Progressives running for president

Of the potential candidates, only three are truly progressives: Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren.

Image Credit: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

There are a lot of Democrats who have announced themselves as candidates for the 2020 Presidential election, and even more are considering a hat fling. But of all those candidates, only three are truly progressives: Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard and Elizabeth Warren. Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio, might possibly fit the progressive idea. And of course, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez certainly would, except that she’s five years too young to be President.

The unfortunate things is that Sanders, Warren, Gabbard, and Brown risk drawing votes away from one another, opening the race to a more conservative Democrat. So what to do?

One thing is the Green New Deal, which has drawn 35 Congressional representatives into its ranks, which is far more diverse than the largely white Protestant male Congress. Furthermore, the Green New Deal supporters stretch geographically across the country. The Green New Deal makes me think of the suggestion I promoted in the 2016 election – that the Presidential candidate name his cabinet to run with him. Therefore, since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an active supporter of the Green New Deal, here’s what I think she might do with that group: organize it to support all of the progressives in the Presidential race and work with them to get a leader plus supporters. My hope would be to have Bernie become the progressive candidate, with Warren, Gabbard, and Brown as named cabinet members to run with him. But I could certainly live with one of the other three as the Presidential candidate.

Here’s how I would like to see the progressives move forward. Yes, promoting the Green New Deal is important. But I’d also like to see the group promoting FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. He saw these as:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
  • The right of every family to a decent home;
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
  • The right to a good education.

These rights are important. Bernie has promoted the right to “Medicare for All” and free education for all. None of these FDR rights are new, and certainly by now, 75 years after his 1944 speech, our country deserves making them into law. Remember that in those days the top tax rate was 94%, so there were means of paying for them.

Having a sharp increase in taxation as a means of paying for important programs has been proposed recently. Representative Ocasio-Cortez has proposed increasing the top income tax rate to 70%. Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a new “wealth tax,” under which Americans with $50 million or more would pay 2% of their wealth (3% if they have a billion dollars or more). These ideas would go a long way to abating the wealth inequality which has burdened the economy in the past 30 years.

The programs that Bernie favors are:

  • Income And Wealth Inequality
  • It’s Time To Make College Tuition Free And Debt Free
  • Getting Big Money Out Of Politics And Restoring Democracy
  • Creating Decent Paying Jobs
  • A Living Wage
  • Combating Climate Change To Save The Planet
  • A Fair And Humane Immigration Policy
  • Racial Justice
  • Fighting For Affordable Housing
  • Fighting For Women’s Rights
  • Working To Create An Aids And HIV-Free Generation
  • Fighting For LGBT Equality
  • Empowering Tribal Nations
  • Caring For Our Veterans
  • Medicare For All
  • Strengthen And Expand Social Security
  • Fighting To Lower Prescription Drug Prices
  • Fighting For Disability Rights
  • Senator Bernie Sanders’ Plan For Puerto Rico
  • Standing With Guam
  • Preventing A Global Race To The Bottom In The Airline Industry
  • General Electric Must Pay To Restore The Hudson River
  • Constitution Pipeline Must Be Defeated
  • Supporting Historically Black Colleges And Universities
  • Ending The Race To The Bottom
  • Fighting For The Rights Of Native Hawaiians
  • Improving The Rural Economy
  • Fighting For Nurses
  • Reforming Wall Street
  • Real Family Values
  • War And Peace
  • War Should Be The Last Option: Why I Support The Iran Deal
  • Making The Wealthy, Wall Street, And Large Corporations Pay Their Fair Share

Some of these ideas are more important than others, admittedly. But if you were going to choose a progressive platform for 2020, all of them taken together are excellent. And they could become a part of the Green New Deal.

What, then, is the Green New Deal? “The GND is, at its heart, a form of social- democratic populism. Its intent is to involve the entire citizenry in the shared project of adapting to the 21st century, and in so doing materially improve the quality of life of the poor and middle class. It is an attempt to rebalance the economy and the political system, away from a monomaniacal focus on private goods, toward a more generous view of public goods and public purpose.” The three core principles of the GND are decarbonization, jobs, and justice. Ocasio-Cortez’s platform calls for 100 percent renewable electricity within 10 years. The GND would involve large-scale investments, on the order of trillions of dollars over 10 years, alongside a federal jobs guarantee. A job paying at least $15 an hour, with good benefits, would be available to anyone who wanted one. Part of the plan is workforce training and the job guarantee, part of it is ensuring that all those jobs come with strong labor, environmental, and nondiscrimination standards, part of it is investments in those communities to fund programs like lead remediation, and part of it is making sure that all the investments – that all parts of the GND – follow strong environmental-justice standards. The GND would provide structure for a number of Bernie’s ideas: creating decent-paying jobs, a living wage, fighting climate change.

As has been pointed out, the top three challenges to any progressive platform is paying for it, convincing the public, and getting the Democrats behind it.

“Paying for it” is less of a problem than might seem to be the case. Total U.S. household wealth hit $106.9 trillion in mid-2018. There were 126.59 million households in the U.S. in 2018. Do the math. That’s $842,000 per household, if all the wealth were evenly distributed. Of course, it’s not evenly distributed by a long shot, but it could be more evenly distributed if the very wealthy were more highly taxes. That way we could afford Medicare for all, decent paying federal jobs, free college, and all the other things Bernie, Elizabeth, and the GND promoters are talking about.

And once people can see the path to paying for it, the population and the Democrats are very likely to back it.

So the next two years can be the turning point, where progressives convince the rest of the population – particularly the non-voters – that America can be changed for the better. In 2016,“Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents made up a 55% majority of nonvoters.” In other words, non-voters gave the election to Trump. The trick for progressives in 2020 is to get the non-voters to the polls.

What I would like to see most of all is for candidates like Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, and groups like the Green New Deal, work together to insure that a truly progressive candidate will head the Democratic Party ticket. I would like to see that candidate propose from the outside the names of his cabinet and adopt an amalgamation of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, the Green New Deal program, and Bernie’s programs as what the new administration with propose after the 2020 election. I would like to see the progressive candidate come into office with the largest outpouring of votes in the past fifty years, with previous non-voters joining the Democrats. It can be done. It’s what we need to work on for the next two years.


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