Dear Senator Sanders,
You’ve done the nation a great service in calling attention to the way Big Money is rigging our politics and our economy.
But in focusing so much of your fire at “the billionaire class” and “giant corporations,” you are not waging the battle as effectively as you should.
You are a political leader and your battles are in the political arena against political adversaries. Although you rightly oppose the dominance of “the billionaire class,” it is not that class that you need to defeat — not that class that you can directly fight – but rather their political servants.
For most practical purposes, that means that achieving your goal — restoring democracy in our politics and fairness in our economy — requires that you defeat the Republicans. Whatever the undue influence the plutocracy wields in the Democratic Party, it is the GOP that is Big Money’s wholly-owned political instrument. And it is the Republicans who, at every step, stand in the way.
If you get the Democratic nomination, it is a Republican opponent – not a class or a system – that you will have to defeat in order to become president.
If then you are elected President, it is the obstructionist Republicans in Congress whose power you will have to wrest away in order to get much of anything accomplished.
Both of these hoped for victories depend, in turn, on the American people being persuaded to reject the Republicans in favor of empowering you to un-rig our political and economic systems.
Your political revolution, therefore, must begin with the discrediting of the Republican Party in the eyes of the American electorate.
It is not enough for Americans to be angry with “Wall Street,” another of your favorite targets. By itself, that anger does not erode the plutocrats’ power. Consider the grassroots Tea Partiers, one of whose defining passions has been rage at the bankers. That rage by itself has not prevented those Tea Partiers from supporting the very Republicans who virtually unanimously sought to protect Wall Street by fighting against financial reform.
People need to understand how the political battles bear upon the interests and values they care about.
It is at the ballot box that citizens exercise their power, and the targets you keep mentioning do not appear on the ballot. The American people need help to understand who it is, among the candidates and parties, that serve the plutocrats at the people’s expense. For your political revolution to succeed, many millions more people need to understand that the plutocracy – the billionaire class, the corporate system – employs today’s GOP to fight its political battles.
Showing how thoroughly the GOP has allowed the plutocracy to become its master should not be difficult. Republican dedication to the interests of Big Money is visible at almost every turn. For example:
- In their tax policies, always working to cut taxes for the wealthiest, even as the wealth gap between the richest one-tenth of one percent and the rest of America has widened beyond anything seen in our lifetime;
- In their flagrant rejection of the science on climate change — taking a position, unlike that of any other major political party in the advanced world, on a matter of the utmost urgency—all to protect the short-run profits of giant fossil fuel companies regardless of the sacrifice of our children’s and grandchildren’s future prospects;
- In an outright assault on the position of American workers, at a time when the power of workers is already lower than it has been in generations and when, as a result, wages for average working Americans have been falling, and are now a smaller proportion of the wealth they produce than it has been for many decades.
- In the appointment to the Supreme Court of justices who have swept away restraints on the ability of Big Money to buy elections, marginalizing the voice of the people in their government. (It’s not just Citizens United you should keep decrying, but the political party that put on the nation’s highest bench those five justices who handed down that disgraceful decision.)
This list of plutocracy-serving GOP positions could be considerably expanded. Indeed, can anyone think of a single instance when the GOP has favored the power and interests of average Americans where it conflicts with the power and interests of Big Money?
You declare that you are running to take power from “the billionaire class” and restore it to the people. To accomplish that, you’ve got to persuade Americans to reject the political party that does the plutocracy’s bidding.
(This piece connects with another, related piece — addressed to both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders – that I commend to your attention. In that piece, I make the case that both candidates should transform the nature of the Democratic campaign. As important as the differences between them are, I argue, there are two extraordinary circumstances in America right now that make it far more important that the Republicans not win the White House in November. Therefore, Hillary and Bernie should compete in ways that foster party unity and maximize the chance that whoever will be the nominee will be elected president. And that work to take power away from the Republicans in Congress, who will otherwise obstruct whatever a new Democratic president might attempt to accomplish. They should compete, that is, over who is best able to take on and take down today’s Republican Party. That piece – titled “Bernie and Hillary, Give Us the Campaign We Need”—can be found here.)