Bernie Sanders strategy has been based on an appeal to younger voters and the belief that he could get increased turnout of that age group. While there has been some reason all along to question that belief, Super Tuesday gives a more clear – although not yet definitive picture.
Young voter turnout
Exit polls taken by USAtoday actually seem to show that he’s gone backwards from 2016. According to USAtoday, while the number of primary voters in Virginia inceased from 800,000 in 2016 to 1.3 million in 2020, that increase seems to have been confined to older voters. Further statistics:
- “In Alabama, only 10% of the voters were in the 17-29 range compared to 14% in 2016. Sanders won six of every 10 of those voters Tuesday compared to 46% in 2016.
- In North Carolina, 14% of Tuesday’s electorate were young voters, compared to 16% four years ago. Of those, 57% went for Sanders in 2020 compared to 69% in 2016.
- In South Carolina which held its primary Saturday, young voters made up 11% of the electorate compared to 15% in 2016. Sanders won 43% of those voters compared to 54% four years ago.”
Biden the nominee?
If Sanders’s campaign does not reverse this trend, it seems very possible that Biden will end up with the most votes and the most delegates. That is especially true with yesterday’s withdrawal of the Bloomberg. How did this happen?
Yes, the details, such as the endorsement of Jim Clyburn in South Carolina, are important. But still it seems strange that such a decrepit old fossil would be the standard-bearer for the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s true that his past and present rivals – from Kamela Harris and John Hickenlooper to Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg – all had their issues that they wanted to run away from, but so does Biden. Even more, in fact.
While there is a sector of society that is burning for radical change, it seems that the majority of those who reject Trump really want to return to the “good old days” of Obama. They want to return to the time when politics was relatively civil and when overt bigotry was at least hidden under a rock. With his association with Obama, that is what Biden represents. Whether he can ride that mood into the White House is an open question.
Sanders will soldier on, but whether he can win the nomination is more in doubt than ever. That leaves the Sandersnistas with a serious question. Will they continue to put all their eggs in that one basket? After all, if Sanders fails to win the nomination, what will remain? True, there will be mailing lists and other contact information, but how will it be used after the election?
The history of progress in this country is a history of mass, disruptive movements in the streets and work places. That goes for the labor movement, which only made real progress through the sit-in strikes and similar tactics in the 1930s, to the struggle of black people against white supremacy, which only made any real progress through similar tactics in the 1960s.
“Not me, us”
Sanders has tapped into this history with his slogan of “not me, us” and his calls for a mass movement. Misty Rebik, Iowa state director of the Sanders campaign, made clear what the Sanders slogan means. She explained “Our campaign has officially held the three largest rallies in Iowa. We’ve knocked over half a million doors in the last month. That is what we mean by ‘Not Me, Us.’” In other words, what it means is mobilize to get people elected and also to pass legislation. Period. Yes, Sanders has joined a few union picket lines, but that is nothing unusual for liberal Democrats. More telling was his role during the government shutdown of 2019-20. At that time, the president of the flight attendants union, Sara Nelson, called for a national general strike. Sanders was silent on that call and confined himself to collecting signatures for an online petition aimed at Mitch McConnell.
Supreme Court on abortion rights
Right now, the Republican-controlled Supreme Court is hearing a case about a Louisiana law that would in effect end abortion rights in that state. It seems most likely that the court will rule in favor of that law. Socialists, the women’s rights movement in general and the labor movement should have been mobilizing in the streets to protest that law. That would have been a step towards building the more generalized movement in the streets and work places.
Looking to November, tens of millions of people are desperate to get Trump out of office. Voter turnout in November is likely to be at all-time highs. What is also likely is that Trump and his machine – the Republican Party – will use every trick in the book to suppress the vote, especially in the black community. The plans of the Democrats is to build such a majority that they can overcome voter suppression. It is far from certain that the Democrats will be able to overcome voter suppression by winning huge majorities, especially not in the swing states. That means the Democrats will turn to the courts again. The chances are not good in the court system, controlled as it is by far right Trump appointees all the way up to the Supreme Court.
In 2000, Bush and the Republicans stole the election from Gore. There was a campaign to build street protests, especially in Florida. The AFL-CIO leadership, acting on behalf of their commanders – the Democratic Party – opposed this idea. They and their bosses, the Democrats, will do the same again. That is but one example of why we cannot rely on the labor leadership. We should start building now to prepare for voter suppression and other repressive measures of the Trump administration.
In fact, it is even questionable whether Trump will allow himself to be voted out of office under any circumstances.
Also, no longer can socialists allow themselves to be linked with the union bureaucracy, the same bureaucracy that for decades has suppressed all the fighting traditions of the US working class, the same bureaucracy that has represented both the employers and the Democratic Party inside the unions. Socialists should lead the way in building opposition caucuses within the union membership. To be effective, such caucuses would have to bar all appointed staffers and officers.
Socialists should also start a discussion on how the working class and specially oppressed groups – especially black people and Latino people – can defend our voting rights – how we can mobilize to prevent voter suppression and a stolen 2020 election.
These are some things that can be done to capitalize on the enthusiasm and energy that developed around the Sanders campaign. It would also be a step in the direction of building a mass working class party, one that is independent of and opposed to the corporate-controlled Democratic Party. Which is exactly why the union bureaucracy and the other forces (including the DSA leadership) that are linked with the Democrats oppose taking such steps.