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It seems like an eternity. But it was only a few months ago, before the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, that it seemed possible that the Democratic Party might have as its Presidential candidate an avowed socialist – Bernie Sanders.
On February 6, 2020, Public Seminar ran a comment entitled “America’s Weimar Moment.” In that moment, that piece was a plea for liberals to ally with a socialist candidate, because the liberal left needed to unite to defeat a dangerously authoritarian alternative.
What followed was one of the most astonishing about-faces in American politics. Joe Biden, as if by a miracle, seized victory from the jaws of defeat by sweeping most of the Super Tuesday primaries held on March 3. Black voters from South Carolina had led the way, but as other candidates dropped out, or in the case of Elizabeth Warren, dropped back, liberal and progressive Democrats had spontaneously coalesced behind Biden, leaving him the presumptive nominee.
It was an especially disorienting moment for Sanders supporters, whose candidate had seemed poised to win the nomination just weeks earlier. But it was also a disappointing outcome for supporters of Warren, another favorite of progressives.
What followed was a fresh round of soul-searching on the American left. And this week, Public Seminar is proud to publish its first special issue, a collection of pieces that address the debate currently raging on the left about the wisdom, or folly, of refusing to endorse Joe Biden in our present political moment.
We begin with a bit of history: a firsthand account from Andrew Sernatinger, the member of the Democratic Socialists of America who drafted a controversial 2019 resolution that committed DSA to a policy of non-endorsement: “Be it therefore resolved, the Democratic Socialists of America will not endorse another Democratic Party presidential candidate should Bernie Sanders not prevail.”
We follow with another bit of history: a firsthand account from Robert J.S. Ross, another DSA member and also a veteran of Students for a Democratic Society, who drafted the equally controversial 2020 “Open Letter to the New New Left from the Old New Left,” first published in the Nation last month.
What follows is a debate: arguments and counter-arguments on where the Left should go from here.
We have eloquent defenses of DSA’s non-endorsement stance from Honda Wang and Annie Levin (a New School alum). And we have equally sharp critiques of that policy from Max Sawicky, a dissenting member of DSA, and Sarah Newman, a veteran of Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party campaign.
Let us know what you think about our first attempt at a symposium. And please send us your own reflections and views about the path forward for the American Left. We look forward to sharing your thoughts online.
James Miller, co-Executive Editor of Public Seminar, teaches at The New School for Social Research. His most recent book is Can Democracy Work? A Short History of a Radical Idea from Ancient Athens to Our World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018).