The need to focus on the big picture

Having all the candidates debate the merits of their various policy platforms is the essence of the primary process, what they are meant to do, so that voters can decide which candidate is most aligned with their own values. So I have no problem with having spirited debates among the candidates. The question is what should be done when it is realized that one candidate is going to be the nominee. At that point, the strategy should change and people should get behind the prospective nominee even if that person hasn’t formally won. The debates on the various policies can then shift to the party platform committee to vote on at the convention. Nathan J. Robinson thinks that that tipping point has already arrived and that Bernie Sanders is going to be the nominee. He lays out a strategy for what needs to be done with that realization.

He wants everyone to focus on the big picture. That means we should ignore the absurd charges that are being made against Sanders and his platform by the party elites. He said that there will be plenty of time for people to start quibbling about the details of Sanders’s various proposals (are you listening Pete Buttigieg?), which are proving to be popular with voters, after he is elected president. To do so now is to waste valuable time and money and energy that should be directed towards defeating Donald Trump.

Spare us this crap about his “radicalism.” Bernie’s signature proposals, let us remember, are:

  • A national health insurance program, of the kind that already exists around the world (and that is far less radical than the perfectly reasonable nationalized hospital system of Great Britain)
  • Free tuition at all public schools, with colleges adopting the same model that already exists at elementary, middle, and high schools
  • A national plan to tackle climate change, of the kind every serious climate analyst admits needs to happen
  • A living wage, meaning making sure people are paid enough to be able to pay their rent
  • A fairer system for allowing people to move to this country and work here, one that doesn’t end up brutally deporting those who have already invested endless hours of labor and paid their taxes

These are the big, ambitious things! The things that will be watered down before being passed! Anyone who says this is too radical to run on is out of their minds. How unambitious do you have to be? How pathetically uncommitted to ensuring a universal basic standard of living? You really think this stuff is so zany as to be electoral poison? In fact, it all polls well, when you actually frame the polling questions accurately instead of scaring people by describing a plan to boost their insurance as a plan to “take away their insurance.”

As I say, though, like it or not, there is no alternative right now. In November, Trump will either be reelected or he will be ousted, and if you want to see him ousted, then even if you think “a living wage” is an insane radical socialistic notion, it’s what the Democratic candidate is running on. So set aside your opinion of it. Nobody in the Democratic party should be spending a single breath attacking Medicare For All, because we need to beat Trump, and if you attack the party nominee’s signature proposal during a critical election, you might as well be working for Trump’s communications team. The time to discuss your objections, or to propose your alternative “Medicare For All Who Can Figure Out How To Navigate Our Complicated Dysfunctional Online Portal” program, is during the legislative fight, which will happen once Bernie Sanders is elected president. At that point, you can work on stalling his agenda for improving people’s lives, and then when you succeed, you can crow about how he was too ambitious and failed to accept Political Reality (the political reality that you worked day and night to maintain). It will be a glorious triumph for you as you watch the $15 minimum wage bill crash and burn, and millions of families continue to struggle to stave off eviction in the name of Market Efficiency.

But all of that is for later. For now, we have a goal, and that goal is to expel Donald Trump from the White House. If we agree on that goal, then now that Bernie Sanders has won the Democratic primary, the only route to way to meet the goal is to go all in for Bernie.

As Killer Mike says, the time is now. We must end the Trump presidency. We can do it this year. We can be rid of him forever. But we need to end the Democratic primary as soon as possible. We need to raise money, build the organization, spread the message, persuade people of the agenda. Delay helps Trump. We can kick his ass in November. But please: no more cable news nonsense about how “Putin won Nevada.” No more lies about how Medicare For All will leave people uninsured. No more ludicrous suggestions that Bernie Sanders is supported by “shadow groups.” Bernie is a moderate, his agenda is perfectly reasonable, and the panic about him from Democratic and media elites has not only been massively over-the-top, but has significantly aided Trump. Anyone suggesting Bernie is some kind of existential threat to the country, rather than a social democrat pushing for the basic package of reforms that almost every European country takes for granted, is behaving irresponsibly.

I myself do not think that point of Sanders or anyone else being the inevitable nominee has been reached and that we need to wait at least until the Super Tuesday results on March 3 before we can make such a judgment. But if and when we do reach that point, I think Robinson lays out a sound strategy. You should read the whole thing.


  1. anat says

    In that vein, see These are the popular ideas progressives can win with (and some unpopular ones to avoid) These are all ideas that were polled with the general public, where people were asked if they support or oppose some policy raised by ‘some Democrats’ and presented with counter-arguments by Republicans.

    Some of the highlights: all ideas tested regarding limiting price of medications (revoking patent rights, government investment in developing new generics, investing in pharma R&D) are very popular, whereas all 4 versions of Medicare for All just barely hit a plurality. Interestingly the one that polls best (everyone is on a government plan, but there is an option to buy additional private care) also polls best among Democratic primary voters (see DEMOCRATS SUPPORT MEDICARE FOR ALL. (This is not very different from the system that is implemented in Israel, except there most people get their additional insurance through HMO type organizations -- with country-wide networks; hospitals are equally accessible to all, as far as I can tell, even if they are owned by a specific provider.)

    In the area of climate, the most popular is pure regulation, followed by cap-and-trade, then comes ‘Green New Deal’, while carbon taxing is last. The first 3 versions all win by a decent plurality (regulation actually has a slight majority), but carbon taxing has equal supporters and opposers.

    Free public college is unpopular, but free community college has a slight majority. Abolishing ICE is unpopular, but ‘path to citizenship’ has a plurality.

    They also tested many other progressive or Sanders-specific ideas, some appeal better than others. Worth a look.

  2. file thirteen says

    I don’t think it’s bad at all for Sanders to be tagged as radical and have hysterical claims made against him. A lot of voters are anti-establishment and are looking for any opportunity to vote for someone that challenges the system. The more shrill the criticisms of him, the more voters will back him. And it keeps him in the news.

    It was largely that that enabled Trump to get in. The hysteria against him played into his hands, and the appeal was that he was going to shake things up in the Whitehouse (which he did, only not in a good way).

  3. Allison says

    everyone is on a government plan, but there is an option to buy additional private care

    That’s more or less the system I am familiar with from when I lived in Germany.

    Basically, everyone qualified for AOK (Amtliche Ortskrankenkasse), which is somewhat better than Medicaid is here, but if you earned enough, you could buy into an “Ersatzkasse” (basically, insurance upgrade), and if you earned even more, you could go for full-fledged private insurance.

    There’s no shortage of different models in actual use, in Europe and in Canada (I don’t know about the Far East), all of which are far better — more humane and cheaper — than what the USA has, even with Obamacare. One serious grudge I have against Obama (Clinton, too) is that he didn’t just pick one of them and ram it through Congress, back in the days when the Democrats controlled both houses.

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