a Republican, as a Democrat and as an Independent! Three-time election to be CEO of a city of 8 million is evidence of tolerably successful experience. As a more truly self-made billionaire, maybe 7 times richer than Trump, and a 1st. Jewish American President, he might, as a centrist, consensus candidate, be able to get badly needed programs like infrastructure repair passed. He wants a moon shot program to cure cancer. Keep in mind that Clinton is still hawkish on our murderous mission creep in the Middle East, and Trump was, in speech, even more so! With two jackpot candidates like these, you could still protest by voting for Dr. Jill Stein, candidate of the Green Party USA.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm
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    I think Ralph Nader is absolutely correct. Bernie Sanders should try to reform the party from within first before taking any additional steps. By doing so he will put Hillary and the DNC in a position where they are forced to choose side: Either they are with the 99% or they are with the 1%, they can’t be both – something DNC are trying to make us believe is possible. We have seen the impact Bernie Sanders has had on people when Hillary’s and the DNC’s true face is exposed, and that must continue.

    If reforming DNC is not possible, we desperately need an organization that gives us a voice and set the priorities on a national level. We have already proved that we are able to raise unbelievable amounts of money from small contribution donations, and that we are an enormous power when we come together. What Bernie Sanders has done is to put the thousands of small organizations and grassroots activities around the country into a structured organized campaign, in a way he “just” put the last piece of the puzzle into place. Now it’s up to us to make this movement into something more than just a presidential election.

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  • May 1, 2016 at 3:46 pm
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    Why aren’t Jill Stein and/or Gar Aperovitz chosen as spokespersons for policies that they ‘underwrite’ instead of Collins or Wilkerson who were only the voices of others and have little to offer? Very hard to understand what alternatives Nader seeks to put ‘front and center’ when his choice of spokespersons have little history and are inadequate to the causes Nader stands behind and advocates.

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  • May 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm
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    Mike Bloomberg is just another corporate politician. I’m surprised anyone would suggest him. Ask yourself, why aren’t politicians like Bloomberg trying to support Bernie even if that is just speaking up to support his Rebuild America Act to support Americans? Bloomberg even went so far as to write an op-ed piece calling Bernie a Demagogue making a false claim that Bernie is just offering free stuff. There is no moon shot to cure cancer, how misguided when an environmentally minded candidate would talk about prevention of cancer…you know like eliminating pollution, safe cosmetics, stuff like that.

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  • May 1, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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    You’re absolutely right about independent voters, who now make up 42% of the voting population. It will be impossible for a candidate to win the general election without winning the independent vote, and all data points to independents supporting Bernie en masse.

    Clinton supporters are being depressingly shortsighted. They’ve been gloating about her lead in the (closed) primaries for months. If she gets the nomination, they will have won the battle. Will it be at the expense of losing the war?

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  • May 1, 2016 at 6:26 pm
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    The Democratic party is corrupt and beyond redemption. It cannot be fixed from within. Ralph is exactly right. At the convention they will deny Bernie’s policy requests the same way they will deny him the nomination. There is no chance superdelegates switch over. Too much money is on the line in a rigged system they control. Bernie should use the party just like they used him and then discard it just as they would discard him at the convention. Stay in the race until the DC primary so he can achieve maximum exposure. Then the morning of June 15th he should announce that he is leaving the Democratic party for the Greens. Going to the convention would be a strategic blunder. The trap has already been set. The opportunity to create a viable third party is now. He can turn the tables on the DNC. Bernie has millions of supporters loyal to him and his policy platform with little to no allegiance to the Democratic party. They will come along. In the meantime the Sanders campaign should backchannel with the Green Party to make sure they are on every state ballot. He can start a real fifty state campaign for the general election the same day he announces the switch. States not normally in play for Democrats will be fair game given the high negatives of the two other candidates. Utah is a case in point. The announcement will also reinvigorate Sanders supporters and donations will come flooding back in. At the same time the air will be sucked right out of the Democratic National Convention. With no suspense and controversy and without Bernie’s attendance it will be dead on arrival. Sanders can go back on the offensive and will immediately be the favorite to win the presidency. There really is nothing to lose with this plan. If he stays in the democratic party and goes to the convention it will just be a soul sucking march to defeat. His Kobayashi Maru. She has the nuts and he knows it. All options would be untenable. Integrity lost. Revolution over. Thankfully this need not come to pass. The viability and legitimacy issues will be moot thanks to the primary campaign. Name recognition… forget about it. Together we will break through the entrenched corruption of the two party duopoly and win the presidency for all of us. There is no other way.

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  • May 1, 2016 at 9:18 pm
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    Neither of the issues that Bernie Sanders has championed – nay – all of the issues that Sanders has championed, taken together – is/are as important as appointments to the United States Supreme Court. Electing Secretary Clinton will assure another eight years of progressive-leaning Supreme Court nominees. Electing Donald Trump will bring another four years (and possibly eight years) of appointments like Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. Any post-Convention tactics by Sanders supporters that would, to any degree, increase the chances of a Trump presidency would be, in my judgment, irresponsible. The principal political vehicle for all of the big-money interests that Sanders rightly opposes is the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. The only way the dreams of Sanders and his supporters will ever be realized is through the Democratic party’s control of the U. S. Senate and the nominations to the U. S. Supreme Court. I hope that Senator Sanders and his supporters will be able to see their ways clear to support the Democratic party’s nominee for President, and the Democratic party’s candidates for seats in the U. S. Senate and the U. S. House of Representatives.

    Remember . . . it was Ralph Nader who gave us President George W. Bush, the war in Iraq, and the greatest collapse of the financial system and the national economy more than 75 years. Disregard Ralph Nader’s advice.

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  • May 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm
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    Lee Steers,
    I am one of those Independents supporting Sanders that you accuse of “irresponsibly” considering not supporting Hillary.
    I voted for Hillary in her 2000 senate race.
    But then I took the time to educate myself on Hillary’s real record as SoS. From Honduras to Libya to Syria, Hillary moved from one catastrophe to the next.
    Hillary gave an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic in August, 2014 where she laid out her foreign policy vision.
    Hillary makes it absolutely clear that she is a full-fledged neocon who believes that America has a “duty” to bring “freedom & democracy” to the world.
    If you haven’t read this article, I must respectfully request that you cease trying to “guilt” people into voting for Hillary.
    And after all, who wouldn’t want to hear Hillary explain in her own words how Libya was an example of “smart power at its best!”
    If the Democrats are so “irresponsible” that they showed up to cast a ballot for the neocon candidate because they couldn’t be bothered to understand the term “neocon” then it is the DEMOCRATS who have handed the presidency to Donald Trump, not the Independents.
    You, Mr. Steers, are guilty of buying into the idea that “winning” at any cost is all that matters.
    Some people, it may surprise you, have values that they simply cannot sacrifice for the sake of winning.
    What values might those be?
    In this case, human life. I, like you, would love to see a more liberal Supreme Court. But then the big philosophical question becomes, how many people (Libyans, Syrians, et al) should die so that Americans can enjoy an agreeable Supreme Court?
    If the answer is that no one should have to die abroad to help protect civil liberties here at home, then a vote for Hillary becomes impossible.
    The real question is: if the Supreme Court was that important, why couldn’t the Democrats educate themselves on Hillary’s foreign policy record?
    Trump is promising to scale back on military adventurism, and since the military currently consumes 60% of all discretionary spending, that is an attractive offer.
    The corporate Democrats love to strike fear in the hearts of the sheeple by threatening a loss of civil liberties.
    A loss of civil liberties would certainly be a sad thing.
    But the loss of human life under Hillary would be even sadder.
    If the Democrats are so morally bankrupt that they would nominate one of Kissinger’s close friends, then they really deserve to lose.

    Reply

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