History suggests that what you see on the campaign trail, or even in a candidate’s past legislative record, is not necessarily what you get from a president once in power.
Bob Master ▪ October 14, Dissent Magazine
…Transformational leadership is determined not only by the character, or even by the ideology of a particular leader, but by a complex interplay of social forces and historical circumstance. Perhaps most importantly, mass popular mobilizations can shift the frame of debate and push leaders beyond where anyone expected them to go. History demonstrates that this dynamic can produce surprising breakthroughs, even when activists may least expect them…
…Then the pandemic hit, casting an unsparing light on the catastrophic inability of our society to meet the nation’s needs—and the profound racial and class inequities that determined who suffered the greatest impact of the crisis. It is a poignant historical irony that at the very moment when the candidacy of the candidate who did more to advance a social democratic program in U.S. politics than perhaps any politician in U.S. history was collapsing, an unprecedented social crisis erupted that made plain the need for an invigorated American social democracy informed by a deep commitment to racial justice: one with truly universal health care, a robust public health system, strengthened workers’ rights, massive investments in reversing climate change, universal child care, expanded paid family leave, and a stronger safety net for the unemployed.
But Bernie’s ideas have outlived his campaign; coupled with the deeply disruptive impact of the pandemic, they have pushed candidate Biden further to the left than any of us might have thought possible, on issues of climate, racial justice, and an expanded social safety net. And the magnificent impact of the Black Lives Matter upsurge over the last several months demonstrates the remarkable power of social movements to reshape public opinion and policy discourse in what seems like an instant. These conditions have set the table for an historic era of reform if we do our work over the next few months….
…Our first imperative in 2020 is a massive repudiation of Donald Trump. There is only one way to do that. A vote for Joe Biden will deal the deadliest blow against Trumpism, authoritarianism, racism, and reaction. Our second obligation is to organize social movements that will force President Biden and a Democratic Congress to take long overdue steps toward fundamental social and economic reform. We must be sharply focused on both tasks over the coming weeks and months.
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Bob Master has worked in the labor movement for forty-three years. He currently serves as Assistant to the Vice President for Political and Mobilization Activities in District One of the Communications Workers of America. He was a co-founder of the New York Working Families Party and is a member of the WFP National Executive Committee.