By Tom Gallagher
August 13, 2019
“Not me. Us.” Bernie Sanders said it over and over in his 2016 presidential campaign that revolutionized American politics. This campaign was different precisely for that reason: it was all about a movement, not a career. And “Not me. Us.” is still right there today – on the 2020 Sanders website, leading into the statement, “No one candidate, not even the greatest candidate you could imagine, is capable of taking on Donald Trump and the billionaire class alone. There is only one way we win — and that is together.”
If there was ever an election campaign that needed a dose of “Not me. Us.” the March, 2020 primary race against Nancy Pelosi would seem to be it. With three Democrats running to her left last year, they divided support to the point where a Republican took the second final election slot in this overwhelmingly Democratic city – with only 9 percent of the vote! And the three Democrats spent over $225,000 to do that, money that might have been more successfully utilized in other races – like the Sanders campaign.
These things do happen and we might say there’s no use crying over spilt milk, but they shouldn’t be repeated. It seemed obvious to me that this time around we should avoid both parts of last year’s fiasco. We needed a way to keep from dividing up the vote and letting a Republican slip into the final again. And we needed to find a way to keep that kind of money from being spent in a contest against other progressive Democrats.
In April of this year, I published an article, “A Progressive Primary for San Francisco?” that urged the city’s progressive community to develop a democratic mechanism for uniting behind a single challenger to carry the Sanders program in a runoff election against the Pelosi establishment agenda. While I feel strongly that I am the candidate best equipped to do that, I also recognize that there were multiple candidates similarly convinced last year – and there are again this year. There has not been a lot of movement on this idea yet, but there is time.
Avoiding a repeat of last year’s fruitless spending is another thing, however. For my part, I have imposed a $200 cumulative contribution cap for this stage of the race, despite the obvious limitations it imposes. Other candidates apparently have not thought there was a lesson to be learned from the recent experience and appear to be well on their way to matching and exceeding last year’s spending in this preliminary stage.
If you agree with my support for Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, an end to our endless, borderless wars, and a Marshall Plan for Central America – and you find my approach to this year’s race sane and reasonable, I need your help.