By Chris Horton
Voter turnout in the Worcester preliminaries was a disaster, especially east of Park Avenue. I would maintain that if someone had been running for Worcester City Council as a Bernie Sanders supporter, Bernie as in the presidential candidate, the voter turnout might have been much higher in Worcester.
This may seem like an unbelievable statement, but please allow me explain:
Despite the appearance of apathy, people, including non-voters, are politically highly charged, but many can’t see how a Worcester City Council vote matters. We campaigners all see many folks who enthusiastically promise to vote but don’t show up. I am convinced that most, consciously or not, are *choosing* to not vote. Some even see it as a boycott, and fantasize that if even more voters would stay home, finally the politicians would get the message and change their ways. One even bragged that his family hadn’t voted in three generations!
Many are clearly paying attention to Worcester issues and politics and may give a well reasoned argument that Worcester City Council voting doesn’t matter, for example because 1) the City doesn’t have power over the things that matter, 2) the Council doesn’t even run the City Government, 3) once we vote them into office they become politicians, get involved with the “money boys” and forget about us, and 4) the whole political system is rigged. Which – let’s admit it – all has some truth to it, although the organized power of the Community Labor Coalition is starting to shift that. (Far more turn out for Federal elections because that’s where the money we need is, even though they may see it as hopeless.)
So far this year, the Worcester City election campaigns have focused heavily on crime and safety. Some candidates have been raising jobs issues, but at best the Worcester City Council has the resources to nibble around the edge of a huge problem.
These are good fights, worth waging, but in a city where more than 1,000 are homeless and tens of thousands are barely surviving on crummy, part-time, temporary and off-the-books jobs or public assistance, these efforts to get 25 construction jobs and 20 jobs making beds here, 50 summer jobs there, can seem too small to matter.
Once you get them started, most regular folks feel very strongly and have a lot to say about jobs and job creation, wages, benefits and work conditions, unfair firings and out-of-control bosses, high rents, foreclosures and evictions, the right to health care, out of control college costs, bringing our jobs back and reopening the old mills. These are all Bernie Sander’s issues.
Regarding the out of control greed-crazed bankers who crashed the system and are about to do it again, most agree with Bernie they need to be prosecuted and jailed and their banks broken up. And most people agree that something radical needs to be done to remove big money from politics.
Quite regularly, when a conversation I’m having with a person goes deep enough, there comes a moment when he or she suddenly gets serious and quiet, looks me in the eyes and says some version of “You know what? We need a revolution!”
Which is what Bernie’s calling for, a “political revolution”!
When I tell people that Bernie Sanders is warning us that this will require organizing a great mass movement of millions to confront the “billionaire class,” when I repeat his warning that it will take a fight, almost everyone nods.
And then when I look them in the eyes the way Bernie looked into mine and repeat his question to them: “Are you ready for a fight?” responses range from “Hell yes!” to a timid thoughtful little nod, but not one yet has shaken their head or said no.
Some Worcester City Council candidates told me privately they support Bernie, but they all “played it safe” and kept a firewall between their campaigns and his presidential campaign. Some of them are gone now. None placed in the top six.
If any candidate now were to commit to building a Worcester progressive populist movement, openly declared for Bernie Sanders and committed to work to implement his programs in Worcester, they could tap into a huge pool of potential energy and enthusiasm which could carry them to victory and dramatically increase voter turnout across the City on Nov. 3.
My questions to them all: What do you have to gain by continuing to play it safe? What do you have to lose by coming out swinging as an unabashed Bernie for President supporter?