Chicago ‘lefties’ still feelin’ the Bern, but not look­ing to burn Bi­den — see Dem nom­i­nee as step­ping-stone to progress


While the Demo­cratic Party ral­lies around pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den, some of the Chicago area’s more lib­eral ac­tivists and politi­cians are tak­ing a “we’ll see” ap­proach to the mid­dle-of-the-road can­di­date.

Demo­cratic so­cial­ists and other ac­tivists told the Sun-Times that Bi­den “rep­re­sents a door, and not a des­ti­na­tion.”

They’re count­ing on him to beat Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and open that door to a fu­ture with more pro­gres­sive poli­cies.

“This elec­tion is to­tally about just Trump — it’s not about Joe Bi­den,” said Ja’Mal Green, a Bernie San­ders sup­porter. “That’s just a hard part be­cause Joe Bi­den has to take the reins, but it’s to­tally about get­ting Trump out of of­fice. No one re­ally cares about the change that Joe Bi­den is talk­ing about be­cause they don’t re­ally be­lieve in it.”

Democrats around the coun­try have ral­lied around Bi­den dur­ing their na­tional con­ven­tion this week, laud­ing the long­time for­mer sen­a­tor and vice pres­i­dent over the course of their four-day vir­tual con­ven­tion for his lis­ten­ing skills and his knowl­edge of “what it takes to res­cue an econ­omy, beat back a pan­demic, and lead our coun­try,” as for­mer first lady Michelle Obama said Mon­day night.

Ald. Daniel La Spata, who rep­re­sents the 1st Ward and is a mem­ber of the Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica, said Bi­den’s go­ing to have to put those lis­ten­ing skills to work should he be elected.

“I think we’re go­ing to need him to do some re­ally crit­i­cal lis­ten­ing to the needs and the vi­sion of Amer­ica,” said La Spata, who en­dorsed San­ders’ pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy early on. “When we talk about the Green New Deal or Medi­care for All, we’re not talk­ing about these things just be­cause they’re rad­i­cal or left ideas. They hap­pen to also be the most ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive paths to pro­vid­ing for the ba­sic needs of all Amer­i­cans. That’s what it re­ally comes down to, and I’m count­ing on him for that.”

While Bi­den hasn’t fully adopted many of San­ders’ ideas, he has inched to the left.

Bi­den’s health care plat­form now ex­pands gov­ern­ment-run health in­sur­ance. Elim­i­nat­ing pri­vate pris­ons is part of his pro­posed ap­proach on crim­i­nal jus­tice is­sues. And he’d also set bench­marks to achieve net­zero car­bon emis­sions be­fore 2050.

Pro­gres­sive fire­brand Stacy Davis Gates, vice pres­i­dent of the Chicago Teach­ers Union, said Bi­den, “for the lefties, rep­re­sents a door, and not a des­ti­na­tion.”

“I fully ex­pect our move­ment to con­tinue once Joe Bi­den is elected,” she said. “Don­ald Trump is a fas­cist that has to be put down. We have to fo­cus our at­ten­tion on re­mov­ing him from the White House. That’s not in ar­gu­ment.”

Davis Gates said the party is “hold­ing on to the empty prom­ises of ne­olib­er­al­ism” at a time when “it is clear the pro­gres­sive move­ment has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of our coun­try.”

Ald. By­ron Sig­cho-Lopez, who rep­re­sents the 25th Ward and is a San­ders del­e­gate, said he thinks peo­ple “need to con­tinue to push [these] is­sues” be­cause hav­ing a plat­form that is broadly sup­ported gets peo­ple to vote.

“Peo­ple want to see a bold and mean­ing­ful plat­form,” said Sig­choLopez, also a mem­ber of the Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica. “Mak­ing sure that this plat­form speaks to these is­sues is fun­da­men­tal to mak­ing sure that we earn ev­ery sin­gle vote, [and] we con­vince peo­ple across the coun­try that this is the plat­form that is go­ing to turn things around.”

Green, an or­ga­nizer and sur­ro­gate for San­ders, said peo­ple have to “keep fight­ing” and keep or­ga­niz­ing and putting up pro­gres­sive can­di­dates to keep push­ing the party to the left.

Davis Gates said the con­ven­tion and the Demo­cratic Party are “at a tip­ping point with how they wel­come in new voices and new lead­er­ship.”

“Amer­ica is trans­form­ing, and it is an Amer­ica where the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers be­lieve that Black lives mat­ter and that the poli­cies that sup­port Black lives mat­ter­ing,” Davis Gates said. “It can­not be doc­u­mented in flashes, but it has to be doc­u­mented in who gets to speak, who gets a prime-time slot and what they get to ex­press.”

Kofi Ade­mola, an or­ga­nizer within the Move­ment for Black Lives, said peo­ple are “just fed up” with the re­sponse of “so-called pro­gres­sives” to the pan­demic, to the “cli­mate cri­sis” and the un­rest that has gripped many cities through­out the coun­try.

Ade­mola doesn’t see Bi­den’s “ne­olib­eral pol­i­tics” as help­ing to ad­dress those is­sues. “I don’t have any faith in him what­so­ever and even though Ka­mala [Har­ris] has cleaned up her record within the se­nate, and she voted on some pro­gres­sive stuff, she still also backed bol­ster­ing the mil­i­tary bud­get,” Ade­mola said.

“For a lot of us that are fight­ing to de­fund the po­lice … we also want to de­fund the mil­i­tary.”

“JOE BI­DEN HAS TO TAKE THE REINS, BUT IT’S TO­TALLY ABOUT GET­TING TRUMP OUT OF OF­FICE.’’ JA’MAL GREEN, pic­tured in July speak­ing to re­porters near the statue of Christophe­r Colum­bus in Grant Park that has since been taken down


CTU Vice Pres­i­dent Stacy Davis Gates speaks to sup­port­ers of Bernie San­ders in March at a rally in Grant Park.


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