DSA can play a major role in the 2020 Democratic primary, if it moves immediately, forcefully, and visibly to a position alongside the Bernie Sanders field operation. Bernie needs to show as much strength in the field as he has in fund raising if he is to narrow the number of candidates against him. This is essential to his victory. DSA is in a better position than any other organization to contribute toward that early show of strength.
While other candidates attempt to triangulate the electorate, only Bernie has a broad integrated program based on socialist vision and class analysis. Only Bernie articulates a unified intersectionality of issues that goes beyond the seemingly random collection of good ideas expressed by the other candidates.
The Democratic Centrists are in a panic, headlines appear daily proclaiming that the Democratic Party has moved too far to the left to be able to win. But it is not only the Centrists who are worried, sectors of the capitalist class, would also like to see Trump defeated and replaced by a safe Democrat. Trump has done two things that no elected official is ever allowed to do. First he tore up NAFTA and other free-trade agreements that the capitalists had carefully crafted to their own benefit. Second, he has tried to improve relations with Russia, China and North Korea and this threatens long-term military spending. Hillary Clinton would never have done any of that, just the opposite.
The main danger Bernie faces now, is the proliferation of boutique candidates each of whom threatens to detach a piece of what should be the Sanders Coalition. Governor Inslee has announced that he will make climate change his primary issue. Thirty-seven year old Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend Indiana, presents himself as the young people’s candidate. Julian Castro, Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has an eye on Latino voters. Senators Harris and Booker hoped to attract African-American voters. Harris, Gellibrand, Warren and Klobuchar will all appeal to people who believe it is a woman’s turn. The combination of these conflicting constituencies can easily draw votes away from Bernie and open the door to a Centrist.
Of course it is very early, but what little polling there is shows Bernie and Biden beating Trump, but Biden isn’t in the race yet. Nonetheless, we are already seeing a repeat of 2016 when the Centrist spin machine repeated over and over that “Bernie can’t win.” Never mind that all of the polling data showed him beating Trump by more than Clinton, whose numbers were usually within the margin of error. The need to overcome the “Bernie can’t win” propaganda of the Center, is another reason why Bernie needs to quickly show strength in the field.
For DSA the course is obvious. Bernie is the only candidate around whom the organization can unite without serious internal fissures. To sit out what is likely to be the most important election in American history, while our active members drift off to the candidates of their choice, would bring about a severe case of reverse momentum. And, most members would end up working for Bernie anyway. The important thing now is to get out front early, and not wait until everyone else is doing it.