Recommentunde: Bernie (01 Mar 2020)

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The Recommentunde Newsletter

For the week that began 1 March 2020

AOC, Baratunde, and Bernie

This is a photo I took at a Venice, CA Sanders event a few months ago. Pictured with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Bernie Sanders duh.

There’s a warm, tingling sensation that’s been building for a while. It’s the Bern, and I’m feeling it. I just voted in California for Senator Bernie Sanders.

I think I’ve known for a few months, but it became absolutely clear as the lines in this primary were strengthened this weekend. The race is narrowing. I’ve seen good in all the candidates. I’ll vote in November for the not-Trump option, but I think Bernie Sanders is building the new coalition we need to shape the Democratic Party and the United States for the better.

I want to share a few moments of clarity and inspiration that got me to this place.

Last week I listened to The Intercept with Jeremy Scahill. Here’s a short audio clip I made. He interviewed Reverend Jesse Jackson about his thoughts on the primary. Jackson last week published The important word in ‘democratic socialism’ is ‘democratic’ , and in the interview he said a lot, but this jumped out: “What Sanders represents is not the left wing. It’s the moral center.“

What Sanders wants for this country is to raise the standard for everyone. We’ve got extraordinarily high standards for those with resources, but we’re creating a lopsided caste system that leaves out almost everyone else who seeks a dignified life.

I know Sanders has a lot of lofty goals and promises, but I also know he’s not a naive idiot. Vox made the case for Sanders that reminds us he understands the legislative process quite well. And after I and others felt burned by the pre-compromises Obama made on so many initiatives — placing the public option at the aggressive end of the spectrum meant we settled for far less after the Republican dehumanization machine kicked in — I respect Sanders holding the line on Medicare For All and other plans.

I’ve been thinking about who this election is really for, and I see that Sanders is absolutely cleaning up with young people. It’s their world we are deciding, and it feels right to defer to the youth given how royally prior generations have fucked them financially and with respect to climate. I'll gladly take my lead from the Sunrise Movement.

But the thing I feel most deeply is that Bernie changes electoral math if we let him. He excites a different type of voter. Trump did a similar thing for the Republican Party, but much of the group he excited were motivated by racial animus and disdain for The Other. Bernie activates long-neglected parts of the Democratic coalition who want a more fair system. Whereas Trump ran on "I alone can fix it," Bernie's slogan is "Not me, us." It's love over hate.

The Democratic Party has been obsessed with electability under the premise that we must win over “moderate republicans” to vote for our candidate, but with a 90 percent approval rating for Trump among the GOP, I don’t think there are moderate Republicans left. Not right now. Maybe they’ll come around after we defeat them. Power, after all, respects power.

In a recent episode of On The Media, Ibram X. Kendi had me cheering out loud for his analysis of “the other swing voter.” Basically he says, yes there are people who swing from Republican to Democrat, but there are also people who swing from Democrat to not voting, and the latter group was bigger than the former in 2016.

Instead we could (and I think should) focus on giving people who already align with us a reason to overcome the systemic barriers to voting: suppression efforts, propaganda, and neglect. Folks turned up for Obama who did not turn up for Hillary. It’s an honest assessment and one that reminds me we need to meet people where they are. I think there are these different swing voters who will turn up for Bernie who won’t turn up for Biden.

Bernie is the only candidate regularly turning out multiple thousands of people at rallies. He has the most passionate base out there, and I think we should build on that rather than faking love and enthusiasm where it doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, a Bloomberg rally will have better catering, and I might get paid to show up, but that is not my first choice.

I mentioned this in one of my recent candidate rundowns: the nominee will shape the party. Trump shaped the GOP, not the other way around. I am much more excited about a Democratic Party shaped by Bernie Sanders than by Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg. Sadly, I don’t think Elizabeth Warren will be in a position to shape the party, though she would have been stellar in the position. She hasn’t been winning overall, and her coalition is weaker than Bernie's, but I sincerely hope she can contribute in some other meaningful way to making a better future for us all.

Meanwhile, Bernie is my choice to go up against Trump, to raise our standards, and to restore some fire to the Democratic Party. He’s bringing new people into the process, not just as voters, but as policymakers and leaders. As the moderate forces consolidate, I want to give Bernie the delegate math boost he will need to keep fighting and winning.

Finally, I heard Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say something that never left me. It was at a small Sanders event in Venice, CA a few months ago. To paraphrase, she said: I’m tired of being asked, how are we going to pay for it? The real question is, how do we want to pay for it. In this case “it” is Medicare for All or a Green New Deal or any other plan to reform our system. AOC listed several ways we could choose to pay: wealth tax, Wall Street transaction tax, and more. But I take a more expansive view of the question.

The other side is never asked to justify the price they force some of us to pay? Where was the balanced budget for the Iraq War or Afganistan or the Trump tax cuts? How are we going to pay for the poisoning of our water after all this deregulation?

How do we want to pay for it has many answers when you think bigger about who bears the cost. How do we want to pay: With poorer health outcomes? With an infrastructure unprepared to withstand a pandemic? With a population on the brink of financial ruin? With children afraid to go to school? With a caste system? With voter suppression? With decreased trust in our information systems? We get to choose, and so far we’ve been choosing to pay an extraordinarily high price. I think there’s a better way forward, and I think Bernie Sanders as the Democratic presidential nominee is our best chance to get there.

And now, for our regularly-scheduled content but shorter because this opening was looooooong.


How to Confront the Coronavirus at Every Level

Article in the New York Times

So COVID-19 is real, and it will continue to spread. I am not a medical professional, but I’ve been following some very qualified people, and here’s what I can share. I made a Twitter list with a handful of trusted accounts. This list was based on an excellent interview with science reporter Laurie Garrett on On The Media. The information is always changing, so follow the voices and updates from that Twitter list to stay current. As for me, I’m washing my hands, not touching my face, only doing fist bumps or elbow-to-elbow greetings, popping zinc, and I’m not buying dozens of N95 masks because the people who really need them won’t be able to get them if I do. Also, you can’t buy N95 masks anymore. Everyone is sold out.

When It’s This Easy at the Top, It’s Harder for Everyone Else - The New York Times

Article in the New York Times.

This is a good reminder about the United States we are actually living in. VIP lounges exist for everything from air travel to medical treatment, and it’s getting worse. Read this to be reminded of the excesses of our form of capitalism.

The Other Swing Voter - The Atlantic

Article in The Atlantic

This is the long form article which I referenced in the podcast clip above. I wish Kendi or people with his analysis were filling the cable news airwaves to remind us another world is possible and there’s different math to get electoral victory and change.


Roy Wood Jr. visits Boston to find out why it has a reputation as one of the most racist cities in America.


The Recommentunde YouTube playlist and Spotify podcast playlist just for you.

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Peace and Love.