Katy Roemer and Martha Kuhl National Nurses United says there’s a major disconnect between the delegates and the politicians, and the movement would continue even if Sanders became president – From TRNN’s Livestream of the DNC
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Now joining us in the studio are two delegates from California. They’re also nurses, members of National Nurses United. Thanks for joining us here. KATY ROEMER: Absolutely. JAY: So first of all, introduce yourselves. ROEMER: I’m Katy Roemer. MARTHA KUHL: I’m Martha Kuhl. JAY: And you’re both nurses and delegates. KUHL: I’m secretary treasurer of National Nurses United. ROEMER: And I’m a vice president [of] National Nurses United. JAY: So you walked out of what–did you walk out, or you left? I’m putting a–there’s a sort of some meaning in those two terms. ROEMER: We joined our delegation. KUHL: It was clear that it was happening, that there had been much talk of a walkout and at what point to do it. And it was clear it was happening, and we decided to go with it. JAY: And why? Why did you walk out? KUHL: Because this week, the crowning of Clinton as the next president of the United States, when she hasn’t heard the Sanders delegates or made any overture to the Sanders delegates to incorporate our issues into the, into how she’s going to–by picking Kaine she essentially slapped all of the Sanders delegates in our faces. And we have been very dissatisfied. We know that Bernie’s not going to be–Bernie just conceded totally, by suspending the rules and telling us by nominating Clinton. But it’s not about Bernie. Like Bernie says, it’s not about him. It’s about all of us, and the movement he built. The movement is going way far beyond Bernie. JAY: What is the word you used? Bernie did what? KUHL: Bernie suspended the rules. JAY: In order to call for unanimous–. ROEMER: Yeah. KUHL: Yes. And delegates really want the world to hear what the issues are in the United States. We have the issues that Bernie has outlined in his campaign: income inequality, racism, the lack of guaranteed healthcare, the climate crisis. And although the platform came closer, it didn’t specifically address those issues in a way that we can trust that the next president of the United States would carry out the changes we need to see. ROEMER: You’re also seeing a real disconnect between the delegates and the politicians who are coming into that room. We want to really make clear that what’s happening here is a movement. And when you are in a movement, they are never led by elite leadership. It is always–all of the movements in ever, in history, have been led by grassroots people. We are grassroots people leading a movement. So we’ve come into the politics–. JAY: The nurses have been very big supporters of Bernie Sanders from very early on. ROEMER: Absolutely. JAY: There was a lot of debate all day today whether Bernie Sanders would personally endorse, and so on. How do you respond to that? ROEMER: Well, again, Bernie–we knew Bernie was going to endorse. Bernie [inaud.]–. JAY: No, I’m sorry, not endorse. Be the one to call for the unanimous support. ROEMER: Look, this has been, you know, we’re working within a political system right now in terms of Sanders is working within that political system. Us, only partially so. Movements are much bigger than political systems, and that’s what we really want people to understand, that this is about a movement led by us, and our polticians are not listening. So we’re gonig to do what we need to do to get our politcians to listen to us. We have an incredible opportunity here in this place, with our politicians, face-to-face, to let them know that they’re not listening to the American people. That we, 81 percent of the American people, suppport single-payer. I’m sorry, 81 percent of the Democrats support single-payer. 51 percent of the American people do. But we’re being told continuously by our politicians, oh, it isn’t doable. We can’t do that. No, I’m sorry, yes, we can do that. We can absolutely do that. It’s our will, and you need to listen to us, because people are dying because we are valuing profits over patients. That is an absolutely essential issue for us as nurses. But so are these other issues. TPP is going to be a disaster for working people. And we couldn’t get Clinton to say absolutely we are opposed to TPP in the platform. So they’re not listening. KUHL: TPP is going to be disastrous for our patients. It’s going to raise the cost of pharmaceuticals. And right now, the families and patients we send home from our hospitals can’t afford their medications that are prescribed. JAY: So what do you do now? We have a few months till there’s an election. You put money and heart and passion and people in the streets for Bernie. You do any of that for Hillary Clinton? ROEMER: We put money and people and passion in the streets for our issues. For our issues. JAY: I hear that. I’m asking, do you do any of that to elect Hillary Clinton? KUHL: Well, as National Nurses United we made a collective decision to endorse Bernie. We polled our members. We made that decision, 190,000 nurses across the country. We haven’t yet taken another decision. We’re at this crossroads. I don’t know what we’ll do. But as officers we’ll carry out the will of the membership. JAY: You know, a lot of Sanders supporters in the streets and quite a few delegates here are saying they will not vote for Hillary under any circumstances. What do you make of the argument–the counterargument, obviously, is Trump is so dangerous, and this is the argument Sanders is making, that you defeat Trump and then I–he is not saying this, because maybe he can’t–but then you fight it out with Hillary. I mean, what do you make of that? Because some, a lot of younger people are saying they don’t want that. KUHL: I think no matter what, that no matter what, whoever is elected–and even if it had been Bernie–we would have to carry on this movement to make these changes possible. No individual would have been able to transform our society. Although this campaign did an amazing job of coalescing all aspects of the movement.Climate change activists, anti-racism activists. ROEMER: Black Lives Matter. KUHL: Yeah. Guaranteed healthcare for all activists, right. Brought this all together. Trump is truly terrifying. We [inaud.] he is. We do. ROEMER: And we recognize how scary Trump is. We recognize that he’s a racist and that he’s, you know, singling out groups. We recognize that. We recognize the danger, and we’re going to work hard to move forward an agenda that moves forward a movement, because it’s much more powerful when people join together and create coalitions to force change. That’s what we’re doing. KUHL: Because an ‘Anybody But Trump’ as your slogan, as your campaign– ROEMER: How powerful is that? KUHL: –doesn’t speak to the people and our issues. The Democrats need to recognize this was more than Bernie, or Trump, or Hillary. It is about the real serious dysfunctionality of our current society. JAY: We were at a conference that the nurses helped organize in Chicago a few weeks ago. KUHL: People’s Summit. We were there. JAY: And there’s a, I got a real sense there was a sort of design behind it that this campaign, yes, it will be about defeating Trump, and yes, in the end people may hold their noses and vote for Hillary if it’s necessary to defeat Trump. But your thinking seemed further down the line. ROEMER: Always think further down the line. JAY: Not just this issue of getting a lot of people running for office, and you know, electing progressives. There’s a feeling like you’re already talking about planning a one-term presidency for Hillary Clinton, and there’s already talk about positioning for 2020. KUHL: There was some talk for 2020, wasn’t there. JAY: There was some talk for 2020. So are you guys already thinking about this? ROEMER: Look, it’s about accountability, right? It’s about accountability. And again, Hillary Clinton is not willing to put into her platform an outright statement against the TPP, right. We are planning immediately, upon the election, no matter who a candiate, the winner is, to start holding that person accountable with the coalitions that we’ve created during the course of this election cycle. And things–you know, what people don’t necessarily know is we’ve been working on this for years. KUHL: That’s what I was going to say. ROEMER: Right? Years we’ve been working on this. Bernie came along, and as we like to kind of joke, Bernie borrowed our platform, right. We’re going on with the platform. The beauty of what Bernie Sanders did with us is to create and deepen the coalitions that have been already forming. That is, that’s a movement. KUHL: We’ve made some remarkable friends amongst Bernie supporters all across the country. JAY: There’s a lot of debate about third parties. Every election there always is. Particularly this one. Some people were calling for after this election, like Robert Reich just had this opinion piece in the Nation calling for the formation of a third party after this election. From the point of view of the nurses’ union, how much is this a fight that needs to stay within the realm of the Democratic Party, or is that just one front of things? KUHL: I hate to say it, but we are not loyal to the Democratic Party per se. This is–we have discussed the idea, as the entire movement has discussed the idea, of what to do next. Which way is this movement going to go? Is it going to go third party, is it going to do the, run all the new, young progressive people and win? We don’t know the outcome of either of those choices at this point. I wish we could see the future, I wish we always knew which way to go in a movement. But this movement is so big, it’s out there. There’s new people energized all across the country. I think that we’re going to have to wait a little bit to see. But one thing is clear, it’s true that we’ve been working on these issues, our platform that Bernie adopted. We’ve been working on those issues for many years, and we’ll continue to push it. And that’s how you create change, is you work and work and work. You’re involved. And at some point, it can begin to happen. ROEMER: I would also say the politicians have a choice. So part of what we heard here, and part of why you’re seeing the kind of discord that you’ve seen within this is that politicians are not listening to us. And what we’re letting them know very clearly in this whole process is it’s time to listen to us. You work for us. You don’t–you’re not leading the movement, so you can–. JAY: Well, clearly they don’t. ROEMER: No, they don’t, right. JAY: Clearly–I mean, Bernie called them the billionaire class, and clearly this whole stratum of politicians works for them. ROEMER: Either they start working for us or we’re going to go after them. JAY: Yeah. I mean, [any] answer to the if is probably pretty clear, so it’s the other side of the equation. KUHL: Well, you have to make a decision if it’s, if you think you can realistically change the Democratic Party from within, or if you really do need to start a third party. That’s the debate out there amongst everybody at this point. ROEMER: And that will be an internal debate for us, as well. We will have that discussion and move forward, and no decision’s been made at this point. What we are very clear about, though, is that there will not be any abandonment of our issues for the sake of staying within the Democratic Party. What we are committed to is our issues and the progress of our issues, and we will hold any politican accountable. We have a long history of doing that. We do so incredibly successfully. And we will continue to do that moving forward. JAY: Okay. Well, thank you very much for joining us, and we’ll pick up the conversation again with you back in California. And thank you very much for joining us on the Real News Network.