On the very same day that democratic socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rallied thousands behind two progressive congressional candidates in Kansas last week, around 250 corporate Democrats and Third Way strategists gathered behind closed doors in Ohio to discuss ways to counteract the progressive momentum embodied by Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan’s Abdul El-Sayed, and others throughout the nation.
These two “very different meetings,” Sanders argued in an email to supporters Monday evening, represent divergent trends in the Democratic Party — one backed by corporate cash and the other backed by the majority of the American public.
“What are they concerned about? That our ideas, such as Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges and universities, a $15 per hour minimum wage, and progressive taxation are now mainstream positions,” Sanders wrote of the Democratic donors, financiers, and politicians who gathered in Ohio on Friday. “The big money interests should be scared.”
“The corporate Democrats are plotting how to defeat progressives the only way they know how—with big money,” Sanders added. “But you’ve shown that, together, we can overcome their brand of pay-to-play politics.”
As Common Dreams reported on Sunday, the Democratic insiders present at the invite-only event in Ohio laid out an agenda that centered around “opportunity” instead of equality, “privatized employer-funded” pensions instead of an ambitious expansion of Social Security, an “apprentice program” instead of a federal jobs guarantee, and “centrism” instead of bold progressivism that surveys show is increasingly popular among the American electorate.
In contrast to the corporate-friendly agenda pushed by so-called moderate Democrats and their donors, Sanders highlighted the transformational and inspiring visions on display in red and blue states across the nation, where progressive candidates are running against — and often defeating — establishment stalwarts:
On Friday, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I went to Kansas and held rallies with two great progressive candidates who are running for Congress. In Wichita, according to local media reports, more than 4,000 people joined us at a rally with James Thompson.
Then in Kansas City, at our rally for Brent Welder, the convention center was so crowded the staff had to remove a wall in the middle while the event was going on to let more people in. These were incredible crowds coming out in more than 100-degree weather to participate in our political revolution.
We held a rally in the UAW hall in Janesville, Wisconsin with Randy Bryce, a union ironworker who is running a great grassroots campaign for Congress in the seat currently held by Speaker Paul Ryan.
From Wisconsin, we flew to Pittsburgh where I addressed the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) national convention. While in Pittsburgh, I also held a rally with progressive John Fetterman, who won an upset victory in the Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Democratic primary. At the rally Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato, two young democratic socialists in Pittsburgh, talked about the recent landslide victories they won as they unseated two long-term, veteran incumbents.
The victories of democratic socialists like Ocasio-Cortez, Lee, and Innamorato demonstrate that “we can win seemingly impossible campaigns if we run on issues that speak to the needs of working people while harnessing the grassroots energy to drive our campaigns forward,” Sanders wrote.
“There is a reason why the corporate Democrats are getting nervous,” the Vermont senator concluded, “and that’s because we are making real progress in transforming the party and the nation.”