Robert Reich Explains What The Center Is-- And What It Isn't

Bernie's ideas seem very popular. Have you noticed? And that means Third Way, a major player among those who are part of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, is on the attack. Matt Bennett, Third Way’s senior vice president, when talking about senators running for president noted that "We’re open to everybody except for him." That was a year ago. The Republican wing of the party is putting all they've got into poisoning the well for Bernie. They know he means what he says and they know what that means for the status quo they've grown fat on.

"The 'center,'" said Reich in the video above, is not halfway between what most Americans want and what big corporations, Wall Street and the super-wealthy want. The 'center' is what the vast majority of Americans want." Reich could have explicitly included the mass media in with "big corporations, Wall Street and the super-wealthy."

In any case, polling shows that Americans favor the agenda the GOP has been trying to paint as "socialist"

higher taxes on the super-rich- 76% favor
a wealth tax on fortunes of over $50 million- over 60% favor
Medicare-For-All- 70% favor
lower prescription drug prices- 92% favor
drug importation from Canada- over 70% favor
paid maternity leave- over 70% favor
more affordable child care- 79% favor
free college tuition- 60% favor
climate change is man-made and needs addressing- 62% agree
money has too much influence in politics- 84% agree
put limits on campaign spending- 77% agree

Yes, Americans, but not Mitch McConnell, not Laura Ingraham and not this country's political and economic elites, which thrive on gaming the system and benefit from the status quo.

I asked some of the Blue America candidates and some of the candidates we're still vetting about the issues they're running on and about how they're using those issues to fight back against the Republicans who label them "socialism."

Mike Siegel is a progressive Democrat running in a gerrymandered red Texas district that he nearly won in 2018. This time he has sky high name recognition and his chances to beat the reactionary GOP Trump enabler are much better.

"The National Republican Congressional Committee," he told me this morning, "just ran an ad targeting me as 'socialist' based on my support for the most basic aspects of a social safety net-- exactly what Reich identifies as the political center. In 2018, I ran for Congress in what was called a 'deep red' district-- the Texas 10th was considered R+19-- and I ran on a platform including Medicare for All. By the end of the race, the incumbent McCaul, who thinks Obamacare is socialist, only had a 4% advantage. We can run and win on these issues. Healthcare, better schools, progressive taxation, infrastructure spending and jobs programs. We have to lean into our commitment to using government for the greater good, because that is what a democracy is supposed to be."

Goal ThermometerKathy Ellis, has an even redder district in southeast Missouri-- the reddest district in the state, huge, rural, very poor, abandoned by the national Democratic Party-- and she is also trying to reach out to her neighbors with a populist-progressive campaign. "For too long," she said, "the political system has not worked for average, working-class people-- people like you and me. It's been built to represent the needs of the super wealthy and super powerful. It's time that we change that and begin the work of building a country that works for us all, not just the wealthy few. For this reason, I support issues that prioritize the needs of everyday, working people. These include healthcare for all, campaign finance reform, universal childcare and pre-k, debt-free college, and increased environmental protections."

Marie Newman is running for a very different kind of seat, one in a nice blue Chicagoland district, but with a Republican-lite Blue Dog as an incumbent. She will make a very different kind of representative than he is: "When 65-80% of Americans are supportive of policies such as raising taxes on the ultra rich, providing universal childcare and paid leave, but conservatives call it ‘fringe’, I guess the new meaning of fringe = most Americans."

Kina Collins is the progressive Democrat running for the Chicago seat occupied by Danny Davis. "As a former organizer for Physicians for a National Health Program," she told me this morning, "seeing everyday people suffering from preventable illnesses and not being able to afford health insurance showed me how urgently we need single-payer Medicare for All in our country. We cannot wait. The majority of Americans support health care reform, we need to take bold action on this issue."

Shaniyat Chowdhury is also running in a blue district represented by a corrupt conservative Democrat, this one in southeast Queens. His perspective is that "We're starting to see the seeds of change make a difference when every working class and poor American participates on a massive scale. Without a doubt, vast majority of Americans believe our current representatives are influenced by big money, condoning their luxurious lifestyles. These actions have caused the most vulnerable Americans to not have access to healthcare, education, jobs, and a productive solution to climate change. Once we collectively drain the swamp of corrupt and bought politicians, we will open the doors for solutions such as Medicare for All, Free College Tuition, Federal Job’s Guarantee, and a Green New Deal. It’s not 'time for a change.' We’ve just been long overdue for everyday Americans to stand up with morals, ethics, and courage to take big money out of politics."

Kara Eastman is in a 50/50 swing district-- Omaha, Nebraska and the surrounding suburbs. NE-02 voted for Obama, Romney and, narrowly Trump. Kara came close to winning in 2018 and-- like Mike Siegel-- can probably go all the way in 2020. She told me that "It’s clear that people I talk to from across the political spectrum understand money’s corrosive influence on our government at all levels. My relatives who are more affluent, who lean right, as well as my supporters actually agree we have to fix the political system we have inherited. That’s why my decision to refuse all corporate PAC money is broadly supported by constituents in Nebraska but not necessarily by our two political parties."

Audrey Denney is another progressive Democrat trying to win a tough red district. She did incredibly well in 2018 and intends on going all the way in 2020. "It is far past time," she told me today, "that we had elected leaders who were responsible and accountable to the people they served-- instead of corporations and special interests. Campaigns in 2020 should about things that matter to people-- things that make people’s lives a little bit better. Making sure Americans don’t go bankrupt when they have a health emergency. Making sure new parents can rest and recover and care for their infants before they go back to work. Making sure young people can get a degree without trying to climb out of debt for the rest of their lives. Making sure all Americans can find dignified jobs that let them provide for their families. Making sure we are doing all we can to address the existential threat of climate change. These aren’t radical ideas. These are common sense American values."

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