RIP John Prine, and Bernie's campaign
The world has lost John Prine to COVID-19. After he survived throat and lung cancer, I was hoping he was perhaps immortal. Nobody could write songs like him, at once spare, profound and amusing. There’s an unbelievable story about how he was discovered that is apparently true. He was at an open mic night at the age of 24, a mailman at the time, making fun of the talentless performers. He was challenged to get up and play himself. He got on stage and played Sam Stone, Paradise, and Hello In There. After the first two he was met by dead silence, the audience stunned at what they had just heard. After the third, it was raucous applause, and he was off to the races. Can you imagine being at an open mic night and a kid gets up and plays those three songs back to back?
Earlier on Wednesday, as first reported in The Intercept, Bernie Sanders told staffers he is suspending his campaign, which makes Biden the official presumptive nominee, if such a designation can be said to exist.
Some in Bernie’s camp had urged him to stay in, amass delegates, and fight for reforms in the party platform at the convention, even if he couldn’t win the nomination. But Congress actually writes the laws, and there is an ongoing fight there over the direction of the country. This makes makes a fight about the largely meaningless party platform much less interesting. In a compromise, Sanders is suspending his campaign but leaving his name on the ballot, allowing him to continue to amass delegates. “While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions,” he said on the call.
With Sanders out of the race, the progressive organizing effort shifts to pressuring Biden to make particular policy commitments and, more importantly, to shift his personnel in a more liberal direction and away from corporate allies. In a letter, eight organizations led by young people -- Justice Democrats, March for Our Lives Action Fund,Alliance for Youth Action,NextGen America, Student Action, Sunrise Movement, If Not Now, and United We Dream Action -- called on Biden to work to rectify his debilitating lack of popularity among people under 45. “While you are now the presumptive Democratic nominee, it is clear that you were unable to win the votes of the vast majority of voters under 45 years old during the primary,” the letter notes, with a statement accompanying the letter adding precision to the failure:
As documented in extensive polling and a number of primary contests, Biden struggles to garner the support of voters under 45 years old, while Bernie Sanders’ base is made primarily of voters under 45. On Super Tuesday, Biden won only 17 percent of voters under 45. Bernie Sanders won voters under 30 in Michigan and Missouri by 76 points and 57 points respectively, according to exit polls. Democratic voters under 45 tend to be more progressive than their older counterparts.
On the personnel side, the coalition asked for Biden to pledge to appoint as co-chairs of his transition team politicians who had endorsed Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, such as Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Ayanna Pressley, and Katie Porter. It also calls on Biden to bring on advisers from the policy teams of Gov. Jay Inslee, Sanders, Warren, union leaders Bonnie Castillo, Mary Kay Henry and Sara Nelson, as well as leading criminal justice reformers.
At the same time, it urges a rejection of current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists, or anybody affiliated with fossil fuel, health insurance or private prison companies. It also calls for Department of Homeland Security leadership committed to dismantling Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection as they are currently constituted.
On the policy front, the asks include a $10 trillion Green New Deal stimulus package, a plan to reduce gun deaths by half in ten years, allowing the federal government to manufacture generic drugs, a wealth tax, ending collaboration between ICE and local police, pot legalization, and abolishing the filibuster.
The letter makes clear there’s upside for Biden if he can win over young people. “The organizations below will spend more than $100 million communicating with more than 10 million young members, supporters, and potential voters this election cycle,” the letter adds. “We are uniquely suited to help mobilize our communities, but we need help ensuring our efforts will be backed-up by a campaign that speaks to our generation. Our generation is the future of this country. If you aim to motivate, mobilize, and welcome us in, we will work tirelessly to align this nation with its highest ideals.”