America is an urban nation and while Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president is a shock to the Democratic establishment’s old suburban guard, they might be able to absorb his policies. The reasons for this are also political. He is authentic, likable, and persuasive. He is also trustworthy, 223,000 donors sent him $5.9 million within the first 24 hours of his 2020 presidential campaign.
Mayor Bernie Sanders made Burlington America’s first city pilot community-trust housing; today, the trust manages 2,800 permanently price-controlled homes. As mayor, he recognized this city’s capacity for a quality urban debate on social justice, education, and health care issues. Cities have universities, hospitals, and a network of nurturing activist organizations capable of building progressive municipal policies. Sanders is not a radical, and he has basic common sense about how Americans can thrive by engaging urban resources through collective access.
The urban answer is well known and ever since the design of the ramparts of a feudal wall, to Henri Lefebvre’s “Right to the City” observations in 1968, to the Rockefeller Foundation’s “Century of the City – no time to lose” in 2008 (Neil Pierce and Curtis Johnson). The facts are in; they are solid and improve monthly. What is not available is a political pathway and the quality of persuasion needed to implement well-known understandable solutions. Yet, all we have now is a need to be hopeful in the way David Harvey describes.
“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.”David Harvey (Sept.–Oct. 2008) “The right to the city”. New Left Review.II (53): 23–40.
Having “no time to lose” has become the first communication problem to solve. It is torturous. As framed by conservatives, American national politics appear to fear government “takings” and seem to promote anger with the ineptitude of government giving to the undeserving. Most of it is aimed at the so-called American heartland, while most of the American population in metropolitan areas is accessible only through a single means of transportation. On the other hand, their dense urban centers offer a broad base of cultural and educational institutions and real experience with diversity. The urban center is consistently renewable and, in that, the freedom to exercise power.
Arguments about urban resources are electoral college problems of disproportion. This aside, will Sander’s have a 2020 urban agenda? Not exactly, but his agenda benefits working poor households, puts watchdogs on bankers and brokers, supports public universities, hospitals, and doctors in parts of the nation that offer the lowest per capita energy use. These are all top value factors that help cities and metropolitan regions.
Medicare for All is a material good because working to encourage people’s health is better than a sick society. Federal minimum wage at $15 (or a living income) also helps to assure healthy communities. The proposal to increase the tax on billionaires to 77% is about pushing for more income equality. His focus on Wall Street abuses such as stock repurchases under the tax act passed in 1/2018 is a fight against increased inequality.
Advancing free public college tuition for students in households earning less than $125K is another step in producing an opportunity for equality. His actions on climate change are similar or equal to the Green New Deal proposals. An example is to increase funding for urban transport systems by 250%. A fully developed country is one where the wealthy, the middle class, and the ordinary worker use mass transportation. Encouraging alternatives to personal vehicle transit is a step toward a stable urban core.