A Way Forward: An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders


Introduction, Friday, June 17, 2016

I posted the following Open Letter to Bernie Sanders to my website <ru4peace.wordpress.com> on Tuesday, June 14, before Bernie’s national live stream address to his supporters. Last night, importantly, he re-affirmed his vow to continue his fight for a political revolution into the July Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, but he shifted the emphasis somewhat, from winning the nomination to transforming the Democratic Party If I had time to re-write my Open Letter now, I might change how I express a few points, but overall, I believe my central points remain valid. IF Bernie does not get the nomination of the Democratic Party, I hope he will announce his own campaign for re-election to the Senate in 2018 and begin forming a new party for this purpose, a Peoples Democratic Party, based on the principles of his current campaign: 1. no corporate funding, 2. electoral reform, and 3. economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. To this, I would add international justice, along the lines suggested by Dr. King in his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, where he called for a “radical revolution of values” without which the “giant triplets” of racism, poverty, and militarist cannot be overcome. This would allow him to support Clinton and work to defeat Trump, thereby keeping his support with Democratic Party types, while at the same time allowing his independent supporters to keep on Bern-ing with a new party. In the following “Open Letter to Bernie Sanders” I discuss this more fully.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dear Bernie,

Thank you for your speech last Tuesday night. I confess that I was a bit down after listening to the political pundits pontificating and speculating on when you would concede and unify the Democratic Party. But then I tuned into your speech and heard, “Please welcome, the next President of the United States, Bernie Sanders!” After that introduction, you said, in part: “We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington D.C., and then we take our fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania” (applause)” Further, “I am pretty good at arithmetic, and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight. But we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate we can get.”

Definitely not a concession speech. Thank you also for holding your ground in Thursday’s meeting with Obama. No sheepherding there! I trust you will continue to hold your ground when you meet with Hillary Clinton after the D.C. primary.

I don’t know exactly what you have planned but I do know that it is far more important to unify your supporters, the Berners, than to try to unify the un-unifiable Democrats. There will be plenty of time for Clinton to unify the Democrats after—and if—she actually wins the nomination. Your responsibility is to move the political revolution forward. And let me tell you how I think that can be done.

I’m with you all the way to the White House, Bernie, ever since I heard you tell George Stephanopoulos back in June of 2015,

We are going to win New Hampshire. We are going to win Iowa, and I think we are going to win the Democratic nomination, and I think we’re going to win the presidency. And I’ll tell you why, George, the American people are sick and tired of seeing the disappearance of the great middle class of this country . . . and the American people are saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ We need to create an economy that works for all of us and not just a handful of billionaires.

That this was a brilliant political move is evidenced by the thousands that immediately rallied to your campaign and the millions who voted for you. You correctly assessed the mood of the American people and knew how to address our needs. This is testament to the integrity and consistency of purpose you have displayed in your fifty years of political life.

Ever since last summer, I’ve been Bern-ing away, and will continue to do so until you are in the White House. But while continuing to look forward to your nomination, I think we must also think the unthinkable and ask: Suppose Bernie Sanders DOESN’T get the Democratic Party nomination?

I know that you pretty much have to support the Democratic nominee, since you accepted that as a condition of running in the primaries and caucuses of the Democratic Party. But the rest of us made no such commitment. There are many who, like myself, would rather go to Hell than vote for Hillary Clinton.

I’ve signed the “Bernie or Bust” pledge and, if you don’t win the Democratic nomination, plan to vote for another socialist who I believe is the best woman for the job, Gloria La Riva, candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. However, there is another petition urging you to run as an Independent through November, circulated by the Movement4Bernie and Socialist Alternative. I have not and will not sign this pledge since it is asking you to do something which you’ve already said you would NOT do. Such a move would not only jeopardize your most important political asset, your integrity, it would also cost many if not most of your supporters who plan to support Clinton if she wins the nomination of the Democratic Party. Of course, if YOU decide an independent campaign is the best course, I will continue to support you.

I know that Obama and the pundits—mostly advocates of the Democratic Party—are saying that that you’ve waged a good fight and raised important issues, but now its time to join Hillary Clinton and unify the Democratic Party in defeating Trump. But to give up the fight before it’s over, meaning before all the votes and the delegates’ votes have been counted, would be a big mistake.

As I said earlier, rather than joining in any attempt to unify the Democratic Party, which would inevitably involve unifying under Clinton and Obama, I hope you will unify your supporters, the Berners. You can do this by endorsing Clinton when—AND IF—the vote is taken and she actually does become the nominee. This would be keeping your word and would help retain the support of those working to reform the Democratic Party. But, sometime after the convention itself, I hope you will announce your candidacy for re-election to the Senate in 2018 and the formation of a new party which will not only support your re-election but also begin to run candidates in 2018 at every level: federal, state, and local. This would keep faith with your supporters who are working for a real political revolution.

This new party—I  suggest the name Peoples Democratic Party—would be based on the same principles as your campaign: 1. no corporate funding, 2. electoral reform, and 3. economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. To this I would add international justice, along the lines urged by Dr. King in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech of 1967. King also called for revolution, a “radical revolution of values.” For many of us, as I will discuss in another letter, this means a revolution in the social order, a socialist revolution,

Of course, if Clinton and the Democratic Party agree to give up their funding from Wall Street and the corporations and make the appropriate changes in the platform, such a party might be unnecessary.

Such a Peoples Democratic Party would recognize that it could not achieve its goals by electoral means alone, and would actively support mass organization, direct action, a militant labor movement, and establishment of alternative institutions in neighborhoods, workplaces, unions, schools, and the armed forces everywhere.

This strategy of forming a new party that will not compete in the current election cycle would also be a way of sidestepping, for the time being anyway, one of the major points of division on the left, between those that choose to work within the Democratic Party and those that refuse to do so.

This would also allow Berners to continue to build the political revolution and work to defeat Trump without folding themselves into the Democratic Party.

I think you are the only person to lead such an effort to build a new party that will do what the Republican Party did in 1860: challenge the two dominant parties and win. You are the only person that can unite the millions of your millennial supporters. Therefore, you have a responsibility to do so.

I think that, within the next few months, it will become obvious that the Democratic Party cannot and will not reform itself. It will not give up its corporate funding and will not support the key elements of your program for economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. When this becomes increasingly obvious to your truly progressive supporters in the Democratic Party, they too will begin looking more favorably at your Peoples Democratic Party and the political revolution can continue to unfold.

For my part, I will keep right on a-Bern-ing.

In peace and solidarity,

Gene Ruyle

Campaign for Peace and Socialism