It’s the most romantic political notion: A working class coalition putting aside their cultural and racial and religious differences to elect legislators who will ram through explicitly pro-worker policies and save us from the yawning darkness of creeping fascism in the United States.
I get the appeal, truly. The socialist idea of a united working class rising up against the plutocrats who have made life all but unbearable for most working Americans -- getting ever richer in the final stages of capitalism -- is one I want desperately to believe in. Our corporate masters and frothing oligarchs would finally, at long last, be forced to concede something to folks who trade their labor for a few bucks. Some semblance of societal balance would be restored, and a more secure working class would be far less likely to develop the brain worms necessary to burrow their way directly to the depths of fascist hell.
Daydreaming about a viable working class political movement in the US is enough to make my spine all tingly. It’s what drew me and millions of American millennials and zoomers to the revolutionary Bernie Sanders presidential campaign in 2016, a brief, empowering moment when anything seemed possible, when we finally had an alternative to the corporate politics that had been spoon fed to us our entire lives. That there is no one to take up Bernie’s mantle could mean we’ll never again get an unapologetically pro-worker presidential candidate. Nevertheless, we persist.
(A quick aside: I escorted a group of middle school students to the U.S. Capitol in 2006, shortly after Sanders was elected to the Senate. He was still an unknown outside the nerdiest left-wing circles. We visited with Bernie and fellow Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who was incoherent and bumbling. Sanders, on the other hand, was razor sharp, encouraging the kids to read as much as they could and asking if they’d like to go to college for free. When the middle schoolers said yes, they would like free college, Sanders said, “Good. Tell your representatives to raise taxes.” The room fell silent. Bernie smirked.)