Sanders Constituency Will Shape U.S. Politics for the Next Decade


Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine, says the goal of Sanders’ campaign is about laying forth a set of policies and ideals to build a new set of politics

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

With Hillary Clinton’s win in the New York primary on Tuesday, the opinion pages are buzzing, demanding that Bernie Sanders opt out of the race. Others argue that longer Sanders stay in the race the better, as more people will have an opportunity to hear his revolutionary messages of changing the material conditions they face.

Well, we’re going to take that issue up with our next guest, Bhaskar Sunkara. He’s joining us from Brooklyn, New York to discuss this, and Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin magazine. Bhaskar, thank you so much for joining us today.

BHASKAR SUNKARA: Thanks for having me on again.

PERIES: So let’s take this issue up. Should Bernie Sanders step down and give Hillary Clinton the reign here as far as the Democratic nomination is concerned?

SUNKARA: Well, I’ve seen this call a lot. You know, I saw it, I was up late watching cable news last night. And I saw it in the pages of the opinion pages of places like the New York Times today. And I think people making that call fundamentally misunderstand what the Bernie Sanders campaign was about. This is not about kind of, you know, cutting back room deals. There’s a lot of speculation that if he leaves now he’ll be able to cut a better deal with the Clinton operatives than if he, if he stays around and fights until the convention. You know, what it’s really about is about laying forth a set of policies, a set of ideas to build a new set of, sort of, politics. It was about really this issue-driven campaign based on principle. And that campaign is better served by Bernie Sanders going out there and continuing to campaign. I mean, we still have California. We have by far the largest state in the country to go.

And I am, you know, partial to some of the arguments of Clinton supporters that say listen, look at where the delegates are right now. Bernie can’t catch up with pledged delegates. You know, I can see that logic. I think it’d be very difficult if not almost impossible for him to, to do that. But I don’t think that should stop him from keeping to go and fight, and spread his message. And this message won’t just end with this convention. It’s a message that’s going to create, at least I hope and a lot of other people on the left hope, a new constituency both inside and outside the Democratic Party that will shape a lot of U.S. politics in the next decade or so.

PERIES: All right. Now, the other big question, Bhaskar, is that did Hillary Clinton win this nomination in New York fair and square? There’s a lot of issues surrounding the legalities of the election process itself. There’s some challenges out there. Tell us what they are, you are in New York, and whether she won this fair and square.

SUNKARA: Well, there’s a few different issues at play in New York. There’s for one this question of the 125,000 or so voters that were taken off the rolls in Brooklyn, and whether or not there’s legitimate explanation for that. And that’s something that’s already being investigated, having been taken up. There’s then also the question of whether or not New York should be, have been an open primary instead of a closed primary. And then there is the other question of how difficult it is to actually register to vote and also change your party registration in New York. And I think they each have different merits. On the first point, I don’t know. I think it’s kind of a situation where we have to see, you know, where this investigation goes. When we get more information we’ll be able to better judge. I wouldn’t leap to the conclusion that the Sanders campaign was very much [inaud.] by this thing in Brooklyn, but I would say that the New York Board of elections, as anyone in New York knows, has a terrible reputation for being absolutely incompetent or worse, and tied to machine politics, and so on. You know, the New York Board of Elections has always had a terrible reputation, so it’s no wonder that people are kind of very suspicious of anything like this happening. So again, there’s an investigation. We’ll see if there’s kind of compelling explanations, or more evidence arises out of there.

Under question of open versus closed primary, I think it’s important to remember that, you know, the Clintons were actually the ones pushing for open primaries, and a lot of other people around the DLC in the 1990s. And their idea was that they would open up the Democratic primary to moderates and other voters, and this would prevent kind of this liberal or left wing of the Democratic party from gaining traction. So it’s kind of funny the roles are now reversed, and a lot of Sanders supporters would like to see more open primaries. I think there’s a real debate to be had there. I think there is probably a legitimate role for closed primaries, though, so I don’t think that’s really where Sanders supporters should draw their attention.

I think the real outrage in New York is this question of voter registration deadlines. Now, weeks before the first presidential debate, even, weeks and weeks, months before the first caucus, the Iowa caucus, was the deadline in October for people to change their party affiliation. So this is before most New Yorkers had heard of Bernie Sanders. And they, Independents were kind of unable to make that decision, decide what party to register for, and stay independent. I think that’s an outrage. October is that deadline. The voter registration deadline was also quite early for new registrants. That was in March, about a month before.

So again, I think we need a fight principally for democracy and for policies that allow for the highest amount of turnout possible. And it doesn’t necessarily matter. I think in this case it would have probably helped Sanders if there was more Democratic voter registration laws in New York. But it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it’s just a matter of principle. And also we should know on the left that the more people we have turning out and voting, the easier to vote, the better it is for us in the long run, because left of center candidates benefit from high turnout. And so I think that’s really where our outrage should be directed. You know, everything else, it’s hard to see. Did Clinton win legitimately in New York? Again, not all the evidence is in. I would guess, based on the, on the margin of her victory, that in fact she did. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t thousands and thousands of Sanders supporters that were unable to vote because of New York’s quite regressive voter registration laws.

PERIES: And what now? Many, many people are disappointed that were Bernie Sanders supporters. But in terms of movement-building, and in terms of securing the very important issues that was raised by the Bernie campaign, and having those issues addressed by whether it’s the Democratic Party or whoever’s going to take power, are very important issues. So what would you say to those who have been in the campaign and fighting for Bernie Sanders to be heard?

SUNKARA: Right. Well, absolutely. I’ve been really impressed by a lot of people on the left who have engaged with the campaign, and have done I think a lot of great work in it. So I’ve been impressed by the work of people behind, people for Bernie, you know, Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Alternative, you know, decided to wholeheartedly engage in the campaign. And then of course the much more significant support of various unions, not the least of which is the CWA, which is currently on strike. You know, over 30,000 members are on strike against Verizon.

So you know, I think a lot of our hope has to go in that direction, in the connections and networks that have been built. But there’s a lot to do, and we’re not fully prepared, I think, on the left, to take all this energy and excitement, and the fact that, you know, I know it was a disappointment last night, but we got 42-43 percent of the population in the, the voters in a state like New York, to vote against kind of a home senator in a presidential race for someone who was a virtual unknown just a couple of months ago. So I think we should be really impressed with what we’ve done, and be optimistic for the future. But you know, it’s hard to say exactly what needs to be, needs to be done. I think we’re going to need help from elements of the Sanders campaign, and they’re still campaigning, and will be so until the convention. I think a lot of people out on the West Coast, the nurses unions and others, are going to really put in a lot of energy into this California primary.

Again, even though it seems like it’s a little bit too late for the, to get enough pledged delegates to actually win outright. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not battles yet to come, not least of which will be battles on the actual convention floor about platform, about things like that, that you know, obviously what the Democratic Party writes in their platform is not, their elected officials are not bound to it by any means. But I think the battles around that and other battles between Clinton and Sanders supporters will be instructive for people, and hopefully it will expose to people the nature of the Democratic party and why we need to kind of build movements outside of it in the long run.

PERIES: All right. Bhaskar, thank you so much for joining us, and we appreciate your points of view here.

SUNKARA: Thank you for having me.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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