Hello, /r/SandersForPresident brothers and sisters!
My most upvoted post remains a screed I wrote in this very subreddit back in 2016, when Hillary Clinton's camp was hammering Bernie for dreaming too big and having impractical goals. Given the NYT endorsement sounding an eerily similar critique, I thought it was time to revisit and update the same message, so here we go:
Once again we're hearing corporate centrists like the NYT editorial board claim that Bernie Sanders is making lofty promises he can't possibly fulfill. The Times claims that "He boasts that compromise is anathema to him [note that the word compromise doesn't actually appear in their linked interview]. Only his prescriptions can be the right ones, even though most are overly rigid, untested and divisive [sic]. He promises that once in office, a groundswell of support will emerge to push through his agenda. Three years into the Trump administration, we see little advantage to exchanging one over-promising, divisive figure in Washington for another."
As I noted in 2016, the real danger here is the trap created by this argument: the premise that what he's doing is making promises. He's not making promises. He's stating goals. He's outlining his vision. He's articulating his platform.
The trap for us is accepting these critics' framing and responding on its terms. "Well, maybe it could happen if we get Democratic majorities…" or even Bernie's stated tactic of "well, he'll organize around the popularity of his agenda and use the bully pulpit of the presidency to pressure lawmakers." Yes, that's the plan for getting things done, but that argument concedes incorrectly (IMHO) that promises have been made, and that they may or may not be fulfilled.
This makes Bernie a potential maker of false promises. He's not. This is his vision: Medicare for all, tuition-free public universities, anti-imperialist foreign policy, Wall Street and the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes. He's not saying it will all be accomplished, and certainly not just because he's elected: he's saying it should be accomplished, and a vote for him is a vote for those goals.
He's a presidential candidate with a platform, and instead of looking at the current state of affairs and saying "we can make this a little better" he starts out by imagining what things should look like, and says "let's get there." That's why he's a visionary leader and a once-in-a-lifetime candidate.
Corporate media outlets and candidates are trying hard to create a false dichotomy between themselves and Bernie, which is that voters must choose between pragmatic compromise and pie-in-the-sky promises. The reality is that Bernie is more than capable of working with Republicans and corporate Democrats to advance his progressive goals incrementally, as evidenced by his entire career, but especially his time in both houses of Congress. This is not an "all or nothing" agenda, as the NYT has disingenuously characterized it: Sanders is as pragmatic as anyone in DC. The difference is that he also has a vision for what American should be, instead of leading with mealy-mouthed compromise.
So please, when you're confronted by the 'rainbows and unicorns' argument, remember first and foremost its false premise: Bernie is not making promises, he's laying out his vision, which is what a presidential candidate should be doing. There is no dichotomy between pragmatism and vision: we have both.