Dear Senator Sanders: I’m with You in the Fight Ahead
From the snow-filled days of door-knocking in New Hampshire, to November’s devastating result, the 2016 presidential election was hard-fought and heartbreaking. On the Democratic side, we had two leading candidates who each articulated a vision of an inclusive, prosperous, vibrant American democracy. On the other side, we had Donald Trump, the most corrupt and least qualified man ever to seek the presidency.
It’s no secret who I supported. I was one of the most visible and vocal advocates of Secretary Hillary Clinton. Many others backed you, Senator Sanders, with contagious zeal. At times during the Democratic primary, I was criticized for being too aggressive in my support for Secretary Clinton — and rightly so. Looking back, I recognize that there were a few moments when my drive to put Hillary in the White House led me to take too stiff a jab. I own up to that, I regret it, and I apologize to you and your supporters for it.
With Trump’s inauguration looming just days away, now is the time for us to unite as a party and a progressive movement, and put the resentments of the past behind us. Trump’s rise to power, fueled by hatred and portending crisis, threatens to eviscerate our constitutional system of government. Our nation marches closer to Trumpism each day, a path paved with reckless Tweets and the normalization of the ugly and the absurd.
We who reject Trump’s bankrupt leadership must heal old wounds, reorient ourselves, and embrace common goals. And if there is one thing on which we can all agree, it’s this: we cannot concede any ground. Not to the alt-right, not to the Kochs, not to the Paul Ryan establishment, and not, most of all, to Donald Trump, our incoming kleptocrat-in-chief. We must unify in resistance.
With the stakes so high, I pledge to help harness the passion that you and your supporters unleashed to empower progressives — Democrats up and down ballot — and to hold Donald Trump accountable.
I plan to fight like hell the next four years for our shared values and ideas. And I know that you will, too
Senator Sanders: your candidacy electrified millions. From students to working class families, you inspired Americans to be more engaged in the political process.
Throughout your life of advocacy and career in public service, you have been a leader on some of the same issues to which I’ve devoted my professional life. You were one of the first to identify and call for media reform. That leadership has included calling out the corporate media for refusing to cover climate change, something my organization Media Matters has extensively exposed.
We need you to continue to be the voice of reason in a world that has been spun out of control.
You have consistently devoted yourself to ensuring a fair and free press. In your House days, I remember you being one of very few to attend a Congressional hearing about the fairness doctrine where, despite a mostly empty room, you posed thoughtful and penetrating questions. You introduced a bill to restore that doctrine, to guard against wildly biased and inaccurate media outlets. And how prescient that concern was. In this past election, we saw the media abdicate its vital public mission, cynically fueling Trump’s candidacy for money and ratings.
We need you to continue holding the corporate media’s feet to the fire.
One of the signature issues of your campaign was getting money out of politics. Even though I run a SuperPAC, I am with you on this. I would love to get out of the business (but not while the Republicans are permitted SuperPACs. The playing field must be level.) You have long sounded the alarm and called out puppet masters like the billionaire Koch Brothers. We agree that their cash poisons our democracy. I found their activities so insidious that I wrote a book about the malfeasance of the Kochs and their benefactors, enablers, and fellow traffickers in misinformation. To fight back, I established a Koch War Room at American Bridge, which holds accountable the extremist GOP politicians the Kochs and others fund.
Together, we can resist the predatory billionaires that Donald Trump seeks to install in his cabinet. At the end of the day, we may disagree about Hillary’s speeches during her time out of government, but we can all agree that Steve Mnuchin has no right occupying the same office that Alexander Hamilton once did.
We need you to bring your fervent opposition to the billionaire class to the Trump Administration’s doorstep.
I will do all I can to fight the Trump Administration, but I need help from those in the position to resist through our democratic institutions. The Senate floor provides an unparalleled platform for confrontation. Dodd-Frank financial reform is vulnerable, and you can call for its protection. Tax cuts for the wealthiest are again on the horizon — the revival of the failed supply-side gospel — and you can rip that suite-class subsidy to shreds, as you did the Bush tax cuts.
We need you to use your position and pulpit in the Senate to remind the nation of who was most hurt in the last financial crisis and who stands to be victimized by the next one.
Finally, my organization, American Bridge, has established a Trump War Room to expose conflicts of interest in the administration. But we need allies like you who can use our best-in-class research to make a case to the public. The nation deserves to know what motivates the Trump administration’s policies. Is it public service or profit? Foreign affairs or the family business?
We need you to call out these conflicts and act as a foil to our self-dealing egoist in the Oval Office.
Think about the next four years. Those with the least economic and political power are the most likely to be marginalized by Trump’s policies. Senator Sanders, I know you recognize this and understand the need to unite to give voice to those who stand to lose so much.
While the first priorities are protecting the vulnerable among us and fighting back against Trump, we must also take proactive steps to repair public discourse and vanquish the bottom-feeding organizations that threaten it. Fake news is an existential threat to our democracy that must be addressed with clear-eyed focus.
And, for the first time in our history, we have a minister of disinformation, Steve Bannon, who commanded a vast proto-fascist media empire, operating from a plum perch in the West Wing. Breitbart now reeks of state-run media, a dirty trick the Trump team might have learned from their cozy dealings with the Kremlin.
Even those without pernicious intentions facilitate the race to the bottom. Even internet behemoths like Facebook can dangerously enable misinformation. Though they have begun to clean house and mitigate the falsehoods that fill their pages, much work remains. Our democracy requires the lifeblood of facts and a rigorous, professional press to flourish. Propaganda will poison it.
Please join me in pressuring these forces to stop facilitating the pollution of our public discourse.
The landscape outside social media isn’t much better. Once-venerable media institutions have subordinated truth and fairness and prioritized profit and a distorted notion of editorial “parity.” That “parity” is a twisted false equivalency whereby a minor story about Hillary’s emails which, to your credit, you did not exploit, received more coverage than the panoply of legal, ethical, and moral abominations perpetrated by our President-elect.
Where the corporate media gave us Trump, we need your voice; further, we need the passion of your supporters.
Now, if I may, let me speak directly to your supporters: If you voted for Senator Sanders, you almost certainly realize that Trump is a very real threat to our way of life, our shared values, and our constitutional democracy. We are all now small-d democrats. What was said in the heat of a campaign cannot drive us apart in the face of such an overwhelming threat.
Let’s focus on our areas of agreement. Now is not the time for factionism. The real dividing line going forward in our party is not about ideological direction. It’s the question of whether to resist and oppose, or accommodate and appease.
Senator Sanders, we need to be bold and united. Without fear or hesitation, we must oppose Trump. We must stand up for and defend our shared values.
The progressive movement is strong and growing, thanks in large part to your candidacy, Senator Sanders, which electrified so many voters. The bedrock American values you championed — of pluralism, equality, and opportunity — are ones I share. And I hope that we can be partners in the fight ahead.