Dear Undecided Democratic Primary Voter,
I know everyone is trying to get your vote in your upcoming Democratic Primary. Some of you may decide to sit out and not be bothered. Why vote when the media and political establishment keeps telling you the decision is already made? Last May, I contemplated not voting for the first time since I turned 18. I did not believe that the “establishment” would allow anyone to stand in the way of its chosen candidate.
Consider your personal values when choosing a candidate in the Democratic Primary. Vote for the person who best aligns with your vision for the country. When I told my dad last May I was considering not voting, he suggested I read up on the Senator from Vermont. He has followed Senator Sanders for several years and was excited when he announced his candidacy. Respecting my father’s opinion, I began to read articles and watch old videos. Bernie Sanders was impressive. All of those eligible to vote in my family (including those over 45) support Senator Sanders because he is dialoguing about many of the issues that we have been talking about within our community for decades. As my dad is approaching retirement age, Social Security expansion was a priority item on his list.
Many of the issues championed by the Senator disproportionately impact communities of color. I was not discouraged by the absence of a defined conversation on race, but like many others I wanted the Senator to address several issues more directly. After the Netroots action by Black Lives Matter activists, I participated in a phone call with several activists as well as African American outreach staff from the campaign. There was a genuine exchange of ideas, concerns, and suggestions. A few weeks later the campaign released a thorough racial justice platform. Many who are still on the fence, are wary because they feel he does not have a more recent history on issues of racial justice. I believe that his ability to embrace critique and build coalitions is a sign of potential opportunity for greater inclusivity in the future. Senator Sanders has publicly acknowledged and addressed the pushback he has received from many activists. He has also taken the time to address suggestions and critique where possible.
We should not hold on to antiquated notions of political alliances which have not yielded meaningful gains for our people. Racial and economic justice have to go hand in hand. With hypersegregation, poverty, and lack of access to various goods and resources, it is disingenuous for people to argue against the importance of economics in Black and Latino communities. The movement Senator Sanders is describing permits for new leadership, ideas, and opportunity while providing space for existing thinkers and activists to lend their expertise. We are not fitting into someone else’s timetable or box of what is acceptable. We have the opportunity to create our own platform and make it happen for ourselves. Engaging in electoral politics is about leveraging the opportunity to the benefit of our communities.
Bernie has a strong and consistent history as a pro-worker and labor legislator. Outside of this primary race, he has on countless occasions took a stance with unions and striking members. Most recently, he has taken a strong position in the Verizon strike calling on the company to resume contract negotiations immediately. One of the women I hold very dearly is a striking Verizon employee, so this is personal and not just a mere talking point for me. He has stood with groups such as Good Jobs Nation, to seek better wages for employees working for federal contractors. He is demonstrably a man for the people. He walks his talk. YouTube videos going back 30 years show he has not wavered in his position.
He is ambitious. Senator Sander’s personal framing puts him on the right side of issues from fracking and infrastructure development to investing in public education and affordable housing. The most valuable thing is inspiring people to become more involved in their communities. Vital issues that plague our country won’t change unless we hold elected officials accountable and stay active in the process. Some may scoff at the young people who have risen up to become involved. My 18-year-old sister and her friends are more active and engaged than I ever was at 18. I look at my 14-year-old daughter, and she is motivated by the possibility of a place for her at the table when she is able to vote. Dismissing young people, including those who may be interested in running for office, is a serious misstep by some within the democratic party. There is a movement to build the congressional and local level support needed to bring about many of the Senator’s plans. This is more than just “talk.” This is what Democracy looks like.
Talk about whether Bernie is a “real democrat” is a distraction from the issues. He has espoused more traditional democratic values than many of those who have long held the title. He has spent time routinely caucusing with Democrats and even received their support when he ran for Senate in 2006. We should not shun him for having remained independent. Senator Sanders has remained an independent in order to stay true to the issues rather than only going with the status quo based upon party lines and corporate expectations. His stance on the middle east and foreign policy judgment cannot be overlooked. We need to get out of the business of regime change. His moral compass remains true to the values which keep him accountable to his constituents rather than a group of corporate sponsors.
He has previously campaigned for those who have held similar political stances such as former senator Barack Obama, former State Representative Gloria Bromell Tinubu and Representative Keith Ellison. He endorsed and supported Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. In 2014, he assisted on a crucial issue in Richmond California when Chevron attempted to “buy” the city council. City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles is a member of African Americans for Bernie and has a wonderful story to share about his assistance.
There is an effort to build this movement as a real opportunity for meaningful community level engagement and interaction. The current DNC leadership has permitted opportunities to fall through the cracks and instead of embracing the changes laid out in the Democratic Victory Task Force February 2015 Preliminary Report. He isn’t trying to destroy President Obama’s legacy. Senator Sanders wants to go a few steps further in helping hardworking families with matters such as education, healthcare, living wages, and more.
Senator Sanders has a plan to pay for everything. Remember the Clinton machine is the same one that told us “Hope” was meaningless in 2008. While we are better than we were eight years ago, we should continue the work President Obama started instead of settling for the crumbs those in power choose to give us based on their self-serving interests.
Thank you to Bayo Sharp for her thoughts and insight.