Bernie-Tulsi-Liz: How the progressives can win back the White House

My best advice to you who support Bernie, Tulsi or Liz is that you get them to join together. This is the only way to guarantee a progressive candidate in 2020 and a strong group to oppose Trump.

Image Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

I was very happy to see that Bernie Sanders is joining the race for the White House.  Now we have three genuine progressives in the race (Bernie, Tulsi Gabbard, and Elizabeth Warren) and a lot of other people, some of whom might be willing to join together with the three of them to make a sparkling, blue wave to wash across America.

Take a look at the three of them. Yes, there are differences in emphasis in their programs, but if you did a careful look at all of the programs that they propose, there is a great deal of similarity. Bernie has proposed increasing inheritance taxes on the wealthy. Liz has proposed a wealth tax. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who is strongly progressive but cannot run as she is too young) has proposed an increase in income taxes to 70% for the wealthy. Tulsi “co-sponsored a bill that would create a “government-run system to provide health care for all residents of the United States”, in part paid for by hiking taxes on the wealthy and taxing financial transactions.”

Take a look at Tulsi’s overall program suggestions, which cover seven major issues, including climate change, tuition free public university education, banning assault weapons and  requiring universal background checks, and a bill to create a government-run system to provide health care for all residents of the United States. That bill, “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” would pay for health care by increasing taxes on the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, create a progressive excise tax on payroll and self-employment, tax unearned income, and also tax stock and bond transactions (not just the gains from those transactions). She wants to protect abortion rights and ban discrimination based on gender and sexual identity. She wants to withdraw from Afghanistan and Syria and stop supporting the Saudi led intervention in Yemen.

Bernie and Liz would doubtless agree with most of her positions, if not all of them.  Bernie is more cautious than Tulsi on withdrawing from while Warren agrees with her (and with Trump) on getting out promptly. But overall the three progressives are on the same page.

Bernie, Tulsi and Liz should join forces in the fight to get a progressive candidate. They should understand that only one of them can get the Democratic nomination, and they should be comfortable in backing one of the others if need be. The reward for joining forces will be honors and glory, and becoming a powerful inside force in the new progressive administration.

Who is running for President right now? Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Marianne Williamson, Kirsten Gillbrand, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Andrew Yang. Joe Biden may run, as may Michael Bloomberg (former New York City mayor). So may Howard Schultze (former Starbucks CEO, but probably as an independent). Pete Buttigieg (mayor of South Bend), who would run as a Democrat.. And, of course, there’s Beto O’Rourke.

If I were trying to coordinate Bernie-Tulsi-Liz, the most like person to join forces with them would be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She was just elected to the House of Representatives, but in only a few months she has gained tremendous stature. She is clearly progressive. And she could support any or all of them, because she is too young to run herself. She is actually a key person who could bring BTL together – something she would probably love to do, as her reward might be becoming Secretary of State or some other high-ranking official.

Ocasio-Cortez is an obvious pick. But far less obvious is Andrew Yang. First of all, he is Asian, and that makes him stand out from others. He’s a Columbia grad and lawyer who has spent several years working in Silicon Valley. He also started the Venture for America nonprofit, which helps young entrepreneurs start businesses.

You probably don’t know him, since he doesn’t have political experience, but his interesting platform is starting to get him noticed.

Yang has observed that the only way to prevent more Trump-like electoral upsets in the future is to replace the income of people whose jobs that are being zapped up by automation (so everyone, basically). His solution is to give every citizen $1,000 a month to stimulate the economy. It would be paid for by a Value Added Tax on every transaction, similar to how some European countries tax transactions. It’s a radical idea at a time when people just might be interested in radical ideas.

Radical idea, yes, but both Bernie and Liz have come out with similar proposals. Bernie introduced a bill to guarantee every American who needs it a job and salary. Liz co-sponsored Cory Booker’s plan for guaranteed federal jobs for those needing them. Tulsi has not come out so strongly on jobs, but it’s hard to say where she would come out on universal basic income.

Here’s how BTL could use Andrew Yang to promote themselves and the Democratic Party.  Several American cities have done startups on UBI. (discussing the Stockton, California plan). Let’s suppose that BTL gets its experts to identify ten American cities that might be key to the 2020 election. They employ Andrew Yang to take his UBI plan out to those cities. Through Yang, they tell these cities that they can apply to be one of three experiments in UBI. Millions of dollars will be spent on the project. But the cities will be selected if they have a high range of voter turnout and support for the 2020 Democratic candidate. It’s up to the city to make sure that the turnout is good.

Now, this would appear to be a blatant bit of vote buying, and it is. It could only be offered in secret. But if you would like a twist on this idea that would probably be legal, try this one. We know that many areas of the country have been accused of vote suppression. Many of these are in the South. So instead of talking about vote results, talk about elimination of voter suppression. The three cities who do the best job of eliminating vote suppression will get the UBI experiment on their doorstep. That isn’t an offer for votes; it’s an offer to reward those who follow the law. Incidentally, getting rid of voter suppression increases the black vote and helps the Democrats. But we’re promoting UBI and getting rid of vote suppression all in one blow. What more could anyone want?

And Andrew Yang will become head of the UBI department, and he will ask his supports to back BTL in its fight to get the Democratic nomination.

Who else might be available to help BTL? If we could capture him, I’d take Julian Castro in a minute. He was mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and Secretary of Housing under Obama,  He would pull in tons of Latino votes. Maybe if he were given an even running spot with BTL and joined in their platform.  He is strong on climate change, but not UBI. Still, he might join the BTL platform if given the chance, and he would add a strong component of Latino support to the progressive wing.

Right now, BTL would be three out of 11 candidates. If they snapped up Yang and Catro, they’d have 5 out of 11. And the remaining candidates are not strong. The only ones who might make it alone are Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker.  The remainder are unknowns with no recognizable support.

My own hope is that BTL will come together strongly. Each of these politicians is an honorable person, and my own belief is that their personal advancement is less important that a victory of their beliefs. So my best advice to you who support BTL is that you get them to join together. This is the only way to guarantee a progressive candidate in 2020 and a strong group to oppose Trump. We know that many of those who voted for Trump were disappointed Bernieites who couldn’t vote for Hillary. (The estimate is that 12% of them voted for Trump). I can’t believe that there are many Trump supporters who aren’t disappointed in what they got.


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