By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President
There is a lot at stake in this coming November election. Not only will we elect a president and therefore shape the Supreme Court for years to come, but we also have a key U.S. senate race, a vital state ballot measure to extend Proposition 30, and important state and local legislative races.
While I have been and continue to be a Bernie supporter, I believe the priority in this election is getting a Democrat elected to the White House. Those who argue that we are lining up with the corporate-friendly policies of the Democrats miss the point. The policies of the Democrats are far better than the reactionary policies of the Republican Party — not as good as those under a Social Democratic president like Sanders would be — but better.
If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, the task of progressives and liberals will be to ensure he is overwhelmingly defeated. A third party effort, whether it be Bernie or the Green Party, that could hand over the White House to Trump is politically irresponsible. We only have to look at the failed effort of Ralph Nader and election of George W. Bush in 2000 to be reminded of the disastrous consequences.
But we must not confuse our electoral work with our community building work. The social movements that emerged in the 1930s and 1960s weren’t tied to mainstream electoral efforts. Rather, they shaped them and gave rise to new initiatives that changed the political landscape. Ultimately, our job is to build the social movements that keep elected leaders moving in a more progressive direction.
“Ultimately, our job is to build the social movements that keep elected leaders moving in a more progressive direction.”
Labor must play a decisive role in that. Whether regarding income inequality, anti-racist policies including prison and policing reform, climate change, an anti-interventionist foreign policy, high-quality public education including free or affordable higher education, the labor movement must provide leadership in deepening and expanding this work.
The good news is that the Sanders campaign and even the success of the Trump candidacy, show that a majority of Americans are ready for something different. They are dissatisfied with the status quo and have responded to a populist message from the left and the right. We must continue to build upon the Sanders’ message calling out the irresponsibility of corporate America. If we build a real progressive movement in this country, we could attract many of the Trump supporters.
In California, we have changed the political narrative by recharging the labor movement, building ties to community organizations, and expanding the electorate. Our efforts four years ago to pass the Millionaires Tax led to enactment of Proposition 30 and sea changes for education funding and the economy. Now we have to work to pass an extension of Prop. 30, a more progressive ballot measure than the original.
Whether it is electing a Democratic president, renewing Proposition 30, or electing Kamala Harris to be our next U.S. senator, we won’t be sitting on the sidelines. We can be proud that CFT members always turn out to vote in high numbers. Our work together in the coming weeks and months will help shape this state and country for generations to come.