Kshama Sawant urges Bernie Sanders to run as independent if he doesn’t get Democratic nomination

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, second from left, and others march in protest the detention of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Seattle, Washington on February 17, 2017. (Getty Images)

Kshama Sawant, the Socialist Alternative party member who won the City Council seat for the third time on Nov. 5, says her party would urge Sen. Bernie Sanders to run as an independent in the 2020 presidential election, if the Democratic party declines to give him nomination.

The fiery socialist said although there is a tremendous groundswell of support for Sanders this time, including the backing of the rank-and-file Democrats which is even more than last time, she fears that the Democratic party establishment would do everything in its power to prevent Sanders from getting the nomination.

“If Sanders doesn't get the nomination, we would urge him to run in the general election as an independent because otherwise we will be facing the prospect of Donald Trump running against the corporate Democrats and that is a dangerous scenario,” Sawant told India Abroad in an interview.

“Trump will exploit that scenario, and in that case, we cannot rule out that Trump will be re-elected. If we want to prevent that, it is extremely important that we have a candidate like Bernie Sanders run along till the end,” Sawant said.

With less than three months until the Iowa caucuses, the Democratic primary looks like a winnable race for the top four candidates that includes Sanders who is currently in the third position with 17% national polling average, according to a Nov. 15 New York Times report .

Sanders’ insurgent campaign for president in 2016, Sawant says, was a watershed moment. His call for a “political revolution against the billionaire class”, according to Socialist Alternative, translated into 13 million votes, hundreds of thousands in attendance at his rallies, record amounts of individual donations, and a surge of interest in socialist ideas.

Sawant said she expects the Democratic party to do the same this time as in 2016 to prevent Sanders from running, and that is why there is an urgent need to do “everything in our power” to make sure that Sanders gets the nomination.

“This is not the time to be timid and play by the conventional rule book. This is the time to recognize that there is  real fire in the belly  of ordinary people to fight for something different for a society that works for us,” Sawant said, alluding to the mood of ordinary voters.

Sawant said ordinary members of the Democratic party are so energized with the Sanders campaign, who along with Elizabeth Warren are quite different from somebody like Joe Biden, who she described as a “spokesperson” for the corporate elite, for the political establishment and for the insiders, that people have given incredible support to Bernie Sanders on the ground so far.

That, she said, completely destroys the myth of ‘Barney bro’ that only some white, upper class men are supporting Sanders.

The Times report said only three of the existing candidates have proven they have built sustainable, powerful fund-raising machines: Sanders, Warren and Pete Buttigieg. Sanders has raised $61.5m in individual contributions so far, more than any other candidate.

Sawant said polls after polls show that the majority of people, the millennials, the young people are supporting Bernie Sanders, and so do women of color, middle class women and suburban women in large numbers, adding that it is very important to note also that some new left leaders like Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, have been playing a transformative role in the political conversation in Washington.

“The fact that these Congresswomen have endorsed Bernie Sanders is a powerful show of left unity. That, and the mood among the ordinary people who identify themselves as Democratic party supporters stand in stark contrast with the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer of the Democratic party establishment who are still highly tied to the Wall Street and the billionaire class and they're completely out of touch with where the majority of the nation is,” Sawant said.

The majority of the people she feels “are looking to fight back and that is the mood Bernie Sanders has captured,” Sawant said.

The 46-year-old Indian-American economist acknowledged that the divergence between the two wings of the Democratic party with the establishment led by  people like Nancy Pelosi who have made it very clear that they're completely opposed to anything akin to working class agenda and have refused to allow the Democratic party to move to the left, is a problem.

“I would say the Democratic party establishment, which is the fundamental  obstacle to achieving any of our goals are completely horrified at the prospect of people like Sanders getting nomination. That's why I always raise the question about the need for a new party for the working class,” Sawant said.

Sawant was all praise for Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, who she said, has made it very clear that she doesn't play by the rule book of the Democratic party establishment.

“It is very important what she has done with her position already and it has a kind of transformative  effect she has had on the political  conversation nationally just like Barney Sanders and has rejected the ‘business as usual’ approach to politics. I respect her courage and dedication and her sacrifice to be accountable to ordinary people,” Sawant said.

Noting that there is an incredible potential now for the progressives and the left movements to build throughout the nation, Sawant said the in view of the goal of most people to defeat Trump in the upcoming election because he is the antithesis of social justice-based society, it is essential to support Bernie Sanders as a candidate for President in 2020.

“Therefore, the biggest mistake we could make is not recognizing how much of an opening there is now for the left to build itself. I think going into the presidential election this is a very crucial message. That is why I have proudly endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.

To a question if Socialist Alternative or she herself would run for office at the national level in the future, in view of the fact that there are significant openings for socialists, Sawant said she would continue to remain part of the movement in Seattle that has got her elected.

“What we will do immediately when we come back next year, we will be organizing in a very big way for major progressive policies in Seattle like rent control, like taxing big business which will really require us to build very powerful movements,” she said.

“I must tell you it is not enough to win the election. We will have to fight the billionaire class again and in the process of doing that we will also be fighting for Bernie Sanders campaign.”

Asked if Sanders’ campaign is cognizant of Indian-American voters, who are believed to be veering towards Republicans, especially after the public reception for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston in September, during which President Trump also made a cameo appearance on stage with Modi who profusely praised the president, Sawant said it is extremely important that Sanders’s campaign keep in mind that young people, who come from immigrant background and who are looking for leftwing or even socialist campaign to be part of, and who are not going to be supporting Narendra Modi or Donald Trump, are registered to vote, and most importantly to raise their voice.

“As an immigrant woman of color and as an Indian-American myself, I value the fact that we can provide an example that is diametrically opposed to Trump and Modi and say this is what Indian-Americans should be fighting for. If we agree that we want a society that is based on social justice, then we have to reject right-wing ideology whether it comes from the U.S. or Brazil or India and build progressive movements.”

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