'Bernie or Bust' Is a Warning—Ignore It, and Trump Wins | Opinion

Bernie or Bust 2.0 is a pledge that Senator Bernie Sanders' revolutionary supporters take to send a message to the members of the Democratic Party. It is a commitment to vote for a true progressive on November 3, 2020. "Or Bust" does not mean staying home. It does not mean writing in a candidate who has not registered as such. It means voting for a genuinely progressive candidate who is actually running, who reflects a voter's values and who is not a means to perpetuate the neo-liberal machinery that has been in place for more than 40 years.

Bernie or Bust is a demand. If you prefer another candidate and vote for that candidate in the primaries, you will need to acknowledge that you are ensuring another four years of Donald Trump. While all Berners are helping bend the arc of history toward justice, Bernie or Busters are the adults in the room. (Those who believe Busters are "Bernie Bros" should know the Clinton campaign allegedly pitched that myth to the media in 2016. Just ask Olivia Nuzzi.)

Bernie or Bust is a "Ralph Nader" problem, but unlike in 2000, Democrats can easily solve this problem by nominating Sanders. The climate change crisis demands a progressive form of governance to mobilize resources on a grand enough scale to transform the energy sector from fossil fuels to renewables, capture carbon from the atmosphere and determine the safest manner to help cool the planet, then implement that plan.

Race, gender and so forth are unimportant compared with policy. Yes, we welcome a woman president. Yes, we welcome a gay president. However, identity politics are always trumped by policies that will be carried out by someone who will do more than pay lip service to the kinds of change that will benefit the vast majority of Americans.

Bernie or Bust is a battle cry in a war of words and a book. Bernie or Bust: Pioneers of Electoral Revolt provides a list of grievances to explain why the people needed a revolution before Trump was elected and why we, the people, need to unite against the dominant, pervasive neo-liberal order for higher wages; health care coverage for everyone; free college education; saving our planet; ending to imperialism, mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex; a better public education system; and the removal of big money from politics.

Our book is a how-to guide for peaceful revolution. It includes two exercises voters can use to evaluate candidates on 14 characteristics of fascism and on 14 characteristics of neo-liberalism. Chief among the latter are promoting the corporatization of human services, prioritizing the needs of multinational corporations (the market) over the needs of the people, believing corporate behavior should be self-regulated, believing the public sector (government) should subsidize the private sector and supporting "free-trade" agreements that serve the interests of multinational corporations regardless of costs to employees of those businesses.

Bernie or Bust is a declaration of war against the neo-liberals. Neo-liberalism is a disease, and Trump is a symptom of that disease. The bottom of support has dropped out from the "center" (a euphemism for neo-liberal), and workers voted Republican as a rejection of this disease and its terrible attributes. Sanders' democratic socialism would be a cure to this disease.

Bernie or Bust would be the least of a neo-liberal candidate's problems attempting to unseat a president who has the economic wind at his back. According to a 2018 study of 70 years of voter behavior in England, France and the U.S. by Thomas Piketty, poor and poorly educated citizens do not vote at all unless there is a social democrat on the ballot. Social democrat is the equivalent of democratic socialist.

Bernie Sanders rally
Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19 in the Queens borough of New York City. Kena Betancur/Getty

Sanders would easily be the strongest candidate to run against either Trump or, if an impeachment trial doesn't go well for him, President Mike Pence—not in spite of Sanders' political ideology but because of it! The support of the Bernie or Busters, Sanders or Trump swing voters and millions of poor and poorly educated citizens will be unavailable to the party if members nominate a neo-liberal like former Vice President Joe Biden or a faux-gressive like Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Our organization has a PAC. If Sanders is nominated, it will be used to help him defeat Trump. If the Democrats choose to roll the dice and nominate anyone else, it will be used to help defeat that nominee in support of a real progressive, third-party candidate.

Some say we've narrowed the Democratic field to three candidates; that is an illusion. There is only one Democratic candidate. Any other outlook will give Trump a second term. Unless there is a recession, Bernie or Bust is a foregone conclusion.

Victor Tiffany is a progressive organizer in upstate New York, founder and chief administrator of the Bernie or Bust strategy. With Patrick Walker, he formed the Revolt Against Plutocracy organization and co-authored Bernie or Bust: Pioneers of Electoral Revolt.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.