Bernie Was Right About…Everything

It only took a pandemic for many to realize it

On Wednesday, April 8th, Senator Bernie Sanders decided to bow out of the Presidential campaign, essentially handing the Democratic nomination to the former Vice President Joe Biden. It was a heartbreaking day for so many dedicated supporters and volunteers. This time around was supposed to be different — Bernie was going to win.

The race didn’t go according to plan. After winning the first three contests, South Carolina happened. Joe Biden won convincingly in the Palmetto State, with Sanders coming in a distant second place. The media then took it from there driving their narratives of Bernie struggling with black voters and that Bernie’s base is just too small. Remember, he had dominated the week before among voters of color in Nevada. Next, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar dropped out two days before Super Tuesday and endorsed Biden. Former candidates, like Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker, got behind Joe as well. The coalescing was happening and the Sanders campaign was stunned.

With Elizabeth Warren still in the race on Super Tuesday, progressive voters were split and Biden had a big night. Bernie did manage to win the largest prize in California but those results wouldn’t be finalized for weeks. Warren decided to drop out days later but declined to endorse anyone failing to give Bernie a needed boost. Loyal Democrats had gotten the sign they were looking for the entire race. Joe Biden was the one we were supposed to get behind. Casual voters saw all of the former candidates get behind Biden, of course, they were going to follow suit.

As the campaign progressed, Bernie lost almost all of the major races to follow, partly due to the new coronavirus pandemic which took the spotlight off of the election. It is disheartening to see voters get behind an establishment candidate who has such a poor voting record. Bernie saw the writing on the wall and bowed out after the controversial Wisconsin primary, which shouldn’t have even happened. Biden is now the presumptive nominee but he has a lot of work to do with Sanders supporters, who are dedicated to seeing progressive policies come to fruition. Bernie Sanders made voters finally understand that a better world is possible and a global pandemic has only confirmed that our vision for the country is limitless. We don’t have to settle for this disastrous economy and society.

Throughout his entire life, Bernie Sanders has always fought on behalf of working-class Americans of all races and gender. He has exposed all of the shortcomings of our country, including the large inequalities in wealth and income, the lack of universal health care, and a dysfunctional education system. Some failed to understand where he was coming from. It’s disappointing it took the country shutting down due to infectious disease for a lot of media pundits and other critics to realize what Bernie was saying.

Health Care

Over the last three weeks, there have been close to 17 million unemployment claims, as many businesses shutter during this pandemic. There has never been anything like this historically. One in ten workers is now seeking unemployment benefits. Lost in the shuffle is health care. Our health system is based on employer-based insurance. When 17 million people lose their jobs, almost all of them also lose their health care. Under the Medicare for All proposal Bernie has championed, nothing would change for any of those people. They could still go to the emergency room or to a doctor without paying out of pocket.

Many politicians are proclaiming any treatment relating to coronavirus should be free. That’s wonderful. But what about cancer treatment? What about insulin? If someone gets injured in an accident and breaks a bone, is that free? If not, why? This for-profit system we live under is barbaric when you dig deeper. Companies can hold you, hostage, because of health insurance and ditch you as soon as things start going south.

Other Democrats campaigned on the idea of choice for Americans when it comes to health insurance. This was a right-wing talking point from the start to protect health insurance companies. What choice do those 17 million Americans have now? In reality, they didn’t have much choice, to begin with. They have to go with the plans their employer offer or attempt to find a new job with better options. That’s easier said than done.

It’s clearer than ever that Medicare For All is the only path forward. We now understand the weaknesses and cruelty of our current approach. The federal response has been extremely weak due to our de-centralized and for-profit system. The federal government should have mass-produced protective equipment for health workers and ventilators as necessary. What we have instead is states competing against each other for supplies and a President pushing a drug that he has a financial stake in.

Structure of the Economy

Bernie Sanders is the biggest supporter of organized labor and unions in Congress and his Presidential platform had specific plans laid out to protect their interests. He has endorsed ideas such as a federal job guarantee, giving workers a seat on corporate boards, and democratizing the workplace in general.

With the coronavirus sidelining so many companies, it took only a few days for them to ask for bailouts or help. How could the airline industry need a bailout so quickly? They have been extremely profitable over the last five to ten years. As a matter of fact, the top six airlines had almost $50 billion in free cash flow over the last decade. Instead of holding reserves, paying workers more, or re-investing in better equipment, they instead used 96% of that cash on stock buybacks. Stock buybacks allow a corporation to improve its Earnings Per Share ratios and drives its stock price higher, which benefits top executives and CEOs, as their salaries are usually tied to stock prices and earnings. There is an incentive to focus on short-term quarterly profits rather than the long-term viability of the business.

It’s possible that if employees had forty percent of the seats on corporate boards, as Bernie Sanders has proposed, these buybacks wouldn’t have taken place. Instead, maybe they vote to give pay raises to workers on the front lines. Maybe they vote to invest in new equipment. There are so many other possibilities other than inflating stock prices, something this country has experienced heavily over the last few years. Sadly, many of these executives have cashed out already as this crisis began, leaving employees with nothing.

The term “essential worker” has taken on a whole new meaning. In addition to the brave health care workers, many occupations that we would discount, like cashiers, garbage men, fast food workers, public transportation employees, and other retail workers are now on the front lines risking their lives for the rest of us. These workers need to recognize the power and leverage they have at this moment. Our society cannot function without them and they have every right to demand fair pay and protection. And that extends long past the coronavirus.

Every worker in America deserves a living wage and the right to join a union to protect themselves. The person ringing up your groceries or serving your food is no longer overlooked, it’s an essential occupation that we should respect. We need to ditch the mindset that these jobs are unimportant or undeserving of a living wage.

If we don’t respond correctly to this pandemic and upcoming recession, the income and wealth inequalities will only get larger. Let’s ban stock buybacks once again. Let’s put workers on the boards and make unionization as easy as possible. Let’s guarantee a job to those who need it after this is over, rebuilding the country, taking care of the elderly, and changing our energy system, complete with good pay and benefits. All of this has been proposed by Senator Sanders long before this pandemic. The coronavirus was the spark that revealed the hollowness of this economy.

The Struggle Continues

Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramilia Jayapal will be a force in shifting the Democratic Party to the left.

Although Bernie has decided to end his campaign, the battle for a better country is not over. The Senator from Vermont has inspired millions of individuals who are now an unstoppable movement. We will continue the fight for health care as a human right, a Green New Deal, debt forgiveness, and a right to a free public college education.

We won’t give up because Bernie showed us all how change can happen. Over these last five years, the entire Democratic party has shifted towards us. Yes, the election was lost but the ideas that are now popular are coming almost exclusively from the left. Exit polls in every state that voted showed that Democratic voters preferred a single-payer health system over one that includes private insurers. Bernie Sanders won all voters under the age of 50 and they aren’t going anywhere. The future is bright and we can thank a Democratic Socialist for that.

Let’s continue to put maximum pressure on Joe Biden and the Democratic establishment to adopt our vision. Work hard to elect progressives in all levels of government. Let’s get through this national and global crisis together while making our case for the vision Bernie laid out for us. Remember, the campaign was never about the man. It was about us.

M.A. in Applied Economics. I'm here to talk about economics, politics, and life. Follow me here and on Twitter @FrankLukacovic

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store