By Patty Friend and Jason Sibert
Social Democrats USA has made the decision to support the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris ticket for the 2020 United States Presidential election.
In a flawed two-party system, the only way to defeat President Donald Trump is through a major party. Defeating Trump is important for so many reasons. The most important is the survival of our democratic republic. Trump’s authoritarian brand of politics is a threat to the way of life we have enjoyed since the beginning of the republic. We were a very imperfect democracy in the beginning, and we are still less than perfect today. However, our organization should work toward a more perfect union and our country can’t do that if Trump remains president.
When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he denounced Republicans who wanted to privatize or do away with Medicare and Medicaid. Since taking office, he’s cut Medicaid and his latest budget included cuts in Medicare. He’s also leading the way with lawsuits to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Trump also promised to repair our crumbling infrastructure, an issue addressed by President Bill Clinton and also by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Yet the issue was hardly mentioned until unemployment started rising with the economic recession triggered by Covid-19. Still, nothing has been done. Trump has also proven incompetent in addressing Covid-19. His approach to foreign affairs has stressed withdrawal from established treaties and a trade war with friends and foes. He also withdrew support from the Kurds in the Middle East. In a nutshell, his approach has destroyed our reputation around the world. One could write paragraph after paragraph as to why we need to remove this man from office. Trump has used the presidency for personal gain, contrary to the emoluments clause. He weakened the Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Justice Departments and approached foreign powers for help in the 2020 election.
On the other hand, Biden’s record is problematic for progressives. He backed the Clinton Administration crime bill in the 1990’s that expanded the list of federal crimes and also expanded our prison population. He’s hardly been one to address the income divide in our country or offer a path to a larger middle class. However, he’s supporting a $15/hour minimum wage over time, fighting climate change, improving the Affordable Care Act, repairing the crumbling infrastructure, and dropping the age for Medicare down to 60. The former vice-president has backed an expansion of Medicaid for those whose states unwilling to expand the program. One can’t expect an agenda like this in a second Trump term. One of the reasons Mr. Biden has ran on a more progressive agenda than Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, or Al Gore is because of the activism surrounding the Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro. Hillary Clinton became a more progressive candidate because she tried to win the votes of Sanders supporters. This is a feather in the cap of activism. Franklin Roosevelt was pushed in the right direction on Social Security, unemployment insurance, and the right to unionize because of activists. John Kennedy supported the civil rights movement in the election of 1960. However, he started to stumble when elected. He embraced civil rights a second time because of the activism of the civil rights movement.
Successful political coalitions aren’t monolithic. The New Deal coalition included family farmers, unionized and non-unionized industrial workers, western minors and trade unionist, southern populists, reactionary southern conservatives, urban pollical bosses and their voters, progressive Republicans, and segments of the business community. The Reagan coalition, which started to come together in 1968 under Richard Nixon, included religious conservatives, moderate-to-liberal Rockefeller Republicans, libertarians, populist George Wallace Democrats, segments of the business community, as well as a smattering of anti-Communist social democrats. When moving toward goals, one must create coalitions even though those coalitions are not perfect. Trump’s authoritarianism will grow worse if he is awarded a second term. His treatment of Puerto Rico, separating children from their parents at the border, defunding of the Post Office, countless examples of racism and sexism, attacks on the media, annihilation of science (Covid-19 response), destruction of the Justice Department, and apparent love for dictators are an example of his authoritarian impulses. However, it’s not enough to defeat Trump, as a Democratic Congress is needed to move the country forward. If our country is to continue to move toward social democracy, we must start with removing Trump from office!
There is an extraordinary wealth of talent and confidence in those who ran for President and in the Democratic Party in general. A President Biden can organize this talent and put it to work for the good of our country. The Democratic Party does honestly look for solutions to problems while the Republican Party is interested in power and staying in office no matter what.
Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at the Democratic Convention this week and he spoke the words of unity in saying: “as long as I am here, I will work with progressives, with moderates and, yes, with conservatives to preserve this nation from a threat that so many of our heroes fought and died to defeat,” he said. The progressive hero spoke of the urgency of winning in 2020 in stressing the election represents one last chance to save our democratic republic. Elizabeth Warren has also endorsed the Biden/Harris ticket. Joe Biden has proven he can work with Sanders, Warren, and other progressives. Whereas a strong argument was made against a Clinton presidency four years ago because there were no prominent progressives in the House to push her to the left, this time no less than six outspoken democratic socialists are expected to assume their seats come next January: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones. They are loud, proud, and willing to push Joe Biden, kicking and screaming if necessary, to the left.
Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA
Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project.