Anyone who is familiar at all with Bernie's Sanders campaign knows that he has 12 important policy issues that constitute his platform. These are:
1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools.
2. Reversing Climate Change
We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.
3. Reforming Campaign Law
Citizens United and related court decisions are destroying our political system. We need a constitutional amend and better legislation to end the domination of billionaire money in our political process.
4. Growing the Trade Union Movement and Worker Co-ops
Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union. We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives.
5. Raising the Minimum Wage
The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.
7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.
8. Making College Affordable for All
Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline. All public colleges should be tuition free.
9. Taking on Wall Street
Six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product - over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.
10. Health Care as a Right for All
The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.
12. Real Tax Reform
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.
Many people agree that these are important issues. If enacted into law, they could radically change how this nation's economy operates. But people are hesitant to join in Bernie's “revolution.” They fear that if he is not elected, their hard work for those issues will be for nought. They also worry that, even if he were elected, the program could never make it through Congress.
These are reasonable concerns. Yet there is one way that working for Bernie's election can change the society, regardless of whether he is elected or not. And that is to create the revolution that he keeps talking about.
In other words, people should both support Bernie's campaign and be prepared to go beyond it. This will take a lot of work, but the energy out there is growing by leaps and bounds.
On the local level, people supporting Bernie should identify candidates for local, state and federal offices who will commit to his platform.
On the local level, people supporting Bernie should identify candidates for local, state and federal offices who will commit to his platform. If there is a chance to elect a candidate locally who will commit to these 12 issues, the Bernie campaign workers should thoroughly support that candidate. They should also seek out such candidates and try to link them to Bernie's campaign.
Moving forward on the local and well as the national level does several things. If Bernie should be elected President, work to elect committed officials will support his program. If he were not nominated or elected, working to elect officials committed to his program will continue the revolutionary movement that Bernie has started. And working continuously on the local level will help to assure that these important issues will not be forgotten or lost after the election.
One of the biggest lessons progressives learned from their experience with Barack Obama was not to stop working together. The Obama campaign in 2008 built a great grassroots movement. But as soon as he was elected, Obama basically allowed that organization to wither and die. Some argue that this was intentional. But whether intended or not, this is what happened, and progressives need to commit to progress rather than to a single candidate.
Some progressives argue today that Bernie Sanders' decision to run for the Democratic Party nomination will shepherd his supporters into the Democratic Party and destroy any hope for a movement that lasts beyond 2016. But that does not have to be the case. Those who want to work for Bernie can and should understand that they are not working so much for him or for the Democratic Party as for the type of platform that he espouses. They should be prepared to support those ideas in local, state, and federal elections, seeking out candidates who will commit to that program. And they should be prepared to go forward – win or lose – beyond 2016, creating the revolution that Bernie advocates.
If you are interested in working with a group that supports Bernie strong, consider People for Bernie Sanders and sign up to volunteer. If you are in Los Angeles and want to sign up to volunteer there, go here and also sign up on Facebook at People for Bernie Los Angeles.
Michael T. Hertz