As the Democratic primaries move forward in the 2020 US Presidential Elections, more and more eyes are turning to Bernie Sanders, who is taking the lead in the race.
The 78 year-old Jewish senator, lost the Democratic primaries to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but returns as one of the strongest candidates, out of the 6 still running to become the nominee for President of the United States. The challenge for the winner will be to go up against the Republican, and current President, Donald Trump, in the November elections.
Up till now, votes have been held in four states, with Sanders leading the ticket with 58 delegates. On march third, primary voting will take place in 14 states, in what is called Super Tuesday, awarding a total of 1357 delegates.
Running on a platform centered around free universal healthcare and education for all US citizens, Sanders is attacked by his rivals for identifying as a Democratic Socialist. Though this definition of Sanders is debatable, the democrat is the best option for the working class in the country, according to US educator, theologian and political activist Claudia de La Cruz.
Born in the South Bronx area of New York City, with a family hailing from the Dominican Republic, Claudia is the director of the Popular Education Project, a collective of educators from different social movements. In her opinion, Sanders is different from other candidates because he speaks from the perspective of the poor, the working class, and proposes structural changes. “This is what he represents, that there is the real possibility to create equality and abundance for the majority of the population, that has been living under a capitalist dictatorship in the States for way too long”, according to de La Cruz.
In an interview with Brasil de Fato, the activist speaks of the limitations of “bourgeois democracy” in America, the contradictions of the Democratic party, migratory and foreign policy, while emphasizing: “Four more years of Trump will create chaos”. Read the full interview:
Brasil de Fato: A lot of people say that Bernie Sanders is the only one capable of defeating Trump. What’s your take on this?
Claudia de La Cruz: Bernie positions himself as a socialist, running on a platform of medicare for all, free college tuition, the creation of jobs and better wages, and has been garnishing a lot of support from progressive and leftist activists. There is a crisis of legitimacy happening in regards to capitalist structures, which contributes in raising support for someone who constantly and consistently posits himself against the rich and the elite in this country. Therefore, more important than whether or not he is a socialist, is the fact that he has opened the minds of the working class, and I dare say, the middle class, who understand that we need structural and systematic changes in this country. This is what he represents, that there is the real possibility to create equality and abundance for the majority of the population, that has been living under a capitalist dictatorship in the United States for way too long.
What makes Sanders different from the other Democratic candidates?
Above all, he is the candidate who has captured the imagination that something new and different from the status quo can be achieved in this country. He is the first to openly talk about socialism on the national stage.
Whether or not he is really a socialist is up for debate, but he has certainly opened the door to first and foremost, people wanting to know what socialism really is, and secondly, to people having discussions about the poor, and the levels of inequality and injustice we see in this country. A platform that speaks of police brutality, gender equality and racial issues has been created, things that have been coming under attack during the Trump administration, and a little before that.
Sanders has opened up the space towards which many progressives and leftists have been gravitating, this is what makes him different from the other candidates, who don’t represent the poor, don’t represent the 99%. They only talk about the middle class, small businesses, of certain reforms that are more of the same.
The Democratic party doesn’t seem to endorse his candidacy so much. Why is that?
The problem is that he is part of the Democratic Party, which is very institutional, very capitalistic and very pro-war. Bernie Sanders represents that which they claim to support, but in practice have been against for a very long time.
He represents a part of the population they have no interest in listening to or empowering. So for them, the notion that Sanders can become even more radical, in his interactions with social movements and their demands is a threat. They feel threatened by this.
In Iowa they didn’t want to give him the victory, even though he won the popular vote, they recounted votes that were clearly his. They are scared and trying to shape a candidate they think is worth supporting. In the Nevada debate, it seemed like Elizabeth Warren was the candidate the establishment was looking to. She has some support with the working class, in large part because during the housing crisis, after the 2008 financial crisis, she was one of the few people in the United States to address housing issues, in the backdrop of thousands of people loosing their homes. There is a sector of the working class that is betting on her being that same person. That being said, she is not a strong candidate, since she has too many issues for an electoral process.
There are polls indicating that more than half of voters wouldn’t vote in a socialist candidate. Does the fact that he claims to be one make his candidacy more difficult?
Studies also show that half the population is against the capitalist structure. We have to remember that not everyone votes, nor do they participate in electoral polling. Furthermore, the electoral process here in the states is different than other countries in the world, vote for vote, where people directly vote for their president.
In America, democracy is interpreted in a very limited and bourgeois way. We have the Electoral College, and that’s what really votes for the president. After a popular vote, they have the final say.
When you look at Trump and the policies he is implementing, like the war against Venezuela, the tightening of restrictions against Cuba, the possibility of war with Iran, it’s all part of his campaign to win states that think along those lines, like Florida, where there is huge anti-Cuba and anti-Venezuela sentiment.
Within the current system, even though people might have some affinity with socialist ideals, structurally there are obstacles in the electoral process, the make it difficult – not impossible – because it is possible, that people might vote for a socialist president. The existing structure is part of the capitalist and bourgeois machinery, designed to maintain itself.
Your family comes from the Dominican Republic, correct? What is the importance of the upcoming elections to the Latino community in the United States?
If we look at what’s happening at the border, we have to remember that it didn’t start with Trump, it started way before, and was heightened during the presidency of a Democrat, Obama. It’s important for our people, for immigrants, to be in tune with electoral politics here, but realize that’s not where our hopes should lie.
The aspect of “hacer política”, doing politics, is a day to day type of thing. It involves educating and mobilizing communities to not only make demands, but to transform systems. In this context, it’s very important for the immigrant community to get involved in politics, because the majority of us are poor, or working class, so we are also affected by many issues. We’ve seen the increased persecution of undocumented immigrants, but we’ve also seen increasing attacks on immigrants as a whole.
I think another four years of Trump will create more chaos. We’ve already seen the chaos of thousands of families being broken up at the border, thousands of people being persecuted, home raids being done by ICE. Last month we had a case where a young man who wasn’t undocumented, was mistaken and shot in the face by ICE here in Brooklyn. We will see more of these cases in a second Trump term, and it’s very probable that he will win again.
How about the imperialist policies of the United States? Do you think Bernie Sanders would make any difference in foreign relations?
He verbalizes politics very well domestically. In the situation that he’s in, as a presidential candidate, him taking on positions in support of other countries that are fighting for their sovereignty, and taking on anti-imperialist policies could be problematic for him politically. Honestly, I don’t think he has anti-imperialist policies, or I haven’t seen it yet. When he talks about Puerto Rico he talks about statehood, he doesn’t talk about independence, he’s expressed his position on Venezuela, so he’s clearly not anti-imperialist.
I think for the purpose of advancing struggles here in the US, and making the connection to internationalist struggles, he offers more of a possibility than any other candidate. It’s not the best possibility, but better than a Trump, or a Warren, or anybody else running for the presidency. Is he perfect? Far from it, and again, whether or not he’s a socialist is up for debate, and he definitely hasn’t taken any anti-imperialist position that could threaten him running for president.
We’re seeing a surge in news regarding ex-mayor and now candidate, Michael Bloomberg, how do you see his candidacy?
Bloomberg is basically making a joke out of the entire process. He’s clearly someone who’s made some very bad political decisions in New York. He is part of the elite and ran New York like a company. He was responsible for policies that attacked and marginalized, mainly black and brown youth. Even though we’re hearing a lot of noise, he’s not a very strong presidential candidate.
Bloomberg is very similar to Trump, a conservative billionaire, the opposite of Bernie Sanders. Doesn’t that make things more difficult for him, seeing that they’re so alike, and people would choose Trump over him?
Trump came out of nowhere. He was a business man who inserted himself into some sort of populism. He was a result of this legitimacy crisis, of this anti-establishment feeling. But Bloomberg has so much baggage, people already know who he is. He has a political record that ties him to some very bad and dangerous policies, in one of the strongest states in the nation. He doesn’t stand a chance mainly because of this record.
Trump had a little more flexibility because he came out of nowhere. He ran a populist campaign and spoke in a way that people identified with, but Bloomberg is different, I mean, they are very similar, they’re both in the elite, they’re businessmen, but in terms of their political careers, and some of the decisions they have made, Bloomberg has a past that will not stand with the political consciousness of the United States today.
For those outside the United States, it’s very weird to see a political party that has someone like Sanders, and someone like Bloomberg, at the same time, because they seem to represent very much opposite views.
This shows the polarization, and how divided the Democratic Party is. There are people inside the party, that if Warren is not the nominee, will definitely support Trump. Because again, it’s about the capitalist, imperialist, white supremacist policies that they will carry out in order to sustain the structure, the system, the machine that the United States is.