Joe Sanberg, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and progressive activist, is endorsing the presidential bid of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ahead of California’s primary elections on Tuesday.
Sanberg, a founder of Aspiration, the socially conscious online banking company, described Sanders’ diverse, young and working-class coalition of supporters as a key reason for getting behind the Vermont senator’s candidacy.
“I think about the kind of progressive governance that I want to see happen over the rest of our lives ― it’s going to require the multiracial, working-class coalition under 45 that have been inspired by his campaign,” said Sanberg, 40, a founder of multiple progressive advocacy groups, who emphasized that he was making the endorsement in a personal capacity. “The endorsement for me is both about my belief that Bernie can beat Trump and be a great president, as well as standing by the coalition he’s awakened.
“We have several decades ahead to fix all the problems we’ve created. I’m sure even Bernie Sanders would acknowledge it’s not going to be fixed in one or two terms,” he continued. “It’s going to take the rest of our lives. The critical partner in that is going to be this coalition under 45.”
Sanberg, a co-founder of the group Business for Medicare for All, characterized Sanders’ commitment to achieving single-payer health care as a major factor in his endorsement as well.
Although Sanberg acknowledged the difficulty Sanders would have trying to enact single payer in the current Congress, he believes that Sanders’ embrace of the policy is the “right campaign posture.”
“One of the things that I think I bring from my experience as an entrepreneur is that you don’t negotiate from a place of compromise. You negotiate from a place of clarity,” the entrepreneur said. “Bernie has stood head and shoulders above every other candidate around this clarity that single payer should be our guidepost.”
Sanberg’s endorsement is liable to provide some modest immediate benefits to Sanders before Super Tuesday this coming week, when more than a dozen states and territories hold their Democratic nominating contests. Sanberg plans to inform his 200,000-person email list about his endorsement and hit the trail for Sanders in whatever capacity the senator welcomes him to do.
But the bigger potential impact of Sanberg’s blessing may well be the way it can defuse some of the stigma associated with Sanders’ “democratic socialist” moniker in the broader public.
Sanberg, who is also an investor in successful startups like Blue Apron, frames his support for “Medicare for All,” in part, as a boon for entrepreneurship. The policy, Sanberg notes, would free up workers concerned about losing their employer-sponsored health insurance to start new businesses.
He also envisions medical and student debt relief, among other policies, freeing up ordinary Americans’ income for greater consumption of goods and services that fuels economic growth.
“One of the ways I’d like to help is leverage my credibility as an entrepreneur … to explain that Bernie’s domestic policy is going to unlock sensational economic growth that’s going to be driven by everyday Americans,” he said.
Asked how he squares his preferred title of “progressive entrepreneur” with Sanders’ “democratic socialism,” Sanberg downplayed their differences, noting that he shares Sanders’ vision for a country with dramatically lower income and wealth inequality. (In fact, unlike many democratic socialists who have the eventual goal of complete worker ownership of the means of production, Sanders appears to prefer what’s more commonly known as “social democracy”: a mixed system practiced in Nordic countries where tough regulation, strong unions and a cradle-to-grave welfare state exist alongside a robust private sector.)
“The labels are irrelevant,” Sanberg said. “What matters is the substance of his policies.”
Sanberg, who is considering a run for mayor of LA in 2022, has said that he was inspired by the economic precariousness he experienced in childhood to dedicate his personal wealth to fighting poverty and inequality. Sanberg and the single mother who raised him in Orange County, California, lost their home to foreclosure when he was a kid.
Sanberg led the initiative to create a state-level earned income tax credit for working poor families in California in 2015 and subsequently funded the nonprofit CalEITC4Me to ensure low-income Californians were aware of their eligibility for the program. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, he founded Working Hero PAC to support Democratic candidates for office who are committed to anti-poverty policies. And in 2019, he expanded his EITC outreach program to other states outside California where low-income Americans are often unaware of the tax credits for which they are eligible.