How to build the unity needed to defeat Trump

The Democratic presidential primaries are winding down; the last Super Tuesday will be June 7. At the same time, the right wing’s attempt to capture the White House seems to be ratcheting up and spreading out.

To halt the onslaught from the right, organizing against Donald Trump alone will not be enough. The Democrats will need a campaign based on comprehensive, honest, workable answers to the problems plaguing Americans.

In fact, focusing exclusively on the dangers of Trump might play into the hands of right wingers who will be bombarding voters with their own alternatives to the billionaire crypto-fascist. (And you better believe that they will be using that term and worse to describe Trump.)

The anti-Trump, rightist Libertarian Party is launching a presidential campaign with the backing of a large number of big money businessmen. Their nominee is Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico.

Furthermore, Bill Kristol, a longtime leader of the so-called “conservative” movement is putting together a campaign for an “independent” right winger, maybe David French, an Iraqi war veteran and writer. Kristol is the political guru for some of the most wealthy right wing political donors in the U.S.

Both the Libertarian Party and the Kristol-backed candidate will, like Trump, point to what is scaring working people: the plummeting standard of living, fear of being ruined by health care costs and many other things that add up to economic insecurity. Like Trump, they might play on the racist fear infecting many white workers, the fear of being lost in the growing diversity of our population.

And the anti-Trump rightists will, like Trump, offer as solutions the same pro-billionaire programs and policies that got us into the current mess.

However, the anti-Trump rightists will avoid hate speech. They might even call for “unity among all Americans.” They will criticize Trump as being self-serving, anti-worker, racist and xenophobic, in much the same way that progressives call him out.

By giving him targets to rail against, the anti-Trump, “establishment” rightists might actually help him by putting to rest the fear among his followers that he’s sold out to the “establishment.”

In any case, both pro-Trump and anti-Trump rightists will certainly saturate the airwaves with misleading solutions to the problems facing workers; solutions that are sure to make life worse for all but the top one percent.

Progressives cannot count on defeating the right because its ranks are split. Without a massive, on-the-ground campaign that reaches workers with a progressive alternative, voters could very easily rally en masse around one of the right wing alternatives or just sit out the election.

There are not enough super rich progressive donors, so launching a winnable third party campaign is out.

In any case, we don’t have to.

There is growing within the Democratic Party the exact type of coalition that elected President Obama: working people, minorities, millennials, women’s rights advocates, immigrant rights activists and others.

If it stays together, this coalition could not only defeat Trump and the other right wing candidates, it could also push America forward along a peoples’ path to justice and prosperity.

Within the coalition, there are supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but the energy, enthusiasm and organizational structure for a movement to ween workers away from right wing charlatans has been built within the Sanders campaign.

From the beginning, Bernie himself made clear that he was using his election campaign as an engine for firing up a political revolution, a grassroots movement to fight against the corporate takeover of American politics, for an end to discrimination based on race, religion or gender identity; and for a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, Medicare for all, strengthening Social Security and much more.

Bernie’s mantra has been “no one person can bring our government back to serving the people instead of the one percent. It will take millions and millions of us standing up to the billionaires and Wall Street.”

The political revolution had been aiming to establish a vehicle to promote progressive politics over the haul after the November presidential election is over.

It turns out, however, that the political revolution has already gained traction among the American people. To date, well over 10 million people have voted for Bernie Sanders in primaries and caucuses. What has been built is needed here and now. It could be a major force in convincing workers that there’s a better way to address problems than voting for the right wing in November.

Bernie’s political revolution has attracted the very groups that the Democratic presidential candidate will need to win the election.

What’s more, candidates in all-important races for the House and Senate who have adopted the goals of the political revolution have gained the support of millions of voters.

As the Democratic primaries draw to a close, most sober analysts give Bernie credit for making front runner Hillary Clinton a more electable candidate. If Hillary had not moved closer to Bernie, she would be more vulnerable to losing the election.

Nevertheless, the drumbeat is getting louder calling for Bernie to drop out of the race before the Democratic National Convention.

For him to do so would be a disservice to Hillary Clinton, to the Democratic Party, and to the nation.

Fortunately, most Democratic Party leaders understand that pushing Bernie to withdraw now could alienate the very people Hillary Clinton will need if she becomes the nominee. To win, the Clinton campaign will need the enthusiasm and energy generated by those now part of the Bernie campaign.

That’s why the leadership of the Democratic Party is eager to continue to negotiate with the Sanders campaign and why they gave him five seats on the National Convention platform committee.

Most leaders of the Democratic Party know that the best way to build unity is to encourage free discussions of disagreements at the Convention to be held in July. They also know that preventing such discussions leads to disaffection.

What’s more, there is a massive movement within the Democratic Party to push for reforms and platform provisions that will keep the political revolution alive and channel it toward defeating the right in November.

This movement includes We the People, The Brand New Congress, The Progressive Democrats of America, Democracy Spring, Democracy Awakening, The Peoples’ Summit, and at least 20 Democratic candidates for the House and Senate, not to mention many mainstream leaders of the Democratic Party.

No one within this movement is obsessing over the possibility of a Bernie or Bust Movement or an attempt at a third party. They understand these “threats” exist largely in cyberspace, on social media, and not in real life. They know from experience that such attempts generally fade away. For example, although around this time in 2008 over half of Hillary Clinton supporters said they would never vote for Obama, they did just that when faced with the Republican opposition.

The vast majority of people within this Democratic Party movement are concentrating on continuing to attract those who have been Sanders activists. They understand that a victory in November could very well depend on the Sanders folks.

On the other hand, Democratic Party leaders know that keeping Sanders supporters on the defensive by continually demanding they swear fealty to the Democratic Party is the best way to lose them.

Instead, Democratic Party leaders are, by and large, preparing for a convention in which all views will be expressed, and expressed forcefully.

From that kind of process will come unity behind a program that truthfully speaks to the problems facing Americans today and that is needed to stop the pro-billionaire, anti-worker right wing.

Photo: Bernie Sanders continues to draw huge crowds in California. Many Democratic Party leaders say a vigorous discussion of issues at the party’s convention will strengthen Hillary Clinton in November.  |  Rich Pedroncelli/AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.