Upon taking over as president of ‘Our Revolution’, Bernie Sanders’ organization, Nina Turner was interviewed by Collier Meyerson and asked “How will Our Revolution relate to the DNC, the DCCC, the DSCC, that kind of establishment that so many activists and politicians, including you, have frequently criticized?” Her response was “I don’t think it is our job nor our obligation to fit in. It’s their job to fit in with us.” That mirrors how Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has handled his entire political career. It is also why he has few real accomplishments to his name after over forty years in office.
It may behoove Ms. Turner to take a few moments on this July 4th to reread our constitution and realize to make progress on her goals may require some compromise. That is how the founding fathers set up our government. It doesn’t mean compromising your principles, it does mean working steadily toward your goals. Winston Churchill is credited with saying “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Meyerson went on to ask “And how will Our Revolution relate to progressives within government who didn’t back Bernie, like Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin, if they go on to seek reelection?” Her response is an indication of what is clearly self-destructive about both Nina Turner and ‘Our Revolution’. She said about those two successful and respected progressives “If they want Our Revolution’s endorsement they will seek it like everybody else and so they gotta start with the local affiliates, and if the local affiliates say that this is the person that we want to back, then there it is. There it is.”
So ‘Our Revolution’ isn’t about supporting progressives or helping people learn how the system works so they can move forward progressive change. Rather it is about catering to groups of local activists, often self-indulgent, to the point of taking action that actually hurts the causes they believe in. To bring about change one has to understand the system; understanding how Congress works. Like it or not when it comes to Congress there are only two parties, Democrat and Republican. If you don’t work to support one of them you are helping the other. We saw that in the last Presidential election and we saw it in 2000 when we ended up with George W. Bush.
One must wonder what turned Nina Turner from a rational Democrat who won her legislative seat running as a Democrat in Ohio to the irrational person she appears to be today. She served in Ohio as a Democrat from 2008 to 2014 then lost her race for Secretary of State in 2014.
There were a number of other surprising statements from Turner in the same Meyerson interview. They include who ‘Our Revolution’ would consider endorsing. She said “And for me, I’ve also heard the senator (referring to Sanders) say this lately too: Let’s put the political affiliation to the side. If there is a Republican or a Libertarian or Green Party person that believes in Medicare for all, then that’s our kind of person. If there’s somebody that believes that Citizens United needs to be overturned, that we need the 28th amendment to the Constitution that declares that money, corporate money, is not speech and that corporations should not have more speech than Mrs. Johnson down the street and Mr. Gonzalez around the corner, then that’s our kind of people.”
Does ‘Our Revolution’ not have a responsibility to the people who fund the organization, and the ones Turner wants to recruit, to explain a simple fact; there will be a Republican or Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives and a Democratic or Republican Majority Leader in the United States Senate. There will not be a Libertarian or Green Party member in those positions. She should explain to her donors if the first vote of any person they help elect to Congress is not for Democrat leadership all their objectives will be non-starters. They won’t even be on the agenda for debate.
One is forced to assume what Ms. Turner is now doing is more for self-aggrandizement and less about getting anything done. I met Nina Turner once at a Ready for Hillary event in New York City. She spoke passionately about Hillary and why she would make a great president. She is a good speaker and excited her audience. The next time I heard of her she had gone through some personal epiphany and became a rabid anti-Hillary Sanders supporter. It might be in the Clinton campaign she would have been one of thousands and with the Sanders campaign she was special.
When the Democrats had a chance, however small, to win in Georgia she criticized Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff as not being progressive enough. She said that in an interview where she was trying to justify a Sanders type candidate and talking about how Trump won 70 percent of the vote in 30 Ohio counties. What she conveniently forgot is in the Ohio primary Hillary only lost fourteen Ohio counties to Sanders and won by nearly 15 percent. So trying to say a Sanders type of candidate in Georgia would be better is looking at the world with a myopic view and will keep ‘Our Revolution’ from being the success it could be if they worked with Democratic candidates across the nation instead of trying to divide the liberal and progressive movement.
One example of ‘Our Revolution’ working to divide was their support of Tom Perriello in Virginia. He was a late entry into the Democratic Gubernatorial primary against a progressive Democrat who had the support of every elected Democrat in the state. Perriello was a candidate whose progressive credentials had to be questioned. In his one term in Congress he supported the Stupack amendment barring funding for abortions and voted against the assault weapon ban. His campaign was financed 57 percent by people outside of Virginia and by mostly big donors, two of whom each contributed $500,000. But contrary to Turner’s idol Sanders, Tom Perriello handled his loss with grace. Rather than play games he immediately and graciously endorsed the winner, Dr. Ralph Northam, pledging his unequivocal and enthusiastic support. I still haven’t heard from Turner or ‘Our Revolution’ about their endorsement of this progressive Democrat.
I would hope Turner rethinks some of her statements if she wants ‘Our Revolution’ to have a lasting impact other than helping elect Republicans by splitting the progressive vote. We are seeing that again in Maryland where there are a host of progressive Democrats looking to run against Republican Governor Larry Hogan in 2018 and the local ‘Our Revolution’ group is working in secret to make an early endorsement of one candidate who was on the ‘Our Revolution’ board until he declared his candidacy. They are creating dissent within the Maryland progressive movement by doing that. Educating these local groups on how to win, not just make noise, would be important.
Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner and ‘Our Revolution’ have every right to speak out and do as they choose. But if they really want to move forward a Progressive agenda they will help to unite progressives, not divide them. They will recognize the reality that in a general election it is either a Republican or a Democrat who wins and if you aren’t voting for the Democrat you are helping the Republican. Whether we like it or not in the United States we basically have a two Party system. Democrats have the more progressive agenda and Republicans have Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Nina Turner should ask herself, who do you and ‘Our Revolution’ want to lead our nation?