The American Left’s strategy after Sanders’ exit from the presidential campaign needs to be a focus on goals besides the presidency.
To explain, I think the American Left is so focused on the Presidency, that it is ignoring opportunities to achieve real political power and implement its agenda. In particular, the Left ignores how the American Conservative Movement took over the Republican Party and dominated U.S. politics for a generation.
In depth, when Conservatives concentrated on presidential politics in 1964 pundits and the public dismissed them as a fringe movement and bunch of nut jobs. Notably, conservative icon U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1964 presidential election.
The Left Needs Congress, not the White House
In 1980, Conservatives captured both the Republican presidential nomination and the White House with Ronald Reagan’s (R-California) help. However, in 1981, conservatives discovered they were incapable of implementing their agenda because the Democrats controlled Congress.
Hence, US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill (D-Massachusetts) could hijack the Reagan Revolution. Notably, O’Neill blocked much of the Republican agenda and forced Reagan to strengthen Social Security.
Ultimately, Republicans learned their lesson and began concentrating on Congress and voter mobilization. In 1994, Republicans took control of both houses of Congress for the first time in over 40 years.
Consequently, US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) forced Democratic President Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas) to adopt much of his conservative Contract with America. In particular, Clinton accepted welfare reform (benefit cuts), workfare (forcing people on welfare to work), and mass incarceration of black men.
Gingrich was in that position because conservatives did the hard work of mobilizing voters and electing people to Congress. That hard work is not as glamorous or as exciting as electing presidents. However, history demonstrates that hard work is far more effective.
Congress is where the Left Can Get the Most Bang for its Buck
I think Congressional elections are where the Left could get the most bang for its buck.
For example, Data for Progress executive director Sean McElwee estimates U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-New York) upset victory in 2018 cost around $500,000. In contrast, McElwee tells Vox’s Ezra Klein that Sanders’ failed 2020 presidential run cost $200 million.
Thus, leftists could have run 400 Ocasio-Cortezs for the cost of Sanders’ election if McElwee’s claims are correct. Notably, there are 435 members of the US House of Representatives. Thus, the left could have elected dozens of people similar to Ocasio-Cortez to Congress, and elected Ocasio-Cortez Speaker of the House for the cost of Sander’s presidential adventure.
One Ocasio-Cortez has Wall Street so scared investment bankers are spending big money to finance a primary challenge to her, The Intercept claims. Just imagine how frightened the Right; and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California), could be if there were dozens of Ocasio-Cortezes in Congressional districts running all over America.
Therefore, the Left could have the Constitutional power to write the federal budget, the tax code, and laws. Moreover, the left could force President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) to sign bills for Medicare for All, a $20 minimum wage, Free College, a Carbon Tax, or Basic Income if it controlled the House. Remember, Gingrich forced Clinton to sign “welfare reform” legislation, and O’Neill force Reagan to “save Social Security.”
Note: McElwee made his campaign finance claims on the 17 April 2020 episode of The Ezra Klein Show podcast.
How the Left could Rewrite American Law
Similarly, Open Secrets estimates the average successful U.S. Senate campaign cost $19.7 million in 2016.
Hence the Left could have elected 20 U.S. Senators for the cost of Sanders’ failed presidential attempt. Theoretically, leftists could have bought a veto-proof majority (70 Senators) in the U.S. Senate for the price of trying to put Bernie in the Oval Office.
With a veto-proof majority in the Senate, the Left could impeach (remove) every Republican appointee from the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. courts of appeals. In addition, the Left could pack the courts with its nominees and rewrite American law.
For instance, the Leftist courts could overturn Citizens United, make Medicare a constitutional right for all Americans, and make Social Security, Welfare, and Unemployment Constitutional Rights, no bureaucrat could interfere with. Additionally, Leftist courts could expand voting rights and make mail-in voting and automatic voting Constitutionally mandated requirements. Hence it could be impossible for Republicans to suppress votes or purge voters.
Such a strategy is no fantasy. The Federalist Society used a similar strategy to dominate the Federal Courts. Leftists could utilize the same strategy to make their ideology the law of the land.
Why the Left Needs to Increase Voter Turnout
After seizing Congress, the Left’s most important mission is to increase voter turnout.
One popular method of increasing voter turnout is all-in mail elections. To elaborate, in a such an election, the state mails ballots to all registered voters. Interestingly, Bernie carried two all-mail-in states; Colorado and California, in the 2020 primary.
Hence, mandating all-mail balloting nationwide could help leftists win more elections. Interestingly, President Donald J. Trump (R-Florida) is attacking mail-in ballots. The Donald fears mail-in ballots because Republicans often lose all mail-in elections.
Beyond mail-in, there is automatic voter registration. In automatic voter registration, the state registers all citizens to vote. Automatic voter registration is important because it makes purging and suppressing voters hard.
Importantly, three states Bernie carried in the Democratic presidential primaries; Colorado, Nevada, and California have automatic voter registration. In addition, the Brenan Center for Justice claims the number of voters grew by 62% when Vermont adopted automatic voter registration.
I think mandating automatic voter registration and mail-in ballots nationwide could empower tens of millions of new voters who will vote for left-wing candidates and causes. Additionally, a more left-wing electorate will pull politicians to the left and bring many leftists out of the closet.
America is moving Left
Importantly, there is circumstantial evidence that American politics are moving Left.
Notably, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (D-Delaware) works closely with Bernie Sanders and listening to leftists. In fact, one of Biden’s first actions as nominee was to praise Sanders and publicly ask for Bernie’s help on streaming video. In his video accepting Sanders’ support, Biden sounded distinctly leftist.
Additionally, Biden is now discussing such issues as income inequality in public. I think Biden would have never listened to Bernie or discussed income inequality if he had been the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
I think Biden, formerly Mr. Centrist, is drifting Left because he is afraid of losing left-wing votes. I think Biden fears he could lose enough leftist votes to lose some states and Electoral College votes in the fall.
Thus, America is drifting left and I think leftists can speed that paradigm shift by fighting for promoting mail-in ballots and automatic voter registration.
What does the Left Do Now?
My advice to the Left is to contest as many Congressional and State Legislature elections as possible, now.
The Left needs to contest state legislature elections for four reasons. First, today’s state legislators are tomorrow’s U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators. Hence, if you want more leftists in Congress, elect more leftists to the state legislature. State legislatures are the schools that educate future Congresspeople.
Second, leftists need to learn how to win elections. You learn to win elections by running for office. If leftists want the skills, they need to run now and run everywhere.
Third State Legislatures design the Congressional districts in most states. Hence state legislatures determine who goes to Congress by gerrymandering. Gerrymandering means creating districts that favor one party or another.
Control the state legislature, you control who goes to Congress and shape what Congress looks like.
How the Left can Seize Power
Fourth, we can we implement many leftist policies on the state level if we control state legislatures. For instance, states could implement rent control, a $15 or $20 minimum wage, prison reform, Medicaid for All, free preschool, and free college.
The Republicans control state legislatures because they understand the power that state legislators wield. Leftists need to learn that lesson and challenge the Grand Old Party’s control of the nation’s state legislatures.
I think the Left is in a great position to take control of America’s political system. However, the Left can only seize power if it learns how to look beyond the presidency.